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Thread: What Role Does "Skill" Play When Evaluating Music?

  1. #76
    Senior Member Eva Yojimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    I think you let EY off the hook too easily. EY’s comment again diminishes one of the great skills of CM composers. It is not easy to come up with a melody that draws people in or create motifs that are developed in much the way an established melody is. My guess is that EY starts off (overall) with the premise that skill isn’t required and then comes up with something like ‘ephemeral inspiration’ to support it.

    I can’t imagine a composer leaning back in the chair and suddenly having inspiration that is immediately put to paper in finished form. (disclaimer, maybe a Mozart did it periodically). These things take time to flesh out and perfect.
    I'm not claiming it's easy, but neither do I think it's solely (or even mostly) a product of skill. As I mentioned above, McCartney came up with the melody of Yesterday in a dream. So unless you're going to claim dreaming is a skill, I question as to how you could call the creation of that melody "skillful." Your guess is also wrong; I recognize there are some things in the creation of art that very much require skill, but some things which do not. Distinguishing between them is difficult precisely for the reasons Woodduck described in his response. I can speak to the difficulty in regards to poetry as well, which often involves a lot of sitting around and thinking about a particular line or stanza you're trying to write, waiting for just the right words to hit your brain. Much of that isn't, IMO, skill, it's putting yourself in a position to allow inspiration to hit and being ready to record it when it does.

  2. #77
    Senior Member Eva Yojimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    Some first year guitarists could play that solo if they had natural talent and practiced around 4 to 6 hours a day (or more) during that year. Saying any first year guitarist could do it is in my opinion not true. I've taught guitar for over a decade and I have not encountered any students who reached that level of proficiency in one year. Gilmour is known for his bluesy style of bending and was influenced by Eric Clapton. To be able to acquire the ability to hit notes on big bends like that accurately is very difficult and most guitarists never achieve that ability - to the degree of players like that. Further, post-secondary institutions that focus on classical and jazz, don't put a lot of focus into bending strings. Many jazz and classical performers cannot do that kind of bending. Bending like that creates a lot of strain and wear and tear on the hands. Blues (though simple) is one of the most physically punishing styles of music to play. Players typically find as thin of strings as possible or down tune to avoid causing extensive damage to their hands over time.

    Some players learn all the notes of a particular solo and then feel they can play that solo, when in reality the tone and feel they get in their presentation of those notes is no where near the tone and feel of the performer doing the original solo. Sometimes they cheat and also slide to certain notes rather than bending the strings. They may feel they have it right, but they aren't achieving the same tone that is created by the bend nor are they hitting the 'notes between the notes' or microtones that are achieved through bending.

    Now there are some players that are exceptional talents that can learn skills like these and play like the 'greats' quickly, but these players are exceptions and not the rules.

    When someone says they can perform a certain guitar solo, I would have to hear a recording of it to be convinced they are playing it with the degree of skill as the original. That skill is what makes a player like Gilmour so highly regarded.

    All this said I have not attempted to play that particular solo, it is possible it is little easier than some of his others, but I remain skeptical.

    On the other hand there is Syd Barrett who in my mind was a more original and innovative guitarist than Gilmour (and I feel his style was a perfect fit for a psychedelic act like Floyd, where Gilmour's bluesy approach as amazing as it is doesn't mesh quite as well), but Barret was less skilled. Who is the better guitarist between those two is also debatable.
    My first year I probably spent that much time practicing but I really don't think I possessed much natural talent; my playing eventually hit walls I never managed to overcome. As for bending, the accuracy might not be perfect, but even with small-ish hands I've never found it difficult with light-ish (09-10 gauge) strings. That may be because most of the guitarists I started emulating/practicing were all into that bluesy bending so it was always something I worked on (Angus Young was another early influence and he bends a ton). Yes, it's rough on the fingers at first (I was one of those "play until my fingers bled" types early on), but the calluses quickly build and take care of that. Point taken that many classical or jazz players might not be accustomed to such playing, though.

