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What matters most in a musician?


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Hi all,

My piano teacher posed an interesting question and I'd like to get as many takes on this as possible (and probably start an argument or two in the process). So here goes nothing. What makes a musician great? Whether a singer or a bassoonist, is it an inate sense of rhythm? The timbre they can pull out of their instrument? Something more esoteric? Or something completely different?

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No one answer. B.B. King was a great soloist in large degree because of his incredible vibrato, but he could hardly play chords. Pete Townsend, pretty much the opposite. Neal Peart, Keith Moon and Glen Kotche are probably my 3 favorite rock drummers, but I don't think their styles overlap much at all. I like the Zappa phrase Winston quoted. Do something unique. Develop a singular style.

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For me its the ability to be a channel for spiritual energy and to evoke an emotional response in the listener.  When I think of all the times I saw SRV live, I remember it being completely clear to me that there was a huge and powerful spiritual energy coming into his body and coming out of his hands to his guitar and amps.  It was always overwhelming to me.  Of course to be able to do that, a musician has to have a high level of technical mastery of their instrument so they can stop thinking about technique and let the music flow and that for most takes years of practice.

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For me its the ability to be a channel for spiritual energy and to evoke an emotional response in the listener.  When I think of all the times I saw SRV live, I remember it being completely clear to me that there was a huge and powerful spiritual energy coming into his body and coming out of his hands to his guitar and amps.  It was always overwhelming to me.  Of course to be able to do that, a musician has to have a high level of technical mastery of their instrument so they can stop thinking about technique and let the music flow and that for most takes years of practice.

Beautifully said.

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So many things that can make a musician great. Here's a few that pop to mind:

 

- The ability to play the right thing at the right time, whether that be a chord, a single note, silence...

- Along the same lines, the ability to put the song first, adding what it needs, not what your ego needs.

- Having a unique and distinct voice on your instrument.

- Able to play with feeling and emotion.

- Open mindedness and an adventurous spirit.

- Eclectic tastes in music.

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What matters most to me in a musician is that I have an emotional connection to the music they create. Whatever specific quality or qualities produce said connection, is/are irrelevant.

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For me, to borrow a phrase from Zappa, it's the ability to "put eyebrows on it"

 

I am so going to raise my eyebrows during Bach pieces now.

 

These responses are greay keep them coming! And I did mean this to be a highly subjective question. There's a few objective things, but it's not great to have perfect rhythm and no emotion either.

 

Methinks I'm just a hopeless romantic who requires vast quantities of emotion. I want to see you bear your soul when someone plays music. I want to see someone's soul peaking out from their instrument (or voice) while doing this. Foe myself, there would be no point in art of any kind if it didn't make life better in some way.

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Technical prowess is merely a means to an end, that end being the ability to make the listener feel something. So, that said, it is obviously not the end-all-be-all.

 

So I guess that what matters most is whether or not that musician can make you feel something. Make you feel what it is that they want you to feel.

And that you like feeling that way.

Period.

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