Comparing Strings Past Three Dimensional Space, part one

I have an obsession with strings. Violin strings, cello strings, bass strings, guitar strings, bass guitar strings. It’s amazing that marginally altering the materials or fabrication can transform how a string functions. I will not go into detail as to how strings are made and what they are made of here, as that would take too long, but this is the crash course. My intention in this first part is to inform the reader of the variational complexities inherent to strings made for musical instruments.

Strings can be a single wire of any number of metals, a strand of any number of polymers (like nylon), or a strand of wound intestine (cat, goat, sheep, human). A metal wire can be plain or stainless steel, or plated with chrome, tin, gold, even platinum.

Lower and mid-range pitched strings require more mass to achieve low enough pitches at playable tensions. Instruments like piano, harp, or fanned-fret instruments can add mass by increasing string length of lower strings. Instruments with uniform string lengths (like guitar and violin) can’t just add length to lower strings. However, even pianos cannot achieve the necessary mass for lower strings while still sounding like a piano by merely increasing string length. Strings either need to be denser or thicker. However, strings made of a single material quickly become too rigid as the string’s intended pitch lowers.

String makers solve this problem by wrapping a metal, polymer, or gut (intestine) core with one or more layers of metal. Because the wrapping is structurally decoupled (to varying degrees) from the core, the flexibility of higher pitched, non-wrapped strings is retained.

Here is where things get complicated (aka. interesting). Single metal wire strings can only really be made of steel due to the structurally inadequacies of other metals. But wrappings, which do not have this constraint, can be many forms of metal (steel, nickel, titanium, silver, gold alloy, tungsten, zinc, phosphor bronze, copper, aluminum, hydronalium, chrome steel, etc.). Instead of choosing wire vs. polymer vs. gut, now you have a choice matrix of the three basic types (plus any variations of each wherein!) vs. metal wrappings. Further, many strings use two or more layers. Upright bass strings can have up to five layers!

This choice matrix also does not take into account how the wrappings are applied. Violin family instrument string wrappings are ribbon/flat wound–meaning the wrappings are flat a smooth. Fretted instruments have in addition round wound wrappings. These wrappings range from fine to large. Also, round wound wrappings can be compressed into “half-rounds.”

Because the core is protected by the wrappings, manufacturers can then make the core into shapes other than the traditional cylinder (circular cross section). The most common of these in the fretted instrument world is the hexocore, which has a hexagonal cross section that enables a round metal wrapping to more closely structurally couple to the steel core. In the violin family world, metal and polymer cores can be made of intertwining fine strands rather than a single cord. A final dagger in the heart of simplicity is that these stranded cores can be made of any number of combinations of metals or polymers (occasionally both together!) and can be made up of any number of varying weave patterns.

In part two, I’m going to talk about the good ways and bad ways musicians typically evaluate and distinguish between string choices. I will show why the typical dichotometric models of describing strings (bright vs. dark, direct vs. subtle, quiet vs. loud, projecting vs. non-projecting, etc.) misleads consumers; and I will provide an alternate way to think about comparisons between strings (and comparisons between complexities in general).

Myers-Briggs and Musicianship, part 6–Extraverted Sensing

Extroverted Sensing (primarily ESFP, ESTP; secondarily ISFP, ISTP):

I don’t think Sebastian Shaw (X-men universe) is an extraverted sensor in personality, but his mutant power provides an excellent mnemonic visualization of how extraverted sensors feed off the energy of the moment. They absorb any energy–nervous, negative, positive, or supportive–into power. They feed off and excel in the moment.

(On the other hand, Wolverine’s personality–if not his as explicitly his powers–is probably the most extraverted sensing of in the X-men universe.)

For this reason, the two dominant Se types (ESTP & ESFP) are the most common among athletes. The title of the ESTP type is “The Doer” (akin to Nike’s slogan “Just Do it”); ESFPs title is “The Performer”–which is what one would hope for in an athlete.

These types are stage maniacs drawn to the electricity of live performance (not all ESXPs are maniacs, but most maniacs are ESXPs).

