How to tell Good music from Great music

Sigur Ros is the greatest living band. Discuss.

How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby Jabbadonut on Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:36 pm

I think I've figured it out. Good music is something I like the moment I hear it. Catchy tunes that I memorize instantly, then I can't get them out of my head for two days, then I just want the song to stop in my head, then I hope I never hear that godforsaken song again.
Great music is something that the first time I hear it, it sounds kinda odd. I don't really "like" it, but I listen to it again. It still sounds odd and different, but I don't dislike it. Then I listen to it again, and I get it. The song is suddenly "really good" and I can shut it on and off in my head without issue. And I can listen to it a week later, and a week after that. Then 6 months later. Then 2 years later. All the while it is still good and I like listening to it.

Great music lasts forever. Good music lasts for moments. At least that seems to be the way it works for me.
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby minstrel on Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:53 pm

Looks to me like what you've done is come up with conveniently narrow definitions of "good" and "great". It's amazing how many things that seem difficult become easy when you make your definitions narrow and specific enough. You can prove that God exists by simply including existence as part of your definition of God.

I think that, once again, you've oversimplified a question. I'm sure I'll have more to say about music later on - I have to finish waking up first.
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby King Of Nowhere on Sun Jun 13, 2010 1:25 pm

He's also confused music with song.
Good music is music with as few off notes as possible. Great music would be bordering on perfect, with no off notes or mistakes & flawless timing.
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby minstrel on Sun Jun 13, 2010 2:35 pm

King Of Nowhere wrote:He's also confused music with song.
Good music is music with as few off notes as possible. Great music would be bordering on perfect, with no off notes or mistakes & flawless timing.


What are "off notes"? Are you talking about mistakes of performance, or deliberate out-of-scale notes (notes that are not part of the key signature of the piece, but are put there by the composer anyway)?

I think we should separate the performance from the music in this discussion. Otherwise you might argue that Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata is a lousy piece of music simply because you heard a terrible performance of it. Or you might even say a piece of music is lousy because it was recorded badly or played back badly. Clearly this is absurd. Let's limit this discussion to what the composer or songwriter intended, not what the performer performed. Otherwise we'll hate songs just because some idiot massacred them on American Idol.
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby King Of Nowhere on Sun Jun 13, 2010 7:57 pm

minstrel wrote:
King Of Nowhere wrote:He's also confused music with song.
Good music is music with as few off notes as possible. Great music would be bordering on perfect, with no off notes or mistakes & flawless timing.


What are "off notes"? Are you talking about mistakes of performance, or deliberate out-of-scale notes (notes that are not part of the key signature of the piece, but are put there by the composer anyway)?


Notes that are off the scale, like playing B flat when you're in Am, the scale is A B C D E F G, so it's bad music.
If an artist intends on having them in their music, they have written "bad music".
That's not to say that you or i wouldn't like it, or that it's impossible to listen to, but those are matters of taste.

It's a bit like in Evil Dead 2, when Bruce is running about & you can see the top of the set & beyond. It's bad cinematography, but it doesn't ruin my enjoyment of the movie.
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby Fievel on Sun Jun 13, 2010 9:29 pm

The so-called quality of music is purely subjective or opinion.

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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby minstrel on Sun Jun 13, 2010 10:09 pm

King Of Nowhere wrote:Notes that are off the scale, like playing B flat when you're in Am, the scale is A B C D E F G, so it's bad music.
If an artist intends on having them in their music, they have written "bad music".


That's an extraordinary statement. Are you saying that composers who include accidentals (that's what they're called in music theory) are, by definition, writing bad music? If so, that's ridiculous. There's a huge amount of great music out there using accidentals.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of an example using the B-flat in the key of A minor, as in your example, but what about The Star Spangled Banner? It's familiar to everyone, so I can use it as an example without losing anybody. If it's played in G major (it could be in any major key; I'll use G major to illustrate my point), then the second syllable of "early" as in "the dawn's early light" is a C sharp, which is outside the key of G major. But it fits the music just fine. There are C naturals in the song, too, as in "the bombs bursting in air" (the last two words are on C natural). C natural is in the G major scale, but C sharp is not, yet I don't know anybody who calls "The Star Spangled Banner" a piece of bad music (at least not for your reason).
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby Ribbons on Sun Jun 13, 2010 10:19 pm

You and KON seem to be talking about the same thing, just in different ways. There's a difference between good "music" and a good "song" in the sense that an accidental is off-key musically, but may be right for the song when looked at as a whole. At least that's what I think is going on...
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby Fried Gold on Mon Jun 14, 2010 8:43 am

The "greatness" of music depends on location:

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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby Jabbadonut on Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:57 am

minstrel wrote:Looks to me like what you've done is come up with conveniently narrow definitions of "good" and "great". It's amazing how many things that seem difficult become easy when you make your definitions narrow and specific enough. You can prove that God exists by simply including existence as part of your definition of God.

I think that, once again, you've oversimplified a question. I'm sure I'll have more to say about music later on - I have to finish waking up first.