    I absolutely agree that learning the notes isn't all there is to a solo, that nailing the tone and feel can be (often is) much more difficult. Gilmour's tone is especially elusive and I've had to make due over the years trying to emulate that big, open, single-coil strat sound with split humbuckers and various peddles; it's nearly impossible! Likewise, a song like Black in Black has another solo that's quite easy, but one I've never quite managed to match the "feel" of no matter how many times I've played it and tweaked my approach. Still, I think these details often come down less to "skill" and either gear (in the case of tone) or playing style (in the case of feel). Most guitarists of the highest technical skill can't emulate other guitarists well either; Stevie Ray Vaughan worshiped Hendrix, eg, but Stevie covering Hendrix still sounded like Stevie, and that was hardly a knock on his skill!

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    Senior Member Dimace's Avatar
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    The only comment I can make is that a skilful performer can make a mediocre composition to sound great and a bad performer a great one to sound horrible.
    O my brave Soul!
    O farther, farther sail!
    O darling joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God?
    O farther, farther, farther sail!

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    Senior Member philoctetes's Avatar
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    "Players typically find as thin of strings as possible or down tune to avoid causing extensive damage to their hands over time."

    A professional musician friend of mine tunes up half a step, to match his voice better. He has a real southern blues style too. Makes me reach for harmonicas I normally never use!
    Last edited by philoctetes; Sep-26-2019 at 00:32.

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by philoctetes View Post
    "Players typically find as thin of strings as possible or down tune to avoid causing extensive damage to their hands over time."

    A professional musician friend of mine tunes up half a step, to match his voice better. He has a real southern blues style too. Makes me reach for harmonicas I normally never use!
    I was referring to electric guitar blues players who bend strings a lot. There are plenty of blues players who don't bend strings to the degree I was referring to. For example all acoustic guitar blues players, slide guitar blues etc.

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    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    I'm not claiming it's easy, but neither do I think it's solely (or even mostly) a product of skill. As I mentioned above, McCartney came up with the melody of Yesterday in a dream. So unless you're going to claim dreaming is a skill, I question as to how you could call the creation of that melody "skillful." Your guess is also wrong; I recognize there are some things in the creation of art that very much require skill, but some things which do not. Distinguishing between them is difficult precisely for the reasons Woodduck described in his response. I can speak to the difficulty in regards to poetry as well, which often involves a lot of sitting around and thinking about a particular line or stanza you're trying to write, waiting for just the right words to hit your brain. Much of that isn't, IMO, skill, it's putting yourself in a position to allow inspiration to hit and being ready to record it when it does.
    Like in all the situations that have been discussed, you give some limited lip-service to skill, but end up very vague about where it does or doesn’t apply. This isn’t rocket science. And we’re not talking about McCartney’s dreams or poetry -btw, it’s amazing to me that someone who questions almost everything, would take McCartney’s dream story verbatim rather than as the sort of hyperbole entertainers are prone to.

    There are always a few people who take these obscure, minority positions on almost any subject, but this one is particularly surprising. The fact that anyone would question the pure fact of original melodic invention and development being anything but an example of compositional skill held by the great classical music composers is beyond me.

    And fwiw, the following from your previous post strikes me as from a philosophical exercise that a professor might ask students to hand in on the subject: ‘People assume that classical music melodic creation is a skill. Take the opposite view from a philosophic point of view’.

    ‘Among my concerns is that I think the kind of skill that's objectively quantifiable, the simple ability of a composer to do whatever it is that can be done, means very little in the final evaluation of music; while the final impact that creation has on listeners means a great deal, and it's very easy for listeners to project our feelings of greatness onto the "skill" of the composer. I also feel like many elements within music, like melody, rely far more on ephemeral inspiration than any cultivated skill.’
    Last edited by DaveM; Sep-26-2019 at 04:17.

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  10. #82
    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    ^ Agree. It takes skill to make melody fit between bars at a certain pace, hitting the important notes, and taking out extraneous ones, all the while thinking about the harmony it will involve. If Paul got his melody to Yesterday in a dream, I suspect it was not fully worked out with the harmony, which he did afterwards and involves skill. Even if he had it all figured out, it was subconsciously worked out with skill.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    A working class background didn't stop me from achieving a high level of attainment in music which makes me suspicious of your post. What about excellence (virtuosity) in every other conceivable field of endeavour and knowledge, are those achievements a manifestation of undemocratic opportunity too?
    Yeah, it's a load of malarkey. Plenty of working class and poor people have achieved greatness and virtuosity. It's nothing but unsubstantiated hot air.

