Saturday, June 12, 2010

1989 - If You Don't Know Me By Now

My second Simply Red song in less than a week.   The phrase "If You Don't Know Me By Now" sometimes feels like a taunt from jazz and pop and other forms of music I didn't grow up with, but lately I'm feeling like I might actually be ok at playing them... someday, one day.

So here's my chance to write what I started to write about "Holding Back the Years": structurally, both songs are really simple, which leaves me time to pay attention to exactly what notes and rhythms are being played (as opposed to having to spend most of the time just figuring out the chords, the form, etc).

A number of times throughout my quest to become a better, more well-rounded musician, other, more masterful musicians who are helping me have invited me to stray from the notes on the page (remember talking about "the Ink" a while back?).  It's as if they think suddenly I'll know what to play, having been given permission to "comp" rather than play exactly what's written (and remember me bitching about bad piano arrangements? on several occasions?). 

And it is a great gift these musicians have given me - permission, and a clue.  A clue that I'm only starting to understand.  Until recently my reaction would generally be:

Blank stare.


ummmm...ok =

"I don't know this musical style.  Using the written notes as a "guideline" but not playing them exactly? That's like filling in a mad lib in a language I don't speak: I might be able to fake some of the pronunciation, but no native speaker would be able to understand what I'm saying.  Or, it's like trying to speak a language you can only read.  Yes, that's a better analogy.  You do fine, and can even get the gist of what's going on as long as there's something in front of your face, but try and form sentences from your own brain and you're toast.  So it is with me and most contemporary styles of music.  If not the written notes, then Whattt?!"

So it took me forever to start, but now I try to learn it like a language - a word, a phrase at a time, and every day I strap on my headphones and listen to the grown-ups (ie recording artists) talk, and I babble my pianistic baby gibberish.  I think I can say "mama" and "dada" now, and I can even say "where is the bathroom" with a really thick classical accent.

1 comment:

  1. This song will always remind me of shooting pool in a basement pub called Gaukler in the little town of Wolfhagen, WEst Germany when I was 16.