And what question did I oversimplify? I wasn't answering any questions. I was explaining the difference between what I think of as good music, and how it differs from great music, to me. My point being that for me great music is something I can listen to forever, and enjoy. Good music for me is something that is a short term commitment. I like it for awhile, then I move on and never go back to it. And as for definitions of "good" and "great," those are my opinions. The point of this thread was to see if and how anyone else differentiates between what they think of as good versus great music. There isn't any right answer, as all of our opinions are valid in this regard.
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby King Of Nowhere on Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:56 am

minstrel wrote:
King Of Nowhere wrote:Notes that are off the scale, like playing B flat when you're in Am, the scale is A B C D E F G, so it's bad music.
If an artist intends on having them in their music, they have written "bad music".


That's an extraordinary statement. Are you saying that composers who include accidentals (that's what they're called in music theory) are, by definition, writing bad music? If so, that's ridiculous. There's a huge amount of great music out there using accidentals.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of an example using the B-flat in the key of A minor, as in your example, but what about The Star Spangled Banner? It's familiar to everyone, so I can use it as an example without losing anybody. If it's played in G major (it could be in any major key; I'll use G major to illustrate my point), then the second syllable of "early" as in "the dawn's early light" is a C sharp, which is outside the key of G major. But it fits the music just fine. There are C naturals in the song, too, as in "the bombs bursting in air" (the last two words are on C natural). C natural is in the G major scale, but C sharp is not, yet I don't know anybody who calls "The Star Spangled Banner" a piece of bad music (at least not for your reason).


Accidentals have a lasting effect on the bar though.
If you narrow it down to the instruments in use, the voice sounds terrible when it's hitting a load of flats & the piano is following Am. You would call that person a bad singer.
Synths, guitars, you can get away with those thanks to porta, string bending & weird things that the TB303 & the like do, but if you take the above example & flip it round, the piano player would be classed as a bad player.

So when it comes to notation, if you're looking at the acoustic guitar & bass parts, the guitar as playing in Am, but the bass is playing A, B, C, Bb, E... instead of A, B, C, D, E... you would think the notation was flawed. If that's the way the piece was originally written, would you not say it was poorly written?
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby TheBaxter on Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:21 am

good music is music that is better than mediocre music.
great music is music that is better than good music.
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby Fried Gold on Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:32 am

TheBaxter wrote:good music is music that is better than mediocre music.
great music is music that is better than good music.

I often find that mediocre music, when played live, can sometimes be good music.
And that some great music occasionally only sounds like good music.
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby TonyWilson on Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:38 am

just ask me :mrgreen: :wink:
Elitism is positing that your taste is equivalent to quality, you hate "Hamlet" does it make it "bad"? If you think so, you're one elite motherfucker.
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby Fried Gold on Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:41 am

TonyWilson wrote:just ask me :mrgreen: :wink:

Dear MusicMaster,

I can't seem to get past the third track of the new LCD Soundsystem album. Are there any track select cheats or should I just keep trying it?

Thanks MusicMaster.
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby stereosforgeeks on Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:44 am

Fried Gold wrote:
TonyWilson wrote:just ask me :mrgreen: :wink:

Dear MusicMaster,

I can't seem to get past the third track of the new LCD Soundsystem album. Are there any track select cheats or should I just keep trying it?

Thanks MusicMaster.


up up down down...
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Re: How to tell Good music from Great music

Postby minstrel on Mon Jun 14, 2010 5:16 pm

Jabbadonut wrote:
minstrel wrote:Looks to me like what you've done is come up with conveniently narrow definitions of "good" and "great". It's amazing how many things that seem difficult become easy when you make your definitions narrow and specific enough. You can prove that God exists by simply including existence as part of your definition of God.

I think that, once again, you've oversimplified a question. I'm sure I'll have more to say about music later on - I have to finish waking up first.


And what question did I oversimplify? I wasn't answering any questions. I was explaining the difference between what I think of as good music, and how it differs from great music, to me. My point being that for me great music is something I can listen to forever, and enjoy. Good music for me is something that is a short term commitment. I like it for awhile, then I move on and never go back to it. And as for definitions of "good" and "great," those are my opinions. The point of this thread was to see if and how anyone else differentiates between what they think of as good versus great music. There isn't any right answer, as all of our opinions are valid in this regard.


The question you oversimplified is "What's the difference between good music and great music?" You oversimplified it by defining good music as that which you like the first time but annoys you after a while, and great music as music you enjoy forever. When I saw the thread title "How to tell Good music from Great music", I thought I'd see a deeper, more multifaceted, and more thought-provoking a post than the one you started this thread with. That's why I said you oversimplified the question.

There's an interesting discussion to be had about why the general consensus is that Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is great, whereas, say, Justin Bieber's latest single isn't. (I'm being unfair here, because I haven't heard Justin Bieber's latest single, assuming he has one. I have heard a couple of his songs, though, and based on them, I'm guessing his latest single isn't great.)
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