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Thread started 12/24/14 12:52pm

bigbrother

Does p really not read music?

As Prince allegedly doesn't read music and doesn't really play any horn instruments, how do you think he teaches the parts for the horn lines to his band members? Does he play the lines on a synth or guitar and then ask them (the sax, trombone,trumpet players)to organise the arrangement? Just curious to see what the musicians on here think he might do?

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Reply #1 posted 12/24/14 1:43pm

dandan

He still knows his chords, scales and notes so yeah, he probably just plays it to them on the keyboard. For the most part though I reckon Prince tells them to learn their parts as heard on the record before rehearsal. Any changes in arrangment or parts will then be explained by Prince at the rehearsal.

I got two sides... and they're both friends.
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Reply #2 posted 12/24/14 2:27pm

EddieC

Well... we actually have an org member who would know what Prince has done in many cases.

.

So, maybe Mr. Moops will give us a little insight.

.

I would guess that he's not completely incapable of reading music, by the way. He very well might not be able to play immediately what you put in front of him, but I'm guessing he could work it out. But I'm sure he's rarely had any reason to do so. As far as horn parts, I think a lot of that's actually done initially by the studio players themselves, with Prince approving or disapproving or tweaking what they bring to the table. But again, Mr. Moops could really tell us his experiences.

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Reply #3 posted 12/25/14 1:02am

novabrkr

He knows chords, keys, scales and understands how they work in relation to each other. The rehearsal recordings we have from various stages of this career prove this. He's often telling the band members what to play ("play G" when someone's playing something else etc.). So in other words, he knows what the names of the notes, for example, on a piano are. Maybe he just never just took the time to actually learn how to "read" music from paper. Knowing the stuff that Prince seems to know more than makes up for it though, because "reading music" doesn't mean that you'd actually understand how music works.

For example, I'm a very slow reader myself, but that doesn't mean that I wouldn't understand all kinds music theory stuff (I have a "minor" degree in Musicology and not being able to sit on a piano and play the music written on the papers in front of me instantly didn't stop me from getting that). I really do need to listen to the recordings before I can play the stuff on the papers.

Sometimes the horn players make the horn parts themselves (I believe this is the case with most of the recordings done with "NPG" ensembles). With Eric Leeds and other guys I believe they came up with their own parts and sometimes played stuff Prince either played on a synth or a sang to them. There are rehearsal tapes that have him playing the synth horn parts on a synth (I believe, a Yamaha DX7) to his horn sections (e.g. the SOTT rehearsals).

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Reply #4 posted 12/25/14 2:43am

SuperSoulFight
er

Maybe he does it the way James Brown used to do:"I want you to go:duh-duh-duhduh-duuuhhh!"
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Reply #5 posted 12/25/14 5:03am

iZsaZsa

avatar

SuperSoulFighter said:

Maybe he does it the way James Brown used to do:"I want you to go:duh-duh-duhduh-duuuhhh!"

nod Prince can sing anything.
What?
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Reply #6 posted 12/25/14 5:11am

databank

avatar

bigbrother said:

As Prince allegedly doesn't read music and doesn't really play any horn instruments, how do you think he teaches the parts for the horn lines to his band members? Does he play the lines on a synth or guitar and then ask them (the sax, trombone,trumpet players)to organise the arrangement? Just curious to see what the musicians on here think he might do?

According to previous statements by bandmembers he would either record/play the parts on keys, or sing it, or allow the horns player to compose their own arrangements (they would usually embelish P's original idea anyway). Eric for example said the main melodies on 8 were originally recorded on keys (can't remember which interview, sorry) and obviously the solos were left to him, but on some songs he'd just give the track to Eric and ask him to add whatever horn arrangements he'd like, then P would possibly edit the result to fit his view, the same way he'd sometimes edit some parts of Clare Fischer's orchestra out. What is certain is that under no circumstances P would write down a music sheet for his musicians, it's all by ear or the horn players would write down their parts for memorizing them (I think Greg said he would do that for the other horn players in 02-04, as the line-up wasn't always stable between Maceo, Eric and Candy, so whoever was there would know their parts).

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #7 posted 12/25/14 7:10am

TrevorAyer

prince can likely read music .. even before PR movie .. how could he not .. probably cant play perfect on sight for the first time like someone classically trained, but can certainly figure out what notes are what, memorize them and then play fluidly

however .. what is most likely is that the horn players write most of it .. he may have a simple melody they work off of or actually come up with the whole part themselves

p fans tend to credit prince with writing everything .. which is a joke .. at this point prince barely even writes lyrics that he sings, let alone any of the music

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Reply #8 posted 12/25/14 8:34am

databank

avatar

TrevorAyer said:

prince can likely read music .. even before PR movie .. how could he not .. probably cant play perfect on sight for the first time like someone classically trained, but can certainly figure out what notes are what, memorize them and then play fluidly

however .. what is most likely is that the horn players write most of it .. he may have a simple melody they work off of or actually come up with the whole part themselves

p fans tend to credit prince with writing everything .. which is a joke .. at this point prince barely even writes lyrics that he sings, let alone any of the music

Trevor this claim isn't backed-up by any fact, it's just you hallucinating out loud. Please don't do that, it's wrong and you know better.

