Feeling Like an Old Dog? 5 Tricks to Learn Music as an Adult

learn music

It’s never too late to learn music! My piano student Jane is nearing a nervous breakdown. To help her learn music intuitively, I’ve just explained that I’d like her to experiment by holding down the sustain pedal and improvising with random black keys, which form a pentatonic scale. In an attempt to inspire her, I suggest the dulcet, though accidental, harmony of wind chimes in the breeze. She tenses. Her fingers curl into fists. She narrows her eyes at me. “I hate wind chimes!” she says. Did I mention that Jane is 54 years old? Most children don’t have a problem improvising, perhaps the purest form of “playing” piano — until they’ve taken formal lessons from a teacher who doesn’t emphasize or even touch upon improvisation. My unfortunately uninspired 54-year-old student had taken lessons from such a taskmaster as a child, and when she came to me as an adult        …read more

The One and Only Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury passed away November 24, 1991. Here are 5 reasons we miss him so much. Freddie Mercury took his last name from a Roman god. He was also, I dare say, the most talented singer of our time. Let’s remember the artist and some of the magic that immortalized him and the music he created. 1. A Kind of Magic Queen is one of those bands that sounds only like itself. That was the result of the chemistry among the band members. Freddie said every Queen album was really four solo albums, one made by each member. Everyone wrote very different songs, which Freddie considered to be one of the main reasons Queen never broke up. The four individuals with distinct egos fought like children, one of the things Freddie said made Queen’s music so good when they got together to record an album. It just worked. During an        …read more

SoundCloud Connects Musicians and Fans in Worldwide Chorus

SoundCloud

Through SoundCloud, musicians are connecting with one another and with listeners all over the world. We spoke with three artists about the importance of the platform. No one quite knows where the music industry will go next, and that’s because prognostication is a dangerous undertaking, often prone to error. The past is rarely prologue, and a trend is only as good as a trail of digital breadcrumbs leading to the unknowable. Take streaming, for example. There was once a time when most people were content hauling around a bunch of CDs with them. Then something funny happened — music downloads took off, followed by the world of streaming. You can carry an entire catalogue of music on the smartphone in your pocket. A recent report by Billboard finds that, thanks to streaming subscriptions, the music industry is rebounding in an enormous way. Streaming is set to rake in billions, and        …read more

5 Cover Songs That Are So Much Better Than the Originals

From Nina Simone’s “My Way” to Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah,” these cover songs dramatically changed the originals when the cover artists made them their own. Almost all the musicians I’ve met in my life want to play their own songs, not someone else’s, when they perform live. If you’re an artist, what’s the purpose of playing a cover song? Sure, plenty of musicians will do it to please a bar crowd, and sometimes it’s fun to put your own spin on it, but often cover songs are nothing more than shadows of the original. Every once in a while, though, a cover comes along that completely alters the original and makes it the artist’s own. Through slight changes of lyrics, music or point of view, the person creating the cover song takes it somewhere the original artist either didn’t intend or didn’t foresee. The following are five examples of cover songs        …read more

Remembering a Legend on Tom Petty’s Birthday

Tom Petty’s birthday

On Tom Petty’s birthday, October 20, we remember 6 reasons why we loved the man and his music. I’ve been listening to Tom Petty since the womb. My mom is undoubtedly his biggest fan. She calls him, simply, “Thomas” and always has. My first concert? Tom Petty. The first time music brought me to tears? Tom Petty. My first crush? The girl from Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” video. That “good girl” who loves her mama, Jesus, America, Elvis, horses and her boyfriend too. I’ve been obsessed with Tom Petty my whole life. I’ve learned most of his songs on guitar. I’ve seen Runnin’ Down a Dream, Peter Bogdanovich’s excellent documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and savored every word of Paul Zollo’s Conversations With Tom Petty and Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes — all of which I highly recommend. So when news hit on October 2, 2017, that        …read more

