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caddywumpus 12-04-2009 10:59 AM

What's most/least important in music
 
I was thinking today about what one of my theory professors in college said, about how rhythm is the most important element in music...more than melody and harmony. While that's a relief for drummers and fundamentally accurate, I began to think about what I would like to listen to (like on a CD) and what would absolutely drive me nuts...

For example, I find that timbre is more important than rhythm. I would be okay listening to a recording of a GREAT sounding ride cymbal being played nothing remotely close to in time. However, if you took the world's worst synthesizer sound and played it in perfect rhythm, like an alarm clock going off in the morning, I would tear my hair out if I had to listen to it. Also, experimental indie bands that play in free time, but have amazing guitar tones, are definitely more listenable to me than some of the annoying garbage in the realm of pop music.

I was also thinking of my natural progression of what I liked/listened for in music as I grew as a listener/player. When I started listening to music, a catchy hook and a groovy beat are what caught my attention. Then, when I started playing music, impressive speed and technical ability is what I listened for. Then, emotive playing/singing started grabbing me. After that, technical sophistication, like syncopated and barline-crossing beats/fills and harmony with lots of extensions above a 7th started drawing me in and stretching what I listened to and how I played. Now, it seems that I'm gravitating, once again, towards anything with a great feel and a good hook. I'm back where I started, but with a deeper understanding and appreciation of everything else.

So, basically, what do YOU listen for/gravitate towards, and what do you think is the most important element of music?

BassDriver 12-04-2009 12:15 PM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
These are what I recognise as the elements of music:

Pitch
Harmony
Rhythm
Timbre (what the nature or characteristic of sound is, basically like choosing the settings on a synthesizer)
Metre (basically time signatures, but to me it also includes rhythm grouping and phrasing)
Dynamics

I would like to add say that melody - which to me isn't a fundamental element of music - is a combination of pitch, harmonies, and most importantly rhythm, formed to make what normal people (i.e. non-musicians) call a tune.

Rhythm is the most important element of music (again, yay to us drummers), saying that rhythm is not the most important element in music is like saying that music can have no notes played at all.

Rhythm dictates how long a note lasts for, a note can't not have length, saying that it doesn't have length is like saying the note wasn't there in the first place. This rule applies to percussion, for example; a drumstick has to spend some time on the percussion object to make contact, if the drumstick doesn't make contact, there is no time of the drumstick being on the percussion piece.

I know I'm repeating myself but pitch, harmony, timbre, dynamics cannot happen without a note being there in the first place, rhythm makes the note fall in its place.

aydee 12-04-2009 12:48 PM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by caddywumpus (Post 638473)
So, basically, what do YOU listen for/gravitate towards, and what do you think is the most important element of music?

Soul and spirit. : )


....

Pollyanna 12-04-2009 01:11 PM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by aydee (Post 638484)
Soul and spirit. : )....

Well said, Aydee. I'm a sucker for a sweet melodies, catchy rhythms and great sounds too.

Caddy, I recognise those stages and cycles. There was a time when I pretended to not be affected by sweet melodies because it wasn't about some genius doing genius things. But even then I was a closet melody freak.

A nice Charlie Watts quote
I think you get to a point where you watch something just to enjoy it. I don't think it's really done so that you're supposed to feel, Oh, he's the most wonderful drummer. I think the whole lot is what's more enjoyable.

larryace 12-04-2009 03:33 PM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
The rare Caddy thread!
In addition to the obvious, (feel, timbre, melody etc.) I go for the human emotion aspect of music. When I feel the song pinpoints and conveys a basic human emotion, it's a winner to me no matter how dissonant or rhythmless or uncatchy.

Of course to have the human emotion aspect of music combined w/ technical facility, a great timbre, and a seasoned, mature musical feel, I pretty much wet my pants.

GRUNTERSDAD 12-04-2009 04:51 PM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
I would have to say the overall sound. That is kind of vague, but if anything negative stands out it just turns me off. For instance, there is a lot of Country music that technically sounds great with the instruments and the drums, and then the singer starts with the nasally, whiney sound and I push the button. Or for instance our National Anthem. A great song, and technically hard to sing but when singers decide that every vocal note has to be yodeled or made into a four beat measure, yuck. Just sing the song and stop using the time for an audition. I love brass, and good rhythm. So before I digress, as I said the overall package is what does it for me. Steely Dans engineering does it for me.

