How Simple Sounding Music Can Actually Be More Complex Than You Originally Thought

I came up with this article while having an imaginary argument (based on a real argument) in my head.

No, I'm not insane. I just happen to think...every once in a while.

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The Idea

We have all heard the phrase "sometimes the simple things are the best", and although some may argue that this applies in music, I will disagree.

Of course, now you will think me as one of those "Every song I listen to has to be incredibly complex with crazy time signatures and psychedelic everything" type of guys. That's completely wrong (although I still love that stuff).

The point that I'm making is that every actual incredible song you have ever heard, no matter how simple you may think it is, actually has a large amount of hidden complexity that you cannot see/hear.

Take note that I said "incredible". I did not say catchy, or makes you feel good.

What I mean, is that incredible music is complex, or at least had a lot of thought go into it (but not all complex music is incredible).

An Example

Let's take for example the 1 note solo. Perhaps you have heard of this, where throughout an entire solo, an artist (this became famous in Jazz piano) waits for the most opportune time in his solo, and then hits a single note.

Now I ask you, can you hit a note on the piano?

It seems pretty simple to me. But in reality, it is a complex feature in music.

The artist waits...and plans, and finds out what the perfect note, the rhythm, and the duration to play it in.

Yes, anyone can play a single note. But to do it truly well and amazing...well that is complex, and takes talent.

How this applies to you.

I want you to take a look at the band Grizzly Bear.

It's a band that seems to be simple...at a glance, but in reality is very complex. Look at the video below.

Grizzly Bear - While You Wait For The Others

Now that doesn't seem too complex, does it? But I'll bet if you were to listen to that (or the entire Veckatimest album for that matter) you would slowly realize how incredible the music is.

Now listen to something that is equally complex, but in a much different way.

Hella - The Ungrateful Dead

Now if you were to truthfully ask yourself, "Which song did I think was more complex", what would your answer be?

You would probably say the second one.

In reality, I believe that both those songs are equally complex, but in a different way.

The Point

Just because music sounds simple, doesn't mean it is. It has simply taken a simple, accessible approach. Just because a song is full of complex, fast, hard-hitting rhythms, doesn't make it a masterpiece either.

There's a certain amount of emotion and genuity that goes into music that makes it special, and artists who are really able to throw themselves into their music, and think critically about their music and their lives, are the ones that write amazing songs.

Breaking a song down into rhythms, notes, modes, and scales is not how you determine how "good" music is.

Because "how good music is" doesn't depend on those things, it really comes down to whether or not you have similar views on life, music, philosophy, sense of humor, and beliefs (among other things) as the artist .

Those involved in the underground music scene, are not interested in what Taylor Swift has to offer, because she writes about things that are uninteresting to them. She is completely entrenched in a music scene that is covered in greed and corporate interruption.

Combine all of those things with her life experiences and her views of music, and it makes complete sense that someone in the underground scene would be uninterested.

Of course, that doesn't make her music completely invalid (although it is for those people).

Do you see how silly it would be to try and deconstruct her music into notes and rhythms, when in reality there are many more philosophies at work causing this instant dislike?

We don't like rhythms or notes, we like people.

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About The Writer

My name is Andrew Muller. I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story.

If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O'neils home cooking eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham.

Among my friends, it's a "Muller Classic Move" to eat Mcdonald's at 2am because it's cheap and open 24/7. The joke here is that I'm an idiot. 

I play drums, guitar, piano, and I write & perform music for My Goal Is Telepathy. Take a listen to the latest sound here.