This question is getting upvotes:

Sustain pedal works

And this one has three VTCs at this time (full disclosure, one vote is mine, then I thought better of it and came here):

Are there any good exercises for piano polyrhythm playing beyond Brahms exercises and Chopin?

They are both music search questions, IMHO, but they are also both "good" music search questions, IMHO. I never thought to look for etudes on damper pedal technique, but now that I've seen the question, I realize I could really use such etudes! So to, me, that's a great, on-topic question.

Likewise, exercises in polyrhythms seem like good things to know about.

Should these be considered on-topic because they are not searching for a particular song someone heard one time?

  • 3
    they seem to be both asking for SE to be a search engine. "Point me at a lesson on X" so to me they feel off topic. I haven't commented or voted on either yet, though, as I saw this post first :-)
    – Doktor Mayhem Mod
    Feb 28, 2017 at 18:20
  • 1
    In terms of "classical" piano technique, just about every score published after about 1820 is an etude in damper pedal technique. But presumable what the OP wanted was some material that teaches the technique(s) - you can't practice a technique until you know what it is! Conventional piano pedal markings are not an precise description of what you actually do with your right foot while playing, nor were they ever intended to be that. And most composers who were also pianists knew better than to attempt an exact notation in any case.
    – user19146
    Mar 1, 2017 at 15:02

3 Answers 3


To me, it depends on whether there actually exists only a small number of standard, widely known and used resources of the type that the questioner is asking about. This is part of why some of the piano questions seem OK despite being contrary to a literal reading of the on-topic guidelines. (The other part of the good ones is that they are very focused on a relatively focused aspect of technique).

The main problems that are brought up against resource requests are:

  1. The utility/importance/desirability of the resources are going to change. This is especially true for the more technology oriented Stack Exchanges, where today's standard reference becomes obsolete in a year or two.

  2. The nature of the question promotes the construction of a list of answers, none of which is a the clear (objective) winner -- alternately you could phrase it as any of a large number of possible answers would be equally applicable.

  3. If a question manages to spell out all of the soft/subjective features of the OP's actual problem, you won't get a question that anybody else would find useful.

I believe that for some aspects of music pedagogy/practice there might be a relatively small number of standard etudes or other resources that these kinds of questions could work. This would mean that some resource requests would be acceptable on a case by case basis. If we went this route it might be desireable to add a meta discussion along the lines of this Physics SE one.

One side effect of this might be the appearance of a bias towards classical music: it is my impression that in that field there is a more stable set of materials that are commonly used. So when a guitarist comes here, and his/her resource request question gets shot down, they'll be able to point to all the apparently similar questions that were OK by this criterion. But, if my premises are correct, this is a function of the fact that there are not a limited set of standard, canonical, resources for guitar technique (yet).

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    One difficulty here might be that a questioner (and other site users) might not know whether their question has a canonical answer or not. How might we deal with that? By using 'too broad' when there are too many answers, perhaps? Mar 2, 2017 at 8:41
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    @topomorto getting the answer closed (a too broad or subjective) is an indication to the asker that there is, in the judgment of enough people here, not a good answer. Getting your question closed does sting and they're not getting any upfront help to avoid that, but to some extent that is the risk you take. I know I've had what I thought were good questions closed on SE sites.
    – Dave
    Mar 13, 2017 at 13:37

I'm definitely a newbie here and probably not entitled to have an opinion yet! But I'll chime in anyway. I seems to me that the rules in general about whether a question is on-topic or not are being applied with too much rigor. My own feeling is that the rules in that regard ought to be applied leniently, whether about 'search' or anything else. Clearly, some questions do violate the intent of the forum and have to be dealt with, but I often find myself getting interested in a topic that a question introduces, and start thinking about possible answers, only to have the question put on hold or even closed for no apparent-to-me good reason. I find this frustrating.

