Learning is an experiment. When I’m learning something I try to think about how I’m going about the learning. So I try many different approaches. I learn different things from different ways of doing things. For example, let’s say you want to learn a solo. You might take the approach of over analysing it, or under analysing it.
Under analysing might mean just listening but not trying to work anything out like the key/form/chords/time/etc. Just listen to it and that’s enough. Soak it up.
Over analysing might involve figuring out what string someone played something on. Here’s a little example: I really love this solo of Lennie Tristano’s on Line Up. I’ve listened to it many times, at different speeds. It’s a famous recording for a number of reasons, but if you’re interested, there’s a little article about it here. There are others; seek them out.
Anyhow, there’s this bit at the end if you turn the volume up and listen to it shifted down one octave, you sort of hear a chair creak or a shuffling around, like Lennie is getting up from the piano and heading over to press stop on his Ampex machine, and I hear a voice say ‘now that’s…’, or maybe, ‘not bad’. Do you hear it? Maybe there are people around who knew Lennie’s voice who could say for sure that that’s what’s there. But it might just be some coincidental frequency mullarkey.
But the point is that to listen to something in this kind of detail is different from the other way. You learn different things. Both are good. I wouldn’t want to just do one and not the other.
Here’s my over analysed transcription (for the guitar) of the first bit of Line Up. (click here or the pic to download the transcription) I tried to put in dynamics, accents, fingering, picking, implied harmony, the relationship to the bass line, and whatever else I could cram in. If I’d notated it by hand I probably would’ve put more detail in as sometimes the restrictions within the software force you to neglect certain creative notational ideas you might have. It’s much easier to notate detail, or one’s notational imagination by hand than it is through the limit of a pre-programmed bit of kit; in this case, Sibelius. I should point out, also, that some of the rhythmic notation was influenced by Eunmi Shim’s transcription of ‘Line Up’ in her fascinating book: ‘Lennie Tristano: His Life in Music‘.