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #9 posted 12/27/14 2:05pm

funksterr

There is no way in hell Prince can't read music. I'm sure he can if he really needed to. It's just not something generally necessary in the creation and performance of rock music styles.

[Edited 12/27/14 14:05pm]

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Reply #10 posted 12/27/14 4:31pm

duccichucka

One of the reasons why Prince has hit a brick wall is because he does not know music theory.

As a musician who learned to play by ear but had a classical training, I'm tired of musicians

acting as if not knowing how to read music is "cooler" than learning how to do so. One of
the reasons why jazz musicians and classical composers got better as they aged is because

most of them had a strong foundation in music theory.

At some point, your ear will begin to fail you, and you'll start repeating the same musical ideas

over and over again. This is the case for pop musicians who do not know music theory (McCartney,
Stevie Wonder, Prince).

Think about it: if you don't learn new words to express yourself and widen your vocabulary,
you'll reach a point where your verbal skills will become limited, despite how talented you may
be at "speaking." You have to learn English and read dictionaries and understand how the
language works in order to increase your knowledge so that when your natural abilities begin to
fail you, you can start to rely upon the fundamentals. Pop musicians will always run out of things
to say unless they learn theory. One of the reasons why Miles Davis, Beethoven, John Coltrane,
and Stravinsky were able to continue to challenge musical conventions as they progressed in their
career is because they simply knew music theory.

It is clear to me that Prince has a rudimentary knowledge of music theory, if any at all, and this
explains why he's run out of new things to say musically. He obviously peaked in 1987 and since
then, has mostly been repeating and rehashing musical ideas of his youth, which is when his ear
was optimal.

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Reply #11 posted 12/27/14 7:52pm

CynicKill

duccichucka said:

One of the reasons why Prince has hit a brick wall is because he does not know music theory.

As a musician who learned to play by ear but had a classical training, I'm tired of musicians

acting as if not knowing how to read music is "cooler" than learning how to do so. One of
the reasons why jazz musicians and classical composers got better as they aged is because

most of them had a strong foundation in music theory.

At some point, your ear will begin to fail you, and you'll start repeating the same musical ideas

over and over again. This is the case for pop musicians who do not know music theory (McCartney,
Stevie Wonder, Prince).

Think about it: if you don't learn new words to express yourself and widen your vocabulary,
you'll reach a point where your verbal skills will become limited, despite how talented you may
be at "speaking." You have to learn English and read dictionaries and understand how the
language works in order to increase your knowledge so that when your natural abilities begin to
fail you, you can start to rely upon the fundamentals. Pop musicians will always run out of things
to say unless they learn theory. One of the reasons why Miles Davis, Beethoven, John Coltrane,
and Stravinsky were able to continue to challenge musical conventions as they progressed in their
career is because they simply knew music theory.

It is clear to me that Prince has a rudimentary knowledge of music theory, if any at all, and this
explains why he's run out of new things to say musically. He obviously peaked in 1987 and since
then, has mostly been repeating and rehashing musical ideas of his youth, which is when his ear
was optimal.

>

I think you're onto something there.

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Reply #12 posted 12/27/14 8:33pm

trc1

avatar

no he does not. Check old interview.
"I don't make the rules. I just play"
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Reply #13 posted 12/28/14 3:16am

databank

avatar

CynicKill said:

duccichucka said:

One of the reasons why Prince has hit a brick wall is because he does not know music theory.

As a musician who learned to play by ear but had a classical training, I'm tired of musicians

acting as if not knowing how to read music is "cooler" than learning how to do so. One of
the reasons why jazz musicians and classical composers got better as they aged is because

most of them had a strong foundation in music theory.

At some point, your ear will begin to fail you, and you'll start repeating the same musical ideas

over and over again. This is the case for pop musicians who do not know music theory (McCartney,
Stevie Wonder, Prince).

Think about it: if you don't learn new words to express yourself and widen your vocabulary,
you'll reach a point where your verbal skills will become limited, despite how talented you may
be at "speaking." You have to learn English and read dictionaries and understand how the
language works in order to increase your knowledge so that when your natural abilities begin to
fail you, you can start to rely upon the fundamentals. Pop musicians will always run out of things
to say unless they learn theory. One of the reasons why Miles Davis, Beethoven, John Coltrane,
and Stravinsky were able to continue to challenge musical conventions as they progressed in their
career is because they simply knew music theory.

It is clear to me that Prince has a rudimentary knowledge of music theory, if any at all, and this
explains why he's run out of new things to say musically. He obviously peaked in 1987 and since
then, has mostly been repeating and rehashing musical ideas of his youth, which is when his ear
was optimal.

>

I think you're onto something there.

Yeah this is a pretty interesting idea nod

However IDK whether musicians with a background in music theory are so much more capable of renewing themselves: people like Björk, Danny Elfman, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Jon Hassell, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis or Harold Budd (names that come to mind on top of my head) have a musical theory background and have been also continuously re-exploring the same musical territories over the second half of their careers (i.e. past their prime). I may be wrong, though, but that's my impression.

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #14 posted 12/28/14 5:08am

funksterr

duccichucka said:

One of the reasons why Prince has hit a brick wall is because he does not know music theory.