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    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    If it was easy, there would be millions of wannabe songwriters as successful as Martin, and there demonstrably is not. You've posted those videos before and I've debunked them before. Apparently, your memory is rather short.
    Do you honestly think average modern pop music listeners today go through millions, or just hundreds of song-writers or singers to separate the chaff from the wheat and decide for themselves their favorite artists and favorite songs? They don't. Most of them are content listening only to stuff that gets played on the radio and that's the only stuff that corporate companies and broadcasting companies make investment on. I'll go re-read your old argument debunking those videos, but I remember that I was not convinced by it. Rather I think you haven't addressed the points raised in the videos fully. I'm still not convinced how modern pop music requires talent to write and how it can inspire future generations.
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Sep-26-2019 at 12:31.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    Do you honestly think average modern pop music listeners today go through millions, or just hundreds of song-writers or singers to separate the chaff from the wheat...
    It's a different ball game and hits are highly organized team efforts. Here's a fascinating article on how hits are made.


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    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    It's a different ball game and hits are highly organized team efforts.
    "highly organized team efforts" is a vague term, it can mean anything such as "sound engineering", "marketing", all kinds of stuff that don't really have much to do with "musical talent". "Good looks" matter for a pop musician today more than anything. I still think if Taylor Swift was butt-ugly, nobody would have cared about her.
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Sep-26-2019 at 12:34.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    I take it you didn't read the article!


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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    .......Much of that isn't, IMO, skill, it's putting yourself in a position to allow inspiration to hit and being ready to record it when it does.

    My take on this Eva is similar, however skill does play a role imv. Using technique (skill) to search for music is a well established practice.
    One can on paper bend and twist, probe and extend motifs and initial ideas can be examined from all angles to even find harmony, scales, modes and a fresh harmonic language. By keeping oneself open to ideas and suggestions during this (skillful) process, one does encourage inspiration - perhaps sometimes a serendipitous inspiration - by in effect creating conditions mentally and practically to which inspiration can manifest itself, stimulating oneself in effect.

    The skillful probing of material in this way reveals nascent, fertile territory that enthuses and encourages and inspires.
    I suppose it goes without saying that in art music especially, there is no point in having a great idea if you don't have the skill to dress it up appropriately in order to present it in it's best light to the listener.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Sep-26-2019 at 05:58.

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  18. #89
    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Heaven forbid anyone would do a little research before formulating broad opinions based on nothing more than ‘I think so.’ There is no doubt that these days so much of the pop music high on the charts are created for stars such as Taylor Swift using a formula almost guaranteed to produce the desired results. But that wasn’t always true and it’s still not true of a few pop artists who have their own following, but don’t occupy the top 30 or sometimes anywhere near it.

    Back in the day Carol King wrote almost all of her stuff. In fact, she started writing songs for others. Likewise, a lot of Joni Mitchell’s stuff was original. The Beatles mostly wrote their own stuff, but increasingly the production was the work of others, sometimes bugging McCartney who preferred his own unplugged versions (particularly the Let It Be album)

    And while I’m at it, I can’t imagine anyone posting with a straight face something as frivolous and baseless as ‘
    ‘Much of that isn’t, IMO, skill, it's putting yourself in a position to allow inspiration to hit and being ready to record it when it does.’


    Edit: unnecessary comment in the ‘moment of the heated’ removed.
    Last edited by DaveM; Sep-26-2019 at 12:57.

  19. #90
    Senior Member MacLeod's Avatar
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    I think it's all "skill". The notion of some ineffable inspiration accounting for a substantial part of the creation of a successful composition is, IMO, still just a measure of skill - just not the overtly technical skill of putting "these sounds in this order."

    "Back in the day" (whenever that was) there were song writers doing stuff for artists just as there are for some artists now. Even Carol King had collaborators. And if you do your research, you'll find singer/songwriters performing their own compositions now too.

    What is overlooked (or scorned it seems in the case of that awful pop music that is just so inferior to high art) is the impact of collaboration on writing. Some writers work alone and they can claim the skills are all their own, but many produce work by starting with rough ideas and fleshing them out by working with others - band members, writers, producers, engineers....

    Of course, this doesn't fit with the narrative preferred by some that the only art worthy of consideration is that inspired by the Ineffable and captured by the genius solo artist. I'd rather just listen to what I like, no matter who writes it or how it is produced.
    "I left TC for a hiatus, but since no-one noticed my absence, I came back again."

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