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Old 11-16-2012, 01:49 PM   #1
macashmack
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What constitutes an instrumental Virtuoso?

I am wondering what a player of an instrument has to do to be a virtuoso? It seems that the term is just used to describe almost anyone that an individual likes. For example, I hear some people calling Eric Clapton a virtuoso. I like him, a lot actually, but could he really be considered a virtuoso when put against guys like Wes, or Vai, or what have you? Or cross genre-ing (its a word now) could you compare him to John Coltrane or Cannonball Adderley?

Im not trying to diminish Clapton, he was just the example. But what is the "bar" so to speak that one needs to pass as an instrumentalist before (s)he can be considered a virtuoso? More specifically, whats your standard?
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Old 11-16-2012, 02:03 PM   #2
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It just means someone is good. I probably wouldn't say Clapton is one, but I wouldn't deny it either. He's good and influential and stuff, but I feel like his guitar parts only really hit me every now and again.

I think generally being a virtuoso is just based off technical skill, but it could also definitely apply to someone who just completely knows what they're doing and how to get what they want to get. Like John Frusciante, he's not a crazy shredder, but when he wants to get something across in a song, he gets it across.
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Old 11-16-2012, 02:04 PM   #3
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the word has become extremely watered down in its modern context, IMO.

as such, i prefer not to worry about labels like that and just spend the time bettering my abilities.
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Old 11-16-2012, 02:06 PM   #4
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Virtuoso is a pretty loose term but it's generally applied to players whose technical prowess is far above that of the average or even professional player. While Clapton, for example is a good player for sure I wouldn't call him a virtuoso since most decently accomplished guitarists can copy his licks. Leaving the guitar world, Paganini and Liszt are both examples of true virtuosity, playing and writing extraordinarily difficult pieces for the sake of the difficulty.
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Old 11-16-2012, 02:19 PM   #5
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Old 11-16-2012, 02:51 PM   #6
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If we're going just by technical skill, I'll change my definition to

Virtuoso:someone you respect for their ability but don't actually enjoy listening to.
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Old 11-16-2012, 03:29 PM   #7
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Wasn't there a big thing on this, where someone figured out that ten thousand hours of structured practice should make you a virtuoso?

I remember a guy even did like .. a video-log, where he did this. And updated week by week.
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Old 11-16-2012, 03:44 PM   #8
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Old 11-16-2012, 04:39 PM   #9
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Virtuoso today means someone who can play really really fast.
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:03 PM   #10
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Is it only about speed? What about just knowledge of the instrument? I know a guys who can "shred" but he doesn't know the notes on the fretboard or basically any theory. When asked to play C-F-G he didn't even know the open chords for them. He just uses scale shapes. he can't be a virtuoso can he?
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:22 PM   #11
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I once read one of the more famous shredders (I THINK it was Vai, but I'd have to get back to you on that if I find it again) said something like virtuosi being defined by being able to play what they heard in their head effortlessly and at will, no accidents and on first try. This involves having significant knowledge of your instrument and of music in general.

By that definition, Clapton could possibly be considered a virtuoso. Maybe he can't play as fast as Michael Angelo Batio, but he's playing what comes from his heart/mind... what he hears in his head, what he means to play. One could argue the apparent disparity in "technique" (read highest tempo at which they can play) comes from stylistic differences.They're both playing what they hear in their head and want other people to hear.

Last edited by CryogenicHusk : 11-16-2012 at 05:38 PM.
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:28 PM   #12
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Taruskin says:
"...a virtuoso was, originally, a highly accomplished musician, but by the nineteenth century the term had become restricted to performers, both vocal and instrumental, whose technical accomplishments were so pronounced as to dazzle the public."

And Taruskin is a boss, so I'd tend to believe him.
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:34 PM   #13
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Someone who possesses EXTRA-ordinary skills.

It's all about comparison really. If 97% of guitarists could only play open chords, the 3% who could play a solo over it would be virtuoso.

Last edited by Aralingh : 11-16-2012 at 05:36 PM.
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:49 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazz_rock_feel
Taruskin says:
"...a virtuoso was, originally, a highly accomplished musician, but by the nineteenth century the term had become restricted to performers, both vocal and instrumental, whose technical accomplishments were so pronounced as to dazzle the public."

And Taruskin is a boss, so I'd tend to believe him.

****ing Taruskin. Why do his textbooks have to so damn expensive? Why do they have to come with a 3-part anthology where two of those books I'll never use?
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Old 11-16-2012, 06:07 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macashmack
Is it only about speed? What about just knowledge of the instrument? I know a guys who can "shred" but he doesn't know the notes on the fretboard or basically any theory. When asked to play C-F-G he didn't even know the open chords for them. He just uses scale shapes. he can't be a virtuoso can he?


I believe what Alan is getting at is that the majority of people (mainly the majority of the youth) only care if you can play fast. They dont care what it sounds like, so long as its fast. Really sad shame, that. Really sad....

Oh, also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtuoso

I also would like to mention that Wolf had the same idea as me: Why bother with meaningless titles of grandeur when you can just play for yourself, and become better in your own way, and do whatever the **** you want?
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Old 11-16-2012, 06:42 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AeolianWolf
the word has become extremely watered down in its modern context, IMO.

as such, i prefer not to worry about labels like that and just spend the time bettering my abilities.


^^^

as-is, i could probably be labeled a virtuoso just by virtue of being able to play fast and clean and being satisfactory in my performance of my instrument. i'm 19.

you should be playing for at least that long before you've reached that kind of a height of skill and mastery. i'd find it hard to even call mike patton a virtuoso and he's got like 90 albums under his belt in every genre from avant garde to metal to italian lounge music to rap and anything those might entail.
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Old 11-16-2012, 08:34 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macashmack
Is it only about speed? What about just knowledge of the instrument? I know a guys who can "shred" but he doesn't know the notes on the fretboard or basically any theory. When asked to play C-F-G he didn't even know the open chords for them. He just uses scale shapes. he can't be a virtuoso can he?


Mate, I could probably listen to your friend and pick out how messy he really is, and the fact he's a lot slower than John Petrucci etc.

Sounds like this is a bit of frustration with some people being able to play faster than you currently. It's just a stage that you'll get over. Keep on playing those chords, as I say, can't play chords, can't play songs. Can't play songs, what's the point?
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Old 11-16-2012, 08:43 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by AlanHB
Mate, I could probably listen to your friend and pick out how messy he really is, and the fact he's a lot slower than John Petrucci etc.

Sounds like this is a bit of frustration with some people being able to play faster than you currently. It's just a stage that you'll get over. Keep on playing those chords, as I say, can't play chords, can't play songs. Can't play songs, what's the point?


Yea I guess you're right. It is kinda annoying how he thinks he's mad good but he can only play scale sequences at 160 bpm and cant pick a song out by ear or discuss music theory with us (the other musician's in the grade).
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:09 PM   #19
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Guthrie Govan is a virtuoso.

+1 anyone?
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:34 PM   #20
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Quote:
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If we're going just by technical skill, I'll change my definition to

Virtuoso:someone you respect for their ability but don't actually enjoy listening to.

that's worse than your first definition
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