Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Libra Rising Music. We do, however, support our artists, and believe that they should have a platform to express themselves. – Editor
*Warning* Due to the average IQ of humanity, a good portion of this article is based on broad generalizations, but that doesn’t mean my opinions are rigid, immovable objects. Have some openness and a sense of humor before reading this, please. Thank you.
I have spent nearly forty years (countless hours a week) honing my musical skills. I’ve studied jazz, opera, rock and numerous other genres. I’ve learned a number of different instruments. I’ve produced myself and other artists. I’ve mastered the ever changing landscape of music technology, music theory and songwriting. I’ve composed chamber music and studied orchestral arrangement. I’ve read tens of thousands of articles or more. So, if you’re mad after reading this, I suggest you take off your “musician” hat, stop worrying about how elitist this article comes across, and identify yourself as a non-musician with a dream.
If you’re still reading, here are 12 reasons why you’re not a musician.
- Garageband – I admit, it’s fun. I’ve used it a couple times to sketch tracks on my iPad. Be honest though, it never really enables you to create anything usable. Your song isn’t finished if it’s started and ended in Garageband. Unless — and I stress — you’ve never used it for anything other than a simple recorder. If you’re using it to record folk songs with a guitar and a vocal, I take all of this back. Otherwise, put down hiphop_cool_80bpm.aif for a second and think about making your own beats for a change.
- You “play” guitar – Ok, so you watched four YouTube videos on beginners guitar and subsequently learned to play a G, C, D and E minor chord. You know a few chords. Congratulations, you can cover Taylor Swift’s entire catalog now. But you’re still not a musician. By popularizing this low bar, you are helping to reduce the overall quality of contemporary, popular music. Would you give throwing knives to a beginner and let them use you as a target? Probably not. Is your beginner “musicianship” nearly as dangerous? No, but to me, indirectly, it’s actually much more damaging to society than any amateur knife thrower could ever be.
- You’re getting mad right now reading this – Are you defensive at this point? Who is this guy to say who is and isn’t a musician? I’m a guy with a degree and over three decades of formal training. So, yeah, I’m an authority. If me questioning your reckless appropriation of the label of “musician” offends you, then you are not an expert. Let’s be reasonable, you’re a hobbyist.
- You make “EDM” – Ok, this is obviously a joke wrapped in an insult, wrapped in a gross generalization (some of my best friends make EDM). But it’s a pretty easy one to make. If you talk to a majority of successful electronic music producers, they’ll tell you this themselves (I’ve seen Moby talk about it). A lot of music made by the EDM crowd is sample driven. A lot of it is programmed and arpeggiated with synthesizers. Also, and this may shock some of you, many of the DJ Magazine Top 100 DON’T ACTUALLY PRODUCE THEIR OWN MUSIC. Look up “EDM ghost producer” and you’ll learn quickly, that most of that world is a sham.
- You like to play chopsticks – Look, asshole, if you come to my house and play that mania-inducing theme on MY piano, not only are you a reprehensible human being, you clearly know nothing better to play. How do I know this? It’s what I used to do when I was 4. Then I learned Bach and realized how cruel that song is to anyone within earshot.
- You’re playing “Stairway” at Guitar Center – When I was a kid, music stores actually had signs that warned customers not to play that song. When that dumb ass “Tears in Heaven” song came out, one store I frequented had to upgrade the sign to read: “No songs about Heaven, period.” If you commit this act willingly, you have no respect for music, musicians, musical instrument dealers and most importantly, no respect for the greatest hard rock band ever. Don’t ruin a song that radio already ruined forty years ago.
- You have a cover song on YouTube – This one is a little tricky. Obviously plenty of superbly talented musicians have covers on YouTube. But if YOU have one, that doesn’t make you a musician. It makes you an egocentric, modern-day karaoke nut with iMovie
- You’re a DJ – You’re definitely not a musician. And, even if you actually were a DISC JOCKEY, spinning vinyl does not qualify you. Turntablism may, but you’re not a turntablist. Admit it. You play other people’s music. Or even worse, you steal other peoples mixes and claim them as your own. Stop. Calling. Yourself. Anything. More. Than. A. Jukebox.
- You don’t know music theory – If I can’t talk to you about music, you’re not a musician. For instance, I like how Gershwin employed diminished 7 chords in a lot of his songs. What do you think? Yep. That’s what I thought. Anyone “in the know” in opera knows that Pavarotti didn’t read music. He couldn’t. In my eyes, he wasn’t a musician. He wasn’t even the best of the three tenors (See Placido Domingo). Knowing what makes your performances effective is as important as knowing how it’s supposed to sound, technically. Understanding counterpoint, harmony, chord structure, etc will give you the context and the edge to understanding a piece of music thoroughly, much like the composer intended. How do I know they intended it? Read the sheet music. Oh, that’s right, you can’t.
- You have a song on Soundcloud – You’re gonna need to do more than upload a “song” on your “music” page. That “song” better be objectively cohesive and subjectively moving. I don’t care if it moves me to ecstasy or makes me hate the world. If it’s technically good, I’ll call it music. If it’s just you wanking on your Squier guitar and singing non sequiturs over an Apple drum loop… fail.
- Your new band has a show on Tuesday at midnight – Come back to me when it’s your fiftieth Tuesday night show in your 5th band. Nothing makes you a musician more than experience. You have to intern for years before you’re considered a doctor. Shit, some sushi masters spend ten plus years as apprentices before they even consider opening their own restaurant (watch the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi).
- You’re still reading this – To be honest, if you’re still reading this, you’re on your way to becoming an actual musician. You have endured my flogging. You have fought with these premises in your head and, hopefully, have come to the end with truly emotional conclusions. You may even want to turn this angst and curiosity into a song or an interpretive piano improvisation. Go do it. I believe in you.
(Written by DeMammos)