The Muselet #36: Becoming Benno

A few weeks ago I mentioned MasterClass. Since then there’s one more masterclass I’ve been watching parts of: Armin van Buuren teaches Dance Music.

Let me immediately address the elephant in room: “Zef and… dance music!?”

There’s a long story to this, but let give you the short-ish version. I like most genres of music, ranging from pop, to hip-hop, to rock, to classical, to jazz, I even had a death metal phase. I was open to practically everything, with one exception: trance and dance music. This dunk, dunk, dunk “highly compressible” type of noise. Yet, Dutch DJs are huge in this area (like Armin van Buuren, Tiesto). This intrigued me: why are so many people into this? So, I set myself a challenge a few years ago: I’m going to brute force this, and listen to this type of music constantly to see if I can learn to appreciate it. So I did. And it happened. I still don’t like all of it, but I learned to appreciate it, and in fact for me it’s now my preferred background music while working. Indeed, anybody who’s been in a 1:1 with me will recognize that I tend to turn up the trance music extra loud when things get awkward. More seriously: it works great when reading, writing or programming.

Back to Armin’s masterclass. The first few lessons cover various things, arrangements, tools, yada yada.

But then, there’s sessions in “the studio” where Armin makes his magic happen. However, Armin isn’t alone. 

There’s also…


Benno spends most of his time sitting next to Armin, but from time to time they switch seats. Nevertheless, his primary contribution is feedback and offering new ideas. The result is a clearly highly creative and productive collaboration with Armin. During the classes this results in a few random chords being turned into the basis of a pretty solid song in a matter of an hour or two.

It took me some time observing this duo to realize the source of this highly creative and productive dynamic:

Benno is a plusser.

have mentioned “plussing” before. It’s an idea that seems to originate from Disney, and it’s simple in its essence:

No one says, “No, but…”

Only, “Yes, and…”

Instead of subtracting… plussing.

And this is what Benno does: he never says anything negative. He only builds on Armins ideas, work, and proposes new ones. 

“I like this, let’s use that.”

“Have you considered this idea?”

“That sounds great, and I think adding this other thing would make it even better.”

Wouldn’t we all benefit from having more Bennos around, or better yet: becoming a bit more like Benno?