Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Music to Scare Your Night Away

Other than Christmas, Halloween is the one holiday that has the most songs and music soundtracks associated it. I'm sure we can all name 4 or 5 "Halloween" related songs off the top of our head starting with "Thriller" (Michael Jackson), "Monster Mash" (Boris Pickett), "Werewolves of London" (Warren Zevon) and "Ghostbusters" (Ray Parker Jr) to name just a few.

Then we also have a multitude of scary movie soundtracks that will get stuck in our head as we attempt to peacefully drift off to sleep. The two that haunt my sub-conscious are "Tubular Bells" from The Exorcist and the original "Halloween" Movie Soundtrack. There is of course another movie soundtrack that brings fear into the hearts and minds of almost anyone listening and that is the "Jaws" music. That, of course, is more of a summer beach thing then a Halloween related soundtrack, unless you want to associate it with Land Shark character knocking on your door from the old Saturday Night Live Days :)

Lists of favorite Halloween songs and soundtracks have probably been made for the last 40-50 years. Here's a list of great 31 tunes that would be perfect for any Halloween party, brought to us by Halloween Music Spotify Playlist

Then here's a list that the Pittsburgh Post Gazette compiled by asking local area musicians about their favorite - You'll note that this list leaves out all of the obvious favorites and delves deeper (and sometimes darker) into the musical archives: Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Some Scary Suggestions for Halloween Listening

Finally here is a list of the top 10 horror movie soundtracks brought to us by the Dallas Observer: Dallas Observer: Top 10 Horror Movie Soundtracks

What we learn from all of this of course, is that music has always been used to help set the mood in whatever setting we're going for. No where is that more apparent then in a movie where we're hoping to get the wits scared out of us :)

I'll leave you with 3 of my favorite Halloween related songs and soundtracks - Enjoy and don't close your eyes too soon tonight ha ha ha

"Thriller": (Original 13 minute mini-movie & music video:

"Werewolves of London":

"Halloween Movie Soundtrack": (Michael Myers Lives Forever)

That's all for today boys and girls - Be sure to dress up and go out for some treats tooooonight!

Music, Love & Laughter

Vincent James @

Monday, October 27, 2014

Turn up the BASS If you Wanna Get More Done

It has been said that music is a powerful motivator, and research has once again proved this theory. Researcher Dennis Hsu did a recent study at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University, and the results demonstrated that by listening to powerful music, we become more motivated and confident both in work and social situations. The study took a group of undergraduate students and had them listen to a pre-selected group of music clips that included a multitude of styles including pop, heavy Metal, Reggae and Hip Hop. The students rated each music clip for how powerful and determined it made them feel. The study then used each students own top 3 "powerful" music choices for the next phase of the study. What the study found was that the students top 3 powerful music choices helped them see the bigger picture when completing a task. When working in a group, their "power music" enabled them to speak up and contribute sooner to what the group was trying to accomplish. The "power music" had the effect of making each student more sure of themselves, more sure of their own skills and opinions and more in control of the outcome of future events.

The study also revealed that its often the energy of the bass in the music that helps make a song feel more powerful to the listener. So it appears that singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor really knew what she was talking about when she sings

"Its all about that bass, 'bout the bass, no treble
all about that bass, 'bout that bass no treble"

If you've been living on another star system and haven't yet heard this catchy little ditty from Ms. Trainor here is your chance with a video clip that's been watched by almost 200 million people to date:

Here's a link to the full article where I first read about the "power music" study KDVR - Turn up the Bass Music to Make You Feel More Powerful

We all know that many world-class athletes pump themselves up prior to their performance by listening to their own power music. One of my favorites has always been "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. I'll leave you with the video clip that that power nugget and will be back to you in a few days with another fun & informative post.

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @

Thursday, October 23, 2014

If You Want Kids to Learn Music, First Teach Them How to Sing!

At first this might sound obvious. Kids and adults are always singing, at least the ones I hang around with are :) But when I stopped to really think about it, a lot elementary instrumental programs attempt to start kids off learning a musical instrument, when they haven't had any musical training at all yet. Learning the music basics (melody, rhythm, reading music) AND learning how to make an acceptable sound out of a trumpet, saxophone or (shudder) a violin, can be very difficult even for adults.

