Saturday, June 30, 2012

Playing By Ear on My iPhone

I’ve been playing my iPhone by ear listening to songs as I exercise.  The playlist consists mostly of old 45s that say it all in 2 minutes and 56 seconds (to satisfy a 3 minute rule to get radio-play back in the 60s).  Every hit was a slick story -start to finish- with stations playing ear-twisting top 40 news, weather and sports. 

Kids spilled their guts to the world like Facebook.  The plights of being a teenager poured forth an ocean of emotions; always hopeful for love and anguishing the pangs of heartbreak; fitting in and rebelling.  Hormones fueled the rawest of declarations and vulnerabilities ever recorded. 


The Hidden Universe

It’s overwhelming, the uniqueness factor for each recording.  A record is like a mini time-capsule that can evoke a certain emotion over and over again.  Each has its own lyrical story, sincereness of vocal delivery and instrumental production.  This is where the Hidden Universe appears again.

Most demo songs are nothing special in arrangement; maybe just the composer singing it with a guitar.  Then somebody hears it and thinks they can make it sparkle with the right voices and production.  They take “nothing special” and crank it up a notch.  That opens the world to changing the music in an infinite number of ways.

• Who’s to sing it; the heartthrob or jilted girlfriend? 
• What instruments; guitar, piano, violins, bells, banjo???

Both of these decisions change the music again.  The producer becomes Beethoven and rolls over their orchestration of the theme to construct a symphony under three minutes long.  The infinity of choices to be made between the first and last sound of the record is far more than people realize. 

Consider how somebody else might have produced it.  Would it still have been a hit?  Who knows but consider different artists covering the same song and make your own judgement.  Compare those versions to the sparkling hit.  It’s infinity; the number of ways a song may be expressed.

Just like an artist’s painting, everything comes together on one inclusive canvas of time.  Your ears as your eyes, stand back and appreciate the brush strokes of instruments and delivery.  Subtle nuances are missed only to be realized with each new listening.  The balance is not too little and not too much (overproduction).  The production taps into a broad line of infinity. 

All songs can be written, played and sung a million different ways in any keys and any time signatures.  In the hidden universe, all music is equal only to be interpreted good or bad in it’s expression of the emotion.  As such, any melody has the potential to be a hit in the right hands. 

Makes you wonder.
Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist. Click here to get the free companion book to this blog. See his other sites at and © 2012 Keyed Up Inc