What Makes a Player a Hack?

Messages
88
  • Needs to look at chords to play song
  • Need to read lyrics from a print out to sing song
  • Has literally no concept of groove or time--what it is or why it matters
  • Doesn't know the names of the parts of songs: like what a bridge is
  • Talks of "Touring" when their ability is barely above garage jamming
How you dress and your gear is absolutely immaterial. If those things matter to you, you're just a judgemental jerk. A worse offense than being a hack.

I'd put the remaining hacks into 2 categories:
  1. reasonable shortcuts we all take sometimes
  2. idiocy born of inexperience
In small measures, none of these is a crime against humanity or even music. The "shortcut" hacks can be useful. I'll do them again in the near future.

In fact, I (used to) go see players much, much better than me that routinely work from cheat sheets at shows. It does not keep them from being really good and excellent performers.

But if all you do is chain stitch hacks together, it does not add up to music. At some point, you need to give enough of a damn and pay enough attention to actually put something together that's worth listening to.
 
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Steve Hotra

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,769
Someone who doesn't musically "listen" to the band / song / singer that they're playing with.
They are in their own little musical "world."
This reflects in their choice of guitars, effects, gear and musical abilities.
It's called making noise, rather than making music.
 

portsider

Member
Messages
509
Music is so subjective, I don’t think one can say definitively what a hack is.
What’s he going for, what’s he like? Does what he’s doing satisfy him?
I think we all know one or more people who are great players that never get out of the garage.
I think we all can think of a mega star who we think is a hack. Somehow what he’s doing works.
I’m going go play some music now.
 

Spooky Action

Member
Messages
3,310
The first thing I thought was Cece Deville was a hack in Poison. He had the training and the skills and access to any gear, and did little with it artistically IMO.
No. That's not it. I'm a hack and I know the definition all too well.
I've taken lessons since I was little and I'm on social security now. I've been to music camp. Three times. My teacher went to Berklee. I practice Joe Pass chords but if I play with you I'll mess up "Apache". I've been taught not to play trite or hackneyed phrases but I do. I've been taught not to play boxy pentatonics but I do. Oh, I have nice gear and good tone, but after a lifetime chasing original music I've not managed much.
To me, a hack is someone who is actually trying and failing. Since I'm not about to give up there's a number of other terms available...:)
I think a hack is someone who fails and does nothing to get better.

Tribute bands.
I think this is too broad of a brushstroke.
Someone who learned the basic Major, Minor and Dom7 open chords shapes and left it there.

Someone who thinks playing the right chord/harmony is over complicating it when C, G and D with a Capo at the 4th will do.

Someone who takes Ultimate Guitar tabs as gospel.

Someone who thinks tuners are a waste of money.

Marty Schwarz.

Someone with a Boss ME80 with one patch with everything on (Dist, Chorus, Delay, Reverb) that is used for every song without compromise... one size fits all.
Yeah, Marty Schwarz is just teaching beginners how to play the songs they love to inspire the to play more. Viewing him as a hack is deluded to me. My 11 year old is learning to play. I steer him to Marty's youtube channel when he asks questions. He is better than the beatles chordbooks with everything in position 1 and Mel Bay Chordbooks I used to teach myself to play.
 
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StompBoxBlues

Member
Messages
19,936
To me mainly it would be predictability. Playing cliche phrases, notes, etc. No surprises.
add to that lack of nuance, playing all notes the same, playing the same vibrato on each.
 

Cedar

Member
Messages
184
given what I know about the majority of TGP members (pre-covid) gigging habits, this seems like a pretentious circle jerk.
I did the stupid bar/wedding/"Street Dance"/"Private Party" cover gigs for decades.

