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The Best Upgrade Is …

One of the best system upgrades you can make has nothing to do with buying new audio gear. Sometimes, it’s as simple as changing your perspective. One of my compatriots once wrote that if you’re hi-fi doesn’t sound very good, then take your wife/spouse/partner out to dinner.

I have another suggestion along the same line …


Learn the language of music.

For considerably less than my customers spend on a new interconnect, you can purchase a keyboard, guitar or uke (the latter being all the rage these days), or perhaps a djembe or other percussion instrument. Combined with a few lessons (or surfing YouTube), you’re on your way to exploring a new world.

What does this all have to do with improving your hi-fi? Music is a language and learning its language will open up your world.

Consider this: you have two individuals – one who is born in the US and is a native English speaker, and the other is not. You go to a comedy club. Not surprisingly, your friend doesn’t get it. The scene is completely foreign to him. Think about what constitutes a joke, and you can see the parallels with music.

The comic weaves a tale, guiding you along a path, until he hits you with the surprise. The success of the joke depends on the audience having shared experiences and a grasp of the nuances of language (time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana).  Timing also comes into play as the comedian senses the pulse of the audience and adjusts his delivery accordingly.

In a similar way, understanding how a composer builds musical tension (for example), followed by its resolution/release/surprise can greatly enhance your listening experience. We’re wired to enjoy surprises. Watch a baby giggle uncontrollably when you play “peekaboo” with them.

Here’s a little brain training that won’t cost you a penny.  How does it get better than that?  You just need the palm of your hands and a table top or your thighs.  Learn to tap out various clave rhythms.  The video posted above is a good start.  Here’s another one:

You can find others on YouTube which show the tempo visually, as well as having in-depth analysis with musical notation.

