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Dear Musician - They Don't Make Music like They Once Did

We know you’ve heard that before…


by Dendy Jarrett




This scenario plays out all over the world every day: teenager listens to music and adult says, “They don’t make music like they once did.”

It probably happened to you, and you can probably relate.


I remember when it happened to me and I thought, “That’s crazy.” Could my parents be so out of touch that they preferred Chubby Checker to the Doobie Brothers? But that’s the music to which they related.


People can be funny about their music. Some stay very boxed into one genre, while others like music across the board. And tastes vary within genres. Some jazz listeners only listen to Miles Davis, while others like all jazz.


I believe this notion of music "not being like it once was" is because, for many, the music in their life time-line represents definitive lines of demarcation for specific events, times, places, or people. Some songs may represent a loved one lost. Some music may represent a loved one who has passed.


The truth is that it’s all the same chords, chord structure, phrasing, and dynamics. They are arranged differently. Even with today’s technology, the instruments we hear in music remain much the same as they were 50 and 60 years ago. Sure there are different technological advances that allow us to capture the music and re-broadcast, but the instruments and music theory remain the same.


Why did I choose this subject to write this Dear Musician about? Well, my 10-year-old daughter approached me this past week and asked me to tell her about Stevie Wonder. It reminded me that I’m not doing my job very well. I (try to) listen to her music on the Disney Radio and often think that “they don’t make music like the once did,” but I’ve tried to be careful not to vocalize that. And here she was...showing interest in “my” music.


I believe as musicians we relate better to humans when we try the “across all genres” approach to music appreciation. From Sinatra to 21 Pilots, we should be somewhat familiar with artists from days gone by, as well as those who are relevant today.


So, when you feel the urge as you grow older to say, “They don’t make music like they once did,” stop yourself and keep an open mind about all music.


In doing so, we’re better informed to inspire others to make better music.  - HC -


PS: I'm off to explain the virtues of Stevie Wonder as I inspire my daughter!




Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Executive Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.


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Voltan  |  November 12, 2018 at 6:38 am
perspective...    life is as hard or as simple as we make it. “genre”...  another label devised to divide things that need no separation.   there are simply two types of music, that which is found to be pleasing to the listener and “everything else.”  and in truth, music that is not in the favorites category can be appreciated and learned from just the same.   that said, dont limit your listening/learning to western scales, composition and timings...  there is literally a whole world of unique influences from which to draw upon,  allowing any faithful student an opportunity to create a truly individual approach to sculpting sound...as such, nothing much has changed excepting for the items with which we cause the air to vibrate...  one of our oldest instruments, the voice,  is pretty much the same as it was way back when, so in some respects we are still making music precisely the same as we did from day one...   
GordonK  |  November 05, 2018 at 6:11 pm
Actually, "they" *don't* make music like they used to.  For one thing, auto-tuning is the worst thing that ever happened to recorded music.  It squeezes out all the subtle pitch variations that convey emotion.

But it's so much more--and worse--than that.  Pop songs used to have some structural variation.  I've never been a big BeeGees  fan, but they were masters at crafting songs with verses, pre-chorus, and chorus.  Staying Alive is a great example, and there were so many others.  Or consider John Lennon's Happiness is a Warm Gun.  A musicologist would consider this an "art song" that moves from one section to the next, with no repeating verses, choruses, etc.  Any of the pop stuff by Katy Perry or Lady Gaga has none of this complexity.  The typical approach is a groove with three or four chords--for both verses and chorus.  Often the melody is the same as well.  This stuff isn't offensive; it's a crashing bore.

It also seems that with the domination of the music delivery systems by corporate entities there is little chance that anything political is going to make it past the gatekeepers.  If you want some airplay, you'd better make damn sure your song has no social relevance.

I could go on.  There's plenty of great music being made, of course, in all genres.  But you're not likely to hear any of it on commercial radio.
Jazzbo27  |  November 05, 2018 at 4:30 pm
There's still a lot of interest in the creative music explosion of the 60's and later.  Good music is still good music after you pierce the pop music over production veil.  There's also a phenomena noted by a few psychologists where we tend to latch on to the music of our teens, whenever that was.   The old fogey complaining about today's music is missing the music that he or she grew up on.  
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