Losing the "magic".

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Taylor Livingston, Apr 19, 2003.

  1. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    I was watching an interview with Billy Howerdel (guitarist/composer of A Perfect Circle), where he mentioned how he felt that once you are involved in music enough, you begin to lose touch with the overall picture, the beauty of music. You get very caught up in "this is mixed badly, this guy should be turned up, more cowbell ( ;) )" or "they should have played 4 more bars before the vocal came in", and so forth. I tend to agree. When you get really caught up in the details, you (or I, at least) sometimes forget about what makes music enjoyable for people who are totally unaware of any of those details, i.e., the "civilian".

    Besides the technical aspects of mixing and all that, I feel like, when you learn how to play a song, when you have it down perfectly, you kind of lose the magic of what made it so great in the first place. I used to put on a cd, and play it from start to finish (after I had learned it, obviously). Sometimes I would play it 2 or 3 times in a day. While this was a good workout for my hands, it made me appreciate thwe music in a different way. The way you feel about a song you wrote. Most people in bands don't listen to themselves (I've heard Dave Mathews does, though). They experience the song mostly from "behind the scenes". You can be proud of something you wrote, and love to play it, but sometimes it's hard to step back and appreciate the song as a whole, from the perspective of someone who's totally "innocent" about music. It's like seeing a magician when you were a kid (actually, I always thought they were doing tricks, not magic, but you get the point). Once you realize the trick, it's not special anymore.

    I've decided that I'm not going to play anymore Tool, or any other band that I feel will lose it's magic. Bands like System of a Down aren't the type that will be spoiled by knowing how to play them (though I rarely play them), so I'm not worried about those kinds of bands. But I realize that when I could play every Tool song perfectly, I wasn't "feeling" the music anymore. I haven't played any of their stuff for a while, and I'm getting back that feeling of amazement, the innocence, that I lost (sorry for the dramatic use of words). I'm seeing it all as a whole, and feeling as special and alive as I felt the first time I heard them. I may continue to learn albums, but not the ones I truly love (and if I don't love them, what's the point? So probably none). I think I've recaptured what I had lost, and this is a huge breakthrough for me, as I've had a lack of interest in playing bass recently, and no inspiration.

    I'm posting this partly just to share how I feel, and partly to ask if anybody feels the same way, or disagrees. If you have any stories, please tell. And if nobody replies or cares, I'm still glad I posted this.

    Thanks for reading.
  2. Amethska


    Jan 27, 2003
    NJ, USA
    After I've learned a song, then go to listen to it just for the sake of listening (not playing), I kind of get caught up in the bass line. Everything else just kind of fades from my senses, and all I can really pay attention to is the bass. I hate that, I have to sit there for a bit and focus on everything else to notice it again. I guess that's what you mean, partly?

    And ever since I started taking theory classes I've gotten too technical when I'm listening to some songs. Any future theory students, beware... fwahaha.

    Haha, I got all over dramatic in the end there, too.
  3. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    It is possible to turn off your musicianship as it were and listen to stuff as a punter. If you write material IMHO you have to do this else you end up with stuff only musicians appreciate.

    As a home recordist sometimes magic occurs in a session or a combination of musicians.
  4. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Actually, I think - to the contrary - being a musician, you can appreciate music on a deeper level, and get more enjoyment out of it, than your average non-musician.

    Sure, you *can* get bogged down in the technical details - if you choose. Sometimes, maybe it's beneficial to do so (e.g. during mixing etc.) - but you can detach again.

    When playing a tune, it can be easy to get into the habit of using your mind, and thinking about the chords, or whatever - which distracts from the music itself. You find yourself thinking about it in a way that you wouldn't have when you were just listening to it.

    However, ideally you're actually *not* thinking, while you're playing. One aims to play in a state of relaxed focus, without actually thinking. To master a piece is be able to play it perfectly every time, *without* thinking. To play in this state is to be able to focus on the music itself, and get deeper into it.

    Whereas, thinking about it as you play it may distract from the music itself, and so you don't actually appreciate it so much, y'know?
  5. after starting developing a musical ear I started spotting all the same chord progressions, eg. in 99% of Iron maiden songs.
    I find that I need an interesting melody over the chords to distract me from the same old chord progressions.

    I still like sing-along catchy pop choruses though:)
  6. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    This is an interesting thread.

    I don't know, as myself, a musician now, I have so much respect for the craft and art that is music. I have the utmost respect for musicians, be they guitarist or cellist, Rocker or Jazzer, cover musician or original musician. If you listen to a professional wrestler talk about his career as a wrestler, one of the things he'll constantly mention is the respect he has for the industry and for wrestling. Why, because it's something he loves and something that he has paid his dues in, sacrificed, and trained his whole life for. It's the same thing with me when it comes to music. I'm definatley not the biggest polka fan around, but I respect what polka musicians do. I know it's a very egotistical and shelfish thing to say, but I always tell people, "You don't know what it takes to be a musician and you never will until you become one".

