Category Archives: music

The Piano by Leo

It Takes More Than Practice

It’s a well-known belief that it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at a skill. However, a Michigan State University psychology professor is tapping the brakes on that axiom.

“Practice is indeed important to reach an elite level of performance, but this paper makes an overwhelming case that it isn’t enough,” Zach Hambrick said.

Hambrick suggests that natural talent and other factors are major influences.

“The evidence is quite clear that some people do reach an elite level of performance without copious practice, while other people fail to do so despite copious practice,” he wrote in the journal Intelligence. Ah, this may explain why I’m still struggling with piano lessons.

In looking at 14 studies of chess players and musicians, Hambrick found that practice only contributed to about one-third of the differences in skills among them.

Hambrick says that intelligence, innate ability, the age at which someone starts learning an activity, and working memory capacity could all contribute to the other two-thirds differences in skills.

Don’t worry. There’s some good news.

“If people are given an accurate assessment of their abilities and the likelihood of achieving certain goals given those abilities, they may gravitate toward domains in which they have a realistic chance of becoming an expert through deliberate practice,” he said.

In other words, build on your strengths and not your weaknesses.

–By Jason Hensel

(Source material: Michigan state University. Image via Flickr: Leo/Creative Commons.) 

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The Rewind Button: Seven Album Wrap-up

The Rewind Button is a group blogging project that I’m participating in. We’re taking on Rolling Stone‘s Top 40 albums of all time and writing our own reviews of them.

I tried for many months to avoid writing a multi-album post. I wanted to focus each entry on an individual artist or band. However, I’ve learned a lot about myself and music during this project. Primarily, I don’t enjoy writing about music that much. I mentioned that in a previous Rewind Button entry, and here at the end, upon reflection, my feeling still holds true. That means for a lot of these albums, I struggled to write about them. Perhaps I tried to make the reviews harder than they needed to be. The reviews I enjoyed writing the most were the ones that I let the words tumble out of my head, unconscious of where my thoughts were going.

Maybe I do, then, enjoy writing about music if I can do it the same way I listen to albums. That is, totally immersed in feeling. In the end, I’m happy that I took part in this project, and I’m grateful for the invitation to do so. I’ve discovered other blogs and writers that are now saved in my bookmarks, and I’ve listened to some albums that I had never heard before that I now love (Stevie Wonder) and ones that I can’t stand (Joni Mitchell). It’s been a fun project, and I’m finishing it with these final seven albums.

The Band - Music From Big PinkThe Band — Music From Big Pink

The song “The Weight” is a staple at karaoke spots in these parts. It’s an okay song, and it’s the only original song on this album that I liked. The other song, “Long Black Veil”  is a cover song, and The Band does a good version of it. Overall, though, I found this album uninspiring. It’s not one that I will listen to again.

David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust

 

David Bowie — The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars

Bowie rarely fails me. I appreciate that he pushes himself and the art of music, and Ziggy Stardust is a winner for me. In our current age of singles and quick hits, it’s refreshing to go back in time and listen to an album that told a story, that provided a narrative to the music, that tried to show there was more you could do with rock music. This a top 20 album for me.

Carole King - TapestryCarole King — Tapestry

Carole King is one of the world’s greatest songwriters. Tapestry, though, was just an okay album for me. I had never heard it before, and I kept seeing it on best-albums-of-all-time lists, so I was curious about what made it so great. And as with several albums on this list, I found it not that great. Perhaps at the time it was groundbreaking or inspiring or something. Now, however, I find it pedestrian.

The Eagles - Hotel California

 

The Eagles — Hotel California

The Eagles are my dad’s favorite band, so I grew up listening to their albums. Hearing this one again took me back to the late 1970s, sitting in my dad’s apartment patiently waiting for this album to finish so I could listen to KISS. Today, I notice The Eagles’ influence in my music, and that’s a good thing, because the band were solid songwriters in both lyrics and hooks. That’s something I work on emulating in my writing.

Muddy Waters - The AnthologyMuddy Waters — The Anthology

Muddy Waters is a great blues artist, and I found myself liking this album more than I imagined I would. For those who write or edit for a living, The Anthology is great background music for working. The blues’ rhythm and repeating of lines lulls one into a calm state where focus and imagination reside side by side.

The Beatles - Please Please Me

 

The Beatles — Please Please Me

It’s no secret that I love The Beatles. Please Please Me, while not my favorite, still stands far and above many of the other albums on this list. Please please let me listen to it over anything that Van Morrison or Joni Mitchell ever puts out. How this album arrived at No. 39 and not higher is a mystery to me. It deserves higher, and in my personal list, it is.

Love - Forever ChangesLove — Forever Changes

This is a great, strong finish for the top 40 list. I had forgotten how much I enjoy this album. You can definitely hear the late 1960s vibe, but I also detect elements of punk, post-punk, and balls-out rock. I’ll have to remember to listen to this album more often, because it’s inspiring and a good-time experience, which is exactly what music should be.