Gigs are vastly over-rated in most situations. I'm having way more fun playing for myself now as opposed to trying to please some drunk idiots.
 

silentbob

Member
Messages
1,194
given what I know about the majority of TGP members (pre-covid) gigging habits, this seems like a pretentious circle jerk.
I agree completely. I tend not to judge people all that harshly most of the time. However, guys that have no interest in getting a song right are the ones that I tend to be critical of. The guys with enough skill to get it right, but they don't care enough to bother.
 

larsjm

Member
Messages
37
Custom-shop, artificial relic guitars. Funny that a new guitar has cigarette burns and buckle rash when you don't smoke and never wear big belt buckles!
Hack-eriffic city! :fisticuffs
 

fingertip

Squier to the Grand Funk
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
281
Custom-shop, artificial relic guitars. Funny that a new guitar has cigarette burns and buckle rash when you don't smoke and never wear big belt buckles!
Hack-eriffic city! :fisticuffs
I bet you bought that guitar because it was beat up,...
1598730238323.png
 

Daniel Travis

Supporting Member
Messages
1,827
I did the stupid bar/wedding/"Street Dance"/"Private Party" cover gigs for decades.

Gigs are vastly over-rated in most situations. I'm having way more fun playing for myself now as opposed to trying to please some drunk idiots.
The point i'm making is not that people who don't play gigs are lesser players, or something like that.

I'm saying that players who haven't experienced a wide variety of gigging/touring situations (especially on the gear page) have a tendency to pontificate on gear questions they really don't know anything about. I.E., hating speakers that cut through a live mix because they're "harsh," hating every pedal that isn't overloaded with bass frequencies meant to cater to their fletcher munson curve playing situation, etc etc.

And, in addition, I'm saying that playing live (and putting on a good show) is a skill in itself, that is overlooked and dismissed by many. (especially on the gear page)

I agree completely. I tend not to judge people all that harshly most of the time. However, guys that have no interest in getting a song right are the ones that I tend to be critical of. The guys with enough skill to get it right, but they don't care enough to bother.
Oh man, that brings back memories. I used to be in a punk band that had all the potential in the world, and the bassist simply would not learn the songs correctly, and would not stop getting absolutely smashed before every gig. Multiple times we had showcase gigs for record label executives, and our bassist pretty much ruined our chances. I lived in a very small rural town, and there was NO possibility of finding a replacement player. I made it a couple years before quitting my own band in disgust.
 
Messages
1,240
Been thinking about this lately after a recent experience...how do YOU define a "Hack" musician in the context of a band or potential bandmate?

List the specific qualities that you find hacky.

I would say...
  • Needs to look at chords to play song
  • Need to read lyrics from a print out to sing song
  • Crap, pawn shop gear when they can afford better, but just don't buy it
  • Has literally no concept of groove or time--what it is or why it matters
  • Dresses like a bum
  • Doesn't know the names of the parts of songs: like what a bridge is
  • Talks of "Touring" when their ability is barely above garage jamming
Interesting.

> Someone who doesn't listen to the rest of the band while playing.
> Someone who doesn't care what their audience wants to hear
> Someone who plays WAY too loud with their amp pointed at the back of their knees.
> Someone who wants to change the key of a song to make it easier to play, ignoring the impact on the vocalists
> Someone more concerned with their pedalboard than the set list and performance

The list can go on and on.
 
Messages
4,877
I did the stupid bar/wedding/"Street Dance"/"Private Party" cover gigs for decades.

Gigs are vastly over-rated in most situations. I'm having way more fun playing for myself now as opposed to trying to please some drunk idiots.
As a working musician I have played all of the kinds of gigs you typed. The last gig I played before the pandemic was a rather unsatisfying bar gig. All things considered, I will most likely play some gigs whenever it is time to play some gigs sometime in the future. But I may approach which gigs I accept differently than I did before the pandemic. I don't want to "go back" to the way things "used to be". I am looking forward to what I might be doing later. I seriously might consider exploring the possibility of playing more experimental music with weirdos. Though money talks. Many of the bar gigs don't pay well enough to really make it worth my time or effort to do them. But it would be hard to turn down a well paying private or corporate party or wedding gig. In general those gigs paid more than bar gigs. And when a gig paid well enough I really didn't mind putting on fancy pants and doing the sitting and waiting and odd requests that could come up during those gigs. Although it is much more satisfying to me to play the music I really like the way I want to play it I can also regard some of what I do as a job. Sometimes the more a job pays the more work I am willing to do.

