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Your thoughts on why some music is good?

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NAS
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I feel quite comfortable with analyzing why reading certain books (Atlas Shrugged, et al) make me emotionally feel good. I'm getting better at analyzing why visual arts (David) give me a sense of magnificence. I'm stuck on analyzing music, closing my eyes and listening to the Forth Movement of Beethoven’s 9th on earphones (blocking everything else out) is one of the most joyous experiences I can have, it just makes me feel GREAT. I'm stuck on analyzing why. Can someone explain how to examine the subject (metaphysics) and form (epistemology) of (non vocal) music.

-- NAS

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  • 1 month later...
I feel quite comfortable with analyzing why reading certain books (Atlas Shrugged, et al) make me emotionally feel good. I'm getting better at analyzing why visual arts (David) give me a sense of magnificence. I'm stuck on analyzing music, closing my eyes and listening to the Forth Movement of Beethoven’s 9th on earphones (blocking everything else out) is one of the most joyous experiences I can have, it just makes me feel GREAT. I'm stuck on analyzing why. Can someone explain how to examine the subject (metaphysics) and form (epistemology) of (non vocal) music.

-- NAS

If you've ever taken any classes in Music Theory or played musical instruments (I don't mean highschool band either, although it certainly is a step) You will absolutely take your views of objectivism over to music, it makes for a unique experience.

If you are someone who studies and enjoys music as much as you do objectivism I would suggest beginning to understand Jazz and Fusion. The music will explain itself if you give it a try.

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If you are someone who studies and enjoys music as much as you do objectivism I would suggest beginning to understand Jazz and Fusion. The music will explain itself if you give it a try.

I don't know what you mean by "objectivism" (How does it differ from Objectivism, the philosophy that Ayn Rand created?), but I am intrigued by your suggestions. In particular, I am curious about how trying to "understand Jazz" will cause Jazz to "explain itself."

Would you elaborate? How does an art -- any art -- "explain itself"?

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Can someone explain how to examine the subject (metaphysics) and form (epistemology) of (non vocal) music.

-- NAS

There is a thread in Aesthetics related to this topic right here. I tried to address the problem explaining basic musical principles as if to a novice on the subject. I even included some musical examples that coincidentally use Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" theme from the Finale of the Ninth.

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  • 1 month later...
I feel quite comfortable with analyzing why reading certain books (Atlas Shrugged, et al) make me emotionally feel good. I'm getting better at analyzing why visual arts (David) give me a sense of magnificence. I'm stuck on analyzing music, closing my eyes and listening to the Forth Movement of Beethoven’s 9th on earphones (blocking everything else out) is one of the most joyous experiences I can have, it just makes me feel GREAT. I'm stuck on analyzing why. Can someone explain how to examine the subject (metaphysics) and form (epistemology) of (non vocal) music.

-- NAS

Unlike you, I'm fairly stuck on analyzing visual arts, but I'm quite comfortable analyzing music. Here's how I judge music:

There are two parts:

1. Mathematics

2. Philosophy

1. Mathematics is the structural foundation of music (frequencies, tempo, etc.). Everything is based on ratios - even the melody (as it relates to frequencies). See this post for more detail: http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...ndpost&p=102562 (ignore my attempt at playing "devil's" advocate at the end)

2. Philosophy affects what mathematical parts are used and how such components are arranged. What you value in life will (or should) determine what you appreciate in music. You may, for instance, value the latest technological advances which produce the highest possible sound quality (Royksopp) over a live recording of an acoustic guitar on an 8 track (Nick Drake), or visa versa (philosophically speaking, I generally relate the former to reason and the latter to emotion). You may also, for instance, value a well organized, thoughtful arrangement of the mathematical musical parts (Interpol) or you may value a less-structured, improvised, in-the-moment-interplay of instruments (Phish). Or some kind of mixture of the different philosophical aspects.

