As a musician, I’m self-taught, which is good in many ways: my ear is quick to pick things up, I know where to fit in within a band without either disappearing over overwhelming everyone else, I can sit on a drumbeat without ever having to think about it (unless it’s in 15/11 or something – that’d take a few seconds longer to work out the groove) and I can instinctively harmonise or solo on a piece of music.
I went through a phase where I was gigging every week with Count Rippoffski and he rarely told me the title of the song, I’d just lean in and ask ‘what key’ after he’d begun playing. It usually worked out fine.
But I have virtually no theory.
Major scale, dorian scale and whatever comes into my head, that’s about the size of my theoretical knowledge. I played a proper jazz gig with Ralphie one time, I knew the tunes but not the changes, so every time it came to me playing a solo he’d lean across from the piano and whisper “Bbm, F, Gm…” and so on, and I just let it go. It sounded ok. Was quite good fun too.
Out of the blue this morning, I got a message from Johnno telling me about the modes of the melodic minor scale. So I practiced them today and while I can’t say the modes sounded particularly pleasant, in fact I thought they were a tad dissonant, and not in a good way, but it gave an extra dimension to my playing.
I think he’s adopted me as a student.