Lets Take Five for Dave Brubeck, RIP Dec. 5, 2012

Sad day in  the music world! Jazz legend Dave Brubeck passed away on December 5th just one day shy of his 92nd birthday.

A pianist and composer, Brubeck was known for writing in odd meters. Two of his most famous compositions are, “Take Five,” and “Blue Rondo A La Turk.”

One of the first jazz tunes I ever performed was the aforementioned “Blue Rondo A La Turk.” It is a piece penned in an odd 9/8 meter; 2+2+2+3 alternating with measures of a compound 9/8 meter 3+3+3.  The rhythmic drive of Brubeck’s music was rare in jazz, but, easy for listeners to feel and relate to the strong beat.

For a young musician like myself who grew up influenced by Heavy Metal and Hard Rock genres the composer’s music was a natural fit. Any fan of the Progressive Rock band Rush would be familiar with the odd meters Brubeck employed.

Godspeed to Dave Brubeck, Rest in Peace and thank you for all the music!

What is a Picardy 3rd?

Alex Trebek, “The practice of ending a piece of music in a minor key on a major tonic chord”

…I am going to win one of you a Jeopardy answer someday! Remember this!

Not sure why but while studying music in college the topic of the Picardy 3rd was something that always came up in jokes and conversations between students. It may have to do with it just being a cool musical concept, it may be that is was one of the easier concepts to grasp for most music students, I’m just not sure. All I know is every time I hear it I want to do that stupid Beavis and Butthead laugh and say, “Uhhh-huhh, you said Picardy 3rd.”

It was a practice popularized in the Renaissance period 1400-1600. The origins of the name Picardy are not known for sure although some theorize it relates to the Picardy region of France.

So other than a joke between college musicians, winning Jeopardy or impressing your friends with a relatively useless piece of trivia how does this effect your life?

Well for those of you who write music try it! You will be amazed at the stark lifting statement a final major chord has on a minor keyed song. The half step raising of one note can substantially generate a physical impression on your listeners. And after all what are we trying to do as musicians…move our listeners!

Try it you’ll like it!

Here is Glenn Gould performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s Prelude in D minor BWV926 Listen for the difference between the final major chord and the rest of the piece in minor.

No Olympics on TV Burnout??? Listen to Some Music!

That was some serious TV watching every night for the past two weeks. Riveting coverage of sports that we only care about every four years. But it was riveting.


Now what are we all gonna do? Watch re-runs of Chopped, Modern Family or Big Bang Theory? You could read a book or do a project with your family. All good ideas.

Here is my nickels worth of free advice…LISTEN TO SOME MUSIC! Not on your TV, not on your computer on some sort of music device!

A little too retro?


Find some old jazz or classical piece. Play some of your kids favorite music. Play your kids some of the embarrassing music you grew up with. Better yet make your own music… every home has a guitar or piano tucked in a distant corner, right?

Give the giant screen on your wall a break for 30 minutes tonight. You will feel like you really did something different…because you will have done something different.

Music to Relax – Debussy Arabesque #1

Hope everyone had an easy Monday! Regardless you might want to unwind a bit and I am here for you. This issue of ‘Music to Relax’, features the impressionist composer Debussy’s piano work “Arabesque.” Debussy wrote a pair of these and this is the 1st one.

The music of the Impressionist period began near the end of the 19th Century in reaction to ‘Common Practice,’ music with its roots in the Medieval period (500-1400), through the Renaissance(1400-1600), stylistically heightened in J.S. Bach’s hands in the late Baroque(1600-1750), continued through the Classical period(1750-1820) of Beethoven and Mozart and exploited through chromaticism and virtuosity of the Romantic composers(1820-1910, some say it has never truly ended.)
Regarding the chromaticism of the Romantic Period pretty much any note was fair game, but, the music still followed the basic rules of tonality and rules of the ‘Common Practice.’ All twelve notes could be used in any key…the basis of my blog name 12 Notes & the Truth!

Impressionists, who followed the art movement broke with these traditions. The result tended to be very lush relaxing wide open sounding music. They tried to make different sounds. Non diatonic scales and non functioning chords were trademarks of this period. However, Debussy and another composer Ravel were not fond of the term applied to their music.

If you want to play this and relax it should do the trick.

If you are looking for a music challenge try to think how this music sounds different than Bach, Beethoven, Mahler…etc.

Click here for previous ‘Music to Relax’ posts.

Music to Relax – Horace Silver “Lonely Woman”

I love this song! I cant hear it and not relax. It soothes my brain like no other song I can think of.

There are certain recordings that you hear and know the stars were aligned as it was being created and for Horace Silver’s, “Lonely Woman,” it might have been the stars, the planets and the universe all in phase, much like my last Music to Relax post of Miles Davis’, “Blue in Green.”

The song is  mellow in it’s sonicity but has an intensity that breathes life into it’s dulcet  tones.

Silver creates the relaxed mood in Lonely Woman in a handful of ways.

-First, his quartet is downsized to a trio of piano, bass and drums.

-The spacing is so open rhythmically and sonically. Rhythmically, the bass line and drum accents are almost entirely half notes.

-Brushes are used on the drums to lighten the percussive nature.

-The chords Silver uses on the piano accompaniment are mostly open spacings with just the right dissonances mixed in.

-When soloing Silver  uses  pentatonic scales which eliminates chromaticism.

The intensity comes when he does blend chromaticism and dissonances to contrast the vibe of the piece. Then the final bars just lift you up.

You have to think if more people were exposed to this piece the world would be a better place.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this song!!