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simplicity vs. beauty

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by kserg, Apr 14, 2006.

  1. kserg


    Feb 20, 2004
    London, UK
    So I do not know where I am going with this but I will try. For quite a few this has been bothering me and I just want to hear other fellow musicians point of view.

    So many times I hear comment on music and a lot of times the comments come down to “it’s too simple therefore it’s not worth my time” or “he is not doing anything special, what’s the big deal”. Some reason people think that if something is not complicated it is there for not beautiful. I always ignored those comments but they are always in the back of my mind as I do not understand them.

    Some of the most beautiful music I heard is simple but a lot of people seem to ignore it. I somewhat feel bad for them because they are missing out but again I ignore it. The interesting thing is, even many musicians I know feel that way.

    As a musician, do you guys and lovely girls strive for beauty in music or complexity? Is there that feeling out there? Do you have to create something complex in order to please people and make your music a “big deal” or does it have to be beautiful first and simple vs. complicity doesn’t matter? Also if you feel that music has to be complicated please feel free to explain why, its not that I do not agree with you I just don’t understand it.

    I mean there are many complex pieces out there that sound extremely beautiful but there are equal amount of simple music that sounds equally as good, and I am not just talking about bass.

    PS, This topic might have been discussed before but I could not find anything that pleased me for the answer or explained why people feel that way nor if they are right to do so.

    Hope what I said made sense.

  2. I used to try to make the bass lines complex, so people would say "wow, listen to that bass line". I think that's the wrong approach, the line should fit the song/genre. You should strive to make people say "wow, listen to that song". Lock with the drummer, restrict fills to appropriate breaks, allow space for others.

    Playing simpler with more energy is my goal now. Hard to explain. Everybody trying to be complex usually results in everybody playing on the edge of their ability (or beyond.... whooooops!!), and leads to a wild jam with no dynamics, no tightness, no groove. Just noise.

    You have to play quiet sometimes so that the loud=loud. If all you play is loud, loud=average. Same with complexity. Contrast is the key to dynamics.

    That's my take now that I'm older and wiser (or just lazier?)

  3. Playing simple stuff well is something alot of "players" around here cant do, sure they can pull off one complex(ish) line, but can they hold a steady 4/4 beat through a song using subtle fills and grace notes? can they hell
  4. Sometimes when a person calls a piece of music simple it's because they just don't know how to listen for everything that's there. Blues songs are often very simple in terms of the number of notes, but when you take everything the musicians put in each note into account, it's not so simple after all. There's a lot there to listen to.

    I think a song that was actually simple would be pretty boring though. It's no fun listening to a song that never does anything new to hold your interest. There don't need to be lots of notes, but there needs to be something. It could be rhythm or harmonic structure or the way the notes are played. A song that just does the bare minimum in every way isn't worth much to me.

    EDIT: As for being beautiful, that's not at all my primary goal. I just want music to be interesting. It could be the most unpleasant grating noise imaginable, and I'll be fine with that, as long as it grates in an interesting way. Beautiful music is nice, but it's just one possible way that music I like might be.
  5. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Given that the clear and vast majority of the music I play has no written basslines (eg., I'm almost always playing jazz in my quintet, practicing jazz on my own, or playing it in the big band) it all depends on the situation as far as complexity/simplicity goes.

    By "depends on the situation," it goes to a much more specific point than just "depends on the song," or "depends on the genre." For instance, my quintet got a gospel gig, so we were jamming out "Hallelujah" today somewhat close to the Rufus Wainright version, only with a voc/alto sax/guitar/db/drums setup. My bass lines went from simple roots on the changes to throw in 10ths, thumb position double stops, and harmonics. By the end of the tune, I'd covered the entire range of the upright bass in G major without playing anything faster than an 8th note.

    Contrast that with, say, walking a standard without going above the C on the G string. It all depends on what everyone else is doing. Music is a conversation, and just like a regular conversation, you can talk a lot but say very little.

    Also, in the vein of playing "beautiful" music...personally, I really like to play music that I would consider beautiful. One of my favourite solos and tunes in general to listen to is Paul Warburton (TBDB'er) doing "My One and Only Love" with his quartet -- it's some of the most beautiful music I've heard in my life. However, what's more important than playing "beautiful" music is playing "expressive" music. So once again, there's no easy answer...it all depends on how I/other people are feeling, how that affects their playing, etc. I guess the music I really dig the most is stuff where you can tell everyone really cares about what's going on and is really listening to their surroundings. I saw a lot of that last night (PET Douglas Trio, a jazz trio from Denmark) and last week (Wayne Shorter Quartet.) The best musicians, IMO, are the ones who have the highest amount of awareness -- not the ones who can play just the right voicing for what THEY'RE playing, everyone else be damned.
  6. kserg


    Feb 20, 2004
    London, UK

    Well I am more thinking about admirable beauty not enjoyable beauty. Admirable beauty is not necessary enjoyable so yeah I agree with you. When I say beautiful and talking about art I think something that can inspire, make you think and feel. I maybe misusing the word, don’t know but I am using Adlers definition of the word.
  7. I think that some of the best music in the world is simple. Look at Simon & Garfunkel. If you pay attention to that, what the bassist is doing is always catchy and interesting, but never complicated or intricate.

    The problem with simplicity is that when people attempt to write simple music it tends to come out boring. Look at all of the new 'indie/pop-rock' bands on the radio and TV now (We Are Scientists, The Subways, The Like, etc). I hate these bands because what they write is BORING. Its five notes in the same pattern over and over again. Its not catchy at all. And thats the whole song, not just the bass parts. Its like they are attempting to write bad music.

    Simple music can be beautiful, and interesting, but I tend to favor the more complicated compositions over the more basic, as they keep me occupied. I'm never bored with a Rush or a Phish solo, never. But I am also never bored by a basic 4 chord progression if it is WRITTEN CORRECTLY.

    Quick story: The other weekend, I went to a small, private concert at a local church given by a local scottish musician and his band. He played Penny Whistle, there was an acoustic guitar, a fiddle, and a woman who played an assortment of instruments (mandolin, 12 string guitar, and something that resembeled a guitar, only with 10 doubled-up strings, it started with a 'b'). Each person played a very, VERY simple melody, and the point was to hear the four basic melodies combine to make some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard, but it was down to the most absolute basic principal of music: a simple melody.

    So, yeah.
  8. Wow. *Applaud*

    If I would say anything to this topic it would be that whenever I think "simple" musical ideas are boring, it is because they fail to be expressive/interesting/encompassing in their simplicity, as opposed to them not being "complex" enough or something vain like that.
  9. kserg


    Feb 20, 2004
    London, UK

    Yeah, good point, I never said that all simple music is good but some is. I guess it does make sense, people see the stuff on tv and go "its simple and ugly" and draw conclusion that reason its bad is because its simple. Somewhat makes sense:/

    I don't even know why this keeps bothering my mind, it really shouldn't. :/

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