I personally value Royksopp over Nick Drake and Interpol over Phish, but I think there are qualities to be admired in all 4 bands/musicians. And just because I appreciate the now over past with regards to instrumentation and thoughtful organization over less-structured improvisation doesn't mean I can't respect the potential older bands reached with the instrumentation they had access to at the time or the talent / musical knowledge needed to acheive a less-structured improvisation (jazz, for instance). I'm also very aware that certain acheivements in instrumentation and thoughtful organization would not be possible without the contributions of the musical past. Moreover, there are new ways to record and produce old sounds, so it's not cut and dry and it can take a lot of analysis. And then there's bands like Creed and Nickelback which is as musically corrupt (rerererererecycled chord progressions, cheap, cheap, cheap) as empirical idealism is philosophically corrupt.

I'd take Interpol in good headphones over the television any day.

Edited by NewYorkRoark
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And then there's bands like Creed and Nickelback which is as musically corrupt (rerererererecycled chord progressions, cheap, cheap, cheap) as empirical idealism is philosophically corrupt.

I have three initial questions, as I'm not sure what you mean here by some things. I will be happy to add my comments after these issues are clarified.

1. Does "which is as musically corrupt . . . " pertain to Nickelback (as the use of the singular would suggest), to Nickelback and Creed (the two specific bands you named), or to "bands like Creed and Nickelback" (subsuming those specific bands and those like them)? If it's "bands like," could you elaborate on which bands or styles you consider to be like those?

2. What should I infer from your mentioning of "re . . . cycled chord progressions"? I assume that is part of the reason for your assessment of musical corruption. Is that the only reason, the primary reason, or a reason? If not the only reason, could you elaborate, even if only by an approximation, as to how much weight you assign to that factor?

3. Does "cheap" refer to the chord progressions, or is that a general description of some other factor(s)? Whichever it refers to, what do you mean by that word?

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I have three initial questions, as I'm not sure what you mean here by some things. I will be happy to add my comments after these issues are clarified.

1. Does "which is as musically corrupt . . . " pertain to Nickelback (as the use of the singular would suggest), to Nickelback and Creed (the two specific bands you named), or to "bands like Creed and Nickelback" (subsuming those specific bands and those like them)? If it's "bands like," could you elaborate on which bands or styles you consider to be like those?

2. What should I infer from your mentioning of "re . . . cycled chord progressions"? I assume that is part of the reason for your assessment of musical corruption. Is that the only reason, the primary reason, or a reason? If not the only reason, could you elaborate, even if only by an approximation, as to how much weight you assign to that factor?

3. Does "cheap" refer to the chord progressions, or is that a general description of some other factor(s)? Whichever it refers to, what do you mean by that word?

1. I think Nickelback and Creed are musically corrupt as are bands like Nickelback and Creed (I can't think of many of them at the moment, how about Hoobastank?). If you give me some names of bands and links to songs (to critique) it would be easier.

2. A recycled chord progression can be a reason for musical corruption. It depends on how it is recycled. For instance, I could go study decades of music and then pick a folk progression that represents something I value, make specific alterations to intentionally make the song sound brighter or more powerful or what have you, and then use modern instruments and advancements in technology to create a different tambor, thus producing the sound and a song that I'm intentionally looking to acheive - an intention that is based on my philosophy. Or I could just vomit out a G, D, E minor, C chord progression (because it's simple, safe, easy to work with, and everyone will think it sounds good), create a major scale melody, practice singing like Eddie Vedder and write about common social issues.

3. Apologies, I use the word "cheap" as an expression. To me, it describes something as thoughtless. For instance, someone who's primary form of humor is repeating lines from movies can be "cheap" because they have no sense of creativity and thus cannot create a joke (it may not be cheap if the application of that line (ie. the timing) is clever or well thought out).

Note: I'd like to draw a distinction between the music produced by Nickelback and Creed and the production of the music. The nice thing about pop music is that there is (usually) terrific production quality. The problem with pop music, on the other hand, is that major record labels need songs that are as generic as possible, so that they are able to stuff as much as they can down the general public's throat (so that as many people as possible can identify with that song). But there is terrific production quality in a lot of music these days and I think it's far better to find music that is expertly created and well-produced.

