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A Note About Cognitive (Musical) Bias

Disclaimer: Please note, I’m not in any way knocking the budding talent of young Alma. This particular instance only serves as an interesting example of the cognitive bias we all encounter at various points in our lives…

Also note– the mistake elaborated on below could be as simple as her mind seeing B as B-flat– in old-school German notation B is B-flat, and B-flat is H

So here’s an interesting discussion– at the very beginning of the video, the first random note given is a B, not a B-flat. And she does call the B, “si” which is the accurate term for Fixed Do Solfege. Even so, she plays and sings a B-flat.

It’s very natural for musicians and composers to fall into this kind of “cognitive bias“, hearing/seeing the note you really want to, instead of what’s actually there. How many times have we as students and performers done this? ;-P

One time I wasted an entire part of a recording session because I was playing an original folk melody all in a minor tonality, even though it was written in major!!! Luckily I realized my mistake in time to re-record everything–I would have hated to have the composer hear the recording of their work done in an entirely “opposite” mode from what they had intended!

The human brain is powerful but subject to limitations. Cognitive biases are often a result of your brain’s attempt to simplify information processing. They are rules of thumb that help you make sense of the world and reach decisions with relative speed. (source)

Initially in the video, Alma mistakes the B for a B-flat, then, I think seeing the E-flat later reinforced that notion for her.

Theory-wise, she probably “hears” a B-flat, because it will go so much more easily (tonally) with the E-flat two notes later. That interval is a Perfect 4th. The B-natural to an E-flat is a Diminished 4th — much more challenging to work with, especially with an A in the mix, creating sort of a lowered 7th scenario if we were in B Major. In fact the A to the Eb is a Tritone that, again, is easier to “explain” in traditional theory if the B is flatted. (For more on intervals, visit my Music Nerds video on the topic.)

Personally I love the idea of using the Eb as, say, a lowered third in the realm of C Major or A minor (thereby keeping the B natural) and would have loved to see how she might have handled it. But kudos to her for playing with notes and music patterns as she does!

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“Radioactive” in Concert this week!

I am super stoked to have been invited to perform “Radioactive” on my 6-string fiddle with the Cal Poly Sax Quartet this Monday night, Feb 19 at 8pm!

Joining us on drums will be the amazing Damion Frigillana.

The whole concert is going to be amazing, and I’m really looking forward to jamming on this awesomely fun fiddle part with the group! <3

Get tickets here!

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New T-Shirt Colors and New Single!

For today’s two awesome updates…

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The Story Behind the Stories

As you may or may not know, I began publishing my sci-fi saga “The Kesher Chronicles” Dec 2015. What you may not be aware of is what a huge, bold step personally it was for me.

I always loved writing stories as a kid — I was especially into the mysteries of Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, and The Three Investigators. In my teens I read Michael Crichton’s stories voraciously. I actually won a regional prize for a 7-page sci-fi story I wrote in elementary school; it was typed on a typewriter (!) and was called, “Journey to the Edge of the Universe”… or something like that. Not long after, I created my own version of a Nancy Drew mystery. Sort of a young “fan-fic” if you will; handwritten, too. 😉

When I hit 12 years of age, I found myself so in love with creating stories and worlds and characters that I wrote my first mystery story. It was definitely a knock-off of the Nancy Drew stories I grew up with, but with my own dramatic spin. I don’t recall how many words or pages it wound up being, but it was at least 10 (short-ish) chapters — definitely my most “serious” work up to that point. I enjoyed the process so much, I wrote a second mystery story, based on the lives of those same young characters.

Then, in 1994, inspiration struck, and I dreamed or somehow envisioned the opening chapter of what is now “Pursuit of Truth (The Kesher Chronicles #1).” That haunting scene stuck with me throughout the days following, and I rapidly built an adventure-mystery around it. Once I completed that first book, I knew there had to be a sequel.

And as I worked on the second book, I knew there was more to tell. I envisioned for a long time that Janice’s story would be a trilogy…. But now, as I’ve matured and really seen the vastness of this fictional Universe, I realize there will likely be at least couple more book in the series. All the more fun!! 🙂

But, thinking back on just the past 2 or 3 years, I realize how close I came to completely giving up on my dreams of seeing this massive story become a reality, and it makes me shudder.

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