Roll the Dice

Music is a language, and languages have structure, pattern, and expression. 

Creating conversation by chance. Using the dice as a reference point, either as a bass note, a chordal suggestion, a scale or Key framework, or even a skeleton melody line, we can learn to move through the frequencies with ease, expression, and intrigue.

Keys, in Music, hold a list of ingredients and a set of instructions.

The ingredients are the notes, and the instructions are how those notes are put together. Sometimes the same set of ingredients can produce different dishes, depending on how they are combined, cooked, not cooked, or prepared. Music is the same. 

Keys, like recipes, have instructions on how to blend those ingredient notes, in certain orders, with timing and space in between steps.

To understand better how to use the dice to create, explore, challenge and develop your skillsets, and use them to inspire your conversation, please reach out.

Intervals: The Spaces In Between

Understanding intervals is the key to being able to follow, and more or less complete another's melodic thought

Find some stairs and get someone to read this to you while you follow the, er.. steps.
Stand at the stairs, starting on the floor/base (not on a step yet), state (aloud) “A”.
Take a step. State “B”
Take a step. “C”
Take a step. “D”
E, F, G, and arrive at A.
Mark it visibly somehow.
Turn around. 
State “A”
Take a step down, state G
Another step down, state F
E, D, C, B, and A (you’re now on the floor where you started)

Now, repeat, but start on C
Go from C to D.
Feel like you’ve gone very far? Feel like maybe you should either go further or step back down? That SECOND step is useful but not a great place to pause for very long – can you feel your body’s inclination to move beyond from the second step?
Step back to the floor. You’re on C
The floor is your FIRST, and you should already be standing on it.
It’s where you started, and where you will end, one way or another.
It’s where your feet begin-where they are ROOTed. It’s the TONIC.
From the FIRST, the floor, the ROOT, skip the next step (the SECOND step), and land your feet on the THIRD step.
What letter should you state for this step? ………
If you said E, this is making sense. If not, here’s one more chance to sort it…
Go back to the floor, the FIRST, where your feet are ROOTed, and begin again.
  • This time, envision the C as where you stand, see the D up a step, on the SECOND step.
  • See the E up another step, on the THIRD step.
  • See the F and G? Legs long enough to reach that FIFTH step, or is the FOURTH more comfortable? You choose, but if you can stretch (to) the FIFTH, you’ll feel as though you’ve accomplished quite a distance, and a good place to be for a few moments. If you prefer the fourth, you’ll also feel a sense of arrival and being, but see if you have an inclination to keep ascending, or maybe it’s a good step, that FOURTH, to sit down and rest and ponder. Maybe, seated on the FOURTH, your feet can comfortably reach the THIRD and SECOND step. Maybe you can stretch your legs and reach the floor, the FIRST/ROOT, as you lean back, look up at the ceiling a moment, and just let your thoughts wander.
It’s most excellent if you have only 7 stairs because of the sense of completion when you reach the next level, however with a longer set of stairs, just give yourself a good visual to represent arrival on that 8th surface, or completion point.
Go to that EIGHTH, that completion/landing point.
Turn around, it’s time to descend.
Your goal now is to return to where you began, but maybe don’t do it step by step, that’s rather predictable.
  • Take a single step down; you’re on the SEVENTH step from the floor now, and well, you can hang out there for a moment if you want, while you decide whether you’re going to start down a step at a time, two, three, or not symmetrical.

Let’s say you decide you want to take this staircase back down, two steps at a time, skipping a step each time..

Go back to the top, to the EIGHTH, and turn around to begin your descent again. This time, take the stairs down, two steps at a time.