As a musician who learned to play by ear but had a classical training, I'm tired of musicians

acting as if not knowing how to read music is "cooler" than learning how to do so. One of
the reasons why jazz musicians and classical composers got better as they aged is because

most of them had a strong foundation in music theory.

At some point, your ear will begin to fail you, and you'll start repeating the same musical ideas

over and over again. This is the case for pop musicians who do not know music theory (McCartney,
Stevie Wonder, Prince).

Think about it: if you don't learn new words to express yourself and widen your vocabulary,
you'll reach a point where your verbal skills will become limited, despite how talented you may
be at "speaking." You have to learn English and read dictionaries and understand how the
language works in order to increase your knowledge so that when your natural abilities begin to
fail you, you can start to rely upon the fundamentals. Pop musicians will always run out of things
to say unless they learn theory. One of the reasons why Miles Davis, Beethoven, John Coltrane,
and Stravinsky were able to continue to challenge musical conventions as they progressed in their
career is because they simply knew music theory.

It is clear to me that Prince has a rudimentary knowledge of music theory, if any at all, and this
explains why he's run out of new things to say musically. He obviously peaked in 1987 and since
then, has mostly been repeating and rehashing musical ideas of his youth, which is when his ear
was optimal.


I can tell you don't play guitar.

Reading sheet music and understanding music theory are two separate things. Most guitarists don't develop strong music reading skills. It can be done, but sheet music is counter-intuitive for guitar, where there are different positions for the same note. That's why tablature is so popular with guitarists. Reading music is more of a choral, classical or orchestral thing. Not something a self-taught guitar-playing singer/songwriter performing original rock-based material would find much use for. Even a lot of jazz players didn't need it for composition, only for working in big bands.

But c'mon... He can't do the "Every Good Boy Does Fine" thing and find his notes? I'm sure he can.

I agree Prince relies primarily on his ear and composes largely by feeling, but that is actually a useful skill for an artist. Especially a popstar/rock musician. Prince gets a lot of his ideas from other musicians. He studies his competition, then does his own version, of what they do well. He picks apart and absorbs their records by ear and then Princifies what he likes about them. That's a skill music readers usually do not develop. That's a skill that, not just musicians, but artists of every discipline, from writers to painters to chefs, etc, strive their entire careers to develop. The ability to develop your skill-set, personalize your influences, and then produce your own uniquely identifiable brand of work. 99.99% of those that try NEVER attain that level. Prince has been doing it, since at least 1979, so he is truly an amazingly gifted and skilled artist and we have to recognize him for the skillset and methodology he has mastered, too.

With that said...I doubt he knows a lot of music theory, or would have a lot of use for it even if he did truly apply himself to learning it. He works off of feeling. For a pop/rock guy, Prince has been extremely successful with the skills he does have. I'm not sure any criticism of his methods is truly valid given his level of creative accomplishment.

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Reply #15 posted 12/28/14 3:03pm

duccichucka

funksterr said:


I can tell you don't play guitar.

Reading sheet music and understanding music theory are two separate things. Most guitarists don't develop strong music reading skills. It can be done, but sheet music is counter-intuitive for guitar, where there are different positions for the same note. That's why tablature is so popular with guitarists. Reading music is more of a choral, classical or orchestral thing. Not something a self-taught guitar-playing singer/songwriter performing original rock-based material would find much use for. Even a lot of jazz players didn't need it for composition, only for working in big bands.

But c'mon... He can't do the "Every Good Boy Does Fine" thing and find his notes? I'm sure he can.

I agree Prince relies primarily on his ear and composes largely by feeling, but that is actually a useful skill for an artist. Especially a popstar/rock musician. Prince gets a lot of his ideas from other musicians. He studies his competition, then does his own version, of what they do well. He picks apart and absorbs their records by ear and then Princifies what he likes about them. That's a skill music readers usually do not develop. That's a skill that, not just musicians, but artists of every discipline, from writers to painters to chefs, etc, strive their entire careers to develop. The ability to develop your skill-set, personalize your influences, and then produce your own uniquely identifiable brand of work. 99.99% of those that try NEVER attain that level. Prince has been doing it, since at least 1979, so he is truly an amazingly gifted and skilled artist and we have to recognize him for the skillset and methodology he has mastered, too.

With that said...I doubt he knows a lot of music theory, or would have a lot of use for it even if he did truly apply himself to learning it. He works off of feeling. For a pop/rock guy, Prince has been extremely successful with the skills he does have. I'm not sure any criticism of his methods is truly valid given his level of creative accomplishment.


You tell wrong: I play guitar, piano, bass, drums, clarinet, and the saxophone. And I'm able

to read charts and scores. But nobody said anything about reading music. I'm talking about

learning the fundamentals of western music, which is what music theory offers. Yes, of course
this involves being able to read music, but it encompasses so much more than this: if Prince

learned how chords are constructed; how modes are utilized; how progressions are created;

which scale to use with any particular key/mode, then I'm willing to suggest that his musical
vocabulary would increase. As for your assertion about guitarists, meh. The guitarists that I'm
interested in (John McLaughlin, George Benson, Allan Holdsworth) all can read music and under-
stand music theory. Why? Because all of them have a jazz background. So your assertion
about classical music being the only genre of music where theory is important is patently false,
and wrong. Miles Davis went to Juilliard. John Coltrane studied the Slonimsky thesaurus,
enabling him to push jazz forward. Miles Davis changed music FOUR fucking times! He didn't do
this by "feeling" alone but by knowing the science of western music so that he could break all
the established rules. He studied George Russell's work on the Lydian mode and that is how we
got Kind of Blue = he learned MUSIC THEORY.

