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What does "musical" mean?

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What does "musical" mean?

Postby jellyjim » Sat May 12, 2018 11:00 am

Hello

Yes of course I realise it's a very open ended question. I'm not so much interested in what we mean when we say "somebody" is musical. It's more things like:

What do we mean when we say one idea is more "musical" than another? An example might be voicing chords with inversions rather than just root positions.

What do we mean when we say an EQ design is very "musical" or when we say a synthesiser has very "musical" filters or oscillators.

Conversely what is "unmusical"?

What does the word actually mean?

Jim
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby blinddrew » Sat May 12, 2018 11:10 am

[insert can of worms opening gif here]

Disclaimer, my entire musical theory knowledge can be written on the back of postage stamp. With a thick marker pen. Which has no ink.
But this is the internet so I'll offer my completely uneducated and ill-formed opinion anyway because that's apparently how it works... ;)

To me, in the context that you cite, it's about adding something interesting and complementary. So in terms of composition, it's about a note, run, chord etc that works with the rest of the piece but might not be what's immediately expected.
From a technical gubbins perspective it's the same but to do with the sound, timbre, resonance, whatever overall.

I shall now sit back and await more sensible responses. :)
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby jellyjim » Sat May 12, 2018 12:01 pm

No, that sounds very plausible. As for can of worms, yes, but we’re all friends here so let’s play nice y’all! :)
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby Dr R » Sat May 12, 2018 12:34 pm

My music theory knowledge is less than Mr Drew's, I would have to borrow the inkless thick pen.
However, if it moves your head, your heart, or your feet - it's music.
Any other definitions boil down to culture and what you've been exposed to.
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby John Egan » Sat May 12, 2018 1:21 pm

It's an impossible question to answer, but we all know musical when we hear it. And we all hear it differently ! Go figure.
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby GilesAnt » Sat May 12, 2018 6:12 pm

I don't think you are musical because you know a lot about music - although you might be both.

I think being musical is about the ability to pick things up quickly, e.g. a good sense of rhythm, the ability to pick up a tune, and maybe pick it out on an instrument by ear, and of course an interest in innovation - trying out new arrangements, maybe improvising etc.

A child can demonstrate these things before they have any technical knowledge for example.
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby Martin Walker » Sun May 13, 2018 12:07 pm

blinddrew wrote:[insert can of worms opening gif here]

There you go Drew!

Image


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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby blinddrew » Sun May 13, 2018 1:14 pm

:clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby Dr R » Mon May 14, 2018 7:57 pm

I've decided that the OP deserves a stab at a decent answer, so here goes:
A tray of cutlery falling down stairs once isn't musical. Neither is a single drum hit, nor one note on the bagpipes, flute or piano. One note might set up an expectation, but that is cultural indoctrination. So I would say we need at least repetition of something or another. Let's call that repetition"rhythm", and maybe change the time between the repetitions. Dum, Dum, dum-Dum, dum. Etc.
Then we can make things more interesting by varying the sound, as well as the spacing. Dum, dum,dum, Dom. Etc. We can call that a melody. And we can play two or more and call it harmony.
After that I think it's maths and culture. Swapping things about, playing inversions, changing one melody might sound " better", but does it sound better to everyone, or only those trained to hear it? Let's stick to western music to simplify the problem.
I am just starting to play bass, and am still mainly following the root notes to just get timing right. But I know what I want to play when I think it sounds better, going up or down or whatever. What the maths of the note relationship is to the melody I don't know, but the B fits better than another F#. And I can reach it ;)
Anyone able to take these ramblings a bit further and see if we can make some more headway?
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby billr » Mon May 14, 2018 11:44 pm

I've often heard the term used by audiophiles to say why one phono cartridge is supposedly better than another. They seem to use it when they don't know how to be factual. Often goes with snake oil IMO.

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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby dedindi » Fri May 18, 2018 3:13 pm

this means that music is easy to perceive.
here are the three main things that it provides:
- architectonics (musical form)
- harmony
- melody
arrangement and production are less critical for a perception.
a lot of good music is not pro recorded.
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby Kwackman » Fri May 18, 2018 3:26 pm

"Musical" usually means I switch TV channels promptly.... :D
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby Jorge » Fri May 18, 2018 3:32 pm

Dr R wrote: ... A tray of cutlery falling down stairs once isn't musical.[AGREED] Neither is a single drum hit, nor one note on the bagpipes, flute or piano...
I don't agree with the second sentence. I think the tone of a horn or stringed instrument, or the sound quality of a single percussive hit contributes a lot to musicality. For example, a single sax or french horn note can sound more or less musical depending on the skill of the player. As a conga player, I hear lots of conga players who can't get a musical sounding slap or tone out of even a really good drum. This may not be quite as relevant for musicians who sample, sequence or otherwise use pre-recorded sounds, but for live musicians I think this is a very important part of their musicality.
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby job » Fri May 18, 2018 4:08 pm

I think musical is just something that we judge as being an artistic expression of sound, where the art component is subjective in the same sense that beauty is subjective.

Although upon looking it up that maybe a cop out since it appears to be pretty close to the definition (adjective of music). But hey, i'm comfortable with it :thumbup:
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby ReadySaltedChris » Fri May 18, 2018 4:39 pm

I think I can help explain this.

Below is an audio clip which contains two recordings of the same scale. The first is completely unmusical. The performer has been lazy and made no effort to communicate any sense of emotion here whatsoever. If this were food it would be porridge.

In the second clip (which immediately follows the first) however, the discerning listener will observe that the performer has placed much more thought into the nuances of every note, culminating in a little pause at the end of the phrase, thus bringing the dots 'off the page' so to speak. The music, quite literally 'comes to life'. If this were food it would be a generous slice of game pie.

It is these subtle, yet deft touches, that put the word musical into musicality.

'unmusical' v 'musical' -

https://www.dropbox.com/s/uzq8btg87sids ... s.mp3?dl=0

Hope that helps.
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby jellyjim » Fri May 18, 2018 6:11 pm

ReadySaltedChris wrote:I think I can help explain this.

Below is an audio clip which contains two recordings of the same scale. The first is completely unmusical. The performer has been lazy and made no effort to communicate any sense of emotion here whatsoever. If this were food it would be porridge.

Perfect! Yes, very much what I was trying to get at. So perhaps to say something is "very musical" means it has lots of whatever the second scale has!
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby ReadySaltedChris » Fri May 18, 2018 6:45 pm

jellyjim wrote:
ReadySaltedChris wrote:I think I can help explain this.

Below is an audio clip which contains two recordings of the same scale. The first is completely unmusical. The performer has been lazy and made no effort to communicate any sense of emotion here whatsoever. If this were food it would be porridge.

Perfect! Yes, very much what I was trying to get at. So perhaps to say something is "very musical" means it has lots of whatever the second scale has!

Yes! It's that undefineable thing. That certain 'something'. We know it's there, we just can't see it. Like the Loch Ness Monster in that respect.
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby jellyjim » Fri May 18, 2018 6:54 pm

ReadySaltedChris wrote:
jellyjim wrote:
ReadySaltedChris wrote:I think I can help explain this.

Below is an audio clip which contains two recordings of the same scale. The first is completely unmusical. The performer has been lazy and made no effort to communicate any sense of emotion here whatsoever. If this were food it would be porridge.

Perfect! Yes, very much what I was trying to get at. So perhaps to say something is "very musical" means it has lots of whatever the second scale has!

Yes! It's that undefineable thing. That certain 'something'. We know it's there, we just can't see it. Like the Loch Ness Monster in that respect.

thinking aloud ...

it's something about "better" use of the bits that make up music

comedic music's a good example maybe - so dudley moore or les dawson, music made up of bits and pieces that could appear in any context/genre but manipulated to cause amusement

manipulated ... the sophistication of how the bits are put together

it's "musical" because it compliments (rather than resists) the opportunities/patterns inherent/implied by music's grammar/structure/maths/nature

anyway, like i said, thinking aloud (hence no capitals :) )
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby johnny h » Fri May 18, 2018 7:13 pm

jellyjim wrote:Hello

Yes of course I realise it's a very open ended question. I'm not so much interested in what we mean when we say "somebody" is musical. It's more things like:

What do we mean when we say one idea is more "musical" than another? An example might be voicing chords with inversions rather than just root positions.

What do we mean when we say an EQ design is very "musical" or when we say a synthesiser has very "musical" filters or oscillators.

Conversely what is "unmusical"?

What does the word actually mean?

Jim
If you have to ask you'll never know.
:)
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Re: What does "musical" mean?

Postby Argiletonne » Mon Aug 27, 2018 9:41 pm

you said, "What do we mean when we say one idea is more "musical" than another?"

I say, the composition is more complex in writing and structure allowing for more freedom in sound; or, the idea is more easily open to naturalness of music. i.e. not a struggle to make sense.

you said, "What do we mean when we say an EQ design is very "musical" or when we say a synthesiser has very "musical" filters or oscillators."

Only companies selling products say an EQ is musical. They only explain the EQ will make noticeable changes to the sound when used. Musicial EQ is noticeable whereas cheaper quality makes less of a noticeable difference.

you say, "What is unmusical?"

Each person is different and makes their own decision about what they find musical and for that reason you should make up your own mind about what is musical to you. Each person has a right to make that decision for themselves.
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