Great musicianship = Limited access?

aydee

Platinum Member
Bin thinking...

...that, I find it hard to come up with the names of drummers or for that matter musicians, who have - and display - an incredible command of their instrument and yet still have a broad level of popularity. By popularity, I mean amongst people outside of the muso community
I do understand that we, as a group belong to that community and would certainly be biased but lets suspend that thought for a minute.

All the iconic players, at least in the genres I listen to, who have mass appeal, are musicians who have either simplified their approach to reach more people ( Phil Collins? ) , or are simply limited in their skill level and have made that work for them ( Keith Moon?).

The question marks are to qualify that you might not agree with my examples, but understand what I mean.

Is complexity in music the issue? That the wider world out there needs its music in simplified bite-sized pieces?

We too, keep talking about keeping it all basic, simple, and grooving ...

But then I think of Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Big Band jazz in its heydays, Metal, which I dont really understand, but it seems quite complex and quite popular and what made all of that tick with the outside world?

Any views on this?

...
 
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Eman101

Member
Now what I am about to say is a broad generalisation...

It would seem to me that superb musicianship - that is - doing what other people would consider frightening things on your instrument of choice - is something only looked on with interest by people who are highly involved with said instrument and understand just how complex that fill/beat/guitar solo/ piano solo is. The rest of the world, who know nothing about the complexities of playing like Dave Weckl, don't really care. They are only interested in the sonic result - what does it sound like? Which is why playing really fast is always popular. That, and the world's obsession with everything speed.

Now listen to 90% of modern popular music - I'm talking the radio stuff that gets eaten up by MTV and sells bucketloads of albums. And let's talk drums. What's the primary driving force behind these songs? It's a simple, four on the floor consistent bass beat - sort of like a dance beat. Or, its a syncopated bass beat. But in both cases, it creates a feeling. The listener is enjoying the rhythm, not the technicalities of what the drummer is playing. And drummers are sitting there thinking: where's the killer fills, or the complex ghost notes?

Swap around, and we hear Dave Weckl or Mike Portnoy do something fantastic and we go WOW! But the general audience member says: what? where's the beat? where's the driving rhythm? I can't dance to this!

Now I am not saying great drummers play without rhythm (obviously). I am saying the average audience member, while he might enjoy a fast, crazy drum solo, doesn't care for the technicalities, in the same way a casual Formula 1 fan doesn't care about the science of aerodynamics but still likes how fast the formula 1 car goes.

My dad once said to me he believes its because of this: before the modern world we built, man lived in tribes. And all they had in those tribes were simple, consistent, pounding rhythms. So this love for simplistic music is simply because of our heritage (or something along those lines). I can kinda see what he's getting at.

And another point I think worth mentioning: remember that a large portion of the world is obsessed with fashion and being in fashion. If marketing campaigns are telling you the 'fashionable' music is something which happens to be made by PC's and has simple structures, half the world will go and buy it 'to be fashionable'. Sad but true.

Wow, I wrote more than intended. But basically, I agree. Just like only a few can truly appreciate the complex process of drinking wine correctly (I am not one of them) so can only a few appreciate music based on musicality. The rest just don't get it.
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
Abe, when I first read your post, I was thinking in terms of great players having difficulty in finding a mass market appeal vehicle for their skills. Like you, I was thinking that the nearer you get to accessible music forms, the more simple it needs to be. There's a lot of truth in that, & it does apply in most cases. Certainly over the last 30 years or so, audiences have been conditioned to find enjoyment in the simple form, but is it more complicated than that?

We have a primeval response to simple rhythms. Sometimes that manifests itself in dancing, or simply tapping the foot. Then there's the consideration of what actually are the key elements of a song. Although there's all manner of periphery items, there's no doubting the vocal as being number one, closely followed and interwoven with melody. Just behind that, imo, comes rhythm. I always use audience footage from popular artist concerts to back this up. You'll notice they're all doing one of two things, or both, singing the song, & gyrating to the groove.