We all hear songs that we love to listen to and hum along to. If you start kids off learning how to sing some of their favorite songs, they will learn a lot about how to a musical phrase together, and about different types of melodies and rhythms. You can first start off with songs of the Sesame street variety when they are small (3-4 years old), and then graduate slowly to slightly more complicated songs (Nick Jr & Disney) by the time they are 6 or 7. This will gradually and eventually lead to them learning popular songs from the radio by the time they are 9 or 10 years old. Not the trashy songs from the radio mind you, but the ones that convey a positive message and are appropriate for kids. Believe it or not, there are still some great songs played on the radio every year that are appropriate for all ages. I'll run a separate post later this month and point out some of my favorite examples :)

We recently came across an article about award-winning conductor Richard Gill who is the driving force behind the National Music Teachers Mentorship Pilot Program now beginning in Australia. Core to Gill's program is a mentorship for music teachers by more experienced music teachers. The teachings are led with the philosophy that teaching kids how to sing first is a better when to introduce them to music. Here's a link to the full article on the ABC News website down under ABC News - Singing the Key to Teaching Children Music

All this talk of singing makes me remember a song written by Sesame Streets Joe Raposo and made popular by the Carpenters (top 5 hit in 1973) and by almost every character on Sesame Street over the years. Yes its "Sing" or as you may remember it "Sing a Song" - Check out this beautiful rendition of the "Sing" by the Carpenters

That's all for today folks - I'll be back soon with another post. In the meantime please consider teaching your little ones how to sing as soon as they can talk (maybe even get them humming sooner than that). You may be surprised how many other benefits they receive from this very early "musical" training!

Music, Love & Laughter,

~Vincent James @

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Keep Music Alive" Visits the Lennon Bus in Springfield, PA

Each year, the John Lennon Education Tour Bus visits schools throughout the US to help elementary, middle school and high school students learn different ways to express their creativity. They teach them how to write songs, and then help them record those songs. Taking it one step further, they then help the students create a music video featuring their newly created song and the students that created it. My wife and I were very fortunate last week to be able to tour the Lennnon Bus while it visited E T Richardson Middle School in Springfield, PA as part of the Support Music Coalition and NAMM Best Communities for Music forum. The Lennon Bus itself is a technological wonder, with a full audio recording studio, full video recording & production suite plus living quarters for the three onboard engineers who literally live on the bus 10 months out of the year.

First we arrived for the "Support Music Coalition" forum that began at 8:30 AM in the school auditorium. The forum was a outstanding panel of folks including representatives from the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA), National Association of Music Merchandisers (NAMM) as well as music teachers and parents of music students. The panel also included the Superintendent of the host school district, Dr. James Capalupo, who is an outspoken supporter of music in schools with the quote "Support the arts, ALWAYS, cut the arts programs, NEVER". Dr. Capaulop is part of a growing trend of Superintendents across the country who started their own careers as music teachers.

The "Support Music" panel discussion centered around the benefits of music education in the schools, what it does for the students, both academically and for their confidence and social skills. The panel also touched on some ways that schools and communities can help with the arts programs in schools. One method that has been very helpful in the Springfield School district is the non-profit parent and alumni booster organization that helps rally the community with fundraisers and other activities to help keep the focus on the arts.

After the forum we headed outside into the light rain to wait for our turn to get the official Lennon Bus tour. There was a tent set up outside with music equipment including a full drum set, keyboard and guitar. I couldn't resist the opportunity to jump on the keyboard and I played a few songs with Bryce from the Lennon Bus keeping the beat on the drums. If my voice was awake that early in the morning I might have started to sing as well, but I'm pretty sure the frogs were still in session :)

After a brief wait, we jumped in on the last general tour of the bus before the students began to line up for their days activities. Peter, one of the 3 Lennon Bus engineers, then demonstrated some of the videos that the students had done, including a high school group with a polished, MTV-like quality to a fun and quirky music video done by an elementary school group - something about saving themselves from the "Land of the Stashes" in reference to mustaches and beards. This is the cutest video, and you can tell the kids had so much fun creating it. This was a story the kids made up all by themselves and the Lennon Bus team helped them create & record the song and then film a 3 minute music video to help tell the story. The resulting music video is colorful and entertaining and would be a big hit in any grade school classroom or even as a Nick Jr segue way in between shows.

Springfield's ET Richardson Middle School was previously chosen as one of the 500 schools in the nation to have the best music education support. Each of these schools was asked to submit a short video about "What Makes Music Education Great in Your School" for a chance to win a visit by the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. For more information on upcoming Support Music events and John Lennon Educational Tour Bus visits please visit and . Here's the winning video sent in by E.T. Richardson Middle school which will then also play into videos that some different schools have created during their own visit by the Lennon Bus. Emjoy!

That's all for today folks - It's Music Monday and the Monday part is almost over - I'll be back in a few days with more musical fun and infotainment for you - Until then let the music play on!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @

Thursday, October 16, 2014

This is your BRAIN on GUITAR!

In a 2012 study in Berlin, Germany, researchers hooked up 12 guitar players to brain scanners and learned some pretty amazing things. They had the guitarists all play the same piece together (ie. like a big guitar band), and what they saw was that their brain waves synchronized together while playing the piece. Even more interesting was the fact that their brain waves actually synchronized slightly before they started to play (like they were all coming to starting gates of a race at the same time).

