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Hi! I’m Dave from boyinaband.com

This week I want to address the accusation made by far too many people that all electronic music requires no talent or skill.

Being someone that writes and performs electronic music, this pops up time and again in comments such as this and this and this and this.

You know, So a track with heavy vocal processing comes on and “What happened to people who can actually sing?!” or the bass will drop in a more intense track and “These are just noises made on a computer, anyone could slap that together in 10 minutes” but sit them in front of a studio computer and they come up with this.

*Silence*

Then you realised you had Plants vs Zombies installed on that computer and no-one can be expected to produce with that kind of immediate temptation so you uninstall it and give them another 10 minutes and you get this:

*crap music*

So to enlighten those people, I’ve come up with another thought experiment which, for the sake of internet attention spans, once again involves my cat Quistis. I call it:

Davestein’s Theory of Relativity

So we have two dudes, a cat, and a dog.

The two dudes are looking at the dog. One throws a ball, and says “Hey, Fetch.” and when the dog does so, the other guy concludes that “it’s pretty cool that when you throw something, the dog will return it to you.”

The same two dudes proceed to look at the cat. The first dude is like “aww, that cat looks cute, I might post a picture of it to Reddit.” but the second dude throws a ball, notices the cat is not about to go get it back for him, and gets horrendously angry saying “This animal can’t do ANYTHING! What a waste of space, why would anyone even get a cat?” Completely ignoring the fact that the cuteness of the cat is already pleasing millions all over the internet, and in clubs the world over.

The reason dude #2 feels it involves no talent is because he’s comparing these *oranges* with these *apples* – or rather these with these. There are talents involved, he just doesn’t understand what those talents are yet.

So for the benefit of people like dude #2 let me take the liberty of roughly outlining said talents with one of the most commonly contrasted composers that these arguments are levelled between.

So we’ve got our guitarist and our computer musician.

So argument #1 – mr. guitarist has spent years developing his skill on the guitar so he can write a song; mr. computer musician can knock up a song in 10 minutes! And as we’ve established, he sure can, if he wants it to sound like a casio keyboard preset – It can take frickin’ years of study and practice to learn how to produce a professional sounding track.

argument #2 – But you can feel mr. guitarist has authenticity, mr. computer musician’s music is too processed, there’s no imperfections – there’s no talent involved because it doesn’t feel human any more! For sure a lot of electronic music is autotuned and quantised to be precise – but there are still talents involved. Songwriting, for instance – Not just anyone can write a catchy riff, make a clean and powerful mix, or pick a memorable sample to put before a drop.

*cut to someone sitting at a table thinking hard with a piece of paper that says “let the *crossed out words* cannon kick it*

argument #3 – But they’re not even playing anything!
No matter how annoyed you get, that cat is not going to catch that ball. It is really narrow minded to suggest that they are not artists because nobody can play the guitar. Anyway, some electronic musicians do play instruments, just look at MPCs and kaoss pads and…

argument #4 – those aren’t instruments, anyone can press a sequence of buttons. There’s no technique involved, They may as well be playing a video game!

First of all, as the millions of people who watch the world’s top gamers will tell you, someone who can press a complicated sequence of buttons in a specific order can be massively entertaining. And as they’d probably go on to explain, there is more to it than that.
Let’s take a look at a piano – it’s essentially pressing things in a sequence at different intensities. Same with drums. And a plethora of other instruments many of the people proposing this argument would refer to as “legitimate”.

argument #5 – When all these run out, a common retaliating argument I see is that it doesn’t have any “soul” or “heart” in it, which is another way of saying “I can’t think of an adjective that actually has a meaning to express why I don’t like this.”

Perhaps we should give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are talking about how emotional the music sounds – in which case, I could easily say that I find some of the chord progressions and synth sounds in trance music give me emotional chills where a performance from [insert well respected guitarist] will probably leave me cold.

Or I could argue that some of the screamers in metal bands show so much raw emotion with their voice that they can’t even control it, meaning they are more intense in that respect than a singer who is capable of perfecting a vibrato in the “soul” genre.

And it’s not that these people don’t have talent, I can recognise that they do, it’s just that it’s a very different talent, and I personally don’t enjoy that talent as much. I feel that in order to respect the effort they’ve put into cultivating that talent, that’s an important distinction to make.

If you stop expecting the talents from different genres to match up *match up* then you’ll save yourself a considerable amount of time that you would have spent getting angry at people – perhaps you can take up a hobby. Tennis for example. *holds up ball*

So what do you think about the electronic music talent thing? From both sides of the fence, I’d love to hear your opinions. Let’s have a discussion in the comments.

Don’t forget to hit like and favourite if this resonates with you, and subscribe for weekly boyinaband videos if you haven’t already.

Cheers for watching and have a nice day!

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22 Responses to “Electronic Musicians are Talentless.”

