Why are greats considered "great"?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by dinvincible, Mar 6, 2015.

  1. dinvincible

    dinvincible Member

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    I am new to music,I mean learning music and everyone knows and hears about greats like beethoven,mozart and all.I don't have any knowledge about music history.

    I was wondering why are they considered as greats?
    Did they do something unprecedented?
    Or the music they composed was out of world or something?

    Or the creativity part was what made them great?

    or is it more like father telling his son how great things used to be in his times.I mean where not many know why they were considered great,most of them just follow what others are saying

    And what do you think would make a musician great in our times?

    I mean it would be wrong to say that no one was born with as much talent (if it matters) as the greats once they died.So now in our times when almost everything that is great comes to limelight bcoz of internet and all,why we don't hear "wow,this guy is comparable to the greats or better than them" or something like that??

    Or maybe its more like Music was not as developed a field back then as it is now.So what they did contributed a lot to music in general


    Thanks
     
  2. dinvincible

    dinvincible Member

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    I mean I really wish that someday when I learn enough music and I become capable of knowing why they are considered as great.

    But I fear its more like two people starring at a wall and saying "man it looks awesome" and then 10 more joining them and saying the same or something like that.

    And obviously there is this thing.The more you analyse a particular thing,especially one which is considered as good,the more will be the reasons which you will find to start loving it.

    So I am kinda intrigued and I hope i get some great answers.Currently watching some documentary on them.
     
  3. JonR

    JonR Member

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    General acclaim. Democratic vote.
    Yes.
    Not totally, but they would all have taken existing practices and put them together in new and exciting ways, that made everyone want to copy them.
    Well, yes. (That looks like the same question to me.)

    A "great composer" is of course a different thing from a "great player/instrumentalist" - you can be one and not the other, although the true greats tended to be both.
    There's obviously an element of that, generation to generation. But the more generations go past, the names that are not forgotten are those that get accepted as true "greats".

    We all tend to favour the music of our adolescence, whenever that was. That's when music really grabs us and means most to us. We're reluctant to let that go as we get older, even though new fashions come along.
    Popular music always evolves, throwing out the old, because its young public wants new stuff all the time, but recording technology means it all stays available for later generations if they're curious. And often, of course, while kids rarely like what their dads liked, they might often find they like what their granddads liked. Also, pop does tend to recycle similar ideas and sounds, so what goes around comes around in the end.
    In addition, some pop musicians in some eras seem to hit a spot which continues to resonate in later generations, making sounds which transcend fashion. These will be the ones typically called "great" by most people. Names lke Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Bob Dylan. Even if they don't excite young people the way they did in their day (because they're no longer new or fresh), most young music fans recognise their "greatness".
    Current names may well be regarded as just as "great" in the future, but we need to wait for the future to find out.
    1. Being popular. That's all it takes "in our times".
    To maintain a sense of greatness, he/she would need to remain popular for subsequent generations, retaining some level of commercial success (which is how popularity is measured). Greatness would then gather around them, like a crust... ;)

    Musical skill and inventiveness is not especially important at first. Individuality and impact (and good looks!) can be enough. But for a musician to last - to end up deserving the word "great" - their musical skills and creativity need to come to the fore. The early Beatles fans didn't care much about their clever songwriting - all that mattered was they were cute and funny, and their songs were catchy. A few experts at the time did spot the musical cleverness, but it was mostly under the radar. It's as the years went by that people looked back and could see just how clever they were. The songs were not only catchy, they were strong; they didn't sound dated the way other 60s songs mostly did.
    Of course, they were "original", and that always stood out.

    An important element of greatness is - like them or not - you can't mistake that person (or band) for anyone else. Musicians who follow them will try to sound like them But they never sound like anyone before them.
    (In fact, they sound like a mix of countless other people before them, but the mix is original. You don't hear the individual influences - the people they copied - because they're blended with so many others.)
    I dunno. I think you probably do hear that kind of thing sometimes.
    Maybe people say it less now, because in the old days saying someone was (say) "comparable to Dylan" could fly for a while because not many people would dig out their Dylan LPs to check. Now, anyone can click youtube within a few seconds and test such claims. So maybe people are more reluctant to make them?
    That's a good point. The music business back then was not much more than that: a business. It wasn't the all-pervading industry it is now.

    It kind of cuts both ways though. On the one hand it was easier to make it then because there was less competition. You could be a big fish in a small pond. But to get to be that big fish was harder, because you had to struggle in obscurity more. You had to do it all yourself, pretty much, or struggle to find other musicians who felt the same as you. (How would you find them?) No one would take you seriously, and there was no tradition of pop musicians lasting more than a few years, certainly not past the age of 25, so you might have felt, yourself, that if you hadn't "made it" by then there was no point.

    Now, there are millions of hopeful pop musicians (singers, guitarists, songwriters, etc), there are colleges to train you, there's youtube etc to upload all your efforts as soon as you've done them, there's social media to interact with and meet like minds from anywhere in the world. The general standard of musicianship is much higher than in the 1960s (say).
    But it's obviously much harder to stand out from the crowd. Not only that, but so many young musicians don't seem to want to stand out! (That's what gets me.) They want to sound exactly like whoever the current cool performer is - especially the singers. The concept of what's "cool" is so much more important than it used to be, and so much more immediate and "now". (There always was a fast turnover of fashion back then too, but the best acts kind of rode over that, ignored it.) With the pervasiveness of the industry it's also harder to trust what's "cool". Who is genuine and who has been manufactured?

