Music Myths

aydee

Platinum Member
Some interesting perspectives from bassist Jeff Berlin on the great DW Groove v/s technique vs feel dust ups and a few others....



Myth #1: Some musicians don't know how to play with feel. They just regard music as if they were just notes, without phrasing or feel.


Jeff answered: Practically nobody, anywhere in music, just plays notes without some commitment to feel. The people who say this don't know much about music, because everybody wants to play with some kind of feel, to represent a song as they have heard it. Besides, if one regards feel as so important, then why do so many people defend click track recording, potentially one of the stiffest forms of playing you can have. The most widely accepted form of music is almost always one guy with a recording studio recording a track with no live performer and with either a singer or a rapper who overdubs over it. Nobody seems to be bothered by this music and refer to it as music without feeling.


Myth #2: You can learn groove with a metronome or by "feeling" the groove.

Jeff answered: Name me anybody in the top or secondary eschelons of music who can't groove. You practically can't! Only those guys who state that they "know a guy" who plays without a groove can point a finger at someone else saying that their groove is weak. And I question these guys' skill level to point a finger at anybody. Do you know why some guys can't groove? Because they can't play! Period! If you can't groove, you can't play! And if you can groove, you've learned how to play to some degree. Therefore the solution to the fake correction of groove difficulty is to learn how to play better so that the groove will organically become a part of of your musical skills. It happened exactly this way with everybody who can find a pocket in the music.

Myth#3: People who learn academic music play without feel.

Jeff answered: Name me anybody who learned ANYTHING academically and who cannot express what they have learned with some commitment to feeling. I don't know of a single academically trained chef, language speaker, dancer, actor, or anyone else who hasn't figured out how to evolve their academic training into some kind of artful expression of what they were working on. This is one of the biggest myths of all, and it is ruining music for everybody.

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8Mile

Platinum Member
I think Berlin is going overboard in trying to make a point. I think any musician who has dedicated a lifetime to practicing and learning technique resents the assertion that feel and chops are somehow mutually exclusive. They certainly are not, and that's often the red herring offered up by drummers who possess neither.

That said, Berlin's response to "Myth #2" is pretty silly. You can't name anybody in the top or secondary echelons of music who can't groove? Really? I mean, Carl Palmer is a legendary artist but I've never heard anyone argue that he grooves.

Unfortunately, by making comments like these, I think Berlin only strengthens the argument he's trying to discredit. He comes across as someone who really can't discern what grooves and what doesn't, which is what the "groove critics" have been accusing "technicians" of all along. Ugh.
 

Michael McDanial

Senior Member
Well, this kind of falls in under the technique vs. feeling debate. Personally, the people I've seen accusing other musicians with exceptional technique of playing with no feel have pretty much all been people who did not have very good chops themselves, and basically just used it as a put down to make themselves feel better about their own shortcomings.

Being a saxophonist myself, I've never listened to another saxophonist and thought "this guy is just all chops and no feeling". I try and use musicians who are a better than me as an example to inspire me to improve my own skills. I don't find any need to rip on better musicians just to make myself feel better about the fact that I'm nowhere near their technical level. Unfortunately, a lot of people do. After all, who puts in the time to bring their playing to a level of being able to make it as a professional musician, yet plays with no feeling? Obviously, if you've made it to the professional level, you've put in some time on your instrument. So who puts in all that time and yet plays with no passion or feeling? Just doesn't make sense. It's one thing to say "I don't care for this person's playing". Hey, that's fine. I've certainly felt that way about some musicians I've heard. However, the "this guy is all chops and no feeling" accusation is one that I have never made of another musician. Just because I can't feel, or get into what they're playing doesn't mean that they're not feeling what they play. Nor does it mean that others aren't feeling what that person is playing.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
red herring
There's the term I was looking for. The "myths" seem pre-formed to be shot down by Berlin. I don't recognize them from the real world. For example:

Myth 1: Usually a player's feel is discussed for its qualities, or for whether it's good or bad. When people say no feel, usually it means bad, not non-existent feel.
Myth 2: I don't know of anyone who seriously advocates learning to groove by just feeling it. And metronome use extremely is widespread and uncontroversial, and its benefits are self-evident. It's a little like screaming about the corrosive efftects of oxygen- no matter how authoritative you are, people are going to look at you funny, because they've been breathing it fine for years. Noted also that his answer is not really responsive.
Myth 3: I don't know what "academic" music is- whoever wrote the myths seems to think it's synonymous with formal or university training, and it isn't.

