A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Hal Galper’s Masterclass – Musical Vocabulary

I watched another video from Hal Galper and was blown away again. This one is about musical vocabulary. Its making me think a bit differently about why I’m learning scales & chords.

Hal Galper’s Master Class – Musical Vocabulary


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In this video, Mr. Galper talks about learning music by playing it, not intellectualizing it. I think that I’m somewhat guilty of doing this. My understanding isn’t comprehensive, in any way, but I’m fascinated by all of the moving parts, and I overwhelm myself. It seems that this might be an essential step though. Its the building of a vocabulary, and a familiarization with the creation process. Hal says that more vocabulary lets you perform the process better, and I think that he’s right. I think knowledge gives you the options to pick the best tool for the job when playing – but it seems that having too many tools can potentially be a detriment as well.

Hal says that he still uses bebop vocabulary, but in his own way, when playing. His current band plays some sort of avant garde jazz, but he brings what he knows and loves to the table. His claim is that no two people hear the same way, which is a concept held in psychoacoustics, the science behind the crafting of music studios. Different musical elements appeal to different people.

Mr. Galper says that in order to develop your own personal style, you need to practice what you like. This is because there are a million concepts which can be learned about music, but its what most strongly draws a person to music which should be focused on. He equates creating music with creating art and says that its an intuitive, emotional and elective process through which the artist can teach the audience something about itself. People who experience art (whether visual, aural or otherwise) bring their own life experiences to the event, and ideally a resonance is created between the artist and the person experiencing art due to commonalities between artist and viewer.

Hal says that a big question that he gets asked is “what’s his style” or “how does he want to play“. He answers this by looking at his musical vocabulary and trying to identify what he relates to on an emotional level. Music (licks) which a person enjoys provides clues about how that person feels about music. They illustrate a value system which can be explored to determine what’s satisfying to a person’s musical pallette.

One idea of his which I really found interesting is that a common method towards learning music which is held by schools like Berklee is to learn 1,000 licks and string them together when improvising. He does not favor this approach and says that a more constructive way to really internalize music so that it can be more authentically performed is to master 20 licks and learn 100 ways to use each of them. It amounts to a similar quantity of information, but because the musician cherry-picks what’s interesting to him or her, a greater level of musical comprehension is gained. Basically, the musician leaves with a more intimate understanding of how to use what was learned, and of how music works, because of what I believe he would call resonance. I think that this all assumes a certain level of conceptual proficiency again – which he calls musical vocabulary.

I’m really intrigued by Mr. Galper. I’d actually love to see a dialogue between him and Jeff Berlin, who seems to share similar ideas. Wifey said that since he’s at Purchase College, I might want to consider taking unmatriculated classes there, depending on what he’s teaching… its really put a bug in my head, and I’m not a school-oriented person. I’m going to have to research that later.

Here’s a link to a previous blog entry about Mr. Galper, and to his website:

[edit 06.10.13] Here’s something I discovered after watching Hal’s videos again:

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2 responses

  1. Pingback: Hal Galper & Chord Tone Illusion | Ugly Bass Face

  2. Pingback: Audiation – Play what you hear | Ugly Bass Face

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