But I can totally understand what you typed too. The rigmarole that sometimes comes along with playing the sort of gigs you typed has occasionally made me question why I do it. At one time one of my reasons for accepting some gigs was because since I learned how to play an instrument proficiently I should be playing somewhere with somebody. The much less than ideal gigs that I sometimes played were something I did as Iooked for, and sometimes actually found, better situations.

The logistics of playing some corporate and wedding reception gigs could get crazy. A few years ago I played a gig on one of the upper floors of a hotel overlooking the Pentagon. First we had to find the room before figuring out how we were getting all of our equipment up there. Then it involved making several trips with our equipment on a cart down a few long hallways and up and down service elevators. Fortunately I was playing with cats who could deal with it. Although it took awhile to load in and load out our equipment, setting it up was easy and it turned out to be a fun and well paying gig. Another time I played with a party band at a wedding reception at a fancy building in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The stairs that the folks there wanted us to use to bring our equipment in was some metal stairs outside of the building, basically a fire escape. I looked at those stairs, imagined myself toting my stuff up and eventually back down those stairs, and refused. I toted my amplifier and guitar around to the front door, went in, and carried my stuff up some fancy stairs. But nobody tried to stop me and the gig happened as planned.
 

Daniel Travis

Supporting Member
Messages
1,827
As a working musician I have played all of the kinds of gigs you typed. The last gig I played before the pandemic was a rather unsatisfying bar gig. All things considered, I will most likely play some gigs whenever it is time to play some gigs sometime in the future. But I may approach which gigs I accept differently than I did before the pandemic. I don't want to "go back" to the way things "used to be". I am looking forward to what I might be doing later. I seriously might consider exploring the possibility of playing more experimental music with weirdos. Though money talks. Many of the bar gigs don't pay well enough to really make it worth my time or effort to do them. But it would be hard to turn down a well paying private or corporate party or wedding gig. In general those gigs paid more than bar gigs. And when a gig paid well enough I really didn't mind putting on fancy pants and doing the sitting and waiting and odd requests that could come up during those gigs. Although it is much more satisfying to me to play the music I really like the way I want to play it I can also regard some of what I do as a job. Sometimes the more a job pays the more work I am willing to do.

But I can totally understand what you typed too. The rigmarole that sometimes comes along with playing the sort of gigs you typed has occasionally made me question why I do it. At one time one of my reasons for accepting some gigs was because since I learned how to play an instrument proficiently I should be playing somewhere with somebody. The much less than ideal gigs that I sometimes played were something I did as Iooked for, and sometimes actually found, better situations.

The logistics of playing some corporate and wedding reception gigs could get crazy. A few years ago I played a gig on one of the upper floors of a hotel overlooking the Pentagon. First we had to find the room before figuring out how we were getting all of our equipment up there. Then it involved making several trips with our equipment on a cart down a few long hallways and up and down service elevators. Fortunately I was playing with cats who could deal with it. Although it took awhile to load in and load out our equipment, setting it up was easy and it turned out to be a fun and well paying gig. Another time I played with a party band at a wedding reception at a fancy building in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The stairs that the folks there wanted us to use to bring our equipment in was some metal stairs outside of the building, basically a fire escape. I looked at those stairs, imagined myself toting my stuff up and eventually back down those stairs, and refused. I toted my amplifier and guitar around to the front door, went in, and carried my stuff up some fancy stairs. But nobody tried to stop me and the gig happened as planned.


This is absolutely insane to me.


As someone who has gigged and toured with original bands for years in the bar/club scene and moved into the small theatre realm, I would have done the same thing, although i haven't been presented with that sort of situation.


No more getting screwed for poor paying gigs.
 
Messages
4,877
This is absolutely insane to me.


As someone who has gigged and toured with original bands for years in the bar/club scene and moved into the small theatre realm, I would have done the same thing, although i haven't been presented with that sort of situation.


No more getting screwed for poor paying gigs.
I assume the insanity you referred to was about the stairs on the outside of the building that were basically a fire escape. That was a very good paying gig.