As for the rest of your post, it is kinda silly. Of course musicians work with "feeling." This much
is true for any artist who is producing art. But Beethoven did not compose his late string quartets;
Miles Davis didn't write Kind of Blue; John Coltrane didn't play "Giant Steps" without learning how
music works in and out. First you learn the fundamentals of how music is a science. Then you

play with feeling. This is how my favorite musicians (jazzers and classical composers) progressed
and so should any musician who is interested in not repeating himself because he's run out of
things to say. Nobody is saying that Prince isn't talented. But I am saying that he peaked in 1987
because he has not learned the science behind how western music works. He's been relying
mostly on his ear for the duration of his career and it is obvious that he hasn't an original musical
idea left because he does not have the musical vocabulary to express new ideas.

You appear to be another musician who thinks feeling and his ear are integral to the creative
process while eschewing theory. Unless you train that ear and learn the science of music,

you will definitely fall victim to what has befallen Prince. Learn theory, dude. It won't kill you
and it won't take away from playing with feeling. It'll give you new ideas about how music fits

together. If you truly care about your craft, shouldn't you learn EVERYTHING about it?

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Reply #16 posted 12/28/14 3:19pm

duccichucka

databank said:

CynicKill said:

>

I think you're onto something there.

Yeah this is a pretty interesting idea nod

However IDK whether musicians with a background in music theory are so much more capable of renewing themselves: people like Björk, Danny Elfman, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Jon Hassell, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis or Harold Budd (names that come to mind on top of my head) have a musical theory background and have been also continuously re-exploring the same musical territories over the second half of their careers (i.e. past their prime). I may be wrong, though, but that's my impression.


As far as Jarrett, Hancock, Shorter, and Duke are concerned, sure, they have albums that repeat
themselves or remain entrenched in a certain sub-genre. But they also have albums that are
explorative, sophisticated, and stretch beyond the borders of whatever genre they are affiliated
with.

And Prince, wondrously talented as he is, does not have the musical vocabulary that the above
have. He could if he just sat his tiny ass down to learn music theory. He'd be much more in-

teresting then, in my opinion. I'm not saying that learning music theory will automatically make

one an amazing musician. There is something to be said for imagination, creativity, feeling,

and intrepidness (rebelliousness?) that can assist a musician in pushing the boundaries of their

genre further. Prince appears to have been blessed with these things, but sadly, did not learn

the science of music, and therefore, his imagination, creativity, feeling, and intrepidness have
reached their limits of expression.

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Reply #17 posted 12/28/14 5:41pm

funksterr

duccichucka said:

funksterr said:


I can tell you don't play guitar.

Reading sheet music and understanding music theory are two separate things. Most guitarists don't develop strong music reading skills. It can be done, but sheet music is counter-intuitive for guitar, where there are different positions for the same note. That's why tablature is so popular with guitarists. Reading music is more of a choral, classical or orchestral thing. Not something a self-taught guitar-playing singer/songwriter performing original rock-based material would find much use for. Even a lot of jazz players didn't need it for composition, only for working in big bands.

But c'mon... He can't do the "Every Good Boy Does Fine" thing and find his notes? I'm sure he can.

I agree Prince relies primarily on his ear and composes largely by feeling, but that is actually a useful skill for an artist. Especially a popstar/rock musician. Prince gets a lot of his ideas from other musicians. He studies his competition, then does his own version, of what they do well. He picks apart and absorbs their records by ear and then Princifies what he likes about them. That's a skill music readers usually do not develop. That's a skill that, not just musicians, but artists of every discipline, from writers to painters to chefs, etc, strive their entire careers to develop. The ability to develop your skill-set, personalize your influences, and then produce your own uniquely identifiable brand of work. 99.99% of those that try NEVER attain that level. Prince has been doing it, since at least 1979, so he is truly an amazingly gifted and skilled artist and we have to recognize him for the skillset and methodology he has mastered, too.

With that said...I doubt he knows a lot of music theory, or would have a lot of use for it even if he did truly apply himself to learning it. He works off of feeling. For a pop/rock guy, Prince has been extremely successful with the skills he does have. I'm not sure any criticism of his methods is truly valid given his level of creative accomplishment.


You tell wrong: I play guitar, piano, bass, drums, clarinet, and the saxophone. And I'm able

to read charts and scores. But nobody said anything about reading music. I'm talking about

learning the fundamentals of western music, which is what music theory offers. Yes, of course
this involves being able to read music, but it encompasses so much more than this: if Prince

learned how chords are constructed; how modes are utilized; how progressions are created;

which scale to use with any particular key/mode, then I'm willing to suggest that his musical
vocabulary would increase. As for your assertion about guitarists, meh. The guitarists that I'm
interested in (John McLaughlin, George Benson, Allan Holdsworth) all can read music and under-
stand music theory. Why? Because all of them have a jazz background. So your assertion
about classical music being the only genre of music where theory is important is patently false,
and wrong. Miles Davis went to Juilliard. John Coltrane studied the Slonimsky thesaurus,
enabling him to push jazz forward. Miles Davis changed music FOUR fucking times! He didn't do
this by "feeling" alone but by knowing the science of western music so that he could break all
the established rules. He studied George Russell's work on the Lydian mode and that is how we
got Kind of Blue = he learned MUSIC THEORY.

