We have been dancing around this for quite a while, but I feel we need to talk about it. We really need to solidify scope if we want to get out of beta. I don't think it will be an easy nor a fast process, but we need to do it.

As a starting point let's look at the on-topic section of the FAQ. As of this post this is what it contains:

Musical Practice and Performance Stack Exchange is for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. If you have a question about...

  • practice & performance technique
  • music theory and notation, history, or composition
  • instrument maintenance
  • usage of specific music software

and it is not about...

  • identifying a song, genre, instrument, etc.
  • shopping, product or music search, or buying/selling recommendations
  • audio production techniques and equipment (Removed)
  • listening recommendations or recommendations of pieces to play
  • requesting a list of resources
  • legal issues

... then you're in the right place to ask your question!

The above is what we would like every new user to see along with having them take the tour to understand how site works, but I feel we have deviated from this as a community.

Do we need to add anything to either list? Do we need to clarify or reword anything on either list? Do we need to remove anything from these lists? If you think anything needs to be changed please point it out and give the reasoning behind this and we'll see how the community feels. If not, great and we can focus more on the little intricate details like we have been doing.

Whatever we decide, let's do it as a community.

  • 3
    "We really need to solidify scope" -- I think it's pretty solid. Complaints about narrowness have been the norm till recently with the haggling over questions. Don't forget you haven't experienced over 2/3rds of the site's history! Anyways, that's a minor comment. It's good to review what we might want to change or add, especially given recent discussion.
    – user28
    May 20, 2014 at 17:55

6 Answers 6


I don't have any heartburn over the current on-topic section of the FAQ; I think that it pretty much identifies where our centre of gravity should be, and the extremes of what we are trying to avoid.

The issue is that there are grey areas between "obviously on site" and most of the listed "off topic" areas:

  • I believe that there can be valid identification questions, I asked one myself (maybe now it'll get closed), but that many id. questions would probably be bad as too localized.
  • Product searches that can be recast as "what features should I look for in ..." can be made on topic
  • The grey zone between "performance sound production equipment" and "recording sound production equipment", e.g. microphones, compressors..., is essentially featureless, so it's hard to draw a line in. I believe that this is the main thing (along with a lack of experienced DJ users) that hurts DJ questions.
  • We're starting to see some (arguably) valid questions/responses that get at repertoire questions.
  • etc.

We may need to acknowledge that these boundaries are not set in stone, and, in the end, will be adjudicated by the community. This acknowledgement could be accompanied with a statement of what we are trying to avoid.

I see two categories of things we are trying to avoid (beyond obviously non-musical or obviously subjective questions like "who is the best/most-influential X?"):

  1. Questions whose answers are necessarily tied into the particular needs of an individual musician -- Most product and repertoire questions fall into this category.
  2. Transcription questions -- this includes literal "what are the notes/chords to X?" questions, and "what effect/instrument is X using in Y ..." and even "what song is played in X?".

Maybe spelling out these (and other?) goals, and how they inform the list of off-topic questions is worthwhile.

I'm also have the sense that the strictness of this site tends to go in waves -- things get pretty loose, then high-rep users start to buckle-down and so on. I suspect that the recent series of discussions on meta (TODO: link to relevant questions) indicate that we'll be moving into one of these looser phases.


I believe we need to clarify which DJ questions are on topic and which are not. There have been some conversations here on meta about that topic. I think we should make it a bit more clear on the FAQ.

  • Wouldn't DJ questions come under the scope listed in the question?
    – Doktor Mayhem Mod
    May 21, 2014 at 14:40
  • 2
    Don't need to call DJing out on the top-level FAQ. But do need a good discussion here:meta.music.stackexchange.com/questions/406/… (i.e. turn this question into a help page for DJ's)
    – Dave
    May 21, 2014 at 14:52
  • @DrMayhem I'm not 100% sure. If you remember, like 2 months ago, there were a lot of DJ questions that were off topic; there some discussions here on meta May 21, 2014 at 17:36
  • 1
    I remember them, but I think the rules are the same for DJ music as for others
    – Doktor Mayhem Mod
    May 21, 2014 at 18:17

I strongly think we should remove or re-word:

Questions seeking recommendations for equipment are off-topic because they tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve.

Where wooden instruments with no design changes for centuries, tube amplifiers and old fuzz circuits etc. are used, I don't think we should worry too much about things becoming obsolete. A question like What should be considered when getting a band PA? should absolutely be allowed, even if it's not in the perfect form currently.

It should be emphasised what type of questions we want to avoid ("Should I get a Gibson or a Fender as my first guitar") and what is OK ("What should I consider when buying my first electric guitar").

