Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New blog

Hey friends, I have a new blog that I am consolidating all my other blogs into. It is at

Sunday, December 2, 2012


What do we want to do if we are home? Leave of course. The predominant is the step out the door the turning of the key in the ignition, the beginning of the journey. Play a D minor 7th chord, D F A C. We are certainly not home. Headed some place but not sure yet, the predominant is going away but who knows where. Without a dominant it is going to a store but not buying anything.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


The three chords that all music is based on go by a variety of names. Tonic, Predominant, and Dominant are what they are commonly called in classical theory. 2-5-1 are the names given by jazz theorists. They create a plot, journey, and sense of direction. 

The tonic most times is a major chord and is the essence of stability and comfort. Creating release and portraying home. Play a Cmaj7 chord, it has C, E, G, and B in it. All white keys on the piano. The sense of calm is palatable. 

However the full effect is not realized without the other two chords. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Music is easy

Music is easy. That is what I try to convince my students. More specifically, jazz is easy. Yes, it takes years to master and is a life long pursuit but there are many overarching concepts that are simple. The sooner they are understood the quicker the student can become both comfortable and proficient. For example, how many chords are there in jazz? Well there's thousands right? That is why jazz is so crazy. What if I told you there are only three chords? Sure these happen in different keys and with added and altered notes but with all the insanity there is only three chords. More to follow...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


So you are trying to learn your favorite Elton John song and you can't make out that pesky chord. Every aspect of our human nature pushes us to get frustrated.

Instead of giving up, listen to it. Yes, I know you have listened otherwise why are you trying to learn it but there are many types of listening. Here are a few quick suggestions of when, where, and how to listen.

Listen while cooking: When your hands are busy your mind has the ability to focus and relax at the same time.

Listen while playing: with your kids, board games, hobbies, video games, or whatever you do to relax. You will be surprised what you will hear the next time you do a focused listening.

Listen while driving: Perfect time to absorb music without distraction as long as you still drive safely.

These are just a few suggestions. Post or comment on fb some you think of.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Music is all about a lot of things. There is an infinite amount of analogies that can be used with music and an infinite way to analyze any given piece. There are however, fundamental principles and ideas behind every piece of music.

Music is about human constructed patterns. We create a structure by making choices, choices of instrumentation, style, taste, genre, mood, and texture. All of these choices shape the piece we make into a structure. There are extremes but just like the great rush song says "if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice." That is why even if someone is creating something called "Free music" or "free jazz" it still has a structure. Both the highly serialized Sequenza 4 by Berio and the hectic chaos of Free Jazz by Ornette Coleman are unified by being written by human beings and therefore having human constructed patterns. They differ in what patterns are chosen consciously or unconsciously by the composers.

I know what you are thinking. What about bird songs? How do they fit into music being about human constructed patterns? Technically I would not consider them music. But, human patterns are also part of how we listen. Human beings can imprint patterns onto sound that they hear and then hear it as music. The simplest of this is with bird song and other animal noises but this can apply to rain or even street noise.

Now to my thesis statement. Here is the deal. There are no rules for music. I don't mean that there aren't guidelines or idea's on how to make something sound good or traditions that can be followed. What I mean is any pattern can be successfully realized in music in a way that is beautiful and convincing.

Music is all about expectations and I will continue this thought and explore why anyone and anything can write and play music next week.