Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

I remember noting this first when the early punk bands arrived. The fans of the previous top bands often mentioned ‘musicianship’ to praise their favourites, but you sort of had the idea that musicianship meant being able to play something remarkable that was actually not as much fun as the musicianship-less punks. I think the concept can apply to some of the various performers of Irish Music (and I suggest no names). But it’s just strange that what sounds like a positive noun has these negative overtones.

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

A one time member used to say this music was “easy” but, of course, it does take skill, practice, and some knowledge and love of the tradition to play *well* and with the right feel.

However, you don’t need to be a trained or qualified musician to play the music well. Arguably, we are all still musicians of sorts although some of us might refer to ourselves as “players”. There have been threads about this before.

Of course, many people who play traditional music are highly trained and possess great “musicianship”. This has always been the case but much more so now especially with degree courses and the like.

There has always been a bit of inverted snobbery in our circles e.g “ear v dots”, “classically trained”, etc but, in my opinion, highly skilled and trained musicians ultimately will add more overall rather than detract.

For those who are high in “musicianship”, straight trad music isn’t usually enough though and such players will usually wish to involve themselves in other projects, experiment with other genres, and even try to “improve” or vary things in some way.

I think there’s a place for everything in this world and it doesn’t matter if musicians wish to divert from “the pure drop” or equivalent in Scotland as long as the core music is strong.
My experience of these younger musicians is that they are usually more than capable of playing what I’d call real trad music(That’s just my own subjective opinion too) when they choose to do either in performance or in a session.

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

I think it gets a negative connotation when it draws attention to itself.
Anyone who plays music is always trying to play things as well as they can, or just beyond their abilities (or even just new tunes, or do something fun or exciting with tunes).
Like when someone talks about experimental music - if the experiment was fully successful, it wouldn’t be called experimental, instead it would be groundbreaking. Even if you don’t like it.
If the musicianship is visible, it means the technique is trumping the feel. To me, that means they still haven’t totally internalised it. Or, worse, they don’t care about feel and are focussed on technique.

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

At the risk of muddying the waters here I’m wondering if, for the sake of arguement, that there should be a distinction made between musicianship and musicality? Proficiency in being able to play an instrument doesn’t, in my thinking, always equate to musicality, the ability to make the music live and breathe regardless of technical skill and accomplishment. And I suppose that can be applied to any genre of music whether it be ITM or classical art music or even punk. Naturally there will always be critics whose opinions will differ as to the worthiness of a particular performance. One man’s meat?

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

Maybe it’s one of those terms that evaporates when you try to define it too closely, and that can mean different things to different people. For me, it’s not the same as musical proficiency - that is, technical skill in playing an instrument (though that can make a significant contribution to ‘musicianship’). It’s entirely possible for someone to play a lot of complicated notes precisely and correctly, but still be as dry as dust. The musicianship, I would argue, involves the player’s expressive imagination, and his/her ability to invest the music with a bit of life and meaning for the listener - and that applies whether the music itself is a Rachmaninov concerto or The Kesh Jig. Difficult to pin down, but you know it when you’re excited or moved by a performance.

Posted by .

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

For me “musicianship” and “musicality” are synonymous and refer to the conveying and/or embodying the music, as opposed to “chops” or “technique” which to me refer to mechanical skill.

Very often musicianship and technique go together, but often the less-polished player exhibits superior musicality.

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

I like Richard’s last point - it would be possible for someone with extremely limited skill to play “Pop goes the weasel” with great musicality, taking musicality as that “something” that turns notes into music.
They wouldn’t show great musicianship.

I’d see musicianship as similar to craftsmanship - a practical skill, the ability to handle different situations and challenges well.

I’d expect professional session musicians to have great musicianship.

I’m certainly not suggesting this as definitive but the UK music exams board, the ABRSM offers an exam in “Practical musicianship” as an alternative to doing theory exams.
The exam includes
-The ability to internalise music and to reproduce it
-Interpreting written music with minimum preparation
-Exploring the possibilities inherent in a short motif
-The ability to detect differences between what’s heard and what’s written

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

Tom,

I’m not meaning to be awkward but what is a “Professional Session Musician”?

Is it a professional musician who happens to be playing in a session i.e. off gig or other duties?
Or an accomplished session regular/leader, perhaps? Or “paid” musicians?

A session is surely still an informal occasion and is generally open to all comers within reason. There are exeptions, of course, as some may be “closed” and there are other times when full time/professional musicians will get together for a tune too.
Usually, however, it’s a gathering of players who could be of any level.

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

Oops, sorry JJ, I was using the term in the sense of a professional freelance musician, typically in country, pop, rock, jazz etc genres who is hired gig by gig for “recording sessions” or for performances rather than being a regular member of a group or band.

I completely forgot the extremely obvious ambiguity of “session” here! Apologies!

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

Maybe Tom means a musician, who is working in a recording studio. They are called session musicians.
Update: Ah, Tom was quicker to answer the question.

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

Ah, sorry. I’ve got you now. 🙂

I should have realised. It was being on this forum where sessions usually mean a different thing.

Of course, Rudall’s post suggested a much broader discussion and “musicianship” in a more general sense.

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

“…what Llig was alluding to in his original post is that to be a good session player you need to be able to adapt to the session, and not just rigidly play the version of a tune that you first learned. But that ability comes with musicianship, it has nothing to do with whether you learned your tunes from the internet or your grandpa.”

Posted by .

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

About “craftsmanship” it reminds me of the time myself and a piper friend listened to a piper play in solo competition.

I asked my friend what he thought of the performance. His reply was

“That was very…workmanlike.”

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

Johnny, I’m surprised you ask that question. That’s a D diminished chord, so he’s obviously diddling the waltz tune “Into The Heart Of The Mountain” to his sweetheart.

It’s the second chord for the tune: |D|Ddim|D| etc.
Hear here: https://youtu.be/NOd8TMKq23s?t=10

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

Not quite, Donald?

Should his fingers not be on the G and E strings?

There are other possibilities, of course, even alternative tunings. However, I think our Harry is just “posing”.

Anyway, it’s always a delight to listen to Patti Kusturok.

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

Oh, I obviously didn’t look closely enough.
It must be the lost chord then or perhaps his attempt at the upper partials of an F#13b5b9 (though the 3rd is missing).

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

Yes, you do have to look quite closely but I’m pretty sure he’s on the D and B strings.

I wonder if after all of this he’ll have to rename himself “The guitarist formerly known as Prince”
🙂

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

On third thoughts, he’s probably in DADGAD, in which case he’s fingering an Ebmaj7. I was forgetting the supposed ITM favoured tuning.

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

He must have learned that from Ed Sheeran who got it from Beoga.
🙂

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

This post touches on the multiple nuances attaching to the phrase ‘classically trained’ - I’ll save that one for another day

I’ve come, slowly over many years, to a conclusion that ‘musicians’ fall loosely into two groups: (A) those interested in the music, and wanting to share good tunes with others; (B) those pre-occupied with how good everybody is. To this I would add my observation that people who think that they are ‘very good’ generally are not - and that some of the finest players are surprisingly modest and self critical

Personally, I observe that there are people with more innate talent than I have - it’s sad but true - but how much progress I make seems to be directly proportional to how much time I put in. My reach has always exceeded my grasp - ever since I was a child I have always wanted to plays tunes that are slightly too hard for me

If gene therapy for developing ‘perfect pitch’ ever becomes available I’m definitely up for it - it would be very useful. And I could do with an extra set of arms

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

I think of musicianship as an ability that transcends training, technical ability, or knowledge of a genre. Taste is probably the word that, for me, comes closest to clarifying what musicianship is about.

Another term or phrase is, “in the pocket.”

Posted by .

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

Johnny Jay wrote “highly skilled and trained musicians ultimately will add more overall…”
Nollaig Casey being one prime example.

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

Just catching up on the discussion after being away (in sessions too) and thank you everybody for the interesting ways this has gone. I suppose the extremes of prog-rock and punk that I gave in the example were to emphasize how something that sounded primitive could be fantastic (eg Ramones, Dr Feelgood) and something that sounded very technically goood could leave you dry.

I like the idea as Bazza said that musicianship should actually also include good taste and judgement and a relationship with the tines. I also love the observation from Edgar Bolton about the purpose of ITM being perhaps more about sharing it than being the best player on your block.

Also I have to pass on this anecdote about the great lexicographer and all-round grump, Dr Johnson:

He had been taken by a friend to see the latest concert by the latest Paganini of his era and part way through the lightning fast arpeggios the good Doctor was seen to drowse and doze. His friend nudged him and enquired whether he realised how ‘difficult’ this piece was.

“Would that it were impossible!” was the Doctor’s (and sometimes my) reply. 🙂

Re: Have you noticed how ‘musicianship’ is used?

“something that sounded primitive could be fantastic”

Rudall,

I can agree with that but I think that’s also another form of good “musicianchip” too where players can be limited and quite basic in terms of repertoire and in the style of music they play but still highly polished and accomplished in what they do.

For instance, you could know all the musical theory in the world, all the notes on your instrument, fancy chords etc and yet be quite average with the “basics”.

Also, although there are many good “all round” musicians, most of us are likely to be more inclined one way to either melody or rhythm. Others may prefer to focus on harmony too.
Of course, we really need to have some knowledge and understanding of all of these in “our kind of music” too but we will inevitably focus on one more than the other at certain times.