As for the rest of your post, it is kinda silly. Of course musicians work with "feeling." This much
is true for any artist who is producing art. But Beethoven did not compose his late string quartets;
Miles Davis didn't write Kind of Blue; John Coltrane didn't play "Giant Steps" without learning how
music works in and out. First you learn the fundamentals of how music is a science. Then you

play with feeling. This is how my favorite musicians (jazzers and classical composers) progressed
and so should any musician who is interested in not repeating himself because he's run out of
things to say. Nobody is saying that Prince isn't talented. But I am saying that he peaked in 1987
because he has not learned the science behind how western music works. He's been relying
mostly on his ear for the duration of his career and it is obvious that he hasn't an original musical
idea left because he does not have the musical vocabulary to express new ideas.

You appear to be another musician who thinks feeling and his ear are integral to the creative
process while eschewing theory. Unless you train that ear and learn the science of music,

you will definitely fall victim to what has befallen Prince. Learn theory, dude. It won't kill you
and it won't take away from playing with feeling. It'll give you new ideas about how music fits

together. If you truly care about your craft, shouldn't you learn EVERYTHING about it?

I call bullshit on the bulk of your post. I can't be assed to go brickwall to brickwall with you, but:

- George Benson DOES NOT read music: http://www.popmatters.com...ge-benson/ "He doesn’t much read music, but he manages to feel his way into nearly every setting presented to him. His singing—which would ultimately bring him more fame and cash than his playing—mirrored his playing: sweet and soulful, natural, maybe more pop than jazz." Back in the day everybody had to read charts to work in big bands. That shit was old-school in the 70's and it's really out of practice in modern pop music. Are you saying if Prince read charts better or knew more about music theory he would have more recent hits than Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift? Because I don't think anyone in modern pop/rock/r&b reads music well either, so.... I mean Prince isn't even that into it, and yet he's probably as good as everyone else charting in pop and rock these days.

-You accuse Prince of being out of fresh ideas, and i figure nearly 40 years in, and 50 plus albums released...

- You don't play ANY instrument with the level of skill that Prince does, so come the fuck off of the bullshit. You don't play guitar. You may dabble with it, but you are not even commonly proficient on guitar. If you were, you would know sight reading music for guitarist singer-songwriters performing their own material, is a virtually useless skill. Maybe you play clarinet and sax and fuck around a bit on piano, but definitely you aren't much of a guitarist, because you clearly don't know some of the more basic challenges of learning the instrument.

-As for music theory... and Prince's ear supposedly failing him since 1987, lol... due to lack of enough knowledge of musical theory to express himself, keep in mind that since 1988 Prince has 22 Grammy nominations, and more Top20 hits worldwide than I can count. I stopped around 30 or so. I can't think of any one man band singer-songwriters in music with that kind of track record, since 1988. Prince has a 40 year history of hitmaking and a classic period most musicians, including yourself, can only aspire to dream about. His methods have yielded results. I can't think of anyone accomplishing similar feats. Let alone due to their advanded understanding of music theory. So again come off the hating on Prince with some bullshit you heard somewhere. That's not how things are done in the real world. A little bit of classroom training on your clarinet doesn't qualify you to breakdown Prince's understanding of music theory.

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Reply #18 posted 12/28/14 6:02pm

NuPwrSoul

Prince may not know music theory in any formalized way, in terms of what to call things, how they are named, or how they are classified. But he absolutely has demonstrated his knowledge of how music works (the practice of theory), and it is quite possible to practice something without having to or being able to theorize about it.

That said, I would agree with duccichucka that Prince's musical vocabulary seems to have reached certain limits. One of the reasons why many of us became die hard fans, was that we witnessed the expansion of Prince's vocabulary right along with him. Every new album/project had something different or more complex than the previous. More developed. More sophisticated.

I don't think it's so much that Prince needs to learn music theory, as much as it is that he needs to expose himself to more diverse musical influences. Writers become better writers the more that they read. There was a time (that we know of) when people would bring him things to listen to. The Leeds brothers, the Melvoin & Coleman clan, they introduced Prince to music that he had not paid much attention to prior. I don't know who is around him now. Who is introducing him to new music.

"That...magic, the start of something revolutionary-the Minneapolis Sound, we should cherish it and not punish prince for not being able to replicate it."-Dreamshaman32
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Reply #19 posted 12/28/14 6:36pm

treehouse

funksterr said:

I can tell you don't play guitar.

Reading sheet music and understanding music theory are two separate things.


Usually true, but it can also depend on the sheet music in question. We're not talking Stravinsky here.

Prince can probably read a basic chart sort of half assed, if he needs to, but that it's not his prefered method to communicate ideas. He could finger one note at a time, on very basic sheet music, but if you handed him sheet music for horn players to a random song from Parade, probably couldn't identify it. Doesn't matter. He's worked with horn players, and communicated his ideas, and he knows basic note structure.