Here's a list of songs that I believe to be expertly created and well-produced (and not "Pop"):

Royksopp, "Sombre Detune"

Junior Boys, "Birthday"

Interpol, "Take You On A Cruise"

Kings of Convenience, "I'd Rather Dance With You"

Prefuse 73, "Storm Returns"

Kenna, "Hellbent"

Here's a list of songs that I believe to be expertly created and well-produced but have a generic sponsor for the purpose of mass-appeal:

Brittney Spears, "Toxic"

Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone"

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NAS,

In addition to JMeganSnow's recommendation of Rand's The Romantic Manifesto, I'd like to recommend another book that would shed some light on how people understand music:

Music, the Brain, and Ecstacy, by Robert Jourdain

He discusses physiology, musical mechanics, music theory, perception, and a host of other musical issues, and it's quite thorough. The nice thing is that it's not too advanced for non-musicians, ie you don't need to have musical training to grasp his concepts. It's not an integrated philosophy of musical esthetics, but it's fact-based, scientific, and introduces no prejudices regarding musical taste.

I haven't read it in a while, so I do not remember if there's any objectionable commentary in the book, but I do remember enjoying it greatly, and wishing it had been written (and I had read it) before I studied music in college. It certainly inspired me to pull out some of my old study materials ...

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1. I think Nickelback and Creed are musically corrupt as are bands like Nickelback and Creed (I can't think of many of them at the moment, how about Hoobastank?). If you give me some names of bands and links to songs (to critique) it would be easier.

Nickelback and Hoobastank are hit or miss for me. Creed is all miss.

With Nickelback, I like the "size" of their sound, particularly in the interaction between the bass and the kick drum. It sounds "big" to me. In the realm of songwriting, I like how the writer (Chad Kroeger, I assume) sometimes creates the feeling of a long chorus. Two examples are "Someday" and "How You Remind Me." Contrast that with that "She F-in Hates Me" (the one that ripped off Anthrax, IIRC), which just sounds to me like a chorus of two bar phrases thrown together.

Much of the enjoyment I get from listening to songs comes from the production. I rarely dwell on the lyrics. However, Nickelback's "Figured You Out" is so on the far end of the repulsive lyric scale that I can't even enjoy the big sound.

I've got other thoughts about all three of these groups, as well as others, but I'll consider them another time. The purpose of my question wasn't to get your evaluation of a specific band. What I meant to do was explore my curiousity about what you mean by "musically corrupt." Many areas of musical analysis are still in the realm of the subjective for me, so when someone uses an objective term like that one I like to find out what they mean to see if my knowledge base might be expanded.

2. A recycled chord progression can be a reason for musical corruption. It depends on how it is recycled. . . .
I don't understand this paragraph.

3. Apologies, I use the word "cheap" as an expression. To me, it describes something as thoughtless. For instance, someone who's primary form of humor is repeating lines from movies can be "cheap" because they have no sense of creativity and thus cannot create a joke (it may not be cheap if the application of that line (ie. the timing) is clever or well thought out).

No apology necessary. As with "musical corruption," I was and am interested in exploring what you mean by this term. I appreciate the description you have offered thus far.

The nice thing about pop music is that there is (usually) terrific production quality. The problem with pop music, on the other hand, is that major record labels need songs that are as generic as possible, so that they are able to stuff as much as they can down the general public's throat (so that as many people as possible can identify with that song).
I love the production quality, and am doing what I can to learn more about it and do that with my band's material (which will soon be available). I don't know that major labels need generic material, though, so much as that's what they get. One of the things that we're trying to do is take those aspects of the modern rock style that we like (the production in particular), and write songs with more interesting lyrical and harmonic material. Rungs on a ladder.

Brittney Spears, "Toxic"

Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone"

We agree on these. These two songs are among my favorites in the last couple years in the genre of female pop solo artists. The production in "Since . . . " is especially cool.

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And, somewhat strangely, I have, virtually, no focus on production. My major focus is on musicianship and lyrics (usually the flow between the two). I appreciate good production, but it's not required (although, we may be working with different ideas of production). Unfortunately, in my mind, production cannot make a good song out of either of the two you listed.