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    You're totally entitled to voice your opinion here (in my opinion, at least). It does normally take five votes to put a question on hold, so at least five people with the rep to vote to close are agreeing that a question should be closed, most of the time. One main concern about off-topic but interesting questions is whether letting them stand will encourage more of the kinds of questions we don't want and therefore make it harder to find and answers the questions we prefer to have. Mar 1, 2017 at 22:05
  • I'm probably repeating things I said in the comments under my answer, but I think its good if we have rules that are applied with rigor - if we have clear rules that everyone can understand, it should (in theory) avoid some of the scenarios you outlined where one person starts thinking about answering a question while others are working towards getting it put on-hold. Rather, I think the problem here is that we don't have a culture of actually bothering to working to refine the rules in meta; we therefore currently have rather unclear rules that are interpreted in different ways by different Mar 2, 2017 at 5:51
  • people (and some people do interpret the rules in quite a sweeping way, which is probably coming back to the problem you mentioned). I think the remedy to this is for people to actually get together in meta here and discuss rules with a view to improve them... hence I think it's great if you and other new users are here in meta. Mar 2, 2017 at 5:55
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    @topo morto - Well if we arrive at a consensus of applying the rules with rigor, then I believe we should ALSO have more lenient rules to begin with. For example the lady who wanted to find a pen specifically designed to write sheet music, and her question was eventually closed. Where else could she go to ask a question like that? If we're here actually to help people, as it seems to me, I think we should try to help them before we try to turn them away. Unless the question clearly belongs somewhere else.
    – L3B
    Mar 2, 2017 at 18:56
  • @L3B I do think we could and should have rules that are much less restrictive. Whether we could build any consensus around that, I'm not sure! Mar 2, 2017 at 18:59
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    @topo morto agreed. I think the rules here are too narrow and applied in a small-minded and not always consistent way which isn't very nice to people asking what must seem to them to be perfectly reasonable questions about music practice or theory. That sheet music pen question is a case in point. Mar 3, 2017 at 16:54
  • @Bob, yes, and you can observe that phenomenon on quite a large proportion of questions IMO. Mar 3, 2017 at 17:26

The way I would read it, these both come under 'requesting external resources' and are clearly off-topic according to the current wording on https://music.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic.

(That's not to say that I personally think that resources questions should be banned in a blanket way like this - I'd welcome a discussion on refining that rule.)

  • 1
    What if this is really adjudicated on a case by case basis by votes to close, or lack thereof? I mean... our policies are meant to help us manage the Stack, not to be things we must 100% adhere to even when we don't want to. Feb 28, 2017 at 21:47
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    @ToddWilcox one reason not vary our response on a case-by-case basis is that that's not how we 'advertise' ourselves; we have an on-topic page with stated rules that look like they're well-defined, so it's poor user experience to say we're going to do one thing, but actually do another. Feb 28, 2017 at 22:39
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    A second reason is that we just end up with unwritten rules that the site regulars know, but new or less experienced users don't; this makes the site less inviting and accessible and makes it more of a closed club rather than a way to spread musical knowledge to the wider world. Feb 28, 2017 at 22:40
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    A third reason is that it doesn't encourage us to evolve our rules and keep refining the idea of what kind of site we want to be. There seems to me to often be a tendency towards thinking that the rules are what they are, and can't and won't be changed... when in fact it may be that we have lots of evolving to do to be the best site we can be. Feb 28, 2017 at 22:44
  • @topomorto you'll never be able to get 100% black and white on topics like music. Trying to do so just going to drive you crazy. I don't want our community to just think in terms of black and white as we can certainly encounter questions in a gray area that will need to be looked at closely. In this case, there are pros and cons to allowing this and the biggest con is these lists will never be complete which is why we've typically side with closing them. Not to say they aren't useful or interesting, but they don't fit what with we're offering which is a Q&A site.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 1, 2017 at 1:09
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    @Dom you can never get 100% black and white on any topic that any SE site deals with, and certainly not within the small amount of space that the on-topic page provides. However, we don't need to let 'perfect' be the enemy of 'good'; If some resources questions are actually seen as on topic but many aren't, we could at least make an attempt to identify what that distinction is. Mar 1, 2017 at 1:26

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