Berlin is an accomplished musician and teacher, so I take anything he has to say about music seriously, but also with a grain of salt. He's so dogmatic about the metronome thing (and contrary to nearly everyone else) that I have to wonder if there aren't other things at work- ego, maybe? He wouldn't be the first smart person to be a little bit of a crackpot on certain subjects.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Berlin is an accomplished musician and teacher, so I take anything he has to say about music seriously, but also with a grain of salt. He's so dogmatic about the metronome thing (and contrary to nearly everyone else) that I have to wonder if there aren't other things at work- ego, maybe? He wouldn't be the first smart person to be a little bit of a crackpot on certain subjects.
( Off his FB page; ) Brandford Marsalis -

"What I’ve learned from my students is that students today are completely full of shit! That is what I’ve learned from my students! (Is that) much like the generation before them the only thing they’re really interested in is you telling them how right they are and how good they are!

That is the same mentality that basically forces Harvard to give out B’s to people that don’t deserve them, out of the fear that they’ll go to other schools that will give them B’s, and those schools will make the money. We live in a country that seems to be in this massive state of delusion where the idea of what you are is more important that you actually being that. And it actually works as long as everybody’s winking at the same time.

Then if one person stops winking, you just beat the crap out of that person and then they either start winking or they go somewhere else. Yeah, my students, all they want to hear is how good they are and how talented they are. Most of them aren't really willing to work to the degree to live up to that!
"

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toddbishop

Platinum Member
"What I’ve learned from my students is that students today are completely full of shit!"
Well, I kind of agree with that! :)

When it comes to college level jazz students, anyway. The Marsalises are pretty FOS themselves, but they're also right about a lot of things- like with JB, you can't just dismiss them. One thing Wynton said about sound being as important as ideas has stuck with me for years.
 
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caddywumpus

Platinum Member
I'll take a second to disagree...coming from the university-trained standpoint, I'll vouch for the fact that you can learn a whole bunch of stuff academically, and not be able to apply it musically/with expression/with "feel". That was my story, kinda. I went into college with a great sense of feel, but no technique. I came out of college with a bunch of technique, but not much feel. It took a couple of years to reconcile the two. Now, I'm an unstoppable force, but there was that period of a couple of years where I got scared that I'd never be able to hold a satisfying groove ever again...
 

aydee

Platinum Member
...


More from Jeff:

If there is blame, I blame the musicians who have a chance to insist to their students that they learn musical content, that they don't confuse performing with learning (which is why I dismiss groove classes, string crossing exercises, chops building exercises and anything in academics which includes the words "rock education", "rock classes" things like this.

It is the fault of all the players who don't insist that their students learn music, probably because the player/teachers don't believe in musical academics or else they would teach it.

....

I say, I don't need to make a living. I need to learn how to play. Sometimes that "making a living" expression supersedes learning how to play because some players try to work without actually knowing how to play well enough to do it.

The workingest musicians anywhere are the guys who can fullfill the needs of the people who call them. THIS is the pinnacle of working ability, to provide what is asked of you to provide. Why? Because most people need the phone to ring before they will earn a buck. But few people fill this need because they can't play. So the priority is to learn how and let the work part come when it is time to work. See my point?

...

I can try to cut through the B.S. and simply tell people to learn music. But it actually amuses me how much some people are against it. I don't know if I am smart enough to ever figure that one out.

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Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Technique vs feel or technique vs groove all over again ... yeah, maybe it's been too long since we had one of these blood baths heeheehee

Weighing up the relative merits of aspects of music-making in forums is a recipe for misrepresentation and misunderstanding. The romantics imply that the pragmatists are soulless and the pragmatists suggest that the romantics are compensating for technical shortfalls.