Groovenstein-

"Contrast that with that "She F-in Hates Me" (the one that ripped off Anthrax, IIRC), which just sounds to me like a chorus of two bar phrases thrown together."

Isn't "She F'n Hates Me" by Puddle of Mudd and not Nickelback or am I thinking of a different song by the same name?

There is some music, though, that I just listen to because it's fun (nickelback being one of them). I'm in the process of putting together a "Dirty Rock" CD for my wife using songs like "Closer (NIN)," "Figured You Out (Nickelback)," "You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC)," and a few others that I can't think of at the moment. Maybe it's my imagination, but I don't think we're meant to read into those lyrics too much. Contrast that to Rush ("Cold Fire" in particular) where the lyrics have much deeper meaning (and better musicianship). Granted, I'll always take a Rush, King Crimson, Yes, or Mahavishnu Orchestra first, but they're not always as fun as that stuff that is good for, well, I'll just say, background music... :ninja:

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Isn't "She F'n Hates Me" by Puddle of Mudd and not Nickelback or am I thinking of a different song by the same name?

Yes, it is Puddle of Mudd. I looked back over the paragraph in which I wrote that and I see how you would have thought I was suggesting that it was Nickelback. I must pay closer attention to my word choice.

There is some music, though, that I just listen to because it's fun (nickelback being one of them).

I have a similar thing, in that there is some music I listen to almost exclusively for the "energy." An example is Disturbed's "The Sickness" (though I always either cringe or turn the volume down through that atrocious bridge).

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Yes, it is Puddle of Mudd. I looked back over the paragraph in which I wrote that and I see how you would have thought I was suggesting that it was Nickelback. I must pay closer attention to my word choice.

I have a similar thing, in that there is some music I listen to almost exclusively for the "energy." An example is Disturbed's "The Sickness" (though I always either cringe or turn the volume down through that atrocious bridge).

Groovenstein, if I could recommend to you one CD that I think you'd really enjoy, I would recommend "Clarity" by Jimmy Eat World. I believe it's their 3rd album and it's produced by Mark Trombino (who's done a ton of stuff) and Jim Adkins (of Jimmy Eat World). Also try the songs "Ramina" and "Spangle" (both of which are only produced by Jim Adkins). It's a perfect blend of musicianship, production, knowledge, creativity and raw talent. Unfortunately, their last CD really sank into the depths of mediocre pop standards, but "Clarity" is an absolute gem of an album. Listen to the final 5 minutes of "Goodbye Sky Harbor" and If you've ever read "A Prayer for Owen Meany" - it's not an Objectivist book by any means but it is rather clever - the song will be all the more thoughtful.

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music makes you think....

Unlike alot of other mediums, since it only appeals to one of our senses (hearing) it really sets the mind ticking. Music, for me has provided a getaway, something to endulge yourself in, to achieve a separation from all other things. Not all music is 'good', intrinsically speaking or not. But it seems that good music, is an outward expression of captured thoughts, feelings, and emotions straight from a free and inspired mind.

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Groovenstein, if I could recommend to you one CD that I think you'd really enjoy, I would recommend "Clarity" by Jimmy Eat World. I believe it's their 3rd album and it's produced by Mark Trombino (who's done a ton of stuff) and Jim Adkins (of Jimmy Eat World). Also try the songs "Ramina" and "Spangle" (both of which are only produced by Jim Adkins). It's a perfect blend of musicianship, production, knowledge, creativity and raw talent. Unfortunately, their last CD really sank into the depths of mediocre pop standards, but "Clarity" is an absolute gem of an album. Listen to the final 5 minutes of "Goodbye Sky Harbor" and If you've ever read "A Prayer for Owen Meany" - it's not an Objectivist book by any means but it is rather clever - the song will be all the more thoughtful.

Another band I like, but I can't speak for their musicianship. The drumming is quite plain, and frankly not that good. Decent lyrics and nice poppy sound, though.