  • State C at the top, what letter do you land on if you step down by two, skipping a step between the top and where you land?  Yep. “A”
  • Step down again, skipping a step. What letter do you land on this time? F
Ok, so now you’re at a pausing point, a fifth step from the top (a FIFTH down from the ROOT – the top root in the case of a single octave of steps). It’s a good place to be, but it has a sense of decision to it, doesn’t it? You could just sit down right there and take a break, call it good until you’re ready to jump the rest of the flight back to the floor (returning to the ROOT)… but eventually, you’re going to have to leave that spot. It might be after everyone goes home, and the song ends, but eventually you’ll have to finish your descent, though enough time could pass before you do, whatever ideas you had in your head as you were originally going down the steps, have faded, have been released or let just be.
SO…. Here you are on that FIFTH step from the top, where that top was C, and now you’re on F. 
Let’s say you really actually need to get on with it and return to the floor where you began so you can get some lunch. Fine. You have some choices: you can step down the rest of the way, one step at a time. You can keep the “skipping a step between” pattern going, but your symmetry will be gone… You won’t end up on the floor where you began, you’ll end up on the SECOND step, which also happens to be the SEVENTH step below, 7th from the top. 

You can land on that last step from the bottom, that SEVENTH from the top, it’s a D, by the way. But you can’t stay there. You’ll have to take a single step down to finish off and return to where you began. It’s up to you. You could also go from the F to the E, the FIFTH below the (top) ROOT, then skip to the C to get back home. Which fits your mood, which seems more like what you want to do? Lot’s of options – all work, but some are more comfortable than others, depending on previous choices. Comfort is harmony. 

Comfort is harmony, but comfort is subjective. Sometimes, stretching is comfortable. Sometimes we have to have a solid plan to be comfortable, but sometimes we can be comfortable with indecision, spontaneity, moments of uncertainty (tension). In fact, existence without tension is incredibly bleh.

  • Be it adventure, learning, love, or play – tension, in the form of what might happen next, challenge, uncertainty, or anticipation, TENSION is absolutely crucial to not dying of boredom (and effectively communicating reality).

Feel the steps, the spaces in between, as you move up/down/around the stairs. Feel your body’s inclinations, hesitations, preferences. 


Get someone to play a recorder, whistle, or something to match the note you are stating as you move. Hear the tone with the letter said aloud, with the body on the step, taking in the entire set of stairs among which you have to move.

Let it sink in.
Here’s a game to solidify your understanding
 Get someone to play a C on an instrument (or hum it). Now ask them to pick another note and NOT tell you what it is. Move yourself to the step that matches the note they played. See if you were correct. 
Play again.
When this gets boring, change the Key. Pick a new scale. 
Start on D
And don’t say F when you land on that THIRD step up from the ROOT – it’s F#. 
Get it?

Perfect and Absolute Pitch

Absolute Pitch Recognition, Interval Discernment, Synesthesia

When I was young, I’d often paint while listening to music. I remember enjoying opportunities when I didn’t have an image in mind, just colors to swirl about on a canvas. 

Sometime around the age of 15, I recall having the realization that I’d pick certain music to listen to, given my mood, and even without labeling, I could easily associate a painting with a certain album or song, or melodic sequence. At the time, I think just assumed my ability to correlate was due to my having created the swirls of color and simply remembering what I was listening to while doing so. However, I came across those paintings years later, and after laying them all out, noticed a pattern emerging. I decided to set them out in groupings by color (dominant color, sequence of color, or whatever else stuck out to me as a consistency). I was curious why there seemed to be such obvious common threads and so decided, as I’d written on some of them what music had inspired them, to find that music once again and study the canvases while listening. 

Half way through the second song and I realized what had been happening, all those years ago-I was painting based on a synesthetic color perception of the tones. This awareness inspired a journey of research that culminated in not only a solid understanding of what was going on in my own head, but an awareness of what others experience as well.

When I met my partner, I discovered that while I could easily match pitch either vocally or with an instrument, with little effort seeking, he could not only match it without seeking, he could identify the note without any point of reference, and he could produce the pitch vocally, with excellent accuracy and no reference pitch. I was absolutely intrigued, and had much to learn!

Turns out, absolute pitch is hereditary. We’ve seen it in our older kids, and now our littlest (3 years) is developing her special memory space for sound and pitch.

