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  #1  
Old 05-29-2017, 07:18 PM
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Default Nomenclature

I'm big on accuracy, credit where credit is due, and labels. For example, when Lady Gaga is called a musician, it's an accurate description. Besides singing, she plays piano, and she writes. But it irks me when I hear someone who only sings, referred to as a musician rather than a singer. Same for many of the "boy bands" being called bands, rather than singers, or a vocal group. Maybe they should be called artists, which is correct and doesn't misrepresent what they do, or don't do.

I have nothing against artists who just sing, or who don't write their own material. That would mean throwing out institutions like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tom Jones, and Elvis (at least he played guitar...) I respect anyone who sings well and delivers a good performance. But should singers be called musicians when they don't actually play an instrument? Should a vocal group be called a band, when they don't play anything? Or is their voice their instrument?

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Old 05-29-2017, 07:33 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

I consider someone that "only" sings just as much a musician as someone that only plays another instrument.
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Old 05-29-2017, 07:34 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

Quote:
Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
Should a vocal group be called a band, when they don't play anything? Or is their voice their instrument?
Rather than give my personal opinion on the matter, I would recommend taking Vocal lessons for a couple months. Then come back and tell yourself the answer.

Singing backup and harmonies is a pretty useful tool to have in one's pocket.
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Old 05-29-2017, 07:43 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

In order to sing effectively, music lesson should be a must, as they should be able to read and interpret the same amount of information that is essential to any sheet reading musician would deem important. Forget guys like Paul McCartney, he also knew how quarter notes and rests meant. Anyways, because singers have to also rely on the same set of theoretical musical tools to be able to sing properly, they are more or less musicians in my eyes
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Old 05-29-2017, 07:54 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

Well technically speaking, and according to wiki,

A musician (or instrumentalist) is a person who plays a musical instrument[b] or is musically talented.[1] Anyone who composes, conducts, or performs music may also be referred to as a musician.[2]

'Musicians can specialize in any musical style, and some musicians play in a variety of different styles. Examples of a musician's possible skills include performing, conducting, singing, composing, arranging, and the orchestration of music.[3]'

I do agree that in many cases there are talentless singers who truly can't be referred to as musicians and are just carried by their backing band.
But there are singers who are skilled music readers and/or highly trained such as the likes of opera singers.
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Old 05-29-2017, 08:42 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

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Originally Posted by Merlin5 View Post
I do agree that in many cases there are talentless singers who truly can't be referred to as musicians and are just carried by their backing band.
Am wondering of an example of such a talentless singer in a band?
Singing a melody is music. The voice is most definitely an instrument. One is hitting notes that the music requires. One is also changing keys, tempos, volume...etc. All the things you can do with a guitar, bass, sax.....
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Old 05-29-2017, 08:47 PM
KamaK KamaK is offline
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Default Re: Nomenclature

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Originally Posted by opentune View Post
Example of such a talentless singer in a band? And are you implying singing a melody or form is not music?
The voice is most definitely an instrument.
I think he was saying something along the lines of...

Dancing on stage to prerecorded music, where the only live mics are for moments like "Thank you very much!" and "Hello Seattle!", is not musicianship.

I greatly prefer Burlesque and Cabaret to Stripping.
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  #8  
Old 05-29-2017, 09:04 PM
81MC 81MC is offline
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Default Re: Nomenclature

The Voice is undoubtedly one of the oldest, most wide spread, and intrinsically human instruments around.
That said, my definition of a musician encompasses more than playing one instrument. I drum, but I am a far cry from a 'musician'.
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Old 05-29-2017, 09:08 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

Quote:
Originally Posted by KamaK View Post
I think he was saying something along the lines of...

Dancing on stage to prerecorded music, where the only live mics are for moments like "Thank you very much!" and "Hello Seattle!", is not musicianship.