  1. Dave, you hit the nail right on the head!!!!! People don’t understand how complicated it is to make electronic music. You put up the best arguments and made a lot of good points, awesome job

  2. Can i just say that you have put into words what i have been trying to say for many years to people, and it’s so frustrating trying to explain that Electronic music isn’t just ‘pressing keys’ or ‘making noises now and again’. You have summed it up perfectly and i thank you for that :D

    P.S i am also a electronic music producer (www.soundcloud.com/Joshse), could you be so kind as to give me some comments/feedback on some of my tracks :D Thanks again :)

  3. I am stagehand/artist for over 30 yrs, herd many ackts, soul, feelingza, don’t know bout, NoBout, if it moves me, Daves iliteriationions, that communicate, reason, move me to understand, and build snds, noise….Brava dave Bravo, thank you for being. Craig E.

  4. go to http://www.daveandhisworld.blogspot.com for a 13 year old’s views on the YAWA ep!

  5. I have spent years trying to perfect my own style of electronic music. I know first hand that it takes a boat load of talent to produce a song that people can sit through much less want to listen to on a regular basis. After 5 years of piano lessons I can say with confidence: Playing a song on the piano is easier than producing an entire electronic song. I know that no one can say that playing the piano takes no talent. So therefore producing an electronic song MUST require a least some tiny bit of talent if not a “boat load” of it. I have quite a few songs that I have made that have an entire score of melodic piano in them. So you can’t say that the piano portion of the song takes talent and the rest is just rubbish. That is unless you are a hypocrite.
    There ya go! :)

  6. Very good points made. As a musician who has been playing guitar and ‘traditional’ instruments and been in bands for many years, and also a producer who has been making electronic music for quite a while, I would say that it takes far MORE talent to be a great producer than it does to be in a great band.

    The producer is (most of the time) solely responsible for all creative decisions. He (or she) has to have all the original ideas, create or sample all the sounds, play or programme all the parts, arrange, mix and master. Something that most ‘traditional’ bands/musicians have little or no part in!

    I love playing live, I love guitar, and I think that you can have soulful performances from both acoustic and electronic instruments alike. Its down to the skills and talents of the musician to make them come alive!

  7. Agreed. I’m a classically-trained composer, and I switched to electronic during college.

    It is still music composition! Composers aren’t valued for their real-time performance skills, but the products of their minds. Writing notes on a staff is no different from programming drums in a sequencer. I’ve done both, professionally.

    Do you think some people may feel threatened because electronic musicians don’t need performers the way traditional composers and songwriters do? It is, after all, something most aren’t familiar with (I’m talking about non-musicians.) People generally are afraid of / threatened by things that don’t fall in line with the way the world “should be,” according to them.

    Just a thought.

  8. As a guitarist who appreciates electronic music I will say that I don’t feel that electronic music is as “musical” or as emotional as music created on an instrument. However, that’s not to say I don’t think computer musicians (as you put it) or DJ’s are talentless.They are highly talented people. But regardless of how much I appreciate people like Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta, Calvin Harris and other really big DJ’s, I personally take offense when people put them in the same league as The Beatles or Led Zeppelin. Yes it’s comparing apples with oranges, but fans of electronic music do it as much as fans of other styles.

  9. I am an electronic musician too and I hate those kind of comments ’cause what I call ‘acoustic’ music is about playing things that are already there, but I think electronic music is about creating actual sounds that weren’t there before and making music with them. It’s about making sound waves off things happening inside your brain. Isn’t that totally awesome?? Even if the computer musician is using preset sounds, drawing the notes on a sequencer and drawing notes on a music sheet don’t differ that much.
    P.S.: LOL at the crappy music!!!

  10. Dave .you are phenomenally talented..As a songwriter singer I would be blessed to have you arrange my tunes ….do you collaborate ???
    Learned so much from you in a short period of time
    I will definitely contribute in any way I can so that you can keep this river flowing.
    Rick

  11. You are right in your arguments, I couldn’t agree more. I have been steadily progressing on guitar and piano for 11 years and counting, and have been learning sound design, arranging, orchestration and mixing for 2 1/2 years and counting.

    I can tell you, its definetely a talent that should be respected.

    Who isn’t to say that these electronic musicians can also play instruments as well? Thats what I aspire to do, and its what Dave does as well.

    Thanks for your free tutorials! You rock!

  12. Shared to facebook. This is more true than I had ever thought. I had my go at guitar and played it like non-stop for a good 2 years. Needless to say I suck really bad. Making electronic music is easier in the sense that it doesn’t require muscles to memorize positions or work to stay in time or sound good. But making Electronic music is at least 4 times more stressful on your brain over-all, I mean you aren’t just mastering 1 element of a song when making music like that. As a producer you have to worry about every aspect of the song as one person, which is very time consuming and like I said stressful on an individuals brain. Making a good track takes days at least. Sometimes longer. You said it all in this video though.

  13. Then there’s the best of both worlds: Attain proficiency at an instrument (or a few) and create your own samples – having mastery of the keyboard allows you to create midi tracks of all kinds – percussion patches, wind instrument patches, whatever…..and learning audio theory gives you not only understanding of synthesizers but audio routing, effects and finally mixing/mastering. Add it all up and it’s not exactly something someone can just sit down at a computer and do in five minutes! But in the end you have skills that will be valuable no matter what kind of music you like….

  14. Dude, how fast can you talk! that is definitely one of your talents

  15. I don’t try to explain how I feel about music if others don’t like it then its not really my problem. There is no respect however from some about the development of technoj/electronica. I am a nurse and I listen to it all the time, when I study, workout, driving on the road. It puts me in a good mood and gives me energy. You have put into words how I feel… I will keep listening till I am 80+

  16. As a practicing musician (keyboard and guitar) of over 30 years and having been heavily into midi and computer sequencing since the late 80′s, I will stand and defend electronic music as a unique music art form.

    That said, for me, there is a strong distinction between electronic music and audio collages. I will admit that I find it darn near offensive when I hear tracks that made up nothing but sample tracks that are several bars long lifted from other artists (Girl Talk comes to mind). I admit that the collage is a valid art form, but taking that much of another artist’s creation and building your composition on top of it strikes me as the person has a decided lack of talent as a musician. Note, I did not say they were not an artist.

    If I want to rip someone’s song, I’ll learn to play it and make it my own. I won’t just sample it off their track and use it as my own. Yes, I acknowledge any form of collage (audio or visual) probably qualifies as art, but I admit that I find that genre stretches the definition of musician in my mind.

    Dave – I love your stuff. Even an old cat like myself can learn a lot from you and I really appreciates your work. I cannot express how much I have learned from your tutorials.

  17. Einstein, who was incidentally a huuuge psytrance fan, says this:

    “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

    Spud bless the talents that keep talenting!

  18. As a ‘player of instruments,’ (I hesitate to use the word musician because, well, frankly, after 26 years of Trombone, I still sucked. And picked up the violin. And am horrid at it) I would absolutely LOVE to have a dash of the talent of some of the electronic musicians I’ve heard over the years. Having also dabbled with Reason, I can say that it’s a lot harder to come up with something that isn’t ghastly than it may seem to the uninitiated.

    This is a well-designed argument about expectations that translates well to non-music genres. If only anyone who actually complained about this kind of thing would bother to take the time to really LISTEN. But that’s not going to happen.

  19. Your right I think. I think though you have to be careful not to become too defensive. Personally I can’t stand country. It almost makes want to vomit just listening to it (I am being sarcastic btw), but I still recognize that some of the most talented guitarists are in that genre because they use hardly any effects on their guitars, so all their skill comes from what they play, so there is no masking what they do in some cases (although I am not a country musician, so what do I know). I think it’s just generally important for all musicians to keep an open mind. I think it can hurt an artist if they aren’t open to others opinions or creative ideas. It is also important just to not dog on other people’s music. I do think critiquing music is very important though, because as artists, were drawn to some things more than others, and therefore dislike other songs/ideas. It’s just important to listen first before speaking your own thoughts. In the end, I think almost every artist has different opinions and tastes and you can’t really compare apples to oranges. But I do think you can learn from each other.

  20. Tell em why your ma:D Great piece thx a lot this will be my manual reply naive people ..

  21. Well I play a guitar and bass, a little piano and some percussion, not brilliantly i might add but enough to write songs with, I have the knowledge and capability to produce ‘real acoustic music’ should I wish too … but I don’t. I take the songs I write on a guitar and program it note for note into a sequencer, add the bass, other instrumentation and drums.
    Next time someone moans at you that electronic musicians have no talent ask them if they think Beethoven or Mozart had talent and then explain to them that all the great classical composers wrote notation ie real music on paper?? and this notation is just instructions for musicians to play. Electronic music is no different, it is another form of notation designed to be played by a machine that is all and if you convert it to a midi file and use Sibelius you can produce notation of that music then give it to the musician and ask him to play it … 90% of those people who ‘condemn’ electronic music will not read notation (I promise you) and will not be able to play it (good drummers will be the exception).
    To emphasis the point then ask the musician if he would care to take the time and trouble to write his best song in notation or if he wishes use a sequencer and you will quickly learn that most ‘musicians’ do not know what chords they are playing, do not even know what key they are in and could not communicate the rhythm without tapping it out and singing it at the same time, ie they really don’t know what they are doing, then they will be really offended at you and say they write from the heart or something like that … but the truth is they really don’t know anything about music, which is a shame because anyone can write a really good song with nothing more than 3 chords (cliqued but true) but coming up with a new or original backing/orchestration or soundscape to go with the 3 chords is a real talent that most musicians do not have.
    The computer is an instrument like any other, it’s just learning how to play it … and I hate techno, hip-hop, dance and most other modern music produced by synths or computers, which is usually the music they are referring to. I write avante garde electronica, classical and ‘acoustic’ rock/folk music on my computer and I would dare them to say that I have no talent. Yours is a good argument don’t let the bastards get you down :)

  22. You’re not a real nigga until you listen to Dave Tipper. Possibly the most tallented electric musician on this planet. Check out Bubble Control EP, Puzzle Dust, the soon to come Shatter Box EP, and of course The Broken Soun Jamboure Album which took him 4 years to complete. He is the only musician I know of who plays a variety of genres, yet is able to keep distinct signiture sounds in every track. Check out how his style has evolved from the very late 90′s to present.

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Hi! I'm Dave from boyinaband.com and welcome to the site!

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