Rick Rubin: “There’s a real difference between being a technically great player and creating music – those are two different things”

“None of the people that I went to school are in music because they never wrote their own songs,” adds Kenny Beats.

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Rick Rubin

Image: Frazer Harrison / Getty

Def Jam Records co-founder Rick Rubin and hip-hop producer Kenny Beats have suggested that studying at an elite music school doesn’t always result in success as a musician because there’s a difference between being a technically proficient musician and a creator of music.

The two made the comments during the latest episode of Tetragrammaton, Rubin’s own podcast. In it, the two discuss discovering music as teenagers, getting into the music game, studying music at Berklee College of Music in Boston, intricate swing techniques and loads more.

At one point, Kenny Beats has a candid discussion about the pressures faced by many graduates, shedding light on the reality that few of his peers from Berklee are still pursuing music because, although they may be “technically great players”, it hasn’t turned them into unique songwriters or musicians.

“[There’s] a real difference in the head between being a technically great player and creating music. Those are two different things,” says Rubin.

“I think that’s probably why Berklee doesn’t do so much alumni stuff with me,” Kenny responds, “because I talk about how often none of my friends – none of them – are making music now. None of the people that I went to school with who are unbelievable players now are in music because they never wrote their own songs.

“Then they got out of school and there is no job to play other people’s music super well, besides, you know, an open mic night or they play in a symphony orchestra or something. I think a lot of people felt the same pressure I felt leaving music school and not knowing what you were going to do with music to pay bills.”

Also in the podcast, Rick Rubin goes deep on the importance of “feel” in rhythm, saying, “the way sounds interact on a micro level to create something is the whole game”. Both Rubin and Kenny Beats also agree that Chris Dave, drummer and band leader, is one of the greats at achieving a unique sound out of even the most simple of rhythms.

Listen to the full Tetragrammaton podcast via YouTube.


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