Help me find the right kind of musical showing off
August 22, 2019 12:23 PM   Subscribe

I’d like to train my ear and learn enough music theory to be able to confidently play popular music by ear. There’s loads of instructional videos out there, but what I want to see (for motivation and just for interest) is people with highly trained ears and theory brains showing off what they can do.

For example, a piano player listening to a piece they haven’t heard before and describing the structure as it plays, then reproducing it, musicians who can play any well known tune on demand and muck about with it in interesting ways etc. There must be stuff like that out there but I seem to lack the search terms.
posted by tomcooke to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure this is what you're looking for and it's always a gamble to suggest anything Phish-related to, well, any human ever, but Amar's "Anatomy of a Jam" series on YouTube is quite fascinating. He breaks down what's going on musically in various extended Phish jams. I only vaguely understand a small bit of this stuff but it's really neat and he's even had at least one member of the band state that he's basically dead-on about what's going on in their heads.

He gets into the way they transition into various modes or keys, how one member will sort of "hint" at a musical direction and the way the others will take it from there.

Very theory-intense. There's a lot going on here.
posted by bondcliff at 1:01 PM on August 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

Rick Beato’s YouTube channel might be of interest.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:03 PM on August 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding Rick Beato's youtube stuff. The podcast Song Exploder isn't quite what you're asking for, but it does involve musicians talking about how they made a song in a way that, though not theory-heavy, might have some tidbits/details you want.
posted by lhputtgrass at 2:06 PM on August 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Bill Bailey! He does it for comedy, but it's only as funny as it is because he has such an ear and knowledge of music. His bit on Major/Minor is great, as is turning the Dr Who theme into Belgian jazz.

Igudesman and Joo similarly use serious knowledge to be silly about music - Rachmaninov had big hands is more about the performance but I love it too much not to link. Them doing terrible things to Rondo Alla Turca is more what you're looking for.

Rainer Hersch is in the same vein - these are highlights from the April Fool's concert and I love the Pachelbel Canon Medley.

(I have no non-comedy reccomendations, sorry)
posted by Vortisaur at 2:07 PM on August 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Chilly Gonzales has some interesting videos where he talks about how the chord sequences in popular music borrow from harmonic structures present in Classical music.

(not answering the direct question, but in regards to the implied question about getting better at playing cover songs from scratch by memory: the essence of "playing by ear" is more intuitive than theoretical, & one of the best ways to develop this skill is just jamming along with songs on the radio or on recordings. It's the elemental method of learning music. If you practice playing-along long enough, then visualizing songs from memory follows. Not to dismiss theory, methods, or ear-training, they're great & they do help. But just playing by ear is thing;)
posted by ovvl at 4:09 PM on August 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

What instrument are you looking to play by ear? In my opinion, the ability to play by ear just comes with (mostly) years of practice. Then you want to change the style or comment on it musically, yes, look into the people mentioned.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:41 AM on August 23, 2019

This video on levels of complexity in piano composition might be right up your alley.
posted by Tiny Bungalow at 8:50 AM on August 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks for all the great answers which are all along the right lines. If I come across someone doing analysis “live” on unfamiliar music while the post is still open I’ll add it here.
posted by tomcooke at 11:16 AM on August 25, 2019

A critical case of theory brain: Jacob Collier - Harmony
posted by pantsrobot at 12:27 AM on August 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Aimee Nolte needs to be mentioned here, her live YouTube sessions where she helps viewers figure out music suggested by them is the closest thing I have found to what I was looking for, and there’s tons of other good stuff on her channel.
posted by tomcooke at 12:43 PM on October 8, 2019

« Older Do I really need McAfee on my new laptop?   |   Name this non-science-oriented 'Far Side'-like... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.