    As far as listening to music; As musicians, I think we'll always listen to music differently than a non musician. Still, I never tell people how they should listen to music and I don't have an elitist attitude because I think I'm listening to music on a deeper level. Even though I'm a musician and can decipher what's going on musically, I still get moved emotional by music everyday.
  7. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    When you learn some songs, or passages, there's an element of: "gee, is that all there is?" Especially in POP or rock tunes. But the simple ideas sell.

    When I learn a song, or a passage, I am gratified. Then perspective seems to creep in about what/how I am doing musically. I feel the same way when buying new gear.

    Then some time later, (anywhere but with an instrument) a song comes on, it's fun to listen to it, and I learn more about the song than by playing along to it. Then the romance and mystery of music is rekindled and I gotta go play. An appreciation developes for not only playing an instrument, but for composing and arranging.

    I think it is different if you're content to be in a bar band, than if you want to get "noticed" and get a recording contract.
  8. When I first got into music, it was because of one specific album that I really liked. When I started learning how to play songs, I felt like some of the magic of the songs was gone. I didn't listen to the album for several years. When I listen to it now, it's almost like it was before I started playing, so I know what you mean.

    I've actually had a similar experience with being in bands. This is going to sound really goofy, but the first real band I was in was like some kind of magical / spiritual experience. I've been in a lot of bands since and had a lot of fun, but none have come close to the feeling of the first band that I was in.

  9. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I think music should be a magical/spiritual experience - and you can get back there.
  10. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    I'm not a fan of bluegrass, but every once in awhile, I'll flip by the country channel on tv, and see a bunch of guys playing bluegrass, and they really amaze me. That's actually some of the wildest music I've ever heard. Just as layered as somebody like Nine Inch Nails. Seriously. There'll be 10 guys, acoustic guitars, electrics, lap steel, banjo, mandolin, bass, drums, and they're all soloing (except the bass player, which is lame, but oh well)! It's quite a departure from country. And they're such musicians, and they're so into the music, and it really moves them.

    I guess I'm just saying that I won't play certain things, things that really move me on a level that has nothing to do with an instrument.

    I guess it's like if you met your idol - he could probably never live up to the person you've made him in your head. You find out he's a slob, a womanizer, and he has a session player do the hard stuff. This isn't a direct comparison, I'm more trying to capture the feeling.

    Even something that is a technically challenging piece besides being fantastic music - once you are doing it yourself, and you sound just like whoever recorded it (hypothetically), the greatness is gone. It it becomes human to you, in a bad way. In this sense, musicians can't really ever understand how great they really are. They may think they are fantastic players, but I think it's hard to feel the same way about a piece if you wrote it. On the other hand, it may have a personal significance to you that it doesn't have to anyone else. Hmm.
  11. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    When you learn anothers' composition, you have accomplished something. Don't knock it. But, how are you as a musician, enriched by that experience?

    I've learned songs that I am not crazy about, but my gig with the band pays, so I take the musicianship part seriously, and do the best I can. That's the professional side of it. But I don't take it so seriously that I can't laugh about it.

    Play because you like to. But, you picked up the instrument for your own reasons.

    Just have fun with it.
  12. I have a selection of five or six albums which are special to me in such a personal way that I only play them very rarely. That helps.

    I also find it difficult to listen to albums which I absolutely thrashed as a sixteen year old just getting into music. Knowing every single sound on the record backwards doesn't help make it into a moving experience, that's for sure. These days I have such a wide taste in music that I can get around that problem and still have plenty to listen to.

    Regarding learning from something intensely moving and spoiling the music, I've only done it in instances where I felt I really needed to know what was going on musically (or technically). I take what I want from the song in question and then leave it alone. That seems to work.
  13. vegaas


    Nov 6, 2001
    I feel that we become too cynical. We appreciate the complex, difficult stuff, but; I think we lose the nonmusician appreciation of the simple stuff.
    For myself this holds true more with the orginals that I play with my band. If anything is straight forward or simple, I think it sucks and try and make it too complex. I try and remind myself that I am not writing and playing for musicians, the overwhelming majority have no idea what is a technical masterpiece and what is a simple, basic riff. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.
  14. OnederTone

    OnederTone Aguilar Everywhere Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2002
    Thornton, CO
    I have to admit that for a long time I didn't learn songs of cd's because I just didn't think I could... Low self esteem or whatever... and it was stupid...

    When I started playing with serious musicians I learned that it was expected to know *some* things, or at least how to fake your way through... so I started learning things that I HAD to know...

    fast forward to last weekend- my band had a sub guitarist for a gig on saturday so we had one 2 hour rehersal Friday afternoon to cover a 2 1/2 hour set list. After the rehersal we started throwing out riffs at each other from songs none of us had played together- everything from Rush and King's X to Ohio Players and Earth Wind and Fire to George Jones and Lynerd Skynerd... and started playing the tunes... not perfect, but very passable... why? Because we knew enough about music to catch the ball and run with it.

    I'm not trying to be a downer on anyone's artistic stance, but that's what being a musician is about... and yes when we sit around listening to stuff we are critical... "this isn't X or that's not mixed however" but when we hear something that is REALLY good... we really appreciate it...

    the original comment from Howerdel sounds more like an excuse for mediocrity more than an honest attempt to keep music fresh...