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Reply #20 posted 12/28/14 9:06pm

TASKAE

funksterr said:

There is no way in hell Prince can't read music. I'm sure he can if he really needed to. It's just not something generally necessary in the creation and performance of rock music styles.

[Edited 12/27/14 14:05pm]

Would Prince even need to read music at this point? My impression is that he and whoever musicians he works with are past that.

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Reply #21 posted 12/29/14 3:20am

SuperSoulFight
er

Don't forget that Prince is working in the POP music genre which was never all that much about musical theory anyway. Pop music has always been about feelings and a rebellious spirit. It makes no sense to compare Prince to Beethoven. You don't need to study classical music in order to write a 3 minute pop song. Neither The Beatles nor The Stones nor Dylan were the best musicians, they're the best songwriters. That's what pop music is all about. Prince doesn't need to study music, he needs something to write about and on the best songs onAOA, he's found it.
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Reply #22 posted 12/29/14 8:01am

Genesia

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duccichucka said:

One of the reasons why Prince has hit a brick wall is because he does not know music theory.

As a musician who learned to play by ear but had a classical training, I'm tired of musicians

acting as if not knowing how to read music is "cooler" than learning how to do so. One of
the reasons why jazz musicians and classical composers got better as they aged is because

most of them had a strong foundation in music theory.

At some point, your ear will begin to fail you, and you'll start repeating the same musical ideas

over and over again. This is the case for pop musicians who do not know music theory (McCartney,
Stevie Wonder, Prince).

Think about it: if you don't learn new words to express yourself and widen your vocabulary, you'll reach a point where your verbal skills will become limited, despite how talented you may be at "speaking." You have to learn English and read dictionaries and understand how the language works in order to increase your knowledge so that when your natural abilities begin to fail you, you can start to rely upon the fundamentals. Pop musicians will always run out of things
to say unless they learn theory. One of the reasons why Miles Davis, Beethoven, John Coltrane,
and Stravinsky were able to continue to challenge musical conventions as they progressed in their
career is because they simply knew music theory.

It is clear to me that Prince has a rudimentary knowledge of music theory, if any at all, and this
explains why he's run out of new things to say musically. He obviously peaked in 1987 and since
then, has mostly been repeating and rehashing musical ideas of his youth, which is when his ear
was optimal.


This is a bad analogy. Widening one's vocabulary and learning the fundamentals of grammar is essential as one learns to read and write, but there is no point at which "your natural abilities begin to fail you." This implies that you can "unlearn" how to read or write which (barring some catastrophic event like a brain injury) simply does not happen. And if you did suddenly become illiterate, having read the dictionary wouldn't do a damn thing for you. You can't just randomly insert "luminiferous" when you mean to say "automobile."

I'm a writer by trade. I know googobs of words (including a specialized vocabulary for my job) but I can honestly say that I use only a small fraction of them in any day, week or month. And I am not unusual in that way.

Now, if you mean to say that writing a symphony is like writing a novel in that both have a story line that must be developed and that certain rules apply (music theory or grammar, as the case may be), then I'm with you. But thinking that learning more words makes you a better writer is just incorrect. After all, all musicians work with a very limited set of notes (A-G, plus sharps and flats). It's what a person (writer or composer) does with them that makes them middling or magnificent.

[Edited 12/29/14 8:03am]

We don’t mourn artists because we knew them. We mourn them because they helped us know ourselves.
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Reply #23 posted 12/29/14 8:14am

joyinrepetitio
n

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Prince can read music. He took music classes in high school. Did anyone ever consider that "he can't read music" is part of the myth of Prince when he first came out to build on his mystique? They lied about his age and this so people would think he was an uber musical wunderkind that can do everything with no formal training. Yeah, right! Prince is self taught, but over the years, he learned through some formal training. As he says in his latest leak, Don't Let Him Fool Ya!

__________________________________________________
2 words falling between the drops and the moans of his condition
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Reply #24 posted 12/29/14 8:38am

novabrkr

Academic music theory is piss poor for discussing the use of space, distortion, different "colours of sound" of electronic instruments from different eras and so on.

If you want to use jazz as an example. Those aspects are very important when trying to understand the jazz fusion era and its appeal to its fans. Try to tell a musicologist why hitting a Rhodes piano with your entire hand, resulting in a loud, distorted ZWONK is cool as hell.

Likewise, there's absolutely no way to express yourself within the standards of musicology departments when trying to argue why the drum sounds on SOTT are "in better taste" than the drum sounds on most albums from that time period.

Prince understands concepts such as space better than 99.9% of the musicians out there. Years of formal education in classical and jazz certainly hasn't resulted in an adequate understanding of such concepts with the most "professionally trained" musicians I know.

I absolutely loathe it when professionally trained musicians are able to run their fingers nimbly through all possible scales without having the slightest idea that you might need to introduce a few breaks here and there in order for the listener to get something out of it too.


That's something I'd like to see getting introduced into "music theory" ASAP.