The musician I always think of when I think of ESFP musicians is Red Hot Chili Peppers’ front man Anthony Keidis.

Extraverted sensing performers are usually big on the shock-and-awe factor. Notice the lavish and bold visuals (also, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, who are also extraverted sensors). Keidis is known for his stage stunts (and famous for injuring himself in the process).

Keidis embodies Se because his artistry is rooted in visceral expression, rather than vocal precision (his isn’t so great–especially live) or emotionally-charged lyrics. In keeping with extraverted sensing’s focus on the vibrancy of the present physical moment, his lyrics have frequent allusions to sex. (As his lyrical style’s matured, his topics became more Fi-, and even Ni-focused later on–which in keeping with the type development of ESFPs).

My advice for SP types is to not be let criticism stop you from letting your freak flag fly. Aim for precision while perfecting your craft–always be improving your musicianship–but don’t let feelings of imperfection distract you from what you do best: Harnessing the energy of the moment and going with it.

Here’s a parting RHCP music video (I hope you begin to appreciate them as much as I do):

Myers-Briggs and Musicianship, part 5 — Introverted Feeling

Introverted Feeling (primarily ISFP, INFP; secondarily ESFP, ENFP):

Take a look at these two Celebrity Types pages (ISFPINFP).

How many famous singer / song-writers do you count? Add in all the poets, who are essentially just song-writers minus the music. Now the authors and illustrators. (Look at other pages if you don’t believe there is something unique about ISFP and INFP). Do you see where I’m going with this?

Introverted feeling (Fi) is about exploring deep feelings. Song-writing is about exploring deep feelings.


Because introverted feeling is all about establishing one’s own personal feelings, ISFP/INFPs can often think that other dominant introverted feelers are mis-typed because they disagree completely on religious or political matters. The thing is, introverted feeling doesn’t predispose you to have certain values, it just means that whatever values you do have, you hold close to your heart.

Introverted feelers write ballads to Jesus, and they write about the evils of religion. They are Bob Dylan and they are Eminem. They compose classical orchestrations and they scream punk rock. The commonality is that Fi personalities have strong feelings about things that reside outside the microcosm of empirical knowledge, and inside the universe of the human experience.

(The fact that IXFPs can be so different from each other touches on the truth that there is great diversity within each Myers-Briggs type, and that MBTI in no way is supposed to box anyone into a particular set of behaviors or personality, or be a be-all end-all description of it. It’s just one way to think about personality. It’s okay to not fall neatly into a type. Knowing that you fit best into several types can say just as much about components of your personality.)

I don’t go out of my way to listen to Eminem, but he is a perfect example of an ISFP song-writer; and I want to branch out and speak to styles of music I don’t typically listen to. Rihanna, featured in this video, is also ISFP–which, together gives this song an extraverted sensing bent. (Hat tip to Dominic Monaghan, i.e., “Merry” from LotR or Charlie from Lost.)

The song works through the artists’ feelings regarding the dark reality of domestic abuse. It’s powerful because it brings us into their world of intense introverted feeling regarding the subject-matter.

Here is an INFP version. Fi + Se is deals with emotion in a more visceral sense, whereas Fi + Ne is more depressive, spiritual, and conceptual.

This doesn’t mean having Fi as your dominant or supporting function makes you a good song-writer, or that all Fi-users should song-write. Song-writing is a skill that requires practice. Anyone–including non-introverted feelers–can do it well with enough practice.

You might get a lot of fulfillment from creating or performing music that has a strong intra- (not to be confused with inter-) personal component, even if it doesn’t make you famous (which is a statistical probability). But, enjoyment of the process usually leads to a likeliness to practice; and the more you practice, the better you get.

Even if song-writing isn’t your thing, you will almost certainly enjoy constructing your own “vocabulary” of sounds and rhythms you like hearing, then using this knowledge to compose music, improvise solos, or create unique melodic contributions in whatever instrumental or vocal role you are apart.