 

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The Rewind Button: Ramones

Ramones - Ramones

The Rewind Button is a group blogging project that I’m participating in. We’re taking on Rolling Stone‘s Top 40 albums of all time and writing our own reviews of them.

Have you ever been told to drink water or eat salad to cleanse your palate between dishes? Ramones is my palate cleanser. After weeks of albums that have been so-so for me, the Ramones offer me refreshment with their debut album. In fact, I’d rather just have it for a full meal.

While a lot of the artists reviewed in this project have presented great examples of expanding what an artist can do with pop/rock music, the three-chords-and-the-truth of the Ramones is more appealing to me than making an artistic statement. Okay, okay, sure,  they were making a statement when they chose this route. I’ll admit that. And I’ll admit that I prefer it over seven-minute Dylan songs, no matter how great the poetry is in his lyrics. I’d rather slam-dance than sit around in a circle discussing the ins-and-outs of a line.

Usually, I’m not that way. I often prefer debates and great talks deep into the evening about literature. So, what is it about Ramones that makes me prefer it over much of what we’ve reviewed from the late 1960s and earlys 1970s? It’s possible that I’ve become bored with what we’ve been listening to for this project. The Ramones offer a change of pace, something that gets my dopamine flowing. That’s exactly why this album is on the Rolling Stone list, because it shook people out of their serious stupor.

I wish more albums of this caliber were on the Rolling Stone top 40 list, because I think it would have given it variety and added some excitement to the mix. Even if the magazine doesn’t list this as a top 10 all-time album, I’m tempted to do that. Question is, do I place it above other artists’ albums that I think are better, but have been influenced by it (anyone else notice the stoner-rock rifts that come in during “Now I Wanna to Sniff Glue”?), or do I put the original influence first? It’s a question that I will think about as I get closer to the end of the list and contemplate my own rearrangement of it.

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Best Songs I Heard in 2012

DIIVHere are the songs I discovered in 2012 that I either listened to the most, forced others to listen to, danced around alone to in my room, or wished I had written.

Some, like Rihanna or Kendrick Lamar, are artists I’d not normally listen to on a regular basis. Rihanna’s performance, though, of “Diamonds” on Saturday Night Live, complete with a green screen from the 1980s, caused me to listen to the song in a whole new way. Kendrick’s Lamar’s “Backstreet Freestyle” reminds me a lot of late 1980′s rap, a la 2 Live Crew.

Of course, I’m a sucker for power pop, and Ben Kweller is a master of that style. But this past year has been more of a rediscovery of my love of shoegaze. I’ve fallen in love with almost anything that the label Captured Tracks puts out, and DIIV‘s “Doused” is the best song I’ve heard all year.

DIIV was also one of the best concerts I saw this past year. They played at Club Dada with Frankie Rose and Lonesome Ghost, a Dallas band that I look forward to seeing more of in the next year. For the record, the other concerts that topped my list were New Order, Die Antwoord, and The Faint.

I hope you enjoy this playlist, and please let me know of any songs you loved this past year. I’m sure I missed many other great songs.

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The Most Popular Posts of 2012

number-10-mdI’m a sucker for year-end lists, so I’m going to let you in on what have been my 10 most popular posts of the last year.  Judging from this list, I should do more music reviews. Those appear to pull in the page views. Thank you to everyone that has visited.

  1. The Rewind Button: Pet Sounds
  2. The Rewind Button: Are You Experienced
  3. The Rewind Button: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  4. I’m Sorry, You’re Name Is…?
  5. The Rewind Button: Abbey Road
  6. Honda’s Take on Marriage
  7. Cake for Breakfast is Good for You
  8. The Rewind Button: Highway 61 Revisited
  9. The Rewind Button: The Velvet Underground and Nico
  10. Shakespeare and Lehrer
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The Rewind Button: Let It Bleed

The Rewind Button is a group blogging project that I’m participating in. We’re taking on Rolling Stone‘s Top 40 albums of all time and writing our own reviews of them.

Rolling Stones - Let It BleedLet It Bleed Pie

Preparation time: 1 year
Cooking time: 1 month

Ingredients:

1 oz. of vanilla
3 tbsp of clove
4 cups of sugar
1 dash of cayenne pepper
5 eggs (include the yolks)
6 cups of flour
3 cups of water
2 cups of blackberries
Salt and black pepper to taste

Put the flour and eggs in a large bowl and stir it until the mixture becomes solid. Slowly, like you’re recovering from a hangover, add one cup of water and the clove to the mixture as you continue stirring. Set aside for at least 12 months. After enough time, add the other two cups of water to the mixture, along with the sugar, cayenne, vanilla, and blackberries. Mix it fast with angst and the feeling of impending old age until solid as a rock. Take the harden piece out of the bowl and place in a large pie pan like you would crawl into bed with a beautiful man or woman and put it in the oven for one month at a temperature of 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Be careful when removing it from the oven, as the pie will be hot to the touch and will burn your mouth if eaten directly from the pan. Wise cooks take the pie from the pan and leave it on a plate near an open window where the scent of blackberries and clove whoosh throughout the neighborhood, causing men and women to stop what they’re doing and follow the scent to your door like a band of merry men traversing across a great land sampling every thing they sense . Once enough people are in your house wanting a taste of the pie, slice it proportionality and serve with red wine, or if you’re in a festive mood, Champagne, because surely all this time spent making this pie warrants more than a common libation. Raise your slices and glasses to the Moon Goddess and thank her for the bountiful nourishment, and remember your belly will always fill as full as it needs to be. There should be no leftovers.

