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How Music Works Audiobook

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

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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

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  •  
    C. Beaton Eureka, CA 01-25-11
    C. Beaton Eureka, CA 01-25-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Great book - wrong narrator"

    The book was entertaining, enlightening, and educational, plus funny. The only problem was the book was written by a Brit, using many humorous British expression and slang. The reader was American and the contrast of British writing and American reader didn't work. At the end of each chapter the author, John Powell, comes in and demonstrates with guitar or other instrument what the chapter was about. The author is hilarious and I wish that he or another Brit had read it. I recommend it highly and I learned a lot!

    22 of 22 people found this review helpful
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    Tim Fremont, NE, United States 02-18-11
    Tim Fremont, NE, United States 02-18-11 Member Since 2016
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    "Nearly everyone will get something out of this!"

    As a guitarist, choral director and musician of over 30 years, I have a pretty good understanding of the physics of music as well as music theory. However, I came away learning a number of new things from this book AND with a more solid understanding of things I already knew.

    While I agree that a British reader may have made the listen a little more fun, the narrator was fine for me. The author's recordings at the end of chapters were good in most cases, but his demonstration of vibrato and rubato were generally not that obvious, even to someone who knew exactly what he was doing and trying to communicate.

    His explanation of the overtone series and how they contribute to an instrument's sound was VERY good, as was his explanation of how the pentatonic scales were mathematically derived (something that I didn't know).

    The author also did a good job near the end of the book explaining the weird "names" for classical compositions. His appendix explaining the intervals and songs that used them was also very good.

    Only other criticism (and it is a small one) is that the use of terms tone and semi-tone is less common than whole step and half step, which may confuse some readers a bit.

    All in all a really nice read and the author has a GREAT sense of humor!

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sher from Provo Utah 09-26-11
    Sher from Provo Utah 09-26-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Great book for learning more about music"

    This book is so entertaining! It is funny and clever and very enlightening. The narrator has just the right style, the right mix of humor and seriousness to make it funny and informative. I enjoyed almost all of it. It is written for non-musicians in an effort to help them understand what music is all about. The author does a great job of hitting so many aspects of music, but for me, a professional musician, it was a little elementary. With that said, I did learn a few things that I can use in my classroom, and that made it all worth it. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions. I can recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the workings and meanings of music.

    I must add that I am glad the editors did not have the author read his own book. He interjects on several occasions with musical examples that have been discussed by the narrator. He is very hard to understand. I liked his interjections and loved his use of his guitar playing examples, but the narrator, Walter Dixon, brings the book to life.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rikki Friday Harbor, WA, United States 08-03-11
    Rikki Friday Harbor, WA, United States 08-03-11 Member Since 2012
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    "Every musician should read this!"

    A easy and fun read about everything music. A complete explanation of how sound and music work, from origins to how and why we listen. I recommend this to every musician and every music lover. Rikki Swin

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcheta 01-05-11
    Marcheta 01-05-11 Member Since 2007
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    "Great background info for a beginning musician"

    I am just starting guitar lessons and the info in this audio is amazing. I knew some of it, but not the background. I've recommended it to several other friends who are music students.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rissa HOUSTON, TX, United States 11-01-11
    Rissa HOUSTON, TX, United States 11-01-11
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    "Something for everyone."

    I enjoyed this book beginning to end. It provided a wide variety of information, examples and stories about music that anyone could gleam insight from. Very entertaining and educational.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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    Jonathan Fourways, South Africa 02-25-13
    Jonathan Fourways, South Africa 02-25-13 Member Since 2013
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    "A simple way to gain depth and breadth in music"
    Would you listen to How Music Works again? Why?

    I'd listen to it again because there were many fascinating bits I'd like to hear again, and to reinforce the learning.

    The author is quite a funny guy, reminds me of Ricky Gervais a bit, which is refreshing and keeps you listening for the next funny bit.

    The information is presented so well, and I learnt so much about how and why music works, and how and why it makes one feel the way it does, I can't say enough good things about this book.

    If you're interested in the science of music, or are starting out with an instrument you'll find this book has a breadth and depth of knowledge that explains so much more than any other single source.

    Also, I would say that since having listened to this material, my appreciation of all music has been enhanced. I appreciate the skill in making great sounds so much more.


    Any additional comments?

    This book has a ton of information, which may or may not be interesting or useful to you. If you don't like learning for the pleasure of it, or are not really interested in how music works, you probably won't enjoy this book. But if you do, then you'll love it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arthur Simi Valley, CA, United States 05-17-14
    Arthur Simi Valley, CA, United States 05-17-14 Member Since 2013
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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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Mole Te Atatu Peninsula, Auckland New Zealand 04-09-12
    Matt Mole Te Atatu Peninsula, Auckland New Zealand 04-09-12 Member Since 2016
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    "Outstanding. Making a technical subject easy."
    Would you listen to How Music Works again? Why?

    I've already listened to it three or four times. It really is interesting and well presented.


    Have you listened to any of Walter Dixon???s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    First time I've heard Walter Dixon. I like his presentation.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    milene Brasília, Brazil 12-26-11
    milene Brasília, Brazil 12-26-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Funny and inspiring"
    What made the experience of listening to How Music Works the most enjoyable?

    The examples and the author's comments at the end of each chapter


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The author


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

    No, it is a book to study slowly


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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