The Three Things Vibration Frequencies Do in an Instrument

There are basically three ways vibration data acts in an acoustic instrument. 1.) It is absorbed / damped / killed within the instrument. 2.) It is maintained as it continues to travel within the instrument. 3.) It is externally damped by the air (i.e., becomes sound).

If the instrument encourages #3 too much, it will sound loud, crisp, and dry. If too much #2, the instrument may reverb or feedback if mic’ed, and will sound wet, glossy, and inarticulate (but smooth). If too much #1, it will be quiet and dead.

Where it really gets interesting, though, is that it’s not just about balancing 1, 2, and 3–it’s about **how** 1, 2, and 3 are balanced throughout the entire frequency range. For instance, an instrument where no vibrations become #1 will sound unfocused and awful because the instrument would be letting all frequencies dominate at once, instead of tastefully carving away unwanted frequencies so a King David can emerge from the marble. Past this, if certain frequencies remain #2 while others become #3, you can get any variety of complex evolutions of sound from initial attack to final decay.

Myers-Briggs and Musicianship, part 4 — Extraverted Thinking

Extraverted Thinking (Extrovert “TJ” personalities): Competent, critical, commanding, assertive, goal-oriented, competitive, dick. These are common descriptions of TJ personalities. Jonah Jameson (ESTJ) from the Spiderman universe:

Also, TJ personality “drama” is what powers the content of all cop, law, or spy TV shows. There is always a cold objective to be solved, and nearly every conversation is either about about how the other person is illogical, too emotional, incompetent, or wrong; and about doing things that need to be done even if they aren’t emotionally pretty. It’s awesome. Here is Victor Garber playing an INTJ in Alias. (You’ve gotta love the J.J. Abrams music kicking off this scene):

Here is Simon Cowell, who is perhaps the most well known music critic:

I have a confession. Simon is probably dominant introverted thinking (ISTP, probably), not extroverted thinking (TJ / Te). This makes his cognitive function fair Ti / Fe, which means he is either highly dismissive of other’s thoughts (introverted thinking) while at the same time swayed by others’ feelings. TJ’s have a Te / Fi cognitive pair, which means their logical process is more matter-of-fact and less personal, while their feelings are more personal and less directly swayed.

In this video, the two judges on the left are likely Te / Fi users. L.A. Reid, the chic intellectual guy, is probably TJ; Demi Lovato, next to him, is probably FP. (TJs and FP both use Te / Fi. But with FP, Fi leads instead of Te). Both are factual and straightforward in their responses, void of negative or positive emotional energy.

Brittney Spears (ESFJ) and Simon Cowell have the antipodal thing going. Both exhibit Ti / Fe (though, Brittney’s Fe leads over Ti) and you can sense the porosity of emotional energy with them.

L.A. Reid, a “T”, demonstrates the Te / Fi cognitive pair by being straightforward (Te) but also referenced his inwardly-focused emotions (Fi) while Demi Lovato, being an “F”, was more touched (Fi) while buffering her straightforwardness (Te).

Brittney’s dominant function, Fe, prompted her to completely avoid constructive feedback and just focus on tempering the others’ criticisms by trying to make the contestant feel better. Simon’s Fe got the best of his typical Ti, which TJ personalities are not as weakened by. Te’s tend to be more articulate communicators, whereas Ti’s are more bumbling and vague (i.e., Simon saying her voice is interesting and filler “uhms”). The strong Te-user (L.A. Reid) is the one that breaks though the social pressure and interpersonal BS to give an answer most focused on the fact that there’s nothing special about her voice.

TJs do better in roles where they can call the shots with complete authority, without having to worry about hurting feelings. Being a mere member of a performing group can be intolerable for a TJ unless its leader meets the TJ’s high standards of competence (rare). But band-leader TJs can repel otherwise competent musicians who can’t stand being micromanaged. They won’t compromise, and they will point out every perceived flaw until each one is corrected to their liking.

This means that a TJ musician will either a.) create conflict as a band-member, b.) be supporting member of an elite group, c.) lead their own band (or be a solo artist) while hiring-out deferential sidemen, or d.) be meta-musicians such as producers, arrangers, composers (more of an INTJ thing), or agents in the business side of music.