Rant over. razz

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Reply #25 posted 12/29/14 9:58am

databank

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joyinrepetition said:

Prince can read music. He took music classes in high school. Did anyone ever consider that "he can't read music" is part of the myth of Prince when he first came out to build on his mystique? They lied about his age and this so people would think he was an uber musical wunderkind that can do everything with no formal training. Yeah, right! Prince is self taught, but over the years, he learned through some formal training. As he says in his latest leak, Don't Let Him Fool Ya!

Oh please, no offense but cut the crap with the marketing "myth", the fact that P doesn't read music has been attested by various ex collaborators and wasn't ever even officially stated by P himself or any of his PR people or labels. I'm really tired of the conspiracy theories à la "The Black Album was a marketing ploy from the beginning". Stick to the facts.

[Edited 12/29/14 15:01pm]

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Reply #26 posted 12/29/14 10:07am

databank

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duccichucka said:

databank said:

Yeah this is a pretty interesting idea nod

However IDK whether musicians with a background in music theory are so much more capable of renewing themselves: people like Björk, Danny Elfman, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Jon Hassell, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis or Harold Budd (names that come to mind on top of my head) have a musical theory background and have been also continuously re-exploring the same musical territories over the second half of their careers (i.e. past their prime). I may be wrong, though, but that's my impression.


As far as Jarrett, Hancock, Shorter, and Duke are concerned, sure, they have albums that repeat
themselves or remain entrenched in a certain sub-genre. But they also have albums that are
explorative, sophisticated, and stretch beyond the borders of whatever genre they are affiliated
with.

And Prince, wondrously talented as he is, does not have the musical vocabulary that the above
have. He could if he just sat his tiny ass down to learn music theory. He'd be much more in-

teresting then, in my opinion. I'm not saying that learning music theory will automatically make

one an amazing musician. There is something to be said for imagination, creativity, feeling,

and intrepidness (rebelliousness?) that can assist a musician in pushing the boundaries of their

genre further. Prince appears to have been blessed with these things, but sadly, did not learn

the science of music, and therefore, his imagination, creativity, feeling, and intrepidness have
reached their limits of expression.

I may have missed something, I'll admit it, but save his neoclassical suite, I didn't really hear anything by Duke that was really new for the last 30 years. Same with Herbie once he got past his electronic trilogy with Laswell. Same with Jarrett, I mean of course his improvisations are mindblowing and maybe with a trained musicians' ear (which I ain't got) you can hear stuff he ain't ever done before in them but for me they all sound like more of the same (which doesn't mean I don't like 'em, I like 'em a lot). Shorter I don't know his whole body of work so I may have missed some stuff. Davis, whom you quoted earlier I don't even know, I mean past the electric era he more or less relied on pop music and newly created synth sounds to evolve, not musical theory. Coltrane died too young IMHO for us to really know what could have happened past the experiments he started to toy with at the end of his life. Once again though I think your analysis may be really insightful so I ain't trying to say you are wrong in the idea that musical theory may have allowed P to do many more things (I guess that's pretty obvious at least with Kamasutra, which sounds like a cheap caricature of outdated classical music and ignores the whole body of work of 20th century contemporary music composers), but in the end I don't know that many musicians/composers who really remained truly innovative past the first one or two phases of their careers, or when they did it was more thanks to followings new trends and/or adopting newly created sounds (Davis, Bowie) than to a new theorical thinking of their music. But I may be wrong, for I myself don't master music theory and there may be things that I don't "hear" or realize.

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Reply #27 posted 12/29/14 10:31am

databank

avatar

NuPwrSoul said:

Prince may not know music theory in any formalized way, in terms of what to call things, how they are named, or how they are classified. But he absolutely has demonstrated his knowledge of how music works (the practice of theory), and it is quite possible to practice something without having to or being able to theorize about it.

That said, I would agree with duccichucka that Prince's musical vocabulary seems to have reached certain limits. One of the reasons why many of us became die hard fans, was that we witnessed the expansion of Prince's vocabulary right along with him. Every new album/project had something different or more complex than the previous. More developed. More sophisticated.

I don't think it's so much that Prince needs to learn music theory, as much as it is that he needs to expose himself to more diverse musical influences. Writers become better writers the more that they read. There was a time (that we know of) when people would bring him things to listen to. The Leeds brothers, the Melvoin & Coleman clan, they introduced Prince to music that he had not paid much attention to prior. I don't know who is around him now. Who is introducing him to new music.

I agree a lot with that. When you read/hear what new artists P seems to be exposed thru his interviews, covers or the stuff he links on social medias, it's obvious that he is almost only exposed to American R&B and mainstream American pop and folk music. He obviously knows very little about the electronic music scene of the last 25 years, which has most of its roots in Europe, for example, and just because of that he totally missed the last train because I don't know, even if you won't do that kind of music it seems to me that you can't ignore who people such as Aphex Twin are and what they did if you're to stay up to date. He obviously never heard much world music either. Kamasutra shows his ignorance of contemporary "neoclassical" composers and their work: it's like P had no idea of what had happened after 1920 or so. And I could go on like that, etc., etc.

