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How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond | [John Powell]

How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond

Have you ever wondered how off-key you are while singing in the shower? Or if your Bob Dylan albums really sound better on vinyl? Or why certain songs make you cry? Now, scientist and musician John Powell invites you on an entertaining journey through the world of music. Discover what distinguishes music from plain old noise, how scales help you memorize songs, what the humble recorder teaches you about timbre (assuming your suffering listeners don’t break it first), and more.
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Publisher's Summary

An enthralling investigation into the mysteries of music. Have you ever wondered how off-key you are while singing in the shower? Or if your Bob Dylan albums really sound better on vinyl? Or why certain songs make you cry?

Now, scientist and musician John Powell invites you on an entertaining journey through the world of music. Discover what distinguishes music from plain old noise, how scales help you memorize songs, what the humble recorder teaches you about timbre (assuming your suffering listeners don’t break it first), why anyone can learn to play a musical instrument, what the absurdly complicated names of classical music pieces actually mean, how musical notes came to be (hint: you can thank a group of stodgy men in 1939 London for that one), how to make an oboe from a drinking straw, and much more.

With wit and charm, and in the simplest terms, Powell explains the science and psychology of music. Clever, informative, and deeply engaging, How Music Works takes the secrets of music away from the world of badly dressed academics and gives every one of us—whether we love to sing or play air guitar—the means to enhance our listening pleasure.

©2010 John Powell (P)2010 Gildan Media Corp

What the Critics Say

"Powell conveys the material with enough humor and cocktail party facts to keep the book light and fun." (Publisher's Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (299 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Arthur Simi Valley, CA, United States 05-17-14
    Arthur Simi Valley, CA, United States 05-17-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Depends on what you know coming into this book"

    As a musician, I soak up almost anything related to music. This presentation is somewhat of a music 101 on various levels - so if you personally have a solid understanding of music fundamentals, you could easily pass by this book as it will likely be extremely repetitive regarding music fundamentals. That said, I still picked up a couple of interesting tid bits here and there, though not sure the trade of time for this book was personally a good use of time. There are also multiple attempts to spice up the book with humor - you'll either be amused or will be rolling your eyes when those offerings emerge.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chad Duluth, GA, United States 01-21-12
    Chad Duluth, GA, United States 01-21-12
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    "I recommend this to anyone who is in to music!"
    Would you listen to How Music Works again? Why?

    I would listen to this again so that I could brush up on some of the very helpful points this book makes.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    andrew Bountiful, UT, United States 11-25-11
    andrew Bountiful, UT, United States 11-25-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Shade of Gray"

    Rather lifeless narration, as others have said. His voice is quiet and tedious. I also felt for much of the book that this company had discovered a man incapable of humor. Wasn't there a Saturday Night Live sketch about a disease where people were incapable of finding anything funny...He tells these jokes like he has no idea what a joke is. There is very little change in voice. The information was pretty interesting though, somewhat basic. But it will teach you to tune a pentatonic harp, and I learned enough that I felt my money was well spent. I'd have listened to it all in a few days if I could have kept my head up for more than two hours straight through the narration. Though he seemed more subtle and understated than stodgy by the end, when I'd adjusted to him.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark 01-26-15
    Mark 01-26-15 Member Since 2015
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    "increased my knowledge of music"
    Any additional comments?

    I'm not a musician, but was interested in learning the theory of music. This book delivered brilliantly.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    McCoffee Saratoga, CA, United States 01-17-15
    McCoffee Saratoga, CA, United States 01-17-15

    I like history and biography, novels too. I do have a thing for zombie books as well. I need crappy thrillers now and then.

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    "Some good chapters, but no musical sound bites"

    A few chapters--like those on the development of the diatonic scale are really interesting. The author himself steps in at the end of some chapters to demonstrate principles on his guitar, and this really helps. Problems: there are spoken passages referring to notes and scales that could easily have been backed by musical audio. There are hundreds of places where this could have been done. In a description of a flute, there's no sound bite of a flute. Curious why they didn't bother to use more sounds. Some of content is poorly suited to the audio format.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Barnesville, GA, United States 01-06-15
    Dr. Barnesville, GA, United States 01-06-15 Member Since 2013
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    "A good companion book for college music students.."
    Would you consider the audio edition of How Music Works to be better than the print version?

    depends on the reader/listener. I am the kind of person who focuses best while driving, so audio books are great.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It covers a lot of basic information on sound and music in a straight-forward, easy-to-understand manner with enough humor to keep it from being dry.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Film???? no


    Any additional comments?

    YES - the writer should have a music theorist edit the terminology. There is a difference between a note (what we see on paper) and a pitch (what we hear). the author confuses these. There are a few other discrepancies which might hinder other music theory teachers from adopting this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Raglan, New Zealand 05-04-14
    Mark Raglan, New Zealand 05-04-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Huckleberry Jeeves"

    This was mostly an entertaining and educational explanation of what it says on the label: How music works. I enjoyed it and learned a lot.

    As for the narrator, what were they thinking? If you made a recording of Huckleberry Finn would you cast actors with posh English accents? No, because that would sound stupid wouldn’t it? Similarly, in this book, the author uses many English expressions about going to pubs and eating chips with gravy, and these sound ridiculous out of the mouth of the American narrator.

    Whenever I wasn’t distracted by this conspicuous miscasting, I was enjoying the audiobook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcin Bagsik Gliwice 04-14-14
    Marcin Bagsik Gliwice 04-14-14 Member Since 2015
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    "That's how it works!"
    What did you love best about How Music Works?

    Easly explained diference between ordinary music listener and those with perfect pitch, why some sounds match together and others not. How acients tuned their instruments and why it was standardized just in 1939. It's must have! for everyone who like to play or just learn to play an instrument.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, it was.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. C. Thailand 02-19-14
    J. C. Thailand 02-19-14 Member Since 2015

    I live in Thailand, and love to listen to audible.

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    "Very good"

    Actually I liked it read by an American with intermittent blurbs read by the British author. It was really neat. I learned a lot and had fun listening. Highly recommended! The narration is wonderful. Add a little multi media with some music thrown in, and you have a winner! Loved it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ilouis 12-05-13
    ilouis 12-05-13
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    "excellent material - so so narrator"
    If you could sum up How Music Works in three words, what would they be?

    Interesting explanation of many musical concepts. Music was a "magical talent" to me until I listened to this book.

    First I didn't get the humor, but quickly got used to the British humor and started enjoying the book.

    I thought the narrator was annoying and that, unfortunately, didn't change much till the end of the book.


    What did you like best about this story?

    the material is excellent


    What aspect of Walter Dixon’s performance would you have changed?

    Wrong narrator. Pauses too often without a need. The most unnecessary pauses are often between "the" and what comes after it. Why do you need to say "the pitch"???


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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