  • Given that there is (typically) more money in the business side of music than in trying to make it as a musician oneself,
  • that money equals power,
  • and that most TJ personalites are driven more by power than music,                     —————————————————————————————————-
  • TJ personalities will be more satisfied in the business side of music.

If you are a non-TJ reading this, your thoughts may be, “Oh God, your right! TJs are such jerks!” (To which, if thoughts were seen as readable bubbles, the TJ would respond, “**you’re**”).

But TJs get get things done. If you don’t want your feelings hurt, be competent and stop whining. They get things done because they can make quick and logical decisions.

TJ musicians: Don’t let your soul be killed, and hurt others, by being a sideman, even if you really like the band leader. You will need to run your own show. Otherwise, you may find the poverty-stricken, unappreciated life of a musician unpalatable. Making things happen as a music-business decision-maker is your best bet.

Myers-Briggs and Musicianship, part 3 — Introverted Thinking

The next series’ of posts will consider one cognitive function. Each cognitive function post is intended primarily for those with that function as their dominant function, or auxiliary function. If it is your third or fourth function, consider reading it as well, because the descriptions will give you insight as to what to work toward for personal growth.

What I mean by "functional stack." The functions toward the bottom are typically underdeveloped. The tiny one is often referred to as your "baby" function.

(ISFP) — The functions toward the bottom are typically underdeveloped. The tiny one is often referred to as your “baby” function.

Potentially the most important thing to remember about your functional stack is that our first (dominant) function is where we default to and feel most comfortable. Our second (auxiliary) function is our go-to in situations where our first function doesn’t seem appropriate. Your third (tertiary) and fourth (aspirational / repressed) functions exist as counter-balances to your first two functions. (i.e., people are dynamic. Just because you are “Se” dominant doesn’t mean you don’t have an “N” side to you.)

Advice for Introverted Thinkers (INTP, ISTP):

If introverted thinking is your dominant function, you may find the most satisfaction from arranging music, producing / recording, and getting geeky over music theory or the science of sound. This behind-the-scenes work is where the real magic happens.

Introverted thinkers must always be learning and thinking up new perspectives. Use this drive to learn how to sight read sheet music and be a (studio) session player; or a live performing sideman / orchestra member. Ti is about critical thinking and asking the right questions–desired qualities in a job that requires accuracy in style according to whatever the bandleader, conductor, or producer wants.

Song-writing is more of an introverted feeling (Fi) thing. And instrumental composing tends to be more introverted intuition (Ni). Although Ti’s can do the composition thing, they do better “complexifying” a pre-existing idea (arranging).

Thelonious Monk is the best example I can think of of an INTP musician.

As you hear, it’s kind of quirky, minimalist, and hard to “get.” Those “accidental” hitting two notes close to each other at once? Intentional. Now, I’m not saying IXTP musicians play like this. Most, including myself, elect to play more conventionally in order cater to the feelings of those we play for–which is probably a good thing. Ti musicians love figuring out new ways of thinking about music.

Miles Davis, according to several typing websites, is ISTP. When you think about the cool-headed-ness of his playing style, and the fact that he felt the need to keep learning new styles, this makes perfect sense. His brutal honesty and lack of interpersonal focus despite it working against him in turning off fans indicates introverted thinking.

Miles and Monk were the kinds of musicians that could go into a studio or live performance without having practiced the material, and completely lay down. This is because they focused on understanding music theory well enough to adapt to any situations. They also wrote their own arrangements for tunes–what every Ti personality should put their hand to doing. Find some free music writing software. ForteEncore, Finale, and Sibelius have free / lower cost versions.

If, from your wealth of musical knowledge, you decide teaching would be a good idea, only teach one-on-one. I tried teaching classroom music. If you are IXTP, the interpersonal BS will drain you like nothing else. If you teach private lessons, be more encouraging and pedantic than you think you need to be. If you do that, teaching will be rewarding.