  • 1
    I’m generally opposed to shopping/list/recommendation questions, and I have spoken out against them many times here, but even I must admit that we could probably afford to be lenient when it comes to helping out newbies with general equipment advice like this, especially for “timeless” equipment. I think it's a good question. Jun 12, 2014 at 23:33
  • 1
    @Bradd: I think the questions in scope should describe what sort of equipment is involved/needed/recommended for different activities and settings, then there should be less lists and more information. Jun 13, 2014 at 7:42

Perhaps we should expand our scope to include Musical Instrument Design and Construction? The sample questions posted on Area 51 for that site so far mostly appear to be on-topic here, and we could adapt to include any that aren't. Given the huge overlap between musicians and instrument makers, perhaps it would be better to stretch our scope to better include them, rather than dividing the two sites?

  • 1
    Doesn't it already?
    – Dom Mod
    Jun 4, 2014 at 9:44
  • @Dom There's definitely overlap, but there's some question of whether they're already strictly included in Music's scope. Jun 5, 2014 at 4:00
  • AFAIK, this has always been on-topic. There's just not many experts hanging around here.
    – Luke_0
    Jun 5, 2014 at 12:18
  • If that's the case, how can we get people to contribute their instrument questions here instead of Area 51? Jun 5, 2014 at 17:49
  • @BraddSzonye That's a tricky question. There was someone who commented all the sample questions for the Coffee proposal that it was already on-topic in Cooking. It blew the steam out of the proposal, but I'm not sure it really drew the crowd over to Cooking.se. :/ Jun 9, 2014 at 23:46

I think this is a good example to discuss: https://music.stackexchange.com/questions/17711/pursuing-a-career-in-music

I can't really argue with the reasons for closing, but I believe that if allowed, this type of questions could bring value. So are we really risking of ruining the SE-ness of the site by questions like this? That the community seems to appreciate it is another reason to discuss it.

  • 2
    I was not involved in the closing, but I understand why it was closed. It really wan't about music, but how to finance a music career. It would be the equivalence of asking "How can I finance a new guitar?" just a general version of the question. Financing really isn't our strong suit and there really isn't a definable answer.
    – Dom Mod
    May 24, 2014 at 22:50
  • @Dom: Who is better to ask how to make a living through music, other than people who made a living through music? Since there is no single answer, getting different people's experiences is beneficial. I do understand that it doesn't fit the Q&A/SE format perfectly, but the current discussion is if this narrow scope is good or not. This is a question I would like to see kept open, maybe the majority of the community disagrees. But the number of upvotes on this question indicates otherwise. May 25, 2014 at 12:20
  • Also, it is different from "how do I finance a new guitar". The question is "how can I use my practice and performance of music in order to earn a sustainable amount of money". Somewhat on topic here, I would say... (Accidentally, looking to the right the graduated Graphic Design has this: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/31677/…) May 25, 2014 at 12:31

I think questions like these should be within scope: https://music.stackexchange.com/questions/3760/suggestions-for-dark-classical-music-in-the-mood-of-tim-burton-film-scores

That would mean relaxing the existing guidelines a bit. Asking for examples in a certain style of composition could be useful for other people than the one asking. The answers also provided some interesting information.

  • 1
    Recommendation list questions like that tend to be a poor fit for SE in general, not just our SE. A few sites make exceptions to allow them only in specific cases that are especially useful to the site (e.g., single-word requests on English Language & Usage). Thus I would only recommend allowing this sort of question if it fulfills a specific demand that we find especially useful and common. Jun 2, 2014 at 23:35
  • @BraddSzonye: Are they really such a poor fit, for all subjects? If the purpose is to make the internet a better place, having a select number of topics of resources which a, if not trusted so at least defined, group of people have agreed on is included in that goal, in my mind. On the other hand, if Music Fans SE comes to live, it will probably fit better there. But as a musician looking to explore certain characteristics of a type of compositions, questions like these should be allowed. The mantra of "no lists of any kind at any cost" isn't very useful in my mind. Jun 3, 2014 at 7:32
  • The answers to that question aren't just shopping lists either, but contain information. Useful information even. Jun 3, 2014 at 7:34
  • The voting system doesn't work well with open-ended lists. The question on guitar effects here is a good example of where the SE format just makes a mess of things. Such topics work much better on a wiki – a real wiki, not SE wiki, which is a mess. Jun 3, 2014 at 7:52
  • @BraddSzonye: Counterexample: stackoverflow.com/questions/388242/…. Note that it is from Stack Overflow even. Jun 3, 2014 at 8:07
  • That one was compiled from a "question" with individual suggestions. Jun 3, 2014 at 8:08
  • The Music.SE question in question is hinting that it isn't such a bad fit too. Jun 3, 2014 at 8:09
  • That Stack Overflow question is locked, which usually means it's an example of a bad fit for SE that's only kept around for historical reasons. It's not good evidence for list questions. Jun 3, 2014 at 8:19

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