When I was much younger and much newer to the game I reckon a few times I got "screwed" by poor paying gigs. Possibly the tensest moment was in the early 1980s when a country band I played with got a gig that was supposed to be Friday night, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon at a "fancy" country bar in Panama City Beach, Florida. When we got there we were given the keys to the room where we would be spending the night. It was a mess. No beds were set up. There was a bunch of mattresses lined up against the walls. Setting up equipment in the club was relatively easy, I reckon. But when we started playing there was maybe one person there besides the band and the folks that worked there. That one person stayed most of the night. But nobody else came in. The next afternoon the same thing happened. There were only one or two customers and nobody else came in. At the end of that afternoon the manager/guy in charge told us that he didn't need us that night or the next day and that he wouldn't be paying us. An argument happened. A gun was drawn. Fortunately we got paid for the time we were there.

After years of being a consistently working musician, in 2007 I moved to a different geographic location where I didn't know anybody. So I started regularly going to a bar that had jams on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday nights. Many of the folks I know now I met there. It was a good jam. Working musicians, some pretty good musicians who weren't necessarily working musicians, a few eccentric characters, and a bunch of folks who barely knew what they were doing went to the jam. All of the musicians that were in the bands hosting the jams were very experienced working musicians. My first steady paid gig was playing guitar in the band that hosted the Monday and Wednesday jams and sometimes playing non-jam gigs with that band on weekends in the same club. I got the gig when their guitar player left to start a jam at another club. But being new to town and wanting to make friends and get to know musicians I might potentially play gigs with I gave out my business card to pretty much every musician that asked for it and anybody who I thought might possibly get some gigs that they might want me to play. I did a small number of "things" that didn't pay or didn't play very well because I had those nights open. And I also knew that I would be playing for some folks who had never heard me play before. But then, in addition to the actual good gigs I was being offered I was also starting to regularly get offers to play gigs that didn't pay very well. Or folks asked me to play benefits. I really didn't mind playing the occasional benefit with some experienced musicians that might like me enough to hire me for paying gigs. That happened once or twice. But after awhile I basically had to start telling people "no" and only accepting the at least halfway decently paid gigs and definitely accepting the good paying gigs as often as they happened. And the main reason I sometimes accept certain kinds of club gigs is because I am getting paid.

I have also played original music and have played some theater gigs.
 

Daniel Travis

Supporting Member
Messages
1,827
I assume the insanity you referred to was about the stairs on the outside of the building that were basically a fire escape. That was a very good paying gig.

When I was much younger and much newer to the game I reckon a few times I got "screwed" by poor paying gigs. Possibly the tensest moment was in the early 1980s when a country band I played with got a gig that was supposed to be Friday night, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon at a "fancy" country bar in Panama City Beach, Florida. When we got there we were given the keys to the room where we would be spending the night. It was a mess. No beds were set up. There was a bunch of mattresses lined up against the walls. Setting up equipment in the club was relatively easy, I reckon. But when we started playing there was maybe one person there besides the band and the folks that worked there. That one person stayed most of the night. But nobody else came in. The next afternoon the same thing happened. There were only one or two customers and nobody else came in. At the end of that afternoon the manager/guy in charge told us that he didn't need us that night or the next day and that he wouldn't be paying us. An argument happened. A gun was drawn. Fortunately we got paid for the time we were there.

After years of being a consistently working musician, in 2007 I moved to a different geographic location where I didn't know anybody. So I started regularly going to a bar that had jams on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday nights. Many of the folks I know now I met there. It was a good jam. Working musicians, some pretty good musicians who weren't necessarily working musicians, a few eccentric characters, and a bunch of folks who barely knew what they were doing went to the jam. All of the musicians that were in the bands hosting the jams were very experienced working musicians. My first steady paid gig was playing guitar in the band that hosted the Monday and Wednesday jams and sometimes playing non-jam gigs with that band on weekends in the same club. I got the gig when their guitar player left to start a jam at another club. But being new to town and wanting to make friends and get to know musicians I might potentially play gigs with I gave out my business card to pretty much every musician that asked for it and anybody who I thought might possibly get some gigs that they might want me to play. I did a small number of "things" that didn't pay or didn't play very well because I had those nights open. And I also knew that I would be playing for some folks who had never heard me play before. But then, in addition to the actual good gigs I was being offered I was also starting to regularly get offers to play gigs that didn't pay very well. Or folks asked me to play benefits. I really didn't mind playing the occasional benefit with some experienced musicians that might like me enough to hire me for paying gigs. That happened once or twice. But after awhile I basically had to start telling people "no" and only accepting the at least halfway decently paid gigs and definitely accepting the good paying gigs as often as they happened. And the main reason I sometimes accept certain kinds of club gigs is because I am getting paid.

