(Someone responded to this topic on my own discussion site, The Open Horn, and got me to thinking. [Always a dangerous occupation.] I wrote a fairly interesting reply, so I'm sharing the conversation here.)
There gotta be something in this for a mathematician to graph how the teaching input might change from inductive to deductive as the student moves from zero skill to artistry.
Someone taught that crack shot how to safely load, unload and clean his gun and how to hold it so it didn't break his shoulder or his cheek. Someone probably taught him about the basics of breathing to steady his aim. The rest was practice.
It comes down to timing again. The right type of input or stimulus at the right time. That's the art of teaching. What does this student need from me today?
I dunno exactly how much "teaching" actually went into this guy's shooting ability. I really don't. I grew up in a hunting family and although I was cautioned on things like always checking to make sure a gun was loaded or unloaded, using the safety and never pointing it at myself or anyone or anything else that I did not absolutely, positively mean to shoot, what I learned about "shooting" had to do with...shooting. As in "practice makes perfect." How to hold the gun so it didn't break my shoulder or cheek? Maybe someone might have said something, but all it took was one shot with a powerful gun or shotgun to fairly well learn that
lesson. Yup. Same thing with riding horses in the same family. Once you knew how to put the tack together on the horse...saddle, bridle, bit etc...then it was basically a matter of getting into the saddle and riding. Everything else was unconscious emulation. Ditto driving a car or piloting a boat. You did what the good shooters, riders and drivers did. If you did not
do that, you got scolded or even perhaps rapped upside the head (not so gently as to be easily ignored but neither so hard as to be truly injured) until you either got the message or decided that this particular activity was not going to be your primary field of interest. There was no extensive "studying" of the subject; it was strictly seat-of-the-pants stuff. My father was a very high-level fighter pilot in WW II (Spitfires, the Battle of Britain), and when pressed on how he learned that skill on a survivable level he said basically the same thing. Actually, he didn't say much of anything, because he didn't know
"how he learned," he just damned well learned
or else he died. And this was no dummy...he later became an aeronautical engineer and "learned" all kinds of stuff about what made planes fly. But when he got into the cockpit...and I flew a great deal with him over the years...he basically just started the engine; did the requisite pre-flight checks and then took the **** off. He knew the plane; he knew its stall speed and its maneuverability envelope, and then he flew where he was going by the shortest and safest route possible.
How much "teaching" went into the playing abilities of Louis Armstrong or Charlie Parker? Mostly emulation, I think. And then the requisite 10,000 hours of simply doing it. Plus some serious talent, of course.
That's my take on it, anyway.
I hear player after player these days in NYC, all of whom play the instrument very, very well. But they are absolutely unidentifiable aurally. Could be this guy; could be that guy; could be almost anybody with talent who has successfully navigated the history of their instrument in a given idiom or two. They have been over
taught, in my opinion, and they are shackled by that knowledge. When I came to NYC in the late '60s after a couple of years of Berklee, the very first thing that I did was stop playing anything
that sounded like what I had learned at school unless I was being paid for it. For a number of years I played only the outest freebag music, fusion stuff and latin music. I did this at least half-consciously, in an attempt to find my own voice. Like my playing or lump it, I at the very least succeeded in that effort. Only after that did I re-enter the history wars, and I did that fairly consciously too, in the secure knowledge that I had to some degree found my own way into the music. Of course, it was easier to do that in NYC at that time because one could live very cheaply whereas now if you're not pretty well working (or you have some kind of inheritance) you cannot afford to live within an hour's travel of the city, if even that close. Things have closed up here stylistically and in terms of work, and people who take chances are quickly marginalized in favor of those who are "good" players. Good little boys and girls.
So it goes, and so go the idioms as well.
You know when change really
When something dies. Once the decay period is over, it's just another fossil. Word.
So that goes as well.
May you be born(e) into interesting times, and always remember, these are
the good old days. Stay alive. You be bettah off in the long run.
Bet on it.