I greatly prefer Burlesque and Cabaret to Stripping.
I disagree, I've re read the original post and it wasn't the mimers being discussed, the OP said "But should singers be called musicians when they don't actually play an instrument?"
I consider myself as a drummer but the other week in the pub we were discussing something about bands and I made the point that I'm uncomfortable "claiming" to be a musician as I don't read or write music or have any kind of formal training or education. My mate jumped down my throat and said that he very much considers me to be a musician as he considers that my contributions and inputs to both the original music we played years ago and the covers we play today are invaluable and not coming from anyone else in the band.

Perhaps unrelated but I've long held the opinion that we don't appreciate how difficult the thing we do is and can undervalue ourselves as a result. Stick the average non drummer behind a kit or ask them to book and run a gig, and you would see that things we see as being second nature are actually really difficult.
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Old 05-29-2017, 09:27 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

It doesn't bother me when a singer is called a musician. Singing well is a tough job.

I do agree it irks me when a singing group that plays none of their own instruments is called a band.

Also irks me that many DJ's are now considered "musicians" just because they push some buttons to control music created by someone else.
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  #11  
Old 05-29-2017, 09:29 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

Quote:
Originally Posted by opentune View Post
Am wondering of an example of such a talentless singer in a band?
Singing a melody is music. The voice is most definitely an instrument. One is hitting notes that the music requires. .
Enjoy :D

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaW7Qj6Y7vg
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  #12  
Old 05-29-2017, 09:44 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

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Originally Posted by Merlin5 View Post
That guy is AWESOME! I'd hire him for a wedding!
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  #13  
Old 05-29-2017, 09:49 PM
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That guy is AWESOME! I'd hire him for a wedding!
Lol yep, although most of the wedding cake might get thrown at him. :p
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Old 05-29-2017, 11:03 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

I would think that anyone performing music to be a musician. Not an instrumentalist if singing is the only method of performing. I am a bit more put off by the term boy band, when they are a chroal group at best. Musicians, under my definition, but no more a band that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or the Vienna Boys Choir.

Lennie has to go. He must have no true friends or they would clue him in.
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  #15  
Old 05-30-2017, 12:24 AM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

Hi Bermuda. IMO, I believe a singers voice is a instrument. Just because they don't play a musical instrument does not diminish the fact.
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  #16  
Old 05-30-2017, 12:50 AM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

This type of question could get you in trouble depending on how you answer it ,and where you emphasise the word "just"

;They,re good for JUST a boy band!,,double edged sword here.
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  #17  
Old 05-30-2017, 01:43 AM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

There are singers and then there are SINGERS. Lisa Fischer for e.g.
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  #18  
Old 05-30-2017, 04:41 AM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

I know tons of people who play instruments that I don't consider to be musicians. Just because someone changes a light switch, that doesn't make them an electrician either. My point is that some singers are stellar musicians, just with their voice, and some singers well, aren't musicians at all. They are people who sing, but who are lacking a musical understanding.
To me a musician has to have a certain ability...before I will consider them an actual musician. Hey they don't have to be a virtuoso, but yea they need to have the ability to understand...and be able to navigate song form at the very least. If that doesn't come natural, that's a big problem. If you can't follow a song form, you're not a musician in my eyes.
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Old 05-30-2017, 10:10 AM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

Quote:
Originally Posted by opentune View Post
Am wondering of an example of such a talentless singer in a band?
Singing a melody is music. The voice is most definitely an instrument. One is hitting notes that the music requires. One is also changing keys, tempos, volume...etc. All the things you can do with a guitar, bass, sax.....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-el-CuV1Je8
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  #20  
Old 05-30-2017, 02:27 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

Quote:
Originally Posted by larryace View Post
I know tons of people who play instruments that I don't consider to be musicians. Just because someone changes a light switch, that doesn't make them an electrician either. My point is that some singers are stellar musicians, just with their voice, and some singers well, aren't musicians at all. They are people who sing, but who are lacking a musical understanding.
To me a musician has to have a certain ability...before I will consider them an actual musician. Hey they don't have to be a virtuoso, but yea they need to have the ability to understand...and be able to navigate song form at the very least. If that doesn't come natural, that's a big problem. If you can't follow a song form, you're not a musician in my eyes.
I think Larry has this right. To me playing an instrument or being able to hold a note vocally does not automatically make a person a musician. It's all about the ears...
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  #21  
Old 05-30-2017, 03:29 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