I have also played original music and have played some theater gigs.

The eternal paradox - good paying cover gigs, etc, or artistically and emotionally satisfying originals bands that rarely get good paying gigs.

*sigh*

I chose the latter. Either way, I find much more in common with players who have put themselves out there and played shows. :dunno
 

Tootone

Member
Messages
5,312
Yeah, Marty Schwarz is just teaching beginners how to play the songs they love to inspire the to play more. Viewing him as a hack is deluded to me. My 11 year old is learning to play. I steer him to Marty's youtube channel when he asks questions. He is better than the beatles chordbooks with everything in position 1 and Mel Bay Chordbooks I used to teach myself to play.
To an extent, I agree that young children may benefit from simplification when teaching music. Equally, you could argue that a good course of music tuition doesn't simplify anything, it just starts with selected easier songs for beginners.

However, teaching 11 year olds how to play is not M.S's raison d'etre.

When I first started to play guitar and being non the wiser, I bought three songs books... The Who Anthology, Led Zeppelin Anthology, and Pink Floyd The Wall. This was early 80's. I now know these books as "Piano with Guitar Chord Boxes". I'd never even heard of Tablature.

Straight off the bat, my beginners mind was still astute enough to know the Open Am Chord sounded nothing like what I heard on Stairway to Heaven.

When I discovered the Am 5th fret, I struggled with the Barre, and the following "counterpoint" bass and top line. But I stuck at it.

Countless more examples where playing it right is integral to the song. Playing it wrong for the sake of avoiding difficult passages, is in my opinion, just plain old wrong.

.M.S. always gives me the sense of seeing the hard part, and immediately bypassing it with an incorrect easier version for the sake of getting it up on YT in time for his next paycheck.

Not sure if that's helping anyone watching those videos.
 

Spooky Action

Member
Messages
3,310
To an extent, I agree that young children may benefit from simplification when teaching music. Equally, you could argue that a good course of music tuition doesn't simplify anything, it just starts with selected easier songs for beginners.

However, teaching 11 year olds how to play is not M.S's raison d'etre.

When I first started to play guitar and being non the wiser, I bought three songs books... The Who Anthology, Led Zeppelin Anthology, and Pink Floyd The Wall. This was early 80's. I now know these books as "Piano with Guitar Chord Boxes". I'd never even heard of Tablature.

Straight off the bat, my beginners mind was still astute enough to know the Open Am Chord sounded nothing like what I heard on Stairway to Heaven.

When I discovered the Am 5th fret, I struggled with the Barre, and the following "counterpoint" bass and top line. But I stuck at it.

Countless more examples where playing it right is integral to the song. Playing it wrong for the sake of avoiding difficult passages, is in my opinion, just plain old wrong.

.M.S. always gives me the sense of seeing the hard part, and immediately bypassing it with an incorrect easier version for the sake of getting it up on YT in time for his next paycheck.

Not sure if that's helping anyone watching those videos.
It is helping beginners make music instead of quitting in frustration. I watched the Come Together lesson with my son. He played the beginner version. I found the spots on the neck where those parts were actually played on record. We dueted it a lot. Nice moment. Schwartz is offering access. Many players never get past barre chords because I remember the practice requirements and woodshedding increases immensely to grow better.
To call him a hack is like calling Gordon Ramsey a hack because he makes great dishes accessible with his video demos. Makes no sense to me.
I will never fault someone for democratizing art and improvement. You don't teach science to kids by asking them to split atoms. You start with the easy stuff and demonstrate the complex stuff in simple terms. Why should guitar playing be any different?
 
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