So I think the simple mould is set, however, there's always room for exceptions, were the drummer & song writer/primary performer have the imagination to swim against the tide. It's totally possible for a mature artist to construct interesting material that still carries mass appeal. I say mature artist, because the new artists are more consumed with following a proven path. IMO, two of the greatest popular music albums of all time offer a rare glimmer of hope that this will happen more often, but in these days of manufactured one hit wonders, I'm not confident.

Both Vinnie collaborations;

Sting's, "Ten Summoners Song", & Nik Kershaw's "The Works". Most here are probably familiar with the Sting album, but few will be familiar with the album from Nik Kershaw (very popular mainstream 80's UK pop act). Really, check it out. Stunning!

Found some examples;

First up, this track includes the famous Nik Kershaw Vinnie fill @ 3:15 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdB2YPvugMg&feature=related

Other great drumming tracks;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvoM2g_zJ0Y&playnext=1&list=PLA219C7EBAEB67C33&index=30
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6J6MozBGjw&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GWK_WRGJW8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pd8fTfDK-Vs&feature=related
 
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Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Seems to me that bringing virtuoso technique to most pop recordings is like cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer. The machines can play some mighty tough patterns, though.

Agree that people like things kept simple because they don't understand more complex music. More so these days because they have less time to spend to become connoisseurs ... they're hearing rather than listening, as music plays the role of background for videos, movies, dancing, gaming, eating, chatting, partying, reading, surfing the net, driving, walking, commuting etc.

Music doesn't command 100% attention the way it once did, which works nicely for record company suits who can increasingly foist cheap production-line $#!% on an increasingly non-discerning public. Video killed the radio star ... sound alone is no longer enough ...
 

shadowlorde

Senior Member
the reason why ( IMO ) talented musicians aren't on the radio is because record labels DON'T WANT THEM TO BE.

the record labels tell the radio stations what to play and pay them to play it.
they somehow force people to like a band or "artist" by playing it over and over again. when people hear the song over and over .. they eventually become familiar with it and like it.

so .. basically .. my theory is ... if they played yngwe malmsteen 50x per day on the radio he'd be just as known as lady gag-me ... but the sheeple in front of the radio will still not care how good he is .. they'll just like it because Mr. radio DJ dude says they are supposed to.

music now is nothing more than background noise for other activities (acting like a sloppy drunk idiot in a bar, doing your girl, 10 second clips at sports games, something in the background of video games and movies... etc)
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
music now is nothing more than background noise for other activities (acting like a sloppy drunk idiot in a bar, doing your girl, 10 second clips at sports games, something in the background of video games and movies... etc)
Yea, we lost the spotlight a bit, eh? How'd that happen? Looks like people got too busy to "waste" time just listening to music. More's the pity - listening to music is an awesome way to gain the benefits of meditation without being bored to tears.
 

synergy

Senior Member
Great thread- dont want to get too deep but its about the state of humanity!!!! lol well seems that way.

I heard an advert on the radio the other day that was talking about a website- and I kid you not- in this advert it said something to the effect that if you were too busy/couldnt be hassled to read the website, they had a webcast to tell you what the website said!!!!!

Now I know most of the plankton out there that also inhabit our lands and believe themselves to be human dont/cant read a book with just words in but now we cant even be bothered to read websites????????????

It makes sense that these radio-fed bottom feeders wouldnt know their a-hol from their elbow when music is concerned
 

jer

Silver Member
they eventually become familiar with it and like it.
When people turn on the radio, they scan for something they recognize, typically not the other way around.

Familiarity, imo, is the key to the "complexity" issue. People tend to go with what they know and find comfort in the familiar. They are used to the driving 4 on the floor, they are used to the money beat, they can immediately identify with it which easily spurs an emotional reaction and one can't help but not tap a toe or move their hips.

We must keep in mind that commercial radio is just that, commercial. It's goal is to sell a product. Those in control of playlists know that by playing things that are familiar, they will draw a larger audience. Most artists heard on commercial radio are creating their music in such a fashion that it will fit nicely into the genres and categories that have been established by the buying public. These artists get bashed for recycling the same old shlop over and over again, but there is no denying the audience for this "familiar" type of music.

