Austin McBride: Comedy Legend or Dangerously Amusical Sociopath?

Interwebs, thou dost vex me so.

Firstly, you’re so clogged up with nonsense, I can never find the droids I’m looking for.
Secondly, you bugger up definitions so much as to render any aggregate of potentially informative information completely useless.

Case in point: define ‘expert’.
Images of ivory towers, white lab coats, examiners asking for Db melodic minor – 3 octaves ascending AND descending, even Starbucks barristas who’ve mastered ‘trainee’ status.

Expertise can be a double-edged sword – think of this logical fallacy (not always a fallacy, but most frequently used in the pejorative). But normally, someone citing themselves as an ‘expert’ should have at least some grounds on which to base that claim (thanks again Randall for illuminating this).

This is murky territory in the Internetz – easy accessibility to YouTube and a slew of similar sites make uploading educational material exceptionally easy. Which is fine – we all know that YouTube is open to all (unless, *gasp* you’re talking about that taboo subject, SCIENCE! OH NOES), and as such exercise fair skepticism on the veracity of the videos.

This system, however, fails when the site is called Expert Village
The site describes itself thus: offers the largest choice of professionally produced and researched videos, to answer your everyday questions with answers you can trust.

With over 120,000 videos (and growing), our library is nothing short of quality and offers visitors a one stop destination to get well-researched, practical, and, most notably, FREE information.

My, that’s impressive. And certainly there are plenty of great sites out there that provide free educational services that are exceptionally well-researched – Justin Sandercoe‘s site is an altruistic treasure-trove of information, for instance.

However, describing Expert Village as ‘professionally…researched’ with ‘answers you can trust’, and then FAILING SPECTACULARLY to deliver on this basic promise, is, if I’m being polite, nothing short of specious; outright disingenuous if I’m being honest.

And this is made incarnate in the contributions from a number of people, mainly Ryan Larson, Athena Reich and the legendary Austin McBride
A number of other bloggers have beaten me to these – 2 of my favourite articles have been by Nick’s Cafe Canadien, and Adrian Clark’s Spaghetti Factory.
Very well written, guys, and highly amusing.

BUT – while I share the mocking, I’m also exceptionally angry that such ignorant displays of music ‘education’ are paraded as expertise on a professional site.
I can excuse amateurism – we’ve all been learners once. My musical development, and understanding of education, develops every day through being open to suggestions and encouragement. OF COURSE this is how we learn and develop.
OF COURSE we’re not going to be perfect straight away – I understand this, and it would be churlish of me to suggest otherwise.
However, I’d do my utmost to understand whether EDUCATION that I’m recording actually stands up as informative and useful.

For a start, Ryan’s “coonga” technique and rhythmic understanding are just hilariously wrong, and his hip-hop drumming examples (especially this one) just spit in the face of rhythm.
If I were a percussionist, I’d be spewing bile just thinking about it.

Now, for my profession, Athena’s string changing video shows us a handy mnemonic to remember the names of the strings…in reverse order. This is a breathtakingly awful abuse of a public education site.

But it’s Austin McBride, tutor to the stars, who deserves our full attention here.
I won’t comment about his breakdancing lessons, or his golf club lessons (I swear to any God you care to name that I am not making this up, he’s too Napoleon Dynamite to describe), but his music lessons are so wrong, so condemnable by their very existence, that I must protest.
I repeat, this is a professional site for tuition. Absolutely no vetting procedure seems to take place. We have Austin playing a piece in 4/4 while calling it 5/4, he constantly gets chord names wrong (B minor, instead of Bb minor) and gives laughably poor understanding of the nature of jazz music and piano playing.

  • Again, if this were YouTube (an open video forum) I wouldn’t object – fair enough, who am I to criticise someone who posts a video of their playing? But it’s not, these people are described by a professional education site as experts.
  • If it were a misunderstanding of nomenclature, I wouldn’t object. Plenty of pro musicians have differing terminologies (Eric Johnson’s string ‘stretching’ comes to mind). But Ryan Larson showing an example he’s written in 4/4 as music in 12/8 is WRONG, not a difference of interpretation. I repeat, Austin saying A brief explanation of syncopation is when there are two different rhythms going against each other and then towards the end of the musical phrase they happen to line back up. So where they’re bouncing off, bouncing off, bouncing off, and then collide, they’re the same, they hit together at the same time and then they separate once again. That’s what syncopation consists of” is WRONG. It may be a long-winded description of Isorhythms, but it’s not syncopation.
The very fact that Expert Village aren’t checking these videos is a gross disservice to any one with the basic humility to want to learn music.

And here I’m ignoring my job as a professional musician and guitar teacher – imagine having a child learning from these people. People who don’t have the recognition that their tuition is potentially harmful.

At least Wikipedia give users the option to edit the damaging disinformation on the site. Expert Village need to shape up – sort out these awful contributions to musical pedagogy, or turn into a world-wide circus where musicians and educators jeer from the sidelines.


Filed under diatribe, music, science, soapbox

4 responses to “Austin McBride: Comedy Legend or Dangerously Amusical Sociopath?

  1. Nick

    Great post, and thanks for the link. The Napoleon Dynamite comparison was particularly accurate. You’re right: nobody would really bat an eye at McBride, et al. were they merely another handful of foot soldiers in the legions of YouTube amateurs that already exist. And nobody minds YouTube amateurs anymore than they would mind a child’s music recital; their performances are courageous documents of their progress and development.

    It’s when they presume to teach from a position of authority that we have to put our boots down and say, Enough.

  2. Adrian Clark

    Well said, John! It’s easy to see only the EPIC FAIL hilarity of Expert Village, but there’s a whole minefield of misinformation under a seemingly professional veneer. I mean, can’t they just leave that to the Daily Mail? 😉

  3. John Gregson

    Nah, the Daily Mail doesn’t have a professional veneer…

  4. Adrian Clark

    Ha! That’s true…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s