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I guess I just like liking things

I can't wait until they add Pan Flutes and Xylophones so we can get sweet-looking icons for them added to the logo.

I can’t wait until they add Pan Flutes and Xylophones so we can get sweet-looking icons for them added to the logo.

I’ve been singing in choirs and groups for as far back as I can remember. I don’t have a “solo voice,” but I can blend pretty well with other people, so groups are my thing. In all those years of classes and practices, I picked up some things here and there about music theory, but nothing formal. Like, I know what a “picardy third” is when I hear it, but I couldn’t explain it to anyone.  Even reading that wiki article on it confuses me – I know many of the terms being used, certainly, but understanding it is beyond me.

Furthermore, after all these years I still can’t pick my note out of a played chord. If the piano player doesn’t hit my note alone and say “This is your note” and give me a second to match the pitch, I’ll be lost the rest of the time.  I can read music to a certain extent, enough to know “oh, hey, that’s a third up from where I am currently,” but it doesn’t help me in the moment of singing because I can’t go “do-re-mi” up to the next note.  Pretty much how I’ve always learned my part is hearing it (and only it) over and over and singing along to it. I took 5+ years of piano, even, but still never really “got it.”

Historically, listening to music for enjoyment has been a “here’s a song” deal for me. Sure, I hear guitar and voices and drums and whatever else, especially if it was being featured (drum solo!), but picking out pieces was pretty much impossible for me.  Sly & the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music” was kind of an eye-opener for me, sort of the pop music version of classical’s “Peter & the Wolf” for helping people learn the parts of an orchestra.

But it wasn’t until Rock Band showed up that I really started being able to hear specifics. Even up to Guitar Hero II I was still having trouble – it added the ability to play a second guitar part (usually bass), but I hated playing it because I could never hear it, so it was as if I were playing Simon without the benefit of the tones. With the advent of Rock Band, everything got separated out and it kind of changed my world. Guitar, bass, drums, and vocals all got featured and going through the setlist (sometimes several times) with each instrument (yes, I’m including voice as an instrument here) really helped me understand the pieces better, both individually and how they worked together as a whole. Whether it was a new way of being mixed or it was the individual focus on the parts, I finally started hearing them.

It carried over into songs not in the Rock Band setlist, and now if I hear a song enough times I can notice things about it I hadn’t before. Sometimes that’s neat and sometimes it ruins my ability to hear the song as a whole, which is a weird side effect I hadn’t considered.  I can’t think of a particular example right now, but there’ve been songs I liked until I noticed a particular thing happening in the background which eventually ruined my appreciation for the song as a whole. For the most part, though, it has enhanced my appreciation for what goes into making a song.  I still can’t hear lyrics correctly a lot of the time (another thing Rock Band helped correct!), but that’s most likely a whole ‘nother thing.

Two conclusions I reach from this:

  1. Videogames can be educational. tell your folks!
  2. Harmonix needs to make more Rock Band games, especially for the next-gen systems just released.

See kids?  Videogames are educational. Thanks, Rock Band!


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