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  • 1 month later...
And then there's bands like Creed and Nickelback which is as musically corrupt (rerererererecycled chord progressions, cheap, cheap, cheap) as empirical idealism is philosophically corrupt.

After reading your analysis of how you yourself analyse music, coupled with reading this statement, I just had to post.

Yes, I am a musician of 12 years and play both keyboard and guitar. Chord progressions are only a PART of what makes music what it is. On a side note its important how a chord progression is used, how the musician/composer paces the song by this, this is part of what does or doesn't make a chord progression work.

Being able to play a load of extended chords with no real sense of musicianship, in terms of playing ability, means absolutely nothing. On the other hand you can take a fairly obvious chord progression and put very strong riff's and melodies over the top of it and make a great song or piece of music. A strong sense of melody and good scale knowledge/ ability to use scales with personal timing to create music that has a strong element of composition to it, this is a very important part of music.

I read your creed and nickelback comments, and I must say although you have a point on nickelback, to say Creed's music as a whole is corrupt (My own prison, Human clay) is way off the mark.

The guitarist uses a fairly regular chord progression often, too often, but his ability to write effective riff's and melodies from using harmonic minor scales to using a middle-eastern sounding scale of even the plain old major scale, along with the ability to construct melodic songs that are very, very well paced abd build as they chug along is an ability in itself. That sort of musical intelligence with regards to the use of various scales is a large part of what makes a good composer.

I live in the U.K so haven't been subjected to hearing creed all of the time like a lot of you guys from the U.S, I have rarely had to endure the horrible videos they have put out, and as a result, feel I can listen a little more objectively.

You can give a good songwriter a ubiquitous 4 chord progression and if he has strong composition skills, he will use riff's, vocal melody,etc, to compose a piece of music that has its own personality.

Edited by marko_25
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I agree with marko 25. If songs with "recycled" chord structures were deemed morally corrupt, you'd have to reject the blues and a lot of jazz. The blues has ONLY one progression (I-IV-V) and jazz composers frequently use and insert the ii-V7-I progression into their sheets.

No, I agree. But I'd just like to point out that I did address this issue:

2. A recycled chord progression can be a reason for musical corruption. It depends on how it is recycled.

To give an extreme, when I say "recycled chord progression" I'm thinking something along the lines of a pop-punk song. 4:4, G, D, Em, C, etc.

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No, I agree. But I'd just like to point out that I did address this issue:

To give an extreme, when I say "recycled chord progression" I'm thinking something along the lines of a pop-punk song. 4:4, G, D, Em, C, etc.

Yes but this is exactly the point, a song in 4:4 with the main chord structure of G, D, Em, C could be made into a great song by someone who had real musical ability. It seems to me that you are saying these 2 elements combined make something musically corrupt.

For example a 10 year old who has just picked up a guitar could chop these chords with no rhythm atall, whereas a really good guitar player would be able to subtely(sp?) strum the chords with skill to set up an atmosphere, hence directing the course and tempo of the song. On top of this they can/will often come up with brilliant instrumental work, including strong riff's or melody lines using their technical talent in terms of freely and skillfully using scales to create this, including subtle timing between notes, which notes are played when, etc. (although most pop-punk bands are awful I agree).

Then also we have the vocal melody, in terms of notes used, in which order, which notes are held, which are more staccato etc.

I do understand your point, I mean honestly to me a band like simple plan is extremely awful. However take the guitar work of slash, especially in the fantastic opening riff to guns'n'roses sweet child of mine. The chords used behind this riff are basically D, C and G. However the timing of the strumming of these chords sets up the song, but most of all, the beautiful riff placed over the top, along with good bass work, show real ability and a talent for creating melody.

What I'm saying is that 4:4 timing in itself, or a common chord progression, can be the basis of a great song from very talented musicians. Granted the progression in itself is very worn, but having both of these elements in a song does not in the slightest make it musically redundant, however if what you put over the top of this is dreadful, then of course it will be bad.