It's not miles from science vs spirituality ... are all scientists devoid of feeling to the point of being incapable of love and are all spiritualists so devoid of science that they can't tie their own shoelaces? As often as not, each has a point - if overplayed. The subtlety and maturity needed to parse the issues without some misrepresentation and underestimation of the others' POV on a web forum is maybe not possible.

Even Jeff B's comments suggest that he's doing some misrepresentation but the quotes don't have context with other qualifying things he may have said on or off the record. For all we know, someone might have been trash talking to him the day before.

To me, it's a matter of focus. Nothing is the same. Yes, some play with more technique than feel and vice versa. Virgil Donati vs Rick Marotta anyone? They clearly have different focuses (foci?) and priorities. To suggest that all high level technicians have the same feel is as silly as saying all homespun players have the same technique. Fact is, like snowflakes, everyone has different levels and types of technique and feel. We instinctively gravitate to those who touch us most.

Personally, I'm way keen on focusing on feel despite (because of?) limited technique. It's my choice and always been my choice and the way I enjoy playing. It's not an approach that's conducive to being a pro, but it works out because I always struggled with the feral nature of the music biz anyway. You gotta be tough as well as talented and hardworking.

When I started out, 90% of the kids in my area started garage-style, playing along with Deep Purple and Sabbath records. Each naturally gravitated to their own thing. Some were speed demons. I couldn't play as fast, no matter how I tried. Some were solid as a rock. I wasn't one of them either. Some were known for their feel, and that was where I seemed to fit ... it was always the thing people commented on with my playing.

So we just got known for what we naturally did best in the eyes of our musical peers. Some went on to forge musical careers, some didn't, but most kept playing in bands. The only kid I knew who'd been trained from scratch was a keys player (and friend) who lived two doors from me. He was always playing the organ at home (ahem) and obviously loved it, and he went on to be a pro - as a young adult, anyway. No idea what he did once the kids came along.

However, despite being a "feel player" I love Cobham for his brilliance and intensity, Gadd for his everything, and Charlie Watts for his unassuming but supportive presence (aka feel). Better? Worse? I know who has more chops but I don't mind.

And I don't mind what Jeff B says because his playing gave me a lot of pleasure on Bruford's debut album. Fantastic bassist. All he's really saying is, if you don't have the chops you can't dis players who do have the chops for lacking feel. I agree, but you can still prefer other players because, just like my old garage pals and me, we naturally gravitate to whatever music makes us feel good. That certainly doesn't make the less sophisticated music better or even comparable on many levels, but it does make the music ours.

Sorry for the long post but you can't easily really parse this stuff with just a few words.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Aydee, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on all of this. Maybe we're just missing context, but it's hard to understand what he's getting at without knowing what he means by the "learn music" phrase he keeps using. It's clear that he thinks many people studying music are not learning it, and maybe he's right, but I wish he would say what the difference is.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Aydee, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on all of this. Maybe we're just missing context, but it's hard to understand what he's getting at without knowing what he means by the "learn music" phrase he keeps using. It's clear that he thinks many people studying music are not learning it, and maybe he's right, but I wish he would say what the difference is.
Todd, this is the transcript of an open FB chat with him. ( ... Dont want anybody to think this is a Wikileak!!.. )
Like an assumption made earlier in the thread, Jeff is a master payer and master educater who seems to have some very pretty strong and uncharitable views on a lot of music education from both sides- the teacher's and the student's.

Each is low balling the other is what he seems to be getting at. The 'Just teach me what I'm asking you to teach me, and then get out of my way' approach is what he seems to be railing against. By learning music, I assume he means holistically and not piecemeal lessons in how to apply it practcially. To study it formally and study it in depth and not as in how to play this or how to play that..

This is a quote that should clarify his perspective -- "My intent is not to insult or look down on anybody (some see me as doing this). My intention is to wize up the majority of players who don't know that they are being sold a shabby education if practicing musical content isn't the center of their lessons.
Teachers confuse performance with learning how to play and because of this, music, and maybe most players everywhere are wandering around in the dark. I can fix this, but I truly feel that most people are happier not knowing about music than knowing about it. I wish that it were otherwize."