I know this one person who sings...she's no musician. I mean she can't even tell when the soloist is bringing their solo to a peak. I've seen her cut off a many a solo with her vocals, at a point where to me it's incomprehensible how she can NOT hear that the soloist has built up the solo and is peaking as she rudely cuts him off.
I take it for granted that I get these things. To me it's like blinking my eyes, automatic. It's hard for me to understand how a person can be oblivious to a soloist's solo like that, not seeing or hearing that the soloist is not done with the progression, or their solo. I mean just the body language alone should be a dead giveaway. But no, there's nothing that organized, she just resumes singing wherever lol.

There's another guy I knew who sings who wasn't aware of song form either. He gave me a solo in "Stand By Me" once. (yea I know, not exactly a song that should have a drum solo) But I was kind of put on the spot, so I did a really simple, not over the top, sort of blend in type solo...and I got cut off about halfway through the progression. Whatever!

I know a guy who tries to play guitar...I mean I've seen this guy at open mic jams for over 10 years. He's had time to improve himself. He owns over a hundred guitars, and gets worse everytime I hear him. He thinks he's a musician, but no one wants to be put up on stage with him at the open mic jams.

O. Bliv. E. Ous.

Apparently, what musicians do is not easy for most people. Out of a hundred people that I know who play musical instruments or sing, maybe 10% are people I consider actual musicians.
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Old 05-30-2017, 03:53 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

In my mind, I consider a singer a singer. If he/she plays something, then I consider him/her a musician.

Why do I make that distinction? Because, overall, I believe singing is easier. For example, it's easier to sing the melody to "Mary had a Little Lamb" than it is to learn to play it on guitar, piano, trumpet, etc.

If a singer messes up a song, the rest of the band can keep going. If a drummer messes up a song, everyone has to stop.

Singing still takes a lot of work to develop the skill, and great singers are very hard to come by. With that said, I think that playing a musical instrument is more difficult and is more advanced than just singing one note at a time.

Calling The Black-Eyed Peas a band is an insult to those of use that can actually play something.

All in all, there's no shame in being "just a singer." We need them desperately in order to make good music.

Once again, all of this is just my opinion. Your opinion(s) will indeed vary. I'm just calling'em as I see'em.
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Old 05-30-2017, 06:09 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

I'm firmly in the "their voice is their instrument" camp.
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:00 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

Quote:
Originally Posted by larryace View Post
I know this one person who sings...she's no musician. I mean she can't even tell when the soloist is bringing their solo to a peak. I've seen her cut off a many a solo with her vocals, at a point where to me it's incomprehensible how she can NOT hear that the soloist has built up the solo and is peaking as she rudely cuts him off.
I take it for granted that I get these things. To me it's like blinking my eyes, automatic. It's hard for me to understand how a person can be oblivious to a soloist's solo like that, not seeing or hearing that the soloist is not done with the progression, or their solo. I mean just the body language alone should be a dead giveaway. But no, there's nothing that organized, she just resumes singing wherever lol.

There's another guy I knew who sings who wasn't aware of song form either. He gave me a solo in "Stand By Me" once. (yea I know, not exactly a song that should have a drum solo) But I was kind of put on the spot, so I did a really simple, not over the top, sort of blend in type solo...and I got cut off about halfway through the progression. Whatever!

I know a guy who tries to play guitar...I mean I've seen this guy at open mic jams for over 10 years. He's had time to improve himself. He owns over a hundred guitars, and gets worse everytime I hear him. He thinks he's a musician, but no one wants to be put up on stage with him at the open mic jams.