    The market place is crowded and fragmented. In the old days, all you had was TV and radio, only a handful of channels, and none of them (to begin with) dedicated to pop. Everybody watched the same things at the same time. When a Big Name burst on the scene, everyone would be aware of them.
    Now, you can be "famous" in one social group, and unknown in the next. A whole bunch of people can regard you as "great", and no one else will have heard of you. You might well be truly "great", in the old traditional sense, but who will know, and how? Reputation can spread easily today, of course, but there's so much information flying around anyway, most of it trivial, that who is going to give enough time to any one name? "Hmm that guy's pretty good" we might say, before clicking on the next link after a few seconds.
     
  4. dinvincible

    dinvincible Member

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    Yesterday I was reading some old posts on forum about music composition and I found some great posts of yours JonR Sir

    And obviously after posting this question I was hoping that you or someone like you answer these questions in a serious way.I am glad that you explained and tried to answer most of them and I must say you did a great job.

    Thanks for taking time.Things make more sense now after reading ur post.
     
  5. bdam123

    bdam123 Member

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    JonR is the smartest person on this forum
     
  6. fenderlead

    fenderlead Member

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    There have been lots and lots of composers and Mozart and Beethoven and Bach etc remain probably because of what they produced.

    Mozart had pupils that never seemed to come near Mozart in terms of what they produced.

    Beethoven's 9th symphony is something no one else had done on that scale before and it's still around not so much because of that but because there are still people around that think it's worth playing and hearing.

    Vivaldi got forgotten for a long time until there was a revival about a 100 years ago and so the Four Seasons might have been largely forgotten but some people still want to hear it and so it's not reputation that much it's more about the music that was produced and it's appeal.





     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2015
  7. gennation

    gennation Member

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    They are greats simply because they leave you with something.
     
  8. JonR

    JonR Member

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    My cat's just done that on the kitchen floor.
    Hmm, maybe I need to start treating the beast with more respect....
     
  9. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    they made music with reach both wide and deep.

    i.e., they reached a lot of people (emotionally), and they reached them in a manner deep and real enough to sustain its impact over time, as opposed to ephemerally.

    there is more than one way to accomplish this.
     
  10. The bear

    The bear Member

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    Maybe they are considered great because they were able to compose music that is still being enjoyed, performed, taught and analyzed hundreds of years after it was written?
     
  11. Phletch

    Phletch Member

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    :spit Good one :aok!

    If "leaving you with something" is what it takes to be considered "great" then I guess any hooker with herpes is a virtuoso.
     
  12. PaulHudgins

    PaulHudgins Member

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    On the surface music is something we judge on a subjective level but there is a craft and skill to composition. In the same way certain writers and poets are better at structuring words, certain musicians are better at crafting musical compositions.

    For instance, Orchestration in classical music is often as important as being able to craft an interesting composition. To be a good orchestrator you have to know how to use each instrument to the greatest effect. You have to no how to write parts that are actually playable on each instrument. In other words, you have to give the horn and woodwind players time to breathe. You have to know the top and bottom range of an instrument and know how long a player can sustain playing at those extremes. You have to know how all the instruments blend together. The list keeps going on.

    The point being that some people excel at orchestrating pieces of music, they do it at an exceptionally high level. The same can be said of musical composition, etc.

    The greats like Beethoven, Mozart, Bach were also innovative. They pushed the limits of what composition had been up to that point and influenced other composers. For a guitarist comparison think of a guy like Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen pushing the limits of the guitar.

    So these guys are considered great because they were prolific composers, orchestrators and innovators. They pushed music forward and broke through existing boundaries.

    If you look at modern music you see the same patterns, 99% of musicians copy and very few offer something unique. It is musicians that mix talent, creativity and innovation with skill and craftsmanship to produce something unique who are considered great.
     
  13. Tmidiman

    Tmidiman Member

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    The great wrote music the moved people, that touched there souls. For them it's not about what gear they owned or what their gear looked like. Sometimes it's about taking a concept someplace interesting and seeing what happens. Some times it's about the art.

    But mostly, it's about touching people's souls, about writing great music.
     
  14. Tmidiman

    Tmidiman Member

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    Great insights JonR!
     
  15. Tmidiman

    Tmidiman Member

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    YES! Music composition is a craft. To me it's like woodworking. Your may not be the first person to make a table, but having the ability to go from raw wood to a beautiful design is breath taking.

    The greats can be great musicians but they are great composers first. Craftsmen.
     
  16. LagunaMan

    LagunaMan Member

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    People like Mozart had large working memory and could hold and process lots of information that gave them the edge over others. He also understood music and knew what he needed to do to create music. I think all the greats were curious and wanted to learn as much as possible about their instrument and take it to someplace new.
     
  17. JonR

    JonR Member

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    That reminds of my favourite Dylan quote. Someone asked him, many years ago, what he was most proud of about the work he'd done, what he saw as his greatest skill. "Making the words fit", he replied. I.e., not poetry, or great melodies, or inspiring 1000s of followers, but craftsmanship with the lyrics: the carpentry of songwriting.

    IOW, "gifted" people have the same struggles we all do with "making it sound right". They do it at a higher or deeper level than us maybe simply because they've been climbing (or digging) longer than we have.

    Then again, part of Dylan's genius is knowing when to stop; knowing that a bridge, or key change, or extra chord, would be superfluous. Like a carpenter with a chair, if it stands up, doesn't collapse when someone sits on it, and feels comfortable, then that's enough; job done. Fancy carving and decoration is beside the point; let all the lesser artists indulge in all that. What puts me in awe of Dylan is how much he accomplishes with so little. Neil Young too.
    With a lot of "greats", there's that sense that they've learned how to strip away all the frills and get down to what really matters; to put the arrow straight into the target. Like Dizzy Gillespie said, "it's taken me a lifetime to know what not to play."
    Miles Davis, B B King, Thelonius Monk - masters of simplicity. Why play 10 notes, if you can say it with one?
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2015

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