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Skitch

Pioneer Member

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Each is low balling the other is what he seems to be getting at. The 'Just teach me what I'm asking you to teach me, and then get out of my way' approach is what he seems to be railing against. By learning music, I assume he means holistically and not piecemeal lessons in how to apply it practcially. To study it formally and study it in depth and not as in how to play this or how to play that..
Thanks, that's very helpful- teaching at MI he probably has to deal with the results of that approach a lot. I have the impression they get a very mixed bag of students there.
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
I don't think there really is the volatility here I remember from the technique vs. feel thread. In fact one of the things I'm getting from this is that Berlin makes what I believe is the truly accurate assumption that in an attempt to learn as much book sense as is out there, many people are not encouraged to feel music, or for that matter even listen to the necessary amount of music to be a successful and versatile player capable of working for the long haul.

What's really to argue there? It's true.

It's just that Berlin presents his assertions in a kind of ham fisted way that suggests that probably in some long ago time, a music professor and/or institution stole his lunch money and gave him a negative experience.

There is also the issue that due to the existing economic climate fewer great players become music majors, requiring even the upper middle tier to take players they wouldn't have accepted 10 years ago. And trust me when I tell you that some of these guys will never be able to play without an insane reinforcement of technical issues they had never initiated in the first place. In those scenarios, if the studio teacher can actually scrap up enough material to turn someone into a fair to middling band director then mission accomplished. Still to infer that the whole phenomenon is the fault of academics is naive and silly.

But you know I hear the old guys say it all the time when they describe how much listening they did at my age and how so many of my colleagues do little or nothing to grasp any music past the 3-4 things they liked already. And I think there's a lot of truth to that. I also think it's why you see so many people on drum forums categorizing what kind of drummer they are and how this kind of a drummer does this, while drummer genre B guys do something else and why there can be a stupid and frankly uneducated feel vs. technique mindset to begin with.

I'm just not sure Berlin has taken it that far, because it's been my experience to notice that the guys who truly believe you have to pick can't play at all, and only talk all that garbage to save face.
 

druid

Silver Member
I was going to post something ....but I realize jeff Berlin probably expressed exactly what I was going to say...

he NAILS it here.

this argument is so tired.

In my expereince the only guys who knock having chops or academic approaches are the same ones who have no chops and don't want to be bothered with learning.

Just my .02
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
I think Todd makes some really good points. Jeff has a bit of a chip on his shoulder because he feels today's music world is being dominated by no talents and thinks that rap has no musical value. It is a tired argument.and he's probably just trying to create controversy and interest for his new album. Good for him. But he's so sure he's right, too sure to realize when he is wrong.

Everybody has a feel. You may like it you may not. Some people have an overly technical feel. I remember what John Riley said on that infamous thread and I keep on coming back to it. The market defines what good feel is, and by the market I think he means the community of musicians who hire certain musicians because of the way they play, not like the top ten. There's not even any musicians on those tunes. there is such a thing as good time, playing in time and playing musically and those things can be measured. It's all so scientific. :)

I think that the biggest myth is that metronome practice destroys feel. That's not a myth. That is ignorance, and I've talked to several of the greatest feel drummers out there, including the two most recorded, and they have all said they worked with a metronome and young drummers should as well. Any one whose works with one knows how valuable it is and especially how valuable it is to developing good groove. I hope my students are reading this.

Matt's point about blaming academics as silly is also a good point. How many academically trained musicians are out there playing in bands? You get some of these players from Berkelee or Musicians Institute; but really how many unis are creating musicians for the top twenty?
 

Skitch

Pioneer Member
It's just that Berlin presents his assertions in a kind of ham fisted way that suggests that probably in some long ago time, a music professor and/or institution stole his lunch money and gave him a negative experience.