DrumEatDrum 12-04-2009 04:57 PM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
It has to feel good and have a vibe about it.

If it feels good, everything else has the potential to be irrelevant.

I was talking to a producer I know who's worked on a lot of high profile releases, and we were discussing how some songs sound so great, but if you break them down, they actually don't follow conventional wisdom of what should make a song sound great.

And if you look at music history since recording was invented, there are plenty of songs that sound great because they have full orchestra, 10 layers of guitars, etc, and other recordings that sound great with just an old acoustic guitar and an imperfect singer.

Thor 12-05-2009 07:21 AM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
What's most or least important in music.
Well being in band for only two years, I don't know much terminology or anything like that (i can barely sight read).
However, what I've been taught so far is that:

- Dynamics shape music. Without them it is flat and bland
- You don't allways have to like the music you play, but you have to feel it to truly make the music incredible.
- It doesn't matter how fast you play the notes, you just have to play right notes, be in time, and in general make good sounds.
- Don't just play notes, play and feel the music.

TheGroceryman 12-05-2009 07:49 AM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
I can't describe what i look for in music. I think it changes constantly. A really catchy melody can spark my interest, a sick bass line, a beautiful chord progression, some crazy time signatures, technical prowess, or a combination of all of these. But bottom line, I'm going to take a quote from a friend of mine... "good music is music that changes your mood." I think this is true on so many levels....the simplest things can make me go wild over a piece of music, and the most complicated things can do the same. But what all those techniques do is make me feel something while i'm listening to the song, or after the song is finished. They make me ponder, relax, energetic. So i guess that's what i look for in music. Music needs to emit a sense of emotion, and i need to be able to respond to that emission.

I'm feeling deep on this lonely night in the city of new york...

BassDriver 12-05-2009 12:58 PM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
"it doesn’t really matter if something is hard to play or not. The thing is, what does it do to your mind when you listen to it? Where does it take you?" - Marten Hagstrom, from Meshuggah

This is one of the best musical quotes ever.

What TheGroceryMan was talking about is what music does to you. What I was talking about in regards to musical elements was what makes it up, the combinations of pitch, harmony, rhythm, metre, timbre, dynamics are what moves someone and makes them enjoy music. What you put it in is what someone else will feel - sub-consciously or consciously - on the listening end.

keep it simple 12-06-2009 01:08 PM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
Performance, the most elusive element of all.

caddywumpus 12-06-2009 10:13 PM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
Great replies everyone! It's so interesting to see such a variety of responses. This is kind of what I was figuring. Everyone seems to listen or pay attention to or value different aspects of music. I guess that's what keeps music constantly evolving and allows for such a variety of genres/artists to co-exist...

:)

DestinationDrumming 12-07-2009 12:22 AM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
For me, rhythm provides the skeleton to which we attach all the other things. One band I've re-discovered are the Blockheads (ex-Ian Dury and the...) and they have rhythm in spades, and one of the tightest bands I've heard for a long time. They have lots of melody, timbre and all the other things but the rhythm is the one thing that keeps the others driving. None can really exist without the other in my little world :o)

Here's some Blockheads for you:

Greed

Hit me with your rhythm stick (says it all)

BassDriver 12-10-2009 08:20 AM

Re: What's most/least important in music
 
Quote:

Great replies everyone! It's so interesting to see such a variety of responses. This is kind of what I was figuring. Everyone seems to listen or pay attention to or value different aspects of music. I guess that's what keeps music constantly evolving and allows for such a variety of genres/artists to co-exist...
You know that neurological study on the human brain on the right side controlling creativity and abstract concepts while the left deals with logic and maths.

Aparently the right-brainers are more in touch with a rhythm aspect of music while left-brainers are more in touch with the melody of music.

...and I would like to add that there is some music that doesn't even have melody at all, ambient music, free jazz and musique concrete, can do without melody. Rhythm (whether planned or random) is still a part of all musical styles...although other aspects are also important.


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