The math... the math matters! Not always

When I had a band in the '70-80 (but even before and after) I sung & played Italian artist tunes as Lucio Battisti, Dalla, De Gregori etc, but I plucket my guitar (an electric Eco) by instinct, or by ear, differently from my band pals that all knew the music theory

I was always enticed by music made with a PC, but up to the 2000s the sounds were quite unsatisfactory (Amigas, Commodores, first IBMs, do you rememember?) so I left the plaied music alone and I devoted myself to re-build in MP3 my old tape music library

it’s only a few year ago that I guessed PCs became owerful enough to play music, so one day I saw this M-Audio toy

and as it was very cheap and small I decided to buy it

it came with Ableton Lite, but I found it too hard that time, so I used the AIR Ignite finding it very easy to use and I had a lot of fun with it
many tunes here were made with it

After about one year I realized that AIR Ignite was easy and fun but a close universe, so I started to imagine what DAW using and after having tested those with a demo, I found that Ableton was the easier one so finest to me

Now, not being a musician but a guitar/keyboard plucker, I always tried to find some help from the IT, and arpeggiators were my first friends

and here is when the “math” comes into the picture

the problem with arpeggiators is that the sound they produce is pure math, so boring, repetitive, without a soul
this reminds me those musicians able to play perfectly 1 zillion notes/sec (e.g. Pat Metheny :grinning:) but able to make me falling asleep very quickly, as opposite to others like e.g. Carlos Santana that plaied a few notes but the right ones

Well, arpeggiators, samplers etc drifted into the garbage bin, but my poor technique was a big limit to my expressiveness…

I don’t know why I missed the beginning of Scaler: maybe because the keywords I often used in Google to try to find the magic brought me elsewhere, who knows?

One fine day I found it and WOW!
At long last the right tool to me
now I can produce boombastic keyboard textures, wonderful guitar arpeggios, and all them are ready to use so I can create the magic without effort
I realized very soon that my “by instinct/ear” approach is not enough if you want compose complex scores and you aren’t Frank Zappa with The Mothers of Inventions at hand

indeed, tickling the digital ivories or plucking the digital guitar by instinct/ear I compose parts that are fine for my ear, sometimes, but when I have to add bass, guitar, drums etc the process comes to a dead end

sure, I know that MIDIs can be edited after, but this is a cumbersome process and I cannot dedicate so much time to composing

and here is the point where “the math matters” comes into the picture

if e.g. the chords overlaps their score divisions, it is difficult to place the other instruments
so I understand now that I have to be more precise, i.e. find series of chords then placing them precisely on the score, so that the other instrument can be easily placed and the whole process goes on smoothly

BUT all that not forgetting the soul!

and here is where “the math matters! Not always” comes into the picture

I just realized that being a musician is hard job that involves:
physical skills
unbelievable huh?

well, I hope that my long deliberation didn’t bore you to death
and realize that I envy a lot those that have the 3


Tell us again, how long did it take you to come to this conclusion? I ask only because I think I knew this at the beginning of my musical journey over 30 years ago. And this is as true today as it was back when I started. I always called it “head, heart and soul”. But same as you have now described. So I am wondering why did it take you so long? I have a suspicion that the answer may be related to the level of God Given Talent one has. Meaning, when you are blessed with the skills to play music you may tend to underappreciate what is really needed. After 30 years of playing I remain a “MusicStudent” struggling to achieve these three elements.

Hope I don’t sound like a ####. I do appreciate your thoughts on this topic. There are so many roads and paths we all travel with the same goal in mind. Music is a cruel mistress indeed!

a lot of time indeed LOL
maybe because I studied music very little
few times/week for the 3 years of my middle schools, and 1 time/week for a winter in the 70ies with a blues guitarist

and yet I had my mother and her relatives that all knew and played music, and my oncle was a pianobar performer, so I heard people playing music (mostly accordion and vibraphone) since I was a child

but coming to your remark “when you are blessed with the skills to play music you may tend to underappreciate what is really needed” it reminds me an anecdote

my mother studied music and she played the accordion quite well
in the 70ies she retired and decided to take lessons and learn to play the piano
she succeeded in a few years to play complex classical compositions but she had always difficulty to play blues and jazz that she loved so much

on the other hand, I was always able to tickle the ivories of her upright piano when it was free, or playing 4 hands sometimes, and she envyed me punctually because I was able to find notes that matched my one-finger-chords (or her regular chords) that was impossible to her…

I even acquired an US old-style paper-manual called Blues fo dummies (or the so) but even with it she was never able to inculcate the “soul” in her mathematic music

so the truth is that tickling skills, music theory (math) and soul are all needed
but while the first 2 need only studying and practicing, or A Little Help from My Friend Scaler (pun intended :grinning:) the latter is more difficult to reach, if any

I love this kind of conversation about what the essence of musicianship is.

physical skills

Fortunately, it is simpler. As I play, yes I need physical skills-- that I develop with experience. If I am listening to what I’m doing, I can compare what I hear with some ideal sound that I want. With continued playing, my playing moves toward that ideal.

As I compose, ideas may or may not come, again, I can start with crude ideas and listen to see how the work compares with some ideal. I don’t think of any of it as “math”. I do use terminology and I understand the structures. I get that math is part of it, but it isn’t how I think, creatively or in process. The rhythm part of it has some math, but again, that is not how I approach it. It feels more like communication than math.

As an analogy, if someone said that ‘talking’ is all about “letters of the alphabet”, wouldn’t that seem like a weird and not-very-useful way of thinking about it?

To me, “Soul” means being mentally and emotionally present while you do anything. If you are trying to ‘give it soul’ you probably are doing something else.

If I was to boil it down:
“Being a musician is a fun activity that involves listening well, and responding in a way that feels honest and not bored/boring.”


very interesting
I had many friends that were semi- or professional musicians in the '60-80ies but I never thought to ask them what the “essence of musicianship” was for them
at the time I was simply an avid listener