I sometimes wake up feeling widely different about music than the day before. The happened again a week or two ago. At the moment I feel like I’ve figured out in a very concrete way what I want to devote the majority of the immediate future of music learning to. I don't think I've ever had this clear of an idea.
First, let me reference the Ran Blake book Primacy of the Ear. I’ve mentioned this book before. The main point of the book is putting your ear, rather than the fingers (technique) or the brain (theory) at the center of your musical learning. In doing so you are encouraged to focus on a couple divergent musical interests and study them both in depth. For one person this might be the music of Eric Dolphy paired with Cretan traditional music, for somebody else maybe Arvo Pärt and Aretha Franklin.
It’s taken me years to develop the mindset to give learning anything by ear a legitimate shot. Almost one-hundred percent of the music I’ve played in the past was learned with the aid of written tab or notation, combined with the audio. Last month I decided to see if I could transcribe the vocal melody line to some Phish songs on my tenor banjo just by listening and assigning a note to each sung syllable in the lyrics. To my surprise and delight, this came rather easy. Years of familiarity with Phish’s music probably helped.
I had never heard of or listened to Roxy Music before discovering The Jazz Age, but I created a playlist in Spotify where I alternate the original song with the 1920’s jazz version, just to hear the comparison. These artsy pop/rock songs work incredibly well as 1920’s jazz numbers (or standalone pieces) and it sounds like Martin Wheatley didn't really change anything about his banjo technique for that recording. He is using the usual 1920's style rhythm playing.