When a great musician is playing, how can I hear the difference between them and an above average musician?


I was at my son’s concert and they sounded great. That got me to wonder if I could hear the difference if a Broadway Orchestra played the same music. If so, what would I hear differently

In: 0

It’s usually a lot of small things like minor changes in timing and depending on the instrument things like volume and if they’re perfectly in tune.

I don’t know if it will work for you, but pick an opera and listen to several different performances. If is quickly apparent which are merely competent.

I once went to an opera where the first chair violin got into a car accident on the way to the venue so the second chair stepped up to play.

I congratulate her for trying because that shit ain’t easy, but it was terribly noticable… And that was a good violinist taking the spot of a great violinist.

About once or twice per song, her violin gave out a “honk”. It was unpleasant.

Its easier to tell the difference if you play the instruments yourself because you understand the nuances and what is “difficult”.
Like someone who paints for a hobby, will have more appreciation for lets say Rembrandt or whatever, because they have a better understanding of brush strokes and colour theory, where as non artists will just say that the painting is good without really understanding why its good.
I am pretty good at guitar, but by brother is masterful. If we played the same chords and notes a non player would find it hard to tell who is better. But i can tell, as would other guitarists.
The more time you spend getting better at something, the more you appreciate someone who is masterful at something because you can understand the different levels of skill and what they are actually doing.
I look at a cool looking building and say “thats neat”, but an architect would know why its neat and “see” it differently.
The same is with music, beauty is in the ear if the beholder in this case.

I’ve worked in theater and we were good at a local theater level and would crush a school production by a wide margin, but no where as good as when I worked for musicals in NYC. The vocal range of the singers is far more controlled, expressive and effortless vs like nerves or other things like running out of breath be heard by the audience. Beginner instruments is where you are hitting all the notes, people could recognize the song, but that’s it. Someone with skills you really can hear the groove and subtle timing things are just dialed in so the articulation of the notes is far more complete and expressive.

As you listen to professional music, you can hear the person’s expression in how they play. I can hear someone play a piece, but there’s no feeling, it’s robotic as theyre just trying to hit the notes and get through the song and this is more aparrent in amateurs whose skills are challenged by the song difficulty. Then hear someone else play like as if their life depended on it and that the notes are etched into their soul, it just comes from them. Its something the audience feels when someone is tapped in, there is a vibe, a feeling, that comes from gifted musicians that make them engaging aside from being technically good.

Some examples




This is more in-depth with a vocal coach talking about the tone vs a pro and amateur singer