My second fave artist after P is Bill Laswell. When you check out the astounding diversity of his body of work, there you can see a guy who managed to expose himself to virtually every possible kind of music and incorporated those influences in his work (even though for the past decade even he started to repeat himself a lot). I mean when I read young fans here writing that P has done every musical genre I can't help but laughing and thinking how little those youngsters know about music: P's body of work is really limited to the most mainstream types of American popular music. He sure is more diverse than most other musicians but there are so many genres he's never even touched at all. IDK maybe he's just not interested anymore but in the 80's it seems he was open to discover new things, he allowed Eric to expose him to some jazz he wasn't familiar with, W&L obviously exposed him to some pop-rock, André to new wave, Dez to hard rock, somehow he got a lot into Kate Bush and classical music at some point, too, then in the early 90's it seems he started to hear just basically what was on the radio and given how what was on the radio became less diverse and more commercial over the years...

I mean I'm very impressed by guys such as the YMO trio for example. Hosono and Takahashi were originally folk/rock musicians, Sakamoto had more of a jazz and classical background, yet in the late 70's and early 80's they managed to be on top of innovations and contributed to the early electronic revolution. After that they all did all kinds of things, including some very retro music in the past few years (Hosono's folk albums, Sakamoto's piano albums) but they never lost touch with what was happening: in the mid-90's they did music that matched the best London electronic musicians of the time, in the 2000's they did glitch music that was as subtle, and technically AND esthetically up-to-date as what the new kids on the electronic scene were doing, and when you listen for example to the YMO shows from the last decade or some of Sakamoto's albums from the last decade as well, you can't help but thinking "damn! those guys are 60 years old and they sound like 30 years old undergound, edgy artists!".

Now I'm not one to tell an artist what they should do or not, and unlike many here I'm really happy with P's post WB's music, all of it, but when I first heard stuff like The War or N.E.W.S. I was just so happy to hear P going out of his comfort zone (and brilliantly!), so I can't help wondering how far he could have gone if he'd kept exposing himself to lots of musical genres instead of having no clue of what was going on and taking ultracommercial and radio-friendly Josh Welton for an advisor regarding what he should do to sound like 2014!

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Reply #28 posted 12/29/14 11:26am

treehouse

novabrkr said:

That's something I'd like to see getting introduced into "music theory" ASAP.

Rant over. razz


Berkelee School of Music aside, most serious minded schools aren't swayed by just chops alone. Even on a formal training level, being proficient isn't enough. You have to have a certain intelligence, and soul on your instrument to take it to the next level. It's why Juilliard graduates dozens of classically trained artists, and few to none become soloists, or record in any meaningful way.

The other thing is composing is a different skill entirely. The majority of players in a Philharmonic aren't out writing their own music. They just play.

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Reply #29 posted 12/29/14 4:22pm

duccichucka

funksterr said:

I call bullshit on the bulk of your post. I can't be assed to go brickwall to brickwall with you, but:

- George Benson DOES NOT read music: http://www.popmatters.com...ge-benson/ "He doesn’t much read music, but he manages to feel his way into nearly every setting presented to him. His singing—which would ultimately bring him more fame and cash than his playing—mirrored his playing: sweet and soulful, natural, maybe more pop than jazz." Back in the day everybody had to read charts to work in big bands. That shit was old-school in the 70's and it's really out of practice in modern pop music. Are you saying if Prince read charts better or knew more about music theory he would have more recent hits than Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift? Because I don't think anyone in modern pop/rock/r&b reads music well either, so.... I mean Prince isn't even that into it, and yet he's probably as good as everyone else charting in pop and rock these days.

-You accuse Prince of being out of fresh ideas, and i figure nearly 40 years in, and 50 plus albums released...

- You don't play ANY instrument with the level of skill that Prince does, so come the fuck off of the bullshit. You don't play guitar. You may dabble with it, but you are not even commonly proficient on guitar. If you were, you would know sight reading music for guitarist singer-songwriters performing their own material, is a virtually useless skill. Maybe you play clarinet and sax and fuck around a bit on piano, but definitely you aren't much of a guitarist, because you clearly don't know some of the more basic challenges of learning the instrument.

-As for music theory... and Prince's ear supposedly failing him since 1987, lol... due to lack of enough knowledge of musical theory to express himself, keep in mind that since 1988 Prince has 22 Grammy nominations, and more Top20 hits worldwide than I can count. I stopped around 30 or so. I can't think of any one man band singer-songwriters in music with that kind of track record, since 1988. Prince has a 40 year history of hitmaking and a classic period most musicians, including yourself, can only aspire to dream about. His methods have yielded results. I can't think of anyone accomplishing similar feats. Let alone due to their advanded understanding of music theory. So again come off the hating on Prince with some bullshit you heard somewhere. That's not how things are done in the real world. A little bit of classroom training on your clarinet doesn't qualify you to breakdown Prince's understanding of music theory.


Funk, calm down dude. I've no desire to get into a cock measuring contest with you about who

can play what and how well it can be played. Music, for me at least, was never about who had

a bigger schlong. I have been playing the guitar for two decades - sorry, bro, but my guitar

heros all read music! And so do I! And I never compared my musicianship to Prince, so I don't

know what you're getting at by doing so. I would most definitely compare my grasp of music
theory with him, though!

Like I said, if an artist is truly devoted to her craft, she ought to learn everything about it. In this

case, that means music theory. And it applies to the board's namesake.

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