O. Bliv. E. Ous.

Apparently, what musicians do is not easy for most people. Out of a hundred people that I know who play musical instruments or sing, maybe 10% are people I consider actual musicians.
I'm in many ways agreed with Larry here. It's got nothing to do with instrument or no instrument, but the performer/artist's proficiency with the musical language and its conventions. And as he rightly points out, there's many an instrumentalist who can't see the basics of musical form, while there are singers who are more monstrously talented in musical theory than anyone else in the group - able to expertly craft harmonies, layer voices, hit pitches, and use dynamics to the song's best advantage. I'd readily agree that such a person is a musician. (Such folks who don't also play instruments are rare, but we can't say there are none.)

By my definition, a musician is someone who steps beyond the simple physical motions of making sound (with voice or instrument or tool) and harnesses it as an art form. Art, as I explain to my students (college, not drum lessons), is the intentional manipulation of one's environment to create an emotion or to provoke thought. These are forgiving definitions.
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:24 PM
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Yeah, there are singers who don't have any understanding of what they're doing, but you could say that about plenty of instrumentalists also. Meanwhile, I know singers who have substantial background in the training of their voice, including shaping their mouths, controlling air flow, controlling vibrato, exercising their range, etc. I also know singers who have substantial training in music theory, particularly jazz singers who improvise. And then, there are the classical vocalists, whose voices are unquestionably instruments.

At the same time, I know bass players who play only by pattern and don't know any theory or even sometimes what key they're playing in. I know many instrumentalists who can't read music, and some who can't even recognize a musical phrase.

And of course I know drummers who aren't aware of chord changes, dynamics, written notation, etc., in the music they play.

Since drummers are so often considered non-musicians because of not producing specific pitches, I think we drummers shouldn't be hesitant to credit the human voice as a musical instrument. It wasn't too long ago that I heard a band leader in a rehearsal saying, "OK, let me hear just the instruments and the drums." So, you know, glass houses and all that.
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:27 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

Some people think drummers aren't musicians... Just sayin!
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:29 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

Quote:
Originally Posted by PorkPieGuy View Post
In my mind, I consider a singer a singer. If he/she plays something, then I consider him/her a musician.
You and I appear to be alone in that perspective.

It's worth noting that musical compositions often list music and lyric credits separately, indicating that lyrics are not music. There's a distinction between the two, so wouldn't that apply to the performance of those entities as well?

Quote:
Calling The Black-Eyed Peas a band is an insult to those of use that can actually play something.
Agreed, although I understand that the perception of vocalists as musicians, and a band is made up of musicians, would cause someone to call a vocal group a band. The first concept begets the second.

So I guess if someone calls Demi Movato a musician, but refuses to call Backstreet Boys a band, they're being a hypocrite. :)

Bermuda
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:29 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

A singer is a musician when he/she finally understands music. The person may have a good voice, but if all the person does is karaoke and doesn't understand phrasing and timing and song structure, then no, not a musician, just a parrot.
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by larryace View Post
I know a guy who tries to play guitar...I mean I've seen this guy at open mic jams for over 10 years. He's had time to improve himself. He owns over a hundred guitars, and gets worse everytime I hear him. He thinks he's a musician, but no one wants to be put up on stage with him at the open mic jams.
We have a guy like that at our jam! He's been "working" on the same damn melody progression for the whole time he's been showing up and still doesn't play anything else or even come up with a song around the stupid riff he plays over and over. I've even tried yelling "play a different song" and he just doesn't.
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:33 PM
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One weird thing about me is that I don't hear vocal parts as words. I hear them as a part of the music landscape, like another instrument playing it's own complimentary melodies. I'm very sensitive to a singer hitting a wrong note, or a guitar for that matter.

I typically have to listen to a song maybe about 30 to 50 times before I start to "hear" what's being said in the lyrics as opposed to just absorbing the melody of the voice as a part of the music.

I've been in bands for years playing the songs and it's often not till someone explains what a song is about that I give it any thought or even know.