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The Rewind Button: Bringing It All Back Home

The Rewind Button is a group blogging project that I’m participating in. We’re taking on Rolling Stone‘s Top 40 albums of all time and writing our own reviews of them.

Bringing It All Back Home by Bob DylanI believe this is the fourth Bob Dylan album I’ve reviewed for this project. I’ve never listened to so much Dylan as I have now. And I’m going to declare that Bringing It All Back Home is my favorite of the one’s reviewed.

The album is feisty, punchy, and rollicking. I also like that most of the songs are short (for Dylan, that is). More times than not, I found myself dancing in my seat at work while listening to the songs.

By the way, when “On the Road Again” came on, it reminded me of the Georgia Satellites’ classic “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.”

Bringing It All Back Home is an album I would be proud to have in my disc changer, at home and work.

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The Rewind Button: Blue

The Rewind Button is a group blogging project that I’m participating in. We’re taking on Rolling Stone‘s Top 40 albums of all time and writing our own reviews of them.

All I could think of while listening to this album was, “Make it stop! Make it stop! Make it Stop!” Yep, I’m not a fan. In fact, I like Astral Weeks by Van Morrison better than Blue. Really, that’s not saying much.

It really comes down to vocal styles that determine if I enjoy an album or not. Joni Mitchell’s vocals are not enjoyable. They grate and remind me of bad American Idol contests who equate theatrics with seriousness.

The music was alright, and as I mentioned with Astral Weeks, maybe I’ll appreciate this album, too, later in life. Right now, though, if I saw it walking down the street, I’d quickly turn around and run away from it as fast as I could.

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The Rewind Button: Led Zeppelin

The Rewind Button is a group blogging project that I’m participating in. We’re taking on Rolling Stone‘s Top 40 albums of all time and writing our own reviews of them.

Led Zeppelin - Led ZeppelinI listen to the album first before reading anything about it. Often, I don’t even read anything about the album, because I want to experience listening to the music as someone did before the Internet made infinite knowledge available. Led Zeppelin is another album in which I don’t care to know about its production, writing, or reception. I slip on my headphones, turn the volume up 100 percent, and let the songs soak through me.

“Good Times Bad Times” and “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” are killer opening songs, with “Babe…” being one of my all-time favorite Zeppelin songs. I could listen to it on repeat forever. It’s sluggy with a streak of classical clarity guiding its melody.

Then we get to “Dazed and Confused,” and I’m reminded of Everything is a Remix, Part 1. It was through this video that I learned how much Zeppelin ripped off other artists for some of their biggest hits. Remixing other artists, appropriating their work and making it your own is a practice I’m on the fence about. Part of me wants to believe that creativity stems from true originality. The other part of me knows that nothing is really new, even if you think it is. With a song like “Dazed and Confused,” I’m in the camp of not approving its downright thievery. Go ahead and quote Eliot to me. It’s still theft. Zeppelin just didn’t remix it enough to make it their own. (By the way, “Babe…” is a cover and properly attributed as such, unlike “Dazed…”)

Moving on. “Communication Breakdown” is another all-time, original, Zeppelin favorite of mine. If I could just listen to “Good Times Bad Times,” “Babe I’m Gonna to Leave You”, and “Communication Breakdown,” I’d be totally happy with this album and rank it much higher on Rolling Stone‘s list. Adding the other songs on there weighs it down, placing it exactly where it should be on the list.

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The Rewind Button: Who’s Next

The Rewind Button is a group blogging project that I’m participating in. We’re taking on Rolling Stone‘s Top 40 albums of all time and writing our own reviews of them.

The Who - Who's NextThe Who is one of those bands that a lot of my friends go apeshit over, but one that I’ve never latched on to. When I hear “My Generation” or “Baba O’Riley” on the radio, I probably won’t turn them off. But I’ve never purposely listened to one of their records until now.

And I’m going to have to say that Who’s Next is, well, okay. Maybe it’s because I’ve heard songs such as “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and the aforementioned “Baba O’Riley” so many times that they’re nothing new to me. In fact, my favorite song from this album’s recording session wasn’t even on the proper release. “Pure and Easy” is a bonus track on a 1995 release of Who’s Next.

Just naming those songs puts them in my head as ear worms, which can be considered a success if one doesn’t want to be forgettable. However, I don’t care what album those songs are on, because they’re from The Who and not a certain product. Does that mean the album is a failure if they wanted to create something well packaged and whole? Maybe. Maybe not. And much like my wishy-washy answer, this album is a take-it-or-leave-it one for me.

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