Imo, the talent we hear on the radio comes from the songwriter, who really only needs to know 4 chords and how to put a catchy melody over top. The rest of the band is there to support the songwriter and does not need to call upon the technical complexity aspect of great musicianship, who's busy poly-rhythms or speed is lost on the listener who's understanding of music does not go much deeper than the surface.

Anyways... familiar and formulaic are what sells, money seems to motivate most people so it makes sense music of this type is given the largest forum.
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
I think this is because for people who are not familiar with a particular style of music, it takes more mental energy for them to process what they are listening to.

I'm reminded of when I bought Pendulum's first album, and found the first listen all the way through quite exhausting. Or when I first heard 'Angel of Death' by Slayer. Or many other types of fast, complex music.

At first I didn't want to listen to it because it wore me out. After a while though, I could get into the groove of it and only listen to the important bits, the rhythmic variations and subtle changes, rather than having to listen to every single new beat as an individual. This has been my experience over and over again.

Same goes for complex harmony. We take a lot of dissonance for granted these days, even in pop music, but western classical music took hundreds of years to get over certain conventions, no parallel fifths, can't end on a minor chord, all sorts. However, the really atonal stuff will literally be too much for many people to process, but after a while they'll get into it.

I genuinely think this is the underlying reason. We're all human beings, aren't we? A drummer is not a different species to a pop music fan watching American Idol or X-Factor, they are just accustomed to different stimuli.
 

Average

Senior Member
Bin thinking...

...that, I find it hard to come up with the names of drummers or for that matter musicians, who have - and display - an incredible command of their instrument and yet still have a broad level of popularity. By popularity, I mean amongst people outside of the muso community
I do understand that we, as a group belong to that community and would certainly be biased but lets suspend that thought for a minute.

All the iconic players, at least in the genres I listen to, who have mass appeal, are musicians who have either simplified their approach to reach more people ( Phil Collins? ) , or are simply limited in their skill level and have made that work for them ( Keith Moon?).

The question marks are to qualify that you might not agree with my examples, but understand what I mean.

Is complexity in music the issue? That the wider world out there needs its music in simplified bite-sized pieces?

We too, keep talking about keeping it all basic, simple, and grooving ...

But then I think of Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Big Band jazz in its heydays, Metal, which I dont really understand, but it seems quite complex and quite popular and what made all of that tick with the outside world?

Any views on this?

...
I definitely agree with the suggestion already voiced in this thread that 'popular music' has become much less about producing something to be listened to and more about producing something for a background for other activities. That is typically what the radio is all about. Think about it, you have the radio on when you are driving or doing something else around the house. It is there as a background. Its not like anybody sits down and turns on the radio to concentrate on it and listen any more.

When I was in college I used to listen to music sometimes while I studied. I quickly found out that I couldn't put on anything too good or it would distract me from what I was supposed to be doing. Buddy Rich was a big no-no. I suppose the same thing applies to other people. If they put crazy complex awesome music on a soundtrack to a movie, it would distract too much from what was going on in the film.

I think that there is a role for truly skilled players in live music that is meant to be listened to. I've seen some pretty amazing musicianship over the past year at the blues festivals I've played in. Its also a very different crowd. They aren't sitting there getting sloshed trying to get layed. They are there specifically to listen to music. People still get sloshed and layed, but the focus of the event is the music. You'll see some serious talent and skill at events like that.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Great comments guys.. playing devils advocate here.. exceptions to the complexity/dissonance/dumbed down theory, that had a share of the popular vote, that quickly come to mind..

Hendrix, Lots of the Beatles music ( at the time ), Tull, Zappa..

Something in what Synergy said, rings true. The radio feds.. the access point or the node is what helps define taste as well. I guess if you offer only M&Ms, someone will say " I'd like the blue one" instead of saying "where the heck is my slice of Lindy's cheescake?"

..
 

Average

Senior Member
Great comments guys.. playing devils advocate here.. exceptions to the complexity/dissonance/dumbed down theory, that had a share of the popular vote, that quickly come to mind..

