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Appreciating music if you play or don't play an instrument


Soda Jerk
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Now then. A bit of a discussion maybe, because I'm fed up of the argument about fat people...

I guess people who play instruments might listen to music a little differently than those who don't, taking on board tone as well as structure and competence as opposed to just appreciating a good song (I really don't mean to sound patronising, as I'm in no way a "musician")... But, do you think certain styles/genres alienate themselves from people who don't play? More so, overly technical bands, who use discordant structures, alternating time signatures etc. It seems like (and I could be way off the mark, hence the discussion) these types of bands only impress those who can relate to the difficulty and skill involved, and those who don't often just think its too fiddly and not coherent enough, or just enjoy it regardless without taking on board the complexity of it.

It makes me wonder just how much recorded music passes a lot of people by. A complicated vocal harmony could be dismissed as just 2 or more people singing at the same time to someone who doesn't listen out for that kind of thing. Same goes for an odd time signature or a complex riff.

If you play an instrument, have you found yourself appreciating music in different ways as you've excelled as a musician? Have you listened to records now that you heard 10 or so years ago and discovered instrumentation you didn't pick up on before?

If you don't play an instrument, does coherence play more importance than skill and ability? Are you more likely to choose a simple structured song/band over something complex and discordant? Or do you recognise and appreciate musical skill despite not being a musician yourself?

Get your talk on, if you want.

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Guest idol_wild

This is already a good thread.

I only properly started taking guitar up a bit more seriously about four years ago when I joined a band. Since then, my appreciation and the way I view and consider music changed dramatically; not just my appreciation of guitar playing ability or tone or technique, but a more active involvement with all of the instruments used in the recording and their interaction with eachother. I attribute that entirely to playing a musical instrument and, essentially, being a musician.

Although, it did also help that I was starting to meet people who I could engage in long discussions about music, which is something I had never been privvy to before.

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Yeah, as I've learned to play various instruments I now appreciate song structures; interesting or unusual chord patterns and time signatures in particular a lot more than before. Also how particular sounds are achieved is a constant puzzler for me for various bands so I enjoy trying to work them out on my own.

I keep relistening to Animal Collective records and Silverchairs "Diorama" and rediscovering plenty of new ideas, I enjoy it. I wouldn't listen to Chopin if I didn't play piano. He's insane, his technical skill was jaw dropping.

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Guest idol_wild

Oh, and I'd also like to put it on the table that the main instrument you play yourself dictates your own musical tastes and what you prefer to listen to. Not that it's exclusive, mind, but it's definitely the biggest influence.

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It's true that Phil. I play guitar, and music with big guitar presence has always been my preference, even when I'd only just got a guitar but couldn't play it. I've never been that fond of bass, or the idea of it playing it, so bass-heavy/driven bands like Lightning Bolt or Big Business, I just can't get into, which is weird, as they tick all my boxes, but I just feel like I want to be inspired by the instrument I play, instead of just enjoying it for it is.

I don't know how I can explain my liking of hip hop. Maybe it's because I'm just dead hard and tough.

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Guest idol_wild
I don't know how I can explain my liking of hip hop. Maybe it's because I'm just dead hard and tough.

I'm not saying you're brilliant here or anything.

But you're brilliant.

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great thread!!

one thing i will say is that there is music out there i appreciate because i simply couldnt do certain people do. I can write melodies and guitar sequences/progressions for songs but writing lyrics and vocal harmonies i find very tough. This sole reason is why I brand Brian Wilson a genuis.

For the general public, Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys can be seen as being just a great pop act. The difference for a musician (in my opinion) when listening to The Beach Boys is the appreciation of how perfect the vocal melodies are in there songs.

so i guess im saying that being a musician can dictate how you listen to music, not even just techy music but even little things like well constructed 3/4/5 vocal harmonies!!

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great thread!!

one thing i will say is that there is music out there i appreciate because i simply couldnt do certain people do. I can write melodies and guitar sequences/progressions for songs but writing lyrics and vocal harmonies i find very tough. This sole reason is why I brand Brian Wilson a genuis.