Synesthesia and Absolute Pitch: Connected?

[ ] People who have “absolute pitch” can identify notes immediately without relying on a reference tone. Intensive research is being conducted into the neuronal basis of this extraordinary ability at the University of Zurich’s Department of Neuropsychology. The researchers have now detected a close functional link between the auditory cortex in the brain and the frontal lobe in these extraordinary people — a discovery that is not only important in theory, but also in practice.


Mozart, Bach and Beethoven are all supposed to have had it: “absolute pitch” — the ability to identify and categorize a note without having to rely on any reference tones. While, with a prevalence of one percent in the normal population, the remarkable ability is relatively rare, it is observed twenty percent more frequently in professional musicians. It is often suspected that this special hearing skill is a key aspect of extraordinary musical talent.



“Our study shows how two brain regions, namely the auditory cortex and the dorsal frontal lobe, work together for absolute pitch. In the process, we combine two essentially conflicting explanatory approaches for the phenomenon.”



Two theories on absolute pitch

One explanation assumes that people with absolute pitch already categorize the notes at a very early stage of sound processing. In other words, they process tones in the same way as speech sounds and assign them to particular categories, which is referred to as the categorical perception of tones. This theory assumes that the tones are already processed in the primary and secondary auditory cortex in the brain in people with absolute pitch.


Another theory suggests that people with absolute pitch only process the notes later on and associate them with memory information. People with this gift supposedly master the subconscious allocation of the tones to memory information particularly well. These allocations primarily take place in the upper frontal lobe, in the dorsal frontal cortex. “Therefore, both theories make completely different statements regarding the moment and the anatomical location of the special processing and there is evidence to support both theories,” explains Jäncke.


As someone who experiences the phenomenon of synesthesia, married to someone who experiences absolute/perfect pitch, I would offer that these two theories do an excellent job of explaining our worlds; both theories  are accurate from our perspective.


Connected brain regions explain the phenomenon

In his study, Stefan Elmer is now able to show that functionally the left-hand auditory cortex and the left-hand dorsal frontal cortex are already strongly linked in a dormant state — in other words, when there are no tasks to be performed. This functional coupling could be estimated based on a mathematical technique, which uses surface electroencephalography to extrapolate the brain activity inside the brain. In people with absolute pitch, the neurophysiological activity in the frontal and auditory cortex are synchronized, which suggests a close functional connection.


This means that the brain regions that control early perception functions (auditory cortex) or late memory functions (dorsal frontal cortex) are already tightly interwoven in a dormant state. “This coupling enables an especially efficient exchange of information between the auditory cortex and the dorsal frontal cortex in people with absolute pitch, which means that the perception and memory information can be exchanged quickly and efficiently,” explains Elmer.


Story Source:
Materials provided by University of ZurichNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. S. Elmer, L. Rogenmoser, J. Kuhnis, L. Jancke. Bridging the Gap between Perceptual and Cognitive Perspectives on Absolute PitchJournal of Neuroscience, 2015; 35 (1): 366 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3009-14.2015
University of Zurich. “Two brain regions join forces for absolute pitch.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2015..


“People with Absolute Pitch can categorize musical pitches without a reference, whereas people with tone-color synesthesia can see colors when hearing music. Both of these special populations perceive music in an above-normal manner. In this study we asked whether AP possessors and tone-color synesthetes might recruit specialized neural mechanisms during music listening. Furthermore, we tested the degree to which neural substrates recruited for music listening may be shared between these special populations. AP possessors, tone-color synesthetes, and matched controls rated the perceived arousal levels of musical excerpts in a sparse-sampled fMRI study. Both APs and synesthetes showed enhanced superior temporal gyrus (STG, secondary auditory cortex) activation relative to controls during music listening, with left-lateralized enhancement in the APs and right-lateralized enhancement in the synesthetes. When listening to highly arousing excerpts, AP possessors showed additional activation in the left STG whereas synesthetes showed enhanced activity in the bilateral lingual gyrus and inferior temporal gyrus (late visual areas). Results support both shared and distinct neural enhancements in AP and synesthesia: common enhancements in early cortical mechanisms of perceptual analysis, followed by relative specialization in later association and categorization processes that support the unique behaviors of these special populations during music listening.” – Loui P, Zamm A, Schlaug G. Absolute Pitch and Synesthesia: Two Sides of the Same Coin? Shared and Distinct Neural Substrates of Music Listening. ICMPC. 2012;618-623.