Lastly, it’s okay if you don’t want to schmooze with audiences. Announcing tunes is fine if in a matter of fact and pleasant way, but don’t feel guilty about not wanting to socialize. Any awkwardness would reflect on your music anyway. Just be cordial and do your thing. Every other personality type communicates more naturally than IXTPs, so you should allow yourself to just be a good musician, and not worry about your charisma.


Myers-Briggs and Musicianship, part 2

In part 1, I gave you some MBTI links: Type Coach, Cognitive Processes, and Celebrity Types. Since then, if you’ve narrowed down your possible MBTI types from all sixteen to eight, you are on the right track.

I’m going to ask a favor. Look at the following descriptions of each cognitive function. Pick two that best describe you. Write down your choices if you have trouble remembering.

Introverted Thinking (Ti): Analytical problem sovling; independently-minded; philosophical with a detached focus; elaborate, interweaving threads of logic; performs thought experiments; hypothesizing; theory-creating; comparing and picking apart logical arguments; playing devil’s advocate; metaphysical truth-seeking.

From the show "No Ordinary Family." source:

From the show “No Ordinary Family.”  (Source)

Introverted Feeling (Fi): Philosophical with moralistic focus; forming convictions about right and wrong; forming poetic belief; behaviorally idealistic; independently-willed; moralistic truth-seeking; taking stock of what’s really important in life; refusal to compromise values.

"Calvin and Hobbes" - Bill Watterson

Introverted Feeling: “Calvin and Hobbes” – Bill Watterson

(Bill Watterson is thought to be INFP, of which Fi is its dominant function).

Extroverted Thinking (Te): Achieving goals with cold precision; efficiency-focused; systematic; clear, deductive reasoning; impersonal; results-minded; scientific; outwardly critical; empirical; does what is necessary to accomplish objectives.

Napoleon Bonaparte -- ENTJ. Dominant function Te. source:

Napoleon Bonaparte — ENTJ. Dominant function Te. (Source)

Extroverted Feeling (Fe): Empathetic; others-focused; relational; interpersonal; tactful; promoting harmony; peace-making; ministering; helping; mirror neurons; values derived socially; hospitable; social butterfly; manages people through emotional connection.

Dominant function Fe. source:

Dominant function Fe. (Source)

Introverted Intuition (Ni): Visionary; extended imagination; revolutionary ideas; master pattern finding; detachment from the physical world; attachment to inner, envisioned reality; dream architect; shamanistic perception; willing to disregard present culture and conventional wisdom; seeks to make big ideas reality.

The beauty and grandeur of cathedrals is representational of the eternal idealism Ni sees in the possibilities of the future.

The beauty of a grand cathedral is representative of the idealism Ni dominant personalities see in the possibilities of the future. (Source)

Introverted Sensing (Si): Conventional wisdom; upholds and creates tradition; uses past to guide present; depends on and values knowledge that comes from experience; classical tastes; time-honored; institutional; loves order; preservation of culture; depends on experiential knowledge to make sense of the present and plan for the future; taking comfort in standard procedures.

You don't have to have Si to appreciate tradition, but Si dominant personalities wrap their identities in it. source:

You don’t have to have Si to appreciate tradition, but Si dominant personalities wrap their identities in it. (Source)

Extraverted iNtuition (Ne): Chaos-seeking; imaginative play; agenda-less idea-chasing; sees multiple present-moment realities; random pattern-finding; unrestrained brainstorming; explosion of ideas; breathes sarcasm; finds irony; novelty junkie.

Extraverted Sensing (Se): Sensual; caught up in the moment; thrill-seeking; rising up to the occasion; vibrant perception; full engagement with present reality; chasing fulfillment through the senses; oneness with the physical world.

If you've ever seen a Quentin Tarantino movie, you understand Se--in terms of the "in-the-moment" pacing, and the sensorily rich depiction of violence. source:,,20562076_21107740,00.html

If you’ve ever seen a Quentin Tarantino movie, you understand Se. (Source)

(Non-violent examples of Se interests including things like sports and visual arts.)

