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Listening to music as a Musician

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Blazer, Jul 31, 2005.

  1. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars
    When I started working at the Jan Knooren workshop seven years ago I not only developped myself as a luthier but as a musician as wel, because we had som much people coming in from scenes I wasn't familiar with.

    Add to the fact that my boss is a certified studio musician and has recorded in all spectrums including hard rock, Jazz and classical music there was a HUGE range of music around and I soaked it all up. Me and my colleagues often spoke about music and why as musicians we hear it differently.

    But I also noticed that many people take over the judgement from the masses on the acts that currently rule the hitparades rather than judge them fairly on their own merits.

    Take for example Britney Spears. Loved by Teenieboppers hated by the punkrockers and other "Non comformist" audiences. But when looked upon rationally we hear a woman with a really good voice and a good singing style. So why is she viewed on negatively? The only reason I can come up with is the fact that the record company does everything for her, they hire songwriters, they think up her image. There's nothing ,except for the actual singing, she did herself.

    Another thing I keep hearing is "Oasis is a Beatles' coverband" which is another judgement which is taken over from the masses. While it's true that their discography includes songs that DO wink towards the fab four, Liam Galagher's singing wouldn't fit into any recording of the Beatles, neither would Noel Galagher's way of playing with a hefty distorted sound and feedback.

    One other thing I learned was how musicians could pick out a particullar part from a recording. For example in Miles Davis' "All blues" when the band transposes from playing in G to playing in C, bassplayer Paul Chambers doesn't transpose along with the others, his part stays in G. Change that and you'll change the whole song.

    Who of you hears the toy piano in Lenny Kravitz' "I belong to you?" It seems an insignificant part but take it away and the song doesn't sound the same.

    What a lot of people don't hear is that Jaco's parts on the studio version of "Teentown" are doubled by Joe Zawinul on a Moog synth, the two parts blend in so effordlessly that you almost can't hear it.

    The same with Mark King's parts on most of the Level 42 albums, his bass parts are often doubled. But who hears that, certainly not the general public. Eddie Van Halen doubled the end solo of "Ain't talking 'bout love" on a sitar but did you ever notice that before I wrote it down?

    A few years ago a DJ called Gigi D'Augustino scored a massive hit in the dance charts with a cover of Nik Kershaw's Eighties hit "The Riddle" when I spoke with friends about that one they all said that they were aware of the original version but that it was too slow for their liking. I said "No it isn't, the tempo in both versions is the same." What they actually wanted to say is that the original version FEELS different, the dance version had kickdrum beats on all four beats in the rythm of the song while the drummer on the original version played the kick on the first and the third beat.

    One funny thing that happened to me was when my younger brother wanted me to learn him how to play the bassline of "all around the world" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers when he just bought himself a bass. He has no musical ear because when I played him that bassline he went "Never heard that in the song."

    Having a musical ear for me personally is a lot of fun, I can listen to "the lamb lies down on broadway" by Genesis and destinguish Phil Collins's vocal line from Peter Gabriel's. The two have very similar sounding voices and very similar ways of singing but if you know what to listen for you find the differences, tiny nuages in feel and such. The same also goes for Phil Collins' way of drumming, if you know what to look for you'll pick his parts from songs without a hitch. Many people don't even know him as a drummer these days but his hardedge sound and agressive way of playing stand out like a sore thumb.

    Many people who buy records who aren't musicians themselves take feel and nuages for granted but when a cover version appears from one of the songs they love appears and one of the details of the original version isn't in it, they can tell, and end up hating that cover version. They can't say what exactly is wrong with the cover version but they can tell it doesn't match the original version.

    Such was the case when Puff Daddy covered "Every breath you take" by the Police and replaced Steward Copeland's track with a track layed down using a drum machine. Puff Daddy did that because as a rapper he needs a firm rythm to get his flow going. But Steward Copeland is a virtuosic drummer with a style that incorporated off beats and lots of small breaks and his track made up the whole feel of the song. A drummer I once played with said about Copeland that he played the most difficult to emulate feel of all drummers he knew of. Take away Copeland's track and the whole song changes.

    But it doesn't stop with Studio recordings. When Pink Floyd reunited with Roger Waters on Live8 I was stunned. it's never easy to replicate the magic that happens with interaction between bandmemders onstage when one of them leaves the band and needs to be replaced by another person. What happened with Pink Floyd on stage at Live8 was magical. You simply could feel it, the interaction of having the four original guys, no doubt that this was the true band playing there.
  2. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    The greatest aspect for musicians in the 21st centrey, is the MASSIVE variety of music styles available to hear, and the Internet is adding to it, even more-so than ever before. The numbers are almost countless compared to music in the late 1300's, where there were possible only 2,3, or 4 styles of music at the most, depending on where you lived of course.

    For me as a musician, I will listen any style of music. Whether it's Britney Spears or Bob Marley, there's always something you can use/learn to incoporate into your own music.

    great topic
  3. Minimaul


    Jun 22, 2003
    I'll call myself a bass player. Although, I'd never say that I was a musician. It'll be a long time before i can pick apart songs, or peices of them. I did an 'Endzone Dance' when i got part of "London Calling" right!

    It reminds me of the movie What About Bob? "Baby steps" it's all about baby steps.
  4. I agree almost completely. After one of those big concerts with 20 or so bands on the ticket I remember talking to a friend about how musicians hear music. I explained how when you hear a line you don't just hear it, but you feel what it's like to play it as well. You understand it, and it jumps out at you from the rest of the music. She was amazed that we heard all that; it had never even occured to her.

    I do have to disagree about Britney Spears though. I don't think she's especially good herself. What really impresses me is all the skill that goes into taking her singing (decent, but not great) and turning it into an amazingly catchy hit. The engineering is what really strikes me about most pop music. In my opinion the names that aren't on the CD case are the real talent. Sound engineering is another one of my things though.
  5. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Music is always about the team.

    good point about Britney S.

    At the end of the day, she's probably just a well payed
  6. kragen


    Jul 4, 2005
    I havnt listened to anything by britney spears for a long time, but I suspect that a lot of what makes her records big hits is image and publicity (well mainly image), rather than catchy songwriting and good singing - A farmiliar song is enjoyed more than an unfarmiliar song, and so through her name and image being popular, you hear her songs more often, and so they catch on.

    Obviously this isnt the whole story, but is almost certainly a large part of it, that and writing songs that are "in fashion".

    For that reason I practicly cant listen to pop, even if I'm wrong about the above, there is something about the songs that feels fake - they are constructed rather than being a result of musical expression.