" You can only play what you have lived"

aydee

Platinum Member
...

A friend of mine put that quote on his new album recently. Not sure if it is his originally or it is borrowed, but it sure got me thinking.....

true or false, you think?


....
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
As romantic as that notion that is, I'm going with false. Why? Ever hear Michael Jackson sing a blues song at age 10? Completely convincing.

There is some truth though. I think for most of us to be really convincing, then this is somewhat true.

However I think it's easy, for certain people to "fake it". It's a talent. If you can't dazzle em with brilliance, baffle em with bull sh%*. Some can do this very easily.

Love your deep topics Abe.
 

the_dude

Senior Member
IMO you can play "it" with more "feeling and authenticity" if you've live it.
So for me it lies somewhere between true or false.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
I don't know Abe, what do you think? :)

I'll say false... you won't necessary find a way to express your real life experience(s), and you can certainly play things coming out straight of your own "dreamland", but you are influenced by what you've lived, good or bad, and as a drummer, often you are playing on what someone else has lived throughout their own life when they're writing a piece of music.

I can only play what I feel, both musically, technically, spiritually and emotionally, it will refer to me as a person or character, but not necessary through what I lived (if this makes any sense).
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I think we're discussing empathy here, & to a greater degree, I agree with the statement. Of course, you can "live" something over a very short time span, & also very recently, so I don't think the notion is necessarily formative years specific. It's also credible to live a number of disparate lives in one journey. Often profound changes in priorities, sensibilities, & expectations result from significant milestones, whether they be positive or negative.

All that said, if my playing repertoire is a reflection of the variety in my life, I've been living under a rock from pre ameba :)
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Taking the statement literally, that's false for most players. Unless one is completely unwilling to learn and grow, we can all play stuff we haven't lived. But with only a slight change, the statement becomes "You can best play what you have lived" and I would agree that aspect.

For example, let's say you grew up and were learning to play drums listening to a certain style or band that was creating new sounds and parts. As you learned, the 'cutting' edge' parts were ingrained in your musical vocabulary as being current, or normal. Fast forward several years or decades... you still retain the original, correct feel for those parts. Suppose a young drummer also loves that older style, and retroactively immerses himself in it. Between the two drummers, who's going to have a better feel for it? Of course there are exceptions, but most often, the drummer who lived it will do it more authentically.

I say authentically, because it's possible the young drummer, with his musical upbringing and influences, will bring something new yet appropriate to the music. But I've yet to hear anyone out-Buddy Buddy, out-Ringo Ringo, out-Bonham Bonham, Tony Williams, Keith Moon, etc etc.

Bermuda
 

criz p. critter

Silver Member
I'd say you have to define "lived". That's really nebulous... Is there some "authentic" way to "live" something? Do you have to have the blues to be able to play it? Or on the other hand, if you're just vicariously experiencing some one else living something, and if you do it often enough, does that give you the insight and understanding to do it yourself after a while?

Basically my philosophy is that there are no rules except the ones we make for ourselves. Every possibility exists somewhere in nature. I admit human beings seem to like to define borders and then stay within them. For myself though, whenever I see a border somewhere I try to step over it, or erase it or just plain ignore it.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
I'd say for some people it's mostly true because some people have received no formal instruction on the kit. My only opportunity to play a kit is when I jam with other people.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I don't know where it comes from originally, but it's a familiar idea. If the "what" in that statement is just "music" (or "the type of music in question") then I would agree with it. But I think what is usually meant is that you have to have certain non-musical life experiences to really play something, and I don't agree with that at all. Like Steven Spielberg did not live through D-Day, the Holocaust, a shark attack, or being pursued by a homicidal trucker, but managed to make great, vivid movies about each of those things. With music it's even sillier— what is the real world referent for a pop beat, a jazz waltz, or a walking ballad?
 

mikel

Platinum Member
I don't know the answer, but there are a few songs that when I listen to them make me feel so emotional, for whatever reason, that I can cry. This also applies to when I play them. So In a way although I did not "live" these songs, ie write them or experience directly the emotion involved in the original creation of the music, I feel them so strongly that in my small way I believe that when I play them I do them more than justice.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I'd say you have to define "lived". That's really nebulous... Is there some "authentic" way to "live" something?
There can be.

Is a drummer growing up in Jamaica and immersed in reggae as the primary part of his musical upbringing going to be better at the style than even the most diligent 'student' of the genre who learned drumming in an environment where dance or punk or rap is ubiquitous?

But by saying "only", the actual statement is based on limitation, and I disagree with it.

Bermuda
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
I think the notion of only being able to play the blues if you've had an obviously hard life is overly romantic. You don't have to have lived it, you need to have felt it. People can get the blues as much from within a gilded cage as they can in a ghetto, sometimes even more so if you add uncaring parents, spiteful siblings and school bullying. It's all very subjective. It also depends on the sensitivity of the individual.

That's the nature side of things. Then we have nurture, immersion in the scene/s where the music lives. I think being born into a musical scene is a single greatest advantage a musician can have - the music is ingrained, it's your environment, the air that you breathe. I started at 16 ... compare my first attempts with someone who started as a toddler and since then has been regularly watching, listening and playing for the last 14 years. Diamonds and rocks.

But you also have to love it. Natural ability isn't enough.

My environment was conducive to me becoming a writer and I know I have some kind of gift for it, but I've neglected the potential because I only enjoy writing as communication ... I have nothing to say in long form. Zilch. Nada. I have the chops but nothing to say (or at least no thoughts I can organise enough to be interesting), and I have no interest in being a "session writer" or doing clinics ;-)

Meanwhile I adore playing music even though I'm an uncoordinated klutz with four left feet. If I wrote the way I drummed it would be like, um, the ct, no cat, er, sat onn on he matt *tish* the cat satt onna mat *tish* the sat cat mat on the *tish*
 

Deathmetalconga

Platinum Member
As romantic as that notion that is, I'm going with false. Why? Ever hear Michael Jackson sing a blues song at age 10? Completely convincing.

There is some truth though. I think for most of us to be really convincing, then this is somewhat true.

However I think it's easy, for certain people to "fake it". It's a talent. If you can't dazzle em with brilliance, baffle em with bull sh%*. Some can do this very easily.

Love your deep topics Abe.
Agreed. I can see some people using a statement like this to facilitate self-destruction.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
...

Not sure if it is his originally or it is borrowed ....
I've heard this idea before, perhaps worded differently. Not an original concept, but to your friend, it might be.​
There's no wrong or right answer. You can't tell people they "shouldn't" feel a certain way. Well, you can, but it's kinda like teaching a pig to sing. So, if someone thinks, or wants to justify, that their playing is born from their depression, hard times, heartbreak, etc. ..... hey, more power to 'em. If they can take a negative, and turn it into a positive, that's a good thing. We are, after all, made up of the sum of our experiences.​
Now, if someone was to say, "you can't play the blues, unless you've lived the blues" .... to me, that kinda smacks of elitism. For it starts to qualify the human experience. Rate it. The ol' "my hard luck is deeper than yours" .... doesn't make anyones blues any more valid than anyone else.​
How many anti-war songs (or songs describing the horrors of war) are actually written by combat veterans? Few. But many great songs exist. Judging someone's "soul" .... everyone's got an opinion, right?​
 
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