Now go to Celebrity Types.

Based on your research and reflection so far regarding the four dichotomies, open two tabs for possible types you may be. Scroll down the page all the way and look for a graph that looks similar to this:

INTP -- source:

INTP — source:

This is my type, by the way; INTP.

My dominant cognitive function is “introverted thinking,” or, “Ti” for short (as shown to the left). The first letter stands for function itself while the second lowercase letter represents the inward or outward orientation.

What does the top-most function say? Is it to the left (introverted) or to the right (extraverted)?

Compare the two functions you thought best represented you to the top-most functions for the two MBTI types you chose. Does at least one match? If not, how are the top-most functions different? Is one function extraverted and the other introverted? Are they your second functions instead?

I’m helping you narrow down your type while trying to avoid the Forer effect, rather, to avoid a premature conclusion as to your type. If at least one of the cognitive functions you chose matched one of the types, you are getting close to finding your type. If not, stay with us.

The best way to pin down your type is to look at the cognitive functions graphs and assess which order most describes the hard-wired you. (If you are on the fence, figure out which tendencies were trained into you by your environment, upbringing, and experiences–then you’ll know that your conflicting tendencies are your hard-wired ones.) For your convenience, here are the cognitive functions graphs for all sixteen types (source: Celebrity Types):









































































So, again, I haven’t yet touched on the music aspect. For now, check out The Intuitive Musician. His whole blog is dedicated to this very topic. I’m awed by the work this guy’s put into it. He’s added more content to it the last time I saw it. Part 3 will either be a review/endorsement of this guy’s content, or my own overview of how type affects the way each type engages with music on all fronts.

Myers-Briggs and Musicianship, part 1

Since the beginning of this blog, I wondered when I would introduce Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Myers-Briggs is on my mind a lot. I probably think about it more than music.

MBTI is an academically-refined personality assessment used in human resources, marketing, and professional development; teaching; marriage, life, and career counseling; and even in legal contexts. When you know your type, resources like this can help you discover aspects about yourself you may not have explored.

One important thing to note about Myers-Briggs: It’s about nature, not nurture. Your type is hard-wired. It doesn’t change. If you think you’ve changed type, it’s because you’ve underestimated the dynamicism, diversity, and flexibility within your actual type. MBTI type is not a box. It’s an incomplete (but useful) framework on which to hang the life experiences that form the rest of your personality.

Ayn Rand — Oft heralded as the prophet of free market economics. An INTJ.


Karl Marx — Prophet of communism. Also an INTJ.










The breakdown: Four dichotomies of personality.

Extroversion vs. Introversion (attitude dichotomy) — Which typically energizes you, the outer world or your inner world. Do you act, reflect, act again? Or do you reflect, act, then reflect once more?

Sensing vs. iNtuition (perceiving dichotomy) — Do you tend to perceive information concretely (S) or abstractly (N)? When you look at an orange, do you see how vibrant it is, or do you miss the vibrancy and unintentionally focus on ideas related to the orange?

Feeling vs. Thinking (judging dichotomy)– When making decisions, do you have a tendency to validate emotional input (F), or do you invalidate emotional input (T). Do you desire making decisions impersonal and detached, or do you prefer a more humanistic approach?

Judging vs. Perceiving (lifestyle dichotomy) — Do you tend to keep your outer world organized, structured, and planned out, with your inner world open-ended–even disorganized–(J), or are you adaptable, spontaneous–even messy–with regard to your outer world, and decisive and principled in your inner world (P)? (J’s often seem more organized but rigid; P’s tend to seem “chill.”)

All possible permutations between these dichotomies result in sixteen distinct, psychological hard-wirings / types that are each abbreviated into four letters.



Instead of going into further detail. Here are some of my favorite MBTI links:

Type Coach — This page is a great resource for giving you an “at-a-glance” description of each permutation of the four letters, as well as accurate, in-depth descriptions for each.

