It’s Wednesday, which means…
Riffs, Recs, Charts, & Smarts
Keep The Fun was an attempt to articulate something I couldn’t quite perceive. I was blindly groping towards an idea that was just outside my reach.
But then my friend Nicholas sent me an amazing article, and the cartoon lightbulb above my head lit up.
In it, Barbara Oakley writes:
“The building blocks of understanding are memorization and repetition. Continually focusing on understanding itself gets in the way.”
“Greater understanding results from the fact that your mind constructed the patterns of meaning.”
Understanding is a result, not a prerequisite.
Your mind constructs the theoretical from the practical.
Through practice, repetition, and exposure, we can reverse engineer the “rules” of music. But it’s a one-way street—understanding theory won’t lead to fluency.
It’s part of the larger battle between conceptual understanding and rote memorization:
- phonetics vs sight words
- common core vs multiplication tables
- music theory vs learning lots of songs
Like most things, it’s a false dichotomy. We need both.
But if we focus on fluency, understanding takes care of itself. The reverse isn’t true.
How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math by Barbara Oakley
Read time: 15m
Last week we looked at Aimee Nolte’s dead-simple harmony part for Hey Jude.
Part Two of her Everyone Can Harmonize series lays out the harmony for You Are My Sunshine.
It’s more advanced. There’s some slick stuff going on it here.
One of the things that makes it so cool is chromaticism: using the notes in between the scale tones to spice things up.
Check out how the highlighted part moves down one fret at a time:
Play these two parts together and check out how cool they sound:
We can get super theoretical about why this works. But as we just discussed it’s way better to assemble theory from practice.
The real reason we’re using chromaticism is it sounds cool.
Theory comes after the fact.
You can grab the chart, .sib, and .musicXML files here.
In keeping with the theme, here’s a lesson I wrote for Solo30 students:
We cut straight through all the theoretical noise and get right to practical application.
Again: putting in the reps leads to fluency. Fluency leads to understanding.
See you next Wednesday!