For the general public, Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys can be seen as being just a great pop act. The difference for a musician (in my opinion) when listening to The Beach Boys is the appreciation of how perfect the vocal melodies are in there songs.

so i guess im saying that being a musician can dictate how you listen to music, not even just techy music but even little things like well constructed 3/4/5 vocal harmonies!!

The Beach Boys is a superb example or something that involved a ridiculous amount of skill and precision, yet is so widely appreciated for many different reasons. I would say the same for Queen. The structures to their songs are absolutely bonkers. Such complexity conveyed with such pop sensibilities is hugely commendable.

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Oh, and I'd also like to put it on the table that the main instrument you play yourself dictates your own musical tastes and what you prefer to listen to. Not that it's exclusive, mind, but it's definitely the biggest influence.

Not for me although there is the argument about drummers not being "real musicians". The instruments I pretend I can play in my head make me appreciate music more though. Last night i was playing some awesome air piano to Ben Folds before giving a concert of Springsteen songs to an ecstatic Glastonbury crowd.

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Although I dabble in guitar the only thing I can play to any degree is drums and I definitely find myself listening to the drum parts in music quite often. I am in constant admiration of Todd Trainer's drumming for Shellac and also Keith Moon's work with The Who. I can definitely appreciate musicianship but I also love a band who can produce an amazing piece of music using the most minimal amount of talent or by purposely keeping things relatively simplistic.

I think music that is complex in nature is more alienating to those who regard music as a more casual hobby to be appreciated as background noise only, they don't have the inclination to truly listen and appreciate the work that has gone into it and just see it as a racket. I've worked with lots of them in the past, your typical 'pick up the latest Number 1 CD in ASDA' type who openly admit to just having music in the background and never really listening to it. They just want something with a catchy tune.

Good call on Queen, truly amazing band (although I don't like ALL their material) and Freddie Mercury's vocal ability should be appreciated by anyone who listens to music. There has never been another singer like him. Probably never another frontman like him actually.

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Guest Gladstone

I don't really think the fact I play an instrument (bass to a fairly basic level, and guitar poorly...) changes the way I listen to music, although I think it maybe does a little bit.

I think being in a band has changed the way I listen though because I hear more of the intricacies of the song rather than just the song.

But, my band keeps things simple, so that maybe explains why I wouldn't be listening overly closely. If I'm watching a live band, and they've got a lot of instrumentation/complexities, I am intrigued, and sometimes very impressed by how they fit it all together. A good local example of this would be Stanley - there's clearly a lot of thought gone into their tunes.

I do appreciate a good vocal harmony though I don't think that's got much if anything to do with my involvement in music. Probably just down to the fact that I can't really sing, and I have a admiration for anyone who can sing in tune, and even more admiration for people who can pull off great vocal harmonies.

Beach Boys - absolutely spot on. Brian Wilson is in my mind one of the greatest songwriters ever to grace the planet.

Queen - I view the members of Queen as "composers" in a lot of ways rather than "songwriters". The obvious example is Bohemian Rhapsody. Ludicrously complex and intricate, yet it translates perfectly as a popular song, and appeals to pop fans, rock fans, etc etc. Genius.

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Great thread - lots to think about/discuss.

Is it not perhaps an element of the other way about, in that the music you like influences which instrument you play? As a child, I wasn't exposed to a lot of recorded music, but the little I was exposed to consisted of mainly Scottish folk music. I was exposed to a reasonable amount of live Scottish Ceilidh music also - I play a lot of instruments (too many according to my wife), but my main instruments are recorder, mandolin (and octave) and violin, and when I'm not doing original stuff with the band, I play Scottish and Irish jigs, reels, etc for fun. The majority of the other instruments I play can also be used in a folky style - I don't play any brass or woodwind - possibly due to not being exposed to the styles of music they are used primarily in as a child.

I think I can appreciate good musicianship on any instrument when I hear it, but I get really excited about it when it's in the folk genre - if you fancy, have a look at this:

Phil Cunningham (who plays regularly with Aly Bain) and his brother Johnny (now sadly passed away) - absolutely stunning fluidity, musicianship and skill - this is the sort of excellent musicianship that personally gets me excited.

I am a sucker for big strings on any recording however - is this due to having been taught violin at school and having been in the school orchestra?

I however don't have any idea where my liking for heavy metal/rock comes in....

From personal experience, the process of recording with a band changes how you listen to music - especially the immediate period after you've mixed a recording - you find yourself with a sharper sense of what's going on in any track, which makes listening to the radio, etc a strange experience for about a week afterwards.

As I said at the top of my reply - an excellent and intersting thread - I look forward to reading more replies.

Regards

Flossie

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Guest idol_wild
Is it not perhaps an element of the other way about, in that the music you like influences which instrument you play?

I knew this would be suggested and, to an extent, I can relate to that as a first instance. I started getting heavily into music and listening to it more intently than anyone else around me when I was about 10/11 years old. I mean, I listed to absolute shit, but I was listening more deeply than anyone else. But very little of it was guitar music. Guitar music hit me when I was about 15/16 and when I was 17 or so, I bought a guitar and took it from there.

However, in the past four or five years in particular I have dipped my toes into almost every genre at some point to see what I got out of it and I have really picked up on electronic and dance music (by that I mean sort of minimal techno/ambient, rather than Club Classics XXVVIII) and I have absolutely no desire at all to learn any of the instruments or equipment used to generate those sounds, and nor am I likely to. I've also picked up hugely on folk and blues music over the past five or six years and I have no desire to learn a bluesy style of guitar playing or learn the banjo or ukelele.

But in the first instance, yes, the sort of spine of my music taste did actually dictate what instrument I wanted to learn to play. But I'd hazard a guess that if I hadn't embraced learning the guitar then I wouldn't have delved into guitar-based music to the same extent and I think the brances of guitar music I really like these days is influenced by the fact that I play guitar and they way I play it.

Interesting thread. I likey a lot.

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Good thread.

Being a musician who writes, plays and listens to what a lot of people would refer to as 'technical' music I find I do listen to a lot of technically challenging music.

However, bands that are technical for technical sake is pointless to me. It's exciting for about ten seconds when you go "wow that must be hard to play", but then when there are no songs I find it fucking stupid because it's MUSIC we're talking about. It's like being able to make and cook a pizza in 5 minutes using only your cock. An impressive feat no less, but who cares if it tastes like shit?

Meshuggah are a great example of a band I have grown to really appreciate the more I've improved at playing and writing music. I bought their album Chaosphere back in '98 when I'd just started to play the guitar and I really didn't fully get it or appreciate it. As a guitarist a lot of it doesn't even sound that difficult, but about 5 years later I started to really understand how unbelievable the complexity of it was, especially on a rhythmical level. This is a classic case of a band that I think non-musicians can maybe like, but never understand how fantastic some of their ideas are. Whereas in my opinion, a couple of their albums STILL manage to have what I would class as great songs, whilst being utterly inaccessible as far as music goes.

On the tone issue, this is certainly something I'm very interested in. For the simple fact that when I play or go to see another band, I want it to sound good as possible. Tone is very subjective however, but in general terms it it still quite obvious if someone has a horrific guitar tone. This is usually apparent if the person playing is also not particularly good at their instrument, due to the fact that ability on instrument and tone are pretty much in direct proportion to one another.

Beyond that you have the issue of acoustics and sound engineers when talking about live music, but that is a different thing altogether.

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Is it not perhaps an element of the other way about, in that the music you like influences which instrument you play?

This is true for me anyway.

I grew up listening to rock music as my dad was always playing Led Zep, Sabbath, Status Quo etc. My cousin got me properly into music when I was about 9, and I started to love Iron Maiden, G'n'R, Nirvana and such like. At that age I thought it would be so cool just to be able to play some of their riffs but never had the balls to take up the guitar. Until I was 15. I always loved music for someone who wasn't a musician, and it was a no brainer to take up the electric guitar. To this day I've never owned an acoustic guitar, never mind another non-rock/metal based instrument (although I do have a nice fancy Roland keyboard for playing synth chords and the like, but I'm certainly no 'pianist').

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Guest Gladstone
It's like being able to make and cook a pizza in 5 minutes using only your cock. An impressive feat no less, but who cares if it tastes like shit?

Just wanted to point out that I found that hilarious. :laughing:

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I dunno. I still love plenty of music that I really don't have any clue about how it was made. However, stuff with guitars and other similar instruments in it I do find myself thinking "Oh, that's a strat" or whatever. But I don't think it makes any difference to what type of music appeals to me. I don't think anybody can explain why we like certain types of music and not others.

But today on the way into work I listened to Graceland by Paul Simon and Neck and Neck by Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins. I had, and loved, both these albums before I started playing guitar. But today I was listening to then thinking, "Ah, that's afretless bass" or whatever, where previously I would have just been enjoying listening to it. I still enjoyed listening to it, just in a different way.

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However, bands that are technical for technical sake is pointless to me. It's exciting for about ten seconds when you go "wow that must be hard to play", but then when there are no songs I find it fucking stupid because it's MUSIC we're talking about. It's like being able to make and cook a pizza in 5 minutes using only your cock. An impressive feat no less, but who cares if it tastes like shit?

This is a very good point and one I can't believe I didn't make myself as it's one of my bug bears. I've seen too many bands in recent years who can play all kinds of tricksy songs with a million different sections at differing tempos that looks and sounds technically impressive but at the end they didn't have one fecking tune that I could remember liking....

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I've seen too many bands in recent years who can play all kinds of tricksy songs with a million different sections at differing tempos that looks and sounds technically impressive but at the end they didn't have one fecking tune that I could remember liking....

I think a lot of the time it's to make up for the fact that they can't actually pen a good tune, so compensate with 'impressive' instrument theatrics. Writing a great song is a great skill in it's own. I personally love bands that can get the mix of the two in balance, but again this is entirely subjective and what I view as being great other people may view as rubbish!

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Like many people have said, great thread.

I remember before learning to play guitar, being struck by the actual mystery of how people could manage to actually write, arrange and play a song together. I always imagined this was almost like a god given gift, and I never differentiated between simple and complicated music. Once I started to learn an instrument, I started listening to all music, and deconstructing it, listening to drum parts, bass lines etc... and working out how they added to the song. This worried me a bit as I felt that I was missing out on hearing a song as an entire piece as "non-musicians" hear it. You know, like you lose a bit of what makes a great song special as you are too busy thinking about it rather than just enjoying it. I try hard not to do this anymore. If that makes any sense!

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Like many people have said, great thread.

I remember before learning to play guitar, being struck by the actual mystery of how people could manage to actually write, arrange and play a song together. I always imagined this was almost like a god given gift, and I never differentiated between simple and complicated music. Once I started to learn an instrument, I started listening to all music, and deconstructing it, listening to drum parts, bass lines etc... and working out how they added to the song. This worried me a bit as I felt that I was missing out on hearing a song as an entire piece as "non-musicians" hear it. You know, like you lose a bit of what makes a great song special as you are too busy thinking about it rather than just enjoying it. I try hard not to do this anymore. If that makes any sense!

I know what you mean - I think I've always listened to music in that way - like a mixing desk in reverse.

Now that I'm playing bass for reasons other than my own personal amusement I actually haven't been listening to a lot of music at any level beyond the background - too busy practising (I get obsessive like that). I'm sure it'll level out in time. It's been a while since I last took a favourite album, turned the lights down, put the cans on my ears and immersed myself in the music. But when I do, I'll be back in mixing desk mode no doubt. Am I missing out on something here? Music is greater than the sum of its parts and all that?

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I don't play and I suppose I favour music that's simple or more hooky. Actually, a lot of music I listen to is made by people who don't play either, or at least not in the production of the piece (whole new thread). I suppose it stays with me more than more musically complex pieces.

But I do like Queen also, as others mentioned. I can also marvel at Jazz even though I can't really follow what's going on because it's a bit mad. Blue Grass, on the other hand, doesn't really do anything for me.

Top thread.

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