Ghost BC and the Dark Ascension to Heavy Metal Royalty

heavy metal

A tour with heavy metal legends Iron Maiden pushes newcomers Ghost BC into the forefront of the rock ’n’ roll world. Heavy metal institution Iron Maiden has been sweeping the nation once again with their 2017 Book of Souls World Tour, which has of course added yet more clout to the already decorated rock gods. Iron Maiden has been on the forefront of the not-quite-mainstream metal and hard-rock scene for well over 30 years now, though they’ve been continually snubbed from what most call a rightful place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While Iron Maiden’s heavy metal chops won’t exactly be questioned, there’s been no shortage of controversy about the band selected as their special guests for the Book of Souls: Swedish imports Ghost BC. Ghost BC, now generally referred to as just Ghost, entered the heavy metal scene only a few years back and very quickly        …read more

Flashback: 15 Top Albums Celebrating Milestone Anniversaries

best albums, top albums

A look at 15 top albums celebrating 20+ years in 2017. Some of the best albums from the late ’80s and the full memorable decade of the ’90s are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year. Whether hip-hop or heavy metal, here are 15 nostalgia-inducing top albums worth revisiting. 1. Rage Against the Machine, Self-Titled (25th anniversary) Release date: November 3, 1992 With this 1992 self-titled debut album, Rage Against the Machine pushed through the charts thanks to tracks “Bombtrack,” “Know Your Enemy” and “Killing in the Name.” The album became number one on the Heatseekers chart and number 45 on the Billboard 200.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWXazVhlyxQ 2. Deftones, Around the Fur (20th anniversary) Release date: October 27, 1997 The Deftones’ second album brought with it a fury of angry skateboarders, BMXers and extreme-sports junkies. Its approach to alternative metal included smooth bass lines, chaotic guitar riffs, solid drumming and vocals that alternate between hypnotic        …read more

Welcome to Professor Poster’s School of Rock and Roll Posters

rock and roll posters

Vintage rock and roll posters have sold for tens of thousands of dollars. Take a closer look at the ingenious, mesmerizing, mysterious art form. In the mid-1960s the world, America and, more specifically, San Francisco were undergoing a renaissance of culture, music and art. The Summer of Love unofficially began on a day in January 1967, with a call to arms in Golden Gate Park known as a “Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In.” Not a call to bear arms, but rather a raising of arms in unity where the actions of the thousands who attended, and the millions who would learn of it, would change the course of history. A teenager named Rusty Goldman had seen a poster advertising the event and was in the crowd that day. Now with 50 years in the rearview mirror, Rusty Goldman is considered a historian and archivist of rock and roll        …read more

The Cat Rapper Loves His Cats, and We Love Him

cat rapper

Our favorite Cat Rapper, iAmMoshow, opens up about fame, furries and feline hip-hop. I first became aware of iAmMoshow last year in his “Cat Bath Rap” video, a charming freestyle ode to properly cleaning high-maintenance cats, which became a viral sensation. The refreshingly sincere, hilarious and pure song was just the tonic the internet needed in the hellscape that was 2016, but it wasn’t iAmMoshow’s first cat-themed contribution to YouTube. The Portland-based rapper has been dropping songs for a few years now, cultivating a devoted fan base among hip-hop heads and cat people. His EP Cat Love dropped this spring, and he recently collaborated on a line of Moshow “The Cat Rapper” watches and other gear with Grafletics. I got on the phone with the Cat Rapper to talk about his music, living with four cats, his work on behalf of animals and what he thinks of other cat-centric rap. Your EP Cat Love        …read more

5 Tony Award–Winning Scores for Your Spotify Playlist

Tony Award

The 71st Tony Awards will air Sunday, June 11. Here are 5 Tony Award–winning scores to belt out in celebration. Recognizing 71 years of excellence in theatrical performance, the Tony Awards — named for Antoinette Perry, cofounder of the American Theatre Wing — are considered the height of prestige for a Broadway production. And the most important aspect of that recognition is a standout musical score. From the romanticized ballads of Rodgers & Hammerstein to the eclectic overtures of Andrew Lloyd Webber to the sharp-witted refrains of Lin-Manuel Miranda, a transcendent spark of unity, nostalgia, conviction and belief in the human spirit resounds from the crescendo of a poignant show tune. In fact, given the wide-ranging impact of Broadway on our public consciousness, these harmonies and lyrics have been the soundtrack to American culture for decades. With the 2017 Tony Awards approaching on June 11, here is a brief guide to some of the most        …read more