Hendrix, Lots of the Beatles music ( at the time ), Tull, Zappa..
..
Those were different times though right? You'll hear lots of people who were alive then complain about the quality of the music today. I'm wondering if those bands didn't get the nod back then because that particular generation 'listened' more to the music instead of using it merely as a soundtrack. The other thing about those times are that they were coming out of the big band era. Bop was blazing away and there was a culture of going to 'clubs' and listening to live music. Many of the musicians from that era that are still highly celebrated today were competant jazz musicians before they transitioned to pop. Examples from that era of drummers fitting that mold would be Mitch Mitchell (hendrix), Jim Gordon (Zappa, Steely Dan, Derek and the Dominoes and a billion others), John Guerin (Zappa, LA Express, Joni Mitchell and a billion studio jobs.) Ginger Baker (Cream, others) and Bonham (Zeppelin). Some might argue that Bonham wasn't rooted in jazz, but those people would be wrong. LOL.

I would argue that the overall quality of the music was extremely high and that the average listener had higher expectations because of what they heard growing up. I would also argue that the quality of the music was extremely high because many of the active musicians at the time cut their teeth in the jazz world.
 
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Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
Surprising to see Abe playing devil's advocate.:)

You know sometimes it's uncanny but I was just having this conversation with a well known bassist on FB who has been speaking about the demise of great black music, and the rise of cRap and auto-tuned music with musicians who sound like they've been playing for a week. I told him, it's not the music I mind, its the mass proliferation of the music and more so, the mass proliferation of it assumed 'greatness.'

Now, yes we all know that the music back then was better because people listened to jazz or were reared in that tradition; but if you say that you may start havoc, Average. Who cares? Let the music speak for itself. You can say it's all about taste; but there is such a thing as playing and singing in tune. I think we can start there. And if you enjoy music that is out of tune, or better yet can't tell the difference, maybe that does say something about your musicianship.

I'll say this, Abe, and I know you agree with me. Music need not be complex or ultra-virtuosic to be good or be great. I have no problem with a good lyric and a three chord tune. I've been listening to the new Ray Lamontagne a lot recently. The drummer, Jay Bellerose, is very good. He reminds me a lot of Abe Laboriel, Jr. There is something for a guy who can sit down with a guitar, three chords and the truth and move you to tears, and the drummer who can sit behind him and make a difference.

But a degree of sophistication that allows you to hear all the parts in a Bach fugue, or the conversation of a great jazz quintet is a different story. And yes it is a more sophisticated listening palette, and yes it is great music. There is a limited access to that because many people don't have the ability to enjoy it, just as many don't have the ability to do Calculus, fix a car, read a great novel or cook a great meal.
 
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Average

Senior Member
You know sometimes it's uncanny but I was just having this conversation with a well known bassist on FB who has been speaking about the demise of great black music, and the rise of cRap and auto-tuned music with musicians who sound like they've been playing for a week. I told him, it's not the music I mind, its the mass proliferation of the music and more so, the mass proliferation of it assumed 'greatness.'
It serves the record companies well to have replaceable musicians who cannot use their uniqueness as bargaining power and a public unable to appreciate quality.

Now, yes we all know that the music back then was better because people listen to jazz or were reared in that tradition; but if you say that you may start havoc, Average. Who cares? Let the music speak for itself. You can say it's all about taste; but there is such a thing as playing and singing in tune. I think we can start there. And if you enjoy music that is out of tune, or better yet can't tell the difference, maybe that does say something about your musicianship.
I'm not trying to pick a fight or start havoc. One of the quality elements of Hendrix and the other acts that Aydee mentioned is that they listened to each other and interacted musically. Mitchell and Hendrix were throwing stuff back and forth between each other constantly. Mitchell helped build intensity during Hendrix's solos and within the songs themselves. If I had to pick one thing that I think is missing from 'popular music' today, it is the interaction between the musicians within the song. There is no crescendo/decrescendo of intensity during solos. Heck, most of the songs don't even have solos (on any instrument.) Everything is played at one volume with one intensity. You're supposed to look at the girl or girly-boy singing dummy, not listen to the music!

I learned the concepts of interaction, listening, solo building and modulating the intensity levels of songs from jazz. For me, the most important part of my drumming now is my ears. My hands are where they should be, but even if they weren't I could still make good music because I developed my ears.