Being more of a keyboard/piano player myself, I wonder what the brain scans would look like for musicians playing other instruments playing the same piece of music. What if you had a full band with different instruments, say piano, guitar, bass, drums and maybe a horn section? If they were all playing the same piece with the same notes written out would their brains synchronize as well? Or is there something different about guitar player brains as a recent article in The Open Mind suggests.

I do agree with the article when it claims that that guitarists often tend to be the more creative musicians. Maybe its the years of trying to emulate and outdo guitar solos from the all the guitar virtuosos from the last 40-50 years starting with Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, BB King, Jimmy Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Slash and a host of others. When you are trying to play what you hope is an exceptional guitar solo (or any instrument for that matter), at some point you let go of your conscious mind to see where you're creative brain waves will take you on their own. I know myself I have written some of my very best pieces of music when I forced myself to not think about what I was doing, but instead just let my hands and fingers go where they wanted. Sometimes our best path to discovery of any kind is to let go and see what floats back into our being from the universe (I'm getting a bit spiritual here I know, no apologies :)).

To learn more about the Berlin research please check out this article on The Open Mind website: The Open Mind: This is Your Brain On Guitar

Stop back this weekend for an update on how our visit to the John Lennon Education Bus went this week - in short it was pretty amazing but we'll have more details and pictures to share. For now have a great Fridayyyy (almost) and will be back this weekend with our next post.

Love, Music & Laughter,

~Vincent James @

Thursday, October 9, 2014

BBC Music releases one of the coolest cover songs ever!

The BBC, one of the most well known and trusted sources for news and information, has jumped into the music business with BBC Music, and to celebrate they have created one amazing rendition of "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys. With proceeds going to the BBC's Children in Need charity, the song features an amazing cast of artists including Sir Elton John, Pharrell Williams, One Direction, Lordes, Sam Smith, Kylie Minogue PLUS Brian May from Queen rockin' the guitar. They were joined of course by the legendary songwriter and Beach Boy himself, Brian Wilson who appears twice briefly during the entertaining 3 minute video.

The recording and video feature 27 different artists and is backed up by the 80 piece BBC Orchestra. The artists participating range from pop to rock, and classical to opera (yes opera!) - together they've created a very heart-warming rendition of the Beach Boys classic.

Here's a link to the Forbes article where I first discovered this: Elton-John-Lorde-Pharrell-and-more-help-launch-BBC-Music-initiative-with-Amazing-Beach-Boys-Cover-Video

The Guardian takes it one step further by giving us the lowdown of exactly who is in the video and when plus giving us their performance rating of each performer (does this now count as an Olympic charity single since we have scores or maybe at least a shot on The Voice or American Idol :)). The Guardian - BBC-God-Only-Knows-Cover-Every-Performance-Reviewed-and-Rated

And now for the video itself, check it out and see if you don't agree its one of the coolest cover songs and videos you've ever seen:

That wraps it up for today kiddies - I'll be back soon with another post as soon as I dig myself out of my "to do" pile of fun sitting on my desk :) Have a great day and be sure to play some extra music tooooday!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @

Sunday, October 5, 2014

John Lennon Educational Tour Bus Brings Unique Music Experience to Schools

For 17 years, the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus has brought music recording and video production experiences to students all over the USA with their high-tech (and colorful) bus. With the assistance of three on-board engineers, students learn how to write, perform, record, and produce original songs, produce and shoot music videos and documentaries and complete a broadcast quality music video – all in a single day. Boy what I would have done to have experienced something like this when I was in school! Endorsed by John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, the bus is also supported by long list of corporate partners including Apple, Sony, Yamaha, Gibson and many more

From the website:

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is highly adaptable, and is designed to provide students, their schools and communities with performances, demonstrations, remote recordings, and studio sessions customized for their needs, levels of experience and interest. The bus travels the country visiting schools, musical and technology conferences and events, and partners with newspapers and other media to host Battles of the Bands with the national winner selected online

I recently learned that the tour bus will be visiting a school just 10 minutes from where we live, so we are hoping to get a up close glimpse of what they are doing and will do another post about it.

I can remember very clearly the time period when John Lennon passed away. I was playing in a wedding & club band called "The Sound Of Gold" and we played many Beatles songs with the band leader Mark Tully taking the Lennon parts and me doing my best with the McCartney parts (my voice was definitely still developing then :)). I remember we played a New Years Eve event just 3 weeks after he passed and performed a tribute to Lennon with a heavy dose of Lennon influenced Beatles songs along with some Lennon solo tunes. To this day I still perform "Imagine" whenever, wherever I can. This song along with "Let There Be Peace On Earth", perfectly embody what each and every person in this world need to fully embrace, one by one. I can only hope that through music, arts and other non-violent means we can slowly move towards this end for the human race.

I'll leave you with the song that John Lennon is most remembered for.

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
No religion too
Imagine all the people, living life in peace..

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

I hope you have a wonderful day and stay tuned for some more fun posts coming this week on "how music can help you!" :)

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @