Mar 27



A commentary about snobbery among musicians.

My favorite line in the original Blues Brothers movie is: “There are only 2 types of music…Country and Western.”
When I was a music student in South Africa, my lecturer’s favorite quote was “There are only 2 types of music ..Good music and bad music.” It’s funny that the lecturers that said this the most were the biggest Bebop snobs I’ve ever met. The lecturer I had the most respect for preferred to say “I don’t mind what music I play, as long as I play it well.”
I’m sure you will agree with me – a far healthier attitude when you need to pay the bills.

When you are a professional musician, the object of the exercise is to pay the bills from your craft. The key is to find your niche, whether that is jazz,opera, orchestral, hip hop, country, blues or film music, jingles, session work or teaching. Work hard at what you do. If you can cross over between genres that’s bonus.

Whatever your niche is find the integrity in what you are doing. I’m an Hotel musician specialising in entertaining International audiences. I have had fellow entertainers say to me “Patrick how on earth can you use backing tracks?” – as though I’m the lowest of the low. Well its quite simple. I have a family to feed. The venues cannot afford to pay a band anymore, and I cannot afford the instability of working with a band when there are arguments and unreliable members. So I have had to find integrity in using a backing track. I use custom tracks that are using live instruments. It doesn’t mean I have sold out to the devil. It doesn’t mean I have forgotten my craft. There have been nights when there has been a power failure, and I’ve done the night with just acoustic guitar and voice. What it does mean is that I am out working when the other musicians are not. No time for snobbery in this situation.

Those of you who enjoy the music of Kenny G and have listened to his music on YouTube will also have noticed some of the comments below the videos. There was a simple minded person who spent his life finding every Kenny G video, and making the most hateful comments about the music and the man. Also informing everybody that this wasn’t jazz (who said it was?) He took great delight in targeting anybody who left a positive comment about the music, calling them stupid and far worse.
One day a comment was left for him by a sax player, who led a 5 piece Kenny G tribute band. This sax player was working 5 nights a week doing the tribute show, and the whole band was on top money. Or he could do 2 gigs a week with a bebop band (Bebop is what he had studied and was his passion) at 1/10 of the money per night. No time for snobbery in this situation.

In the music education field there can be a snobbery that you need a Classical foundation. In this day and age the discipline in technique, theory ear training and hours of study is just as great in the Jazz field. Even in the Rock field the MIT courses are offering just as much structure, discipline and foundation as a Classical School

I too have been guilty of being a musical snob. In my twenties I was leading a 3 piece original band. I was very snobbish about the live bit, and about not doing covers. It was very easy to be a snob when I was living with Mommy and Daddy.

Like many instrumental musicians I have made comments about Hip Hop music particulary Rap with comments like “That shouldn’t be called Rap, but rather Crap.”
My apologies to all Hip hop/Rap musicians. I now realise most Rappers have a far more developed sense of rhythm than I have.

To have personal preference about style of music is normal and healthy. If you have studied music, and are able to earn a living as a performer in the style which you studied, and are passionate about, I lift my hat to you in respect.
If you have found your niche in another branch of music, work hard at constantly refining your craft, and have found integrity, once again I lift my hat to you with respect

Subject: Snobbery in music.

Tags. jazz, county, classical, Hip Hop.Integrity ,backing tracks, music education, respect,sax,Kenn G.,earning a living

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1 comment

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  1. Rob 'Windstrel' Watson

    You are absolutel right SaxAxeMan about music being good or bad but I would also add that ultimately it is about whether the performance entertains or not.

    I remember playing for an evening in a pub at the tail end of the Priddy Music Festival in the Mendip Hills of the UK, with a banjo player who strummed his way through the evening, chatted and joked with the audience all the time and they loved him. I just added a bit of musical backing to his banter on my soprano sax and let him lead the way so it was all fairly easy for me. He was the lead guy.

    As they all left at the end of the evening, almost all of them came up to him and said thankyou for a great evening.

    When they had left, he turned to me and said

    ‘You know, Rob, you may think I’m not much of a musician. I can’t sing very well and I’m no expert at he banjo …’

    I smiled and I finished the line for him:

    ‘but you are a performer and a jolly good one …’

    He smiled in recognition of what I had said and added with pride ‘Yup! It’s all about entertaining an audience’!

    When I decided to become a busker after retiring from a lifetime of doing a ‘proper job’, I quickly learned that building a relationship with my audience was essential.

    Eye contact, a ready smile, a silly hat, children’s tunes when youngsters walk past and lots of other little things that make the space around me a more pleasant place to spend time turns my music into a performance that helps to please the passing public and brings me, not only reasonable tips, but also the personal appreciation that makes it all worth while.

    It sounds as if you have a great raport with your audiences, especially as they are making up poems for you, which is probably, in addition to your music , the reason why they keep inviting you back :-)


    […] an earlier blog THERE ARE 2 TYPES OF MUSIC: GOOD MUSIC AND BAD MUSIC. I touched on the subject of backing tracks. In this blog I would like to expand on the […]

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