Cognitive Processes – Goes into the intricacies of how the attitude (I vs. E) and lifestyle (P vs. J) dichotomies determine the prominence, and inward vs. outward orientation, of your perceiving (S vs. N) and judging (F vs. T) preferences. Nerdy stuff. (Also called cognitive functions, or Jungian functions).

Celebrity Types — Type examples of famous people, with supporting quotes exemplifying  their type characteristics. At the bottom of each type’s page is a graph displaying the order and attitudes (see “attitude dichotomy”) of each type.

***Warning: The next two paragraphs are a little geeky–even though I tried to tone it down. Look at the pretty graphs and skip over the words if you must.


ESTP –source:

ISTP -- source:

ISTP — source:






With the other three dichotomies controlled for / kept the same, the above graphs show how the “I vs. E” dichotomy determines which functions “lead.” If an introvert, then your introverted functions occupy the first and third positions while your extraverted functions follow in the second and fourth positions. Vice versa for extroverts.










These graphs demonstrate the changes the lifestyle dichotomy (J vs. P) makes on the cognitive functions. As shown, each of the functions’ attitudes (inward vs. outward orientations) are “flipped” to the opposite orientations. Since the ESTJ is also an extroverted type, “Thinking” and “iNtuition” move to occupy the first and third positions–otherwise, the latter graph would be describing an ISTJ.

***Geeky scariness /off.

Okay, so how do you find out your type? Don’t just take an online test. It will only give you a meaningless four-letter abbreviation that may be inaccurate. You will have to do research and self-reflection anyway to figure out what your letters mean, so skip the test. I vs. E is usually the easiest one to pin down, but not for everyone. Hopefully, T vs. F will be simpler if I vs. E isn’t. The other two dichotomies are harder to figure out. Give those some time.

Because I know that some of you will take an online test anyway, these tests tend to be more valid than others: cognitivequiz & teamtechnology. Invalid tests litter the internet. By definition, a test’s validity is determined by whether it actually measures what it seeks to measure, and many tests feature questions that don’t really get to the heart of the dichotomies they are supposed to be determining.

So, 800 words later, I haven’t mentioned music. We’ll get there in part two of this post. For now, figure out what your type is and do some research and self-reflection.

Should money have a say in how you play?

If you fancy yourself a musician, statistically, it is more likely that you burn more money on related expenses than you earn. Sorry. But it’s probably true; unless you’re an accomplished symphony or jazz musician with entrepreneurial sense.

If people pay money to hear your music or see you live, that means they value your music. There will always be penny-pinchers that dash as soon as it costs money to hear you; and the naively money-loose (who only think with their feelings) that will still pay no matter how god-awful you are. But overall, profit is the simplest way to ascertain validation. If people are willing to pay, that says your music matters.

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” –The Joker (The Dark Night)

I don’t mean to condemn playing for free. I still sometimes play for free. If you’d rather not play for money, I support that. There are lots of unpaid gigs I would take over mind-numbing paid gigs (especially as a bassist). My issue concerns professionalism.

When you play for free, it’s easier to slough off lack of refinement. When money is involved, you scrutinize every detail of your playing. Nothing is ever refined enough.


Fractals demonstrate the resultant beauty of simplicity and complexity intermingled. Musical refinement is just as mesmerizing.

Playing for money does not equate to selling out. Instead, it should prompt reflection about your own tastes and how to reach the people who have similar tastes. This is a healthy growing process. If you take this to mean money itself matters in music, you’ve missed the point. Take it from this guy:

“It’s not about money. It’s about sending a message.”

Sending a message is what art is about–regardless of how abstract or concrete. It doesn’t matter if you make money, but if people aren’t willing to sacrifice their money to hear your message, maybe your message isn’t very strong.

On a final note, don’t give into money guilt crap. I do sometimes. Just because you are non-materialistic, or deny need for social validation (being paid is social validation), doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect payment.

Again, “if you’re good at something, never do it for free.” Allowing yourself to require compensation only empowers and frees you to help more people. Really really. When people put down money, it forces a valuation decision. Those who don’t put down money don’t value what you have to offer. It’s okay to not make money–but then, why don’t you instead host a jam session?

Don’t be the self-defeating “I only play for fun anyway” kind of musician. Allow yourself to be the “shut up and take my money” musician people get excited about.

Computer programming as music education

Computer programming code can look intimidating and seem as nonsensical to understand as Mandarin. The thought is, “Where do I even begin?” I couldn’t see how anyone could drive themselves to learn it. I wanted to maintain the illusion that computers ran on magic.I spent the first 24 of my almost 25-year old life ignorant of how fascinating–and understandable–the logic behind all of it was.

I often question my decision to learn Chinese Python as my first programming language.

If this weren’t a music-focused blog, I would write all about my new-found interest in programming; how I’m using Lynda; why I’m choosing to learn Java first over C#, Python, or JavaScript (though, I did already start with JavaScript). Instead, I’m going to limit any discussion to how programming relates to music education.

One of the most fascinating aspects of programming is in how similar it is to teach a computer as it is to teach an actual person. Education and programming overlap because both require taking abstract concepts and turning them into concrete procedures.

I’ve been thinking about applications I’d like to create to help me learn Java while still creating something original. Then I realized that there is a wealth of still untapped needs in music apps. We have chromatic tuners, and we have music theory apps. Okay. But what about programs that, based on user input, tell the user what the best instrument fingerings are for a given situation?

I would have to learn Objective-C (programming language) if I wanted to make iPad apps. No thanks. I’ll enjoy watching the Apple fad fade into obscurity.

For some instruments or styles of music, one’s choice of fingerings is often a complex and subjective decision. And even if there are rules of best practice, for every rule there are fifty exceptions. This would be a very long code to write, and would have to include user input regarding musician priorities (musicality vs. ease vs. consistency, etc.), and parameters such as rhythm and tempo–in addition to the series of pitches.

There is also another overlap between education and programming. The former overlap demonstrates how one might create educational software. This latter overlap demands that learners–including oneself–write pseudo-code in order to clarify every single logical step that must occur within a learning process such as learning to perform a new piece of music.

Pseudo-code is simply a series of if-then sentence fragments, conditions, statements, etc. The great thing is that you don’t have to know any programming languages to write pseudo-code. Pseudo-code is simply outlining one’s logical process for an activity–such as with learning a new piece.

Flow charts often serve a similar purpose to that of pseudocode if one is only using Boolean logic or simple if-then procedures–but they’re never a replacement for pseudocode.

If you are a musician, you already have a logical process for learning music–even if it’s not written down yet. One step of your process may involve figuring out what key the piece is in. And there’s more than one way to do this, depending on the situation.

Begin pseudo-code (for instance).

Prompt: “Are you learning primarily from standard notation?” (true/false; Boolean query)

If true, prompt, “Sharps or flats? (Either works for the the key of C)”

If sharps, call keySigSharps (array) = [C, G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#]

Prompt: “How many sharps?”

If not given non-negative integer, loop prompt user until given a non-negative integer.

alert (“Please provide a non-negative integer. (Ex: 0, 1, 2, 3…)”)

Get user input; make user input correspond to keySigSharps (array).

If flats, call keySigFlats (array) = [C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb]

(*Similar to keySigSharps).

If false, prompt: Are you learning primarily by ear? etc. (Then there would either be corresponding code for this, or the code would be…)

alert(“Learn how to read music, ” + name)

//More code…

End pseudo-code.

The above is sloppy and thoughtless even for pseudo-code. It’s for example only. And this drives to my final point of why programming is an important part of music education–especially when teaching oneself. Whether you are writing an actual application, or writing pseudo-code, you are forcing yourself to really pin down what it is in your learning process that moves you toward your goals so you can eliminate what is extraneous and even detrimental; and so you can realize where there are logical holes to fill into your approach that keep you from progressing.

I’m sure this concept of using pseudo-code will come up again in this blog, with greater detail. This deep, critical thinking that programming requires is what sophistry–the pursuit of wisdom–is all about.