Edited by marko_25
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I agree with all of this. I'm just not being explicit enough I geuss. I'm not saying that any music with that chord progression is corrupt or any music in 4:4. But I am saying that those are some basic musical follies (for instance, [yes, exactly] Simple Plan). It's the talent and the application and they can be celebrated together or separately, but since we're speaking of a creative art (vision + craftsmanship), I believe that the application (the thought process) is extremely important. I can play power chords and make a song that sounds powerful, epic and rocks, but that song has rocked before and 100 times over and at this point, it's talent, but it's also bad art, unless maybe if that's the whole point (early punk, which I don't really listen to but has it's creative merits).

Edited by NewYorkRoark
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A great example of a band that often uses simple chord progressions and melodies and puts them together brilliantly is Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. "Big Country", "The Sinister Minister", and "Sunset Road" come to mind as relatively simple songs (harmonically and melodically) with genius execution. Another is "Joe's Journey" off of one of Vic Wooten's solo records "Yin Yang". I've had the pleasure of seeing Vic live, and I've also listened to several of his Flecktones and solo records. The man epitomizes taking tiny little hooks and phrases and developing them to amazing levels.

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A great example of a band that often uses simple chord progressions and melodies and puts them together brilliantly <snip> "Big Country"<snip>

I agree about Big Country. Sometimes the simple chords are the hardest to execute well. It's like a hamburger. Anybody can make one, but to make a good, no, a really good hamburger takes skill. That is one of the things I like about playing a ukulele. It's a deceptively simple instrument. Anyone can learn to play a passable ukulele in just a few hours, but to be good at it takes a whole lot of practice. The same is true for the trombone. Alot of people who use instruments like woodwinds or keyboards looked down on us since all we had was a single slide. Problem is, really subtle positioning of the slide makes a real differnece in pitch and tone as well as tounging. Plus you have the ability to "bend"notes unlike any other instrument for the most part.

The first time I saw a synthesizer in the 80's that had a wheel to play with the pitch blew me away. It is so similar to what trombes do.

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I agree with all of this. I'm just not being explicit enough I geuss. I'm not saying that any music with that chord progression is corrupt or any music in 4:4. But I am saying that those are some basic musical follies (for instance, [yes, exactly] Simple Plan). It's the talent and the application and they can be celebrated together or separately, but since we're speaking of a creative art (vision + craftsmanship), I believe that the application (the thought process) is extremely important. I can play power chords and make a song that sounds powerful, epic and rocks, but that song has rocked before and 100 times over and at this point, it's talent, but it's also bad art, unless maybe if that's the whole point (early punk, which I don't really listen to but has it's creative merits).

Yeh I do agree with you, like you said we could both play 3 or 4 simple powerchords using our basic knowledge with a strong sense of timing the playing of the chords to create an epic sound. My point is that when you start applying your own well constructed riff's, strong but subtle vocal melodies and perhaps well written lyrics, that's showing the artistic side with what can, on paper, be a very generic looking piece of music.

Anyway I think we really are in agreement for the most part, it's just hard to always get meaning across using the written word.

As for the comments on big country, well in terms of country music in general, it would be very easy to dismiss. I used to work with a guy that played country cd's all the time (this is in the U.K!) and so many of the songs followed the same pattern, however redeemed themselves with a strong sense of melody and timing. I'm not a country fan though I must admit.

Edited by marko_25
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A great example of a band that often uses simple chord progressions and melodies and puts them together brilliantly is Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. "Big Country", "The Sinister Minister", and "Sunset Road" come to mind as relatively simple songs (harmonically and melodically) with genius execution.

I was referring to the song "Big Country" by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Sorry for the confusion. I can see how that was not totally clear.

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I was referring to the song "Big Country" by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Sorry for the confusion. I can see how that was not totally clear.

True, there was the 1 hit wonder Big Country by The Big Country but the Bela Fleck song is pretty nice. Anyone who incorporates kettle drums and soprano sax makes it work is nice. Though I've always been partial to bluegrass. Of course, I always thought of Bela Fleck as a bluegrass Rippingtons.

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