Posted: Jan 08, 2016 11:59 pm
I've read your last post but I just want to address this point from the one before.

John Platko wrote:I like your phrase: "a lick is a base unit of musical information it can be manipulated in two significant ways: by time and by pitch."

I'm going to be building on something very close to that. Something like: a lick is a base unit of musical information that can be characterized and manipulated in three significant ways, its pitch or harmony information, its rhythm information, and its vertical pitch or simultaneous harmony information.

Pitch and harmony are two different constructs, pitch being a description of a an singular or individual tone and harmony being a description of combined pitches. The notion of an additional characteristic that you call 'vertical pitch or simultaneous harmony' is redundant here because although pitch and harmony are two different constructs and each lends musical context to the other harmony is pitch-dependent.

'Licks' for musicians of single tone instruments (brass, woodwind etc) contain nothing but pitch and rhythm information. Licks for players of instruments that can play multiple notes (guitar, piano, violin, etc) may also contian 'harmony' in the sense of employing simultaneous note combinations, but any apparent harmonic variation/manipulation occurs through pitch manipulation.

Look at the first phrase in your post here. On paper it appears to have a particular harmonic context, lent to it by the key signature and the fact that it appears to resolve to the tonic of that key, but really it's just seven pitches of a (relatively) defined duration. Play that over a Cmajor7 chord and it could work just fine (as it could over an Am7, C#m7b5, G6/9, B7b9, F+#4, G#m-major7b5 or any number of other chords), but in the end the phrase can only be manipulated by pitch (displacement or transposition) and/or by time (displacement or translocation).

Pitch and time are the base components of music, and the context they lend to each other is generally what distinguishes 'music' from 'sound' or 'noise'. All other musical constructs can be fully described in terms of pitch and time.

Of course, whenever I say 'pitch' here what I'm really talking about is timbre, but that's a whole different thing and probably best left for another day.

Please don't think I'm trying to discourage you in any way, in fact quite the opposite. I'm just wanting to emphasise that you don't need to bring in or generate extraneous information to develop a skill into an art - all you need to do is play. The more hours you spend playing the better you'll get at expressing yourself, because playing is ultimately what develops, expands, deepens, populates (or whatever) your musical capacities and capabilities - what Jazz musicians call 'chops'.