The Color of Sound

Synesthesia, the Color of Sound, and the Frequency of Ohm

Can you really see color when you hear music? Some of us do.
For many years, I never actually paid any attention to the fact that when I play music, the notes and the intervals take on, or rather produce a sense of color, of hue, in my mind.

When I did finally pay attention to the rainbows (or rather wash of color) that created themselves as I played, especially when composing or playing spontaneously, I mentioned it to a few people who promptly dismissed my description, or were so confused by it that they just stared at me and responded with “I don’t get it”. 

Then, one day, someone responded, “me too”. And so began my journey into a better way of explaining what was such an innate and natural component of music for me.

It started with identifying whether my perception of a pitch’s color remained consistent. For the most part, it seemed as though it did (doesn’t matter what octave). However, any time an interval was played, a wash of color is sensed, and only by intentional isolation, do I experience an awareness of singular hues. I found this awareness intersting enough to keep researching, but alas, as this was during a pre-Google period, there were not many resources, successfully found by me anyway, that really lent much credence to what I was experiencing.

Fast forward a decade or so and magically, the internet became useful for researching, though not entirely overflowing with much related to my subject matter of interest, there were bits and pieces to be found and I started making connections where I could. One revelation led to another, and what started out as trying to legitimize my chromatic sensory experience, became a full on trip down the rabbit hole of frequency.

I’m still there.

Below are links to some articles and videos that meander around this topic. I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences if you’d like to share.

The Key to the Recipe

Music is a language, and languages have structure, pattern, and expression. 

In Music, we have recipes, just like in life. We all know that our favorite dish, desert, or even entire meal is made up of ingredients, and if we put those ingredients together in a list, and add a set of instructions, we have what we call a recipe. 

Like food that nourishes our bodies, music nourishes our soul and mind.  We hold dear our recipes, passed down from generations, refined, tested. 

In Music, these recipes serve a similar purpose: they create incredibly pleasing, refined, and tested combinations of sound frequencies, from which we spin our stories. We call these recipes, “Keys”. 

Keys, in Music, hold a list of ingredients and a set of instructions.

The ingredients are the notes, and the instructions are how those notes are put together. Sometimes the same set of ingredients can produce different dishes, depending on how they are combined, cooked, not cooked, or prepared. Music is the same. 

Keys have names just like recipes. Keys have ingredients – notes.

Keys have instructions on how to blend those notes, in certain orders, with timing and space in between steps.

Let’s begin with your favorite recipe. Let’s find the Key that, when you hear notes from within its framework, something inside lights up and motivates you to begin creating your nourishing masterpiece.

Perfect Harmony : Consonance, Dissonance, & the Value of Each

What Is Harmony?

To understand harmony, let’s begin by talking about an interval. In Music, an interval is the “space” between notes, when two or more notes are  played simultaneously. 

If we view notes as steps on a staircase, intervals are the distances between those steps. 

Depending on the chosen distance between the notes, we will have a consonant or dissonant harmony created when more than a single note is played simultaneously, or in near sequence.

Harmony is when frequency flows in a manner that math can explain.

From Within the Theory

Why Invest the Time and Effort in Learning Theory?
Theory is the structure of the language of Music.

When we choose to communicate through spoken language, we often find it most effective if we can also communicate through its written form. Often, having the privilege of speaking directly to another is beyond reality, so we turn to the written word to relay and share our ideas and stories.

Music is no different.


The language of melody, the sensuality of harmony, and the complexity of stories, coalescing in a pulse that resonates across all of time. Create.