I guess as it relates to this thread, I consider a singer musical if they're really thinking about the music and complimenting. In the same way that a drummer can either play with musicality or not, I think singing can be similar.
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:37 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

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Originally Posted by motleyh View Post
Yeah, there are singers who don't have any understanding of what they're doing, but you could say that about plenty of instrumentalists also. Meanwhile, I know singers who have substantial background in the training of their voice, including shaping their mouths, controlling air flow, controlling vibrato, exercising their range, etc. I also know singers who have substantial training in music theory, particularly jazz singers who improvise. And then, there are the classical vocalists, whose voices are unquestionably instruments.

At the same time, I know bass players who play only by pattern and don't know any theory or even sometimes what key they're playing in. I know many instrumentalists who can't read music, and some who can't even recognize a musical phrase.

And of course I know drummers who aren't aware of chord changes, dynamics, written notation, etc., in the music they play.

Since drummers are so often considered non-musicians because of not producing specific pitches, I think we drummers shouldn't be hesitant to credit the human voice as a musical instrument. It wasn't too long ago that I heard a band leader in a rehearsal saying, "OK, let me hear just the instruments and the drums." So, you know, glass houses and all that.
There you go. All salient points.

I believe singers are musicians. I believe drummers are musicians. We all perform music.

The discussion about whether someone who plays, even though they suck, is completely different, though. I think they are still musicians, though I hate to besmirch the name. They just aren't competent. The guy who changes a light switch isn't an electrician, and the guy who just picks up someone else's guitar and learns a chord or two isn't a musician. But someone who plays regularly is, even if they stink, in my opinion. We just wish they would stop, lol.

Larry's story of the guy with over 100 guitars reminds me of a "bass player" who used to come to jams. He was trying to learn to read, but he'd crack under pressure and forget everything, and he had absolutely no ability to hear if he was playing a correct note. It was horrendous. I tried to get him to just listen so he could hear how his part fit, but he literally could not hear if he was playing the right parts. Not even the root of the most basic chords in the most basic rock song.

Nice guy, and tried hard, but he'll never be a good musician. Maybe he falls under the category of beginning musician? Talentless musician? lol Who knows.
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:43 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

Pavarotti couldn't read music very well, and I'm not aware that he could play an instrument, but I'd like to hear anybody argue convincingly that he wasn't a musician.
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Old 05-30-2017, 08:23 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

I believe what Bermuda's looking for here is not value judgements but useful words with universally understood meanings. A word is not very useful unless we all agree on what it means.

We're lacking a useful verbal distinction between someone who sings and someone who plays an instrument, and between groups that sing, and groups that play instruments. I think we all agree that singing isn't LESS important than playing an instrument, but it is different than playing an instrument.

The best way we have to denote the difference is to use "singer" and "musician" as words with different meanings. That doesn't mean singers are not musically skilled.

Purists can use "Instrumentalist" vs "Singer" but it's awkward.

As to the secondary distinction between "real musicians" and those who play, but not musically, we're stuck with adjectives, as in "She is a superb guitar player" or "He's a crummy bassist".
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Old 05-30-2017, 08:29 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

Quote:
Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
You and I appear to be alone in that perspective.

It's worth noting that musical compositions often list music and lyric credits separately, indicating that lyrics are not music. There's a distinction between the two, so wouldn't that apply to the performance of those entities as well?



Agreed, although I understand that the perception of vocalists as musicians, and a band is made up of musicians, would cause someone to call a vocal group a band. The first concept begets the second.

So I guess if someone calls Demi Movato a musician, but refuses to call Backstreet Boys a band, they're being a hypocrite. :)

Bermuda
IDK, music is so monetized today that I don't really care what they call themselves. Boy bands...I'm OK with that. I know it usually means just the singers. It's just a term. Frankly I'm surprised that a well seasoned musician such as yourself, doesn't consider the human voice an instrument.

And the separation between music and lyrics...I guess I consider the lyrics to be a deeply musical contribution. The lyrics, in many ways dictate the feel of the music. Like if there are dark lyrics, I wouldn't want them paired with a bouncy happy feeling tune. Like Imagine the tune "Walking on Sunshine" with the lyrics from "War Pigs" There would be a disconnect for me. So lyrics are an integral part of music to me, when they are there. I don't differentiate. Just another ingredient of music.

I'm not getting how the voice is not an instrument. It makes sound and the pitch can vary. The user of that voice has to manipulate their vocal chords, they have to understand and hear pitch, they have to control the air passing over the vocal chords, and they have to instill the lyric with human emotion, which you really can't quantify. Among many other things. I feel that more than qualifies as an instrument.

Music resists definition. I'm glad about that. It's mysterious and wonderful.

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Originally Posted by PlayTheSong View Post

I think we all agree that singing isn't LESS important than playing an instrument, but it is different than playing an instrument.
I have to respectfully disagree with the ending words of this statement. What differences are there between "playing" a human voice and say a saxophone? They are both manipulating air, changing their mouth shape, producing pitches etc. To me that's like saying a beat box guy isn't a drummer because he is playing his body instead of a drum. I'm so not getting this.
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Old 05-30-2017, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by PlayTheSong View Post
The best way we have to denote the difference is to use "singer" and "musician" as words with different meanings. That doesn't mean singers are not musically skilled.

Purists can use "Instrumentalist" vs "Singer" but it's awkward.

As to the secondary distinction between "real musicians" and those who play, but not musically, we're stuck with adjectives, as in "She is a superb guitar player" or "He's a crummy bassist".
I understand what you mean, but to me the hierarchy is something like

I) Musician
-------A)Vocalist
----------i)Singer
----------ii)Beat Boxer
----------iii)Rapper
----------iv)Whatever

-------B)Instrumentalist
----------i)Violinist
----------ii)Guitarist
----------iii)Bassist
----------iv)Drummer
----------v)Whatever

That's not scientifically thought out and analyzed - I'm winging it at work, lol. My point is, we already have the terminology in place. It may seem awkward to use it precisely, but it's there. We just have to decide how precise we need to be in a given situation.

Sometimes I'm in agreement with the sentiment, "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

Last edited by IDDrummer; 05-30-2017 at 09:35 PM.
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Old 05-30-2017, 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by PlayTheSong View Post
The best way we have to denote the difference is to use "singer" and "musician" as words with different meanings. That doesn't mean singers are not musically skilled.
Nor was I suggesting that. I appreciate the musicality that goes into singing well. I just don't think that makes someone who doesn't play an instrument, a musician.

Quote:
Purists can use "Instrumentalist" vs "Singer" but it's awkward.
It doesn't quite roll off the tongue, but I'd agree with that. Maybe "player" vs. "singer" is less cumbersome. Then again, only musicians tend to use the term player. My argument stems from hearing singers as musicians as mentioned on variety shows, the news, etc. If they used the word player, it would probably sound weird.

Bermuda
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Old 05-30-2017, 09:29 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

So, does rapping qualify as singing?

Or, what if it's just a beat with a rap to it?

Is it even music?
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Old 05-30-2017, 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Midnite Zephyr View Post
So, does rapping qualify as singing?

Or, what if it's just a beat with a rap to it?

Is it even music?
My formatting was changed when I posted, but I listed rap under vocalist, but separate from singer. lol
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Old 05-30-2017, 10:01 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

I consider a singer to be a musician. The voice is an instrument one needs to practice to be good at. A karaoke singer not so much.
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Old 05-30-2017, 10:03 PM
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Default Re: Nomenclature

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Originally Posted by Midnite Zephyr View Post
So, does rapping qualify as singing?

Or, what if it's just a beat with a rap to it?

Is it even music?
Those are also much-discussed topics among musicians. Rapping is technically singing. Even if it's amelodic (I think I just invented a new word!) it's rhythmic, and certainly a vocal.

I would also argue that rap as a genre is music.

But it is interesting that rappers are referred to as rappers, not singers or musicians. It's a specific, correct designation IMO, for those who just rap.

Bermuda
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