There is also the issue that due to the existing economic climate fewer great players become music majors, requiring even the upper middle tier to take players they wouldn't have accepted 10 years ago. And trust me when I tell you that some of these guys will never be able to play without an insane reinforcement of technical issues they had never initiated in the first place. In those scenarios, if the studio teacher can actually scrap up enough material to turn someone into a fair to middling band director then mission accomplished. Still to infer that the whole phenomenon is the fault of academics is naive and silly.

But you know I hear the old guys say it all the time when they describe how much listening they did at my age and how so many of my colleagues do little or nothing to grasp any music past the 3-4 things they liked already. And I think there's a lot of truth to that. I also think it's why you see so many people on drum forums categorizing what kind of drummer they are and how this kind of a drummer does this, while drummer genre B guys do something else and why there can be a stupid and frankly uneducated feel vs. technique mindset to begin with.
Several great points made here - the "degree" factory which many universites have become and then some of the "fame" schools which have poped up for the sole purpose of cashing in on parents' dreams of seeing their children become rockstars to get validity for their short existence on this planet. While technique and chops are great, at some point the student must go out and get some dirt on his playing. I think that the whole technique vs feel argument is silly; you have to have abalance of both and a great awareness to know when either one is more important. I sometimes observe that the whole feel is looked down upon by the Jazz crowd as "They are just a bunch of bashers". The feel crowd replies back that the technique crowd is "A bunch of institute snobs with no sense of emotion."

On the flip side or B side, I do tire of the 20 year old coming up to me and asking "Do I need to learn about to music to play music?" This is really the question of "Do you know of a shortcut to wealth and fame through music?" Yes - I do - become an entertainment attorney.


There are far too many players who debunk all of this - Steve Smith, Vinnie Colaiuta, Gary Novak to name three. Or even Steve Gadd



The sentence about the listening is a great point as I have come across the mindset of "I don't know any songs or music written and recorded after 1962" from other musicians - not drummers mind you. The best way that I can describe what a college education is for is to teach yourself how to go and and educate yourself and find the answers.


Case in point - I have a computer science degree. But most of the universities teach very basic courses in programming languages, writting programs which have been written since the 1950s and aren't going to be recoded anytime soon.


Ladies and gentlemen, I see it as a sign of the times as this shortcut to fame and wealth isn't only in the music area - it's everywhere. And there is no passion when the only goal is those two objectives.



Mike

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Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
I wanted to add another thought here and that is that if you look at three musical genres, classical music, rock music and rap, they relate to three different social strata. The classical music is consumed by the upper class, who procured it in Europe over 400 years and was funded by the rich families of Boston and NY in 19th and 20th century America. Rock music was the music of the baby boomers and it related to working class kids of the 1950, 60, 70s and 80s As these kids became more educated you had progressive rock and alt rock develop on college campuses. Rap relates to the poor and working class poor throughout the world where it is seen as a music of rebellion and resistance. it's an empowerment movement. So rap is most popular because it has a larger audience than classical. Why aren't we asking why there are so many poor people in the world to begin with rather than complaining that they don't listen to good music, which is the music, of course, we would prefer they listen to?
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
To point #1 - I don't know. I've heard some recordings of some name players that were pretty devoid of groove. But groove is also a subjective term.

#2 - Not to disagree, but Jeff says "Name me anybody in the top or secondary echelons of music who can't groove." Assuming this is 100% true, it doesn't debunk the myth per se. Myths are applied universally across all levels, not just the upper levels. His reply implies that HE believe the myth is indeed true as long as one isn't an upper echelon player. Which probably wasn't his point. It's just a poorly worded statement.

#3 resonates with me. Way back before the internet was invented, I wanted to go to PIT. And I heard a lot of comments of "they make everyone sound the same" "people who there are just mechanical and lose all their feel" and other such non-sense. But the the negative feelings from people were absurdly strong. Everyone I went to school with got told the same sort of things.

To the point that after I graduated, I wouldn't tell people I had gone there for the longest time.

On of my classmates is now a huge name band, and I noticed he doesn't mention he was there anywhere on his website, player bio, or in interviews.

So, while it may be a total myth, I've found it's widely believed, despite all the evidence against it.
 
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