But a degree of sophistication that allows you to hear all the parts in a Bach fugue, or the conversation of a great jazz quintet is a different story. And yes it is a more sophisticated listening palette, and yes it is great music. there is a limited access to that because many people don't have the ability to enjoy it, just as many don't have the ability to do Calculus, fix a car, read a great novel or cook a great meal.
And the truth is, I gave up caring about the unsophisticated listener many years ago. If they don't hear the interaction on stage I could give a crap. I know its there and I enjoy it.
 

Frost

Silver Member
I'd like to argue that Mr. John Henry Bonham is a rather fantastic musician, and is widely regarded outside of musical circles publicly .

I think the problem with wanting to be a famous drummer is that unless you sing, eg. Phil Collins, or collaborate with everyone under the sun, such as Travis Barker, people aren't going to want to know your name.

A lot of commercial radio listeners only care about vocals, they care about singers, they don't ask who a band is, they ask who sung it.

The majority of drums in commercial music now days are electronic anyway. If it wasn't familiar and easily digestible people wouldn't be able to focus on their favourite singer.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
What a great thread! I think there have been a lot of viable theories presented.

I can only share my own evolution, and what I find is that a lot of the highly technical music made today leaves me cold. I just don't enjoy it, though I can appreciate the skill it requires. There was a time when I ate up anything highly technical, just because I wanted to learn from it, I think. And a lot of the older music listed here, like Hendrix, Zeppelin, etc, I DO enjoy. I don't know whether that's because of familiarity with the older music, or because the newer stuff comes more from a technique-based impetus rather than song-based. I can listen to Elvin Jones w/ Coltrane a million times and I love the songs, the melodies, the structures, which were all enabled by fantastic playing. And I mean no offense, but I listen to a Dream Theater song and go "Yep, that was hard to play!" and I have no interest in listening a second time. Personal taste, I know...

What I do like these days are drummers who can play a straight 4 song with impeccable style ans taste, and who bring a subtle uniqueness to the music. To me, that can be as difficult as playing ridiculously fast, complicated stuff. And there are a few great progressive bands I like too (Kite is one example), but again, I think the focus with them is on songwriting, and the technique just allows them to bring the songs to life.

Just my two cents...
 
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aydee

Platinum Member
...

So is there in any of y'alls opinion, a highly complex, musically sophisticated example of music that has had mass acceptability.. stuff that even the bottom feeders gave a thumbs up to?

...
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
No, not in my opinion Abe.

I think music really does reflect life, and we, as humans, are evolving (de-evolving?) to a point where, with the advent of the computer age, everything is so fast, and with all the instant gratification that goes along with that, society as a whole is desensitized to something that takes real time and deep thought to appreciate. People don't want to "work" that hard for their enjoyment. We've become mentally lazy, as a whole, in a major way. Everything is so "in your face" now. Why work hard at appreciating something when I can just sit here and be bombarded with shocking stuff? That will keep my attention (I'm talking as mr/mrs average nonmusician "music" listener here) Subtleties are a thing of the past, and the in your face shocking stuff is everywhere. Not that I agree with that but that's my take on things.


I'm not sure if what I said was in line with the original intention of this thread, so cut me some slack if it's not.
 

Frost

Silver Member
I don't think anything massively technical will ever be appreciated by the masses... certainly not appreciated as in radio play/air time on music television.

Youtube on the other hand... well I know a fair few people that don't play music and only listen to a limited array of bands who are constantly amazed at the same videos of their favourite guitarists shredding.

I'm sure the day someone manages to blast consistently at 400bpm tons of casual music fans will watch it on youtube and wow.

Plenty of non-musicians find WFD impressive, though please do not take that as an incentive to start up another WFD debate. It is healthy, leave it at that.
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
...that, I find it hard to come up with the names of drummers or for that matter musicians, who have - and display - an incredible command of their instrument and yet still have a broad level of popularity. By popularity, I mean amongst people outside of the muso community
neil peart comes to mind. i don't know if you like him and rush at all, but to me he's an example of a highly skilled drummer who plays sophisticated music, yet is still popular with the public at large.

i suppose you could argue that vinnie colaiuta is another example of an extremely skilled drummer who plays broadly popular music. maybe not all the time, but some of the time.
 
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