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“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” uses the first, third, and fifth notes on that scale more often in the chorus than in the verses and pre-choruses. Since Cui and Dr. Hughes have each worked on different versions of an experiment about how notes 1, 3, and 5 on a scale affect us psychologically, they can tell us a lot about why that difference matters through the lenses of music theory, music psychology, and cognitive psychology alike.

It’s always good to try to find ways to reengage with your collaborators even if they live elsewhere — developing and maintaining a network of home recording cowriters and musicians you can hit up is a very valuable musical practice. So last Friday, I shot him a text asking if he could track something for me by Sunday. I had a flawless solo take and some background parts less than two hours later.

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I mostly approached this as “soloing” with the a cappella, using the instrumental as my “rhythm section.” But I did some improvising with the instrumental too, by looping, and by jumping around between cue points. I don’t consider this to be a polished work of art or anything, but I discovered some pretty cool sounds, even at my basic skill level. So I’m excited to see where this leads.

The problem is that these tendencies are the exact opposite of what we should be doing if we want to see real improvement, according to Dr. Anders Ericsson. And we might be wise to listen. Dr. Ericsson is widely considered one of the foremost thinkers on the subject of “expertise.” His research is one of the primary sources that inspired Malcolm Gladwell’s now-famous “10,000 Hour Rule” — that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to be an expert in anything. But that rule, though memorable, is far from the whole story.

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In his case, that’s a lot of pop-punk and a variety of indie rock. Yes, Sawyer has developed a keen appreciation for The Gaslight Anthem, The Front Bottoms, and The Arkells. Never let it be said that he doesn’t have taste!

Melody isn’t made up of random notes anymore than speech uses random words. There’s as much grammar in a tune as there is in a paragraph. The notes in a well-written melody are organized into small groups called motifs. A motif is a group of 2, 3, 4 and not many more notes that played in that way, that are ordered together to make a tune easily identifiable — like a mugshot.

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“Chameleonic, hypnotizing, and utterly irreplaceable, David Bowie was more than just a pop star. More underdog than diamond dog, he was an inspiration to millions: a hot tramp from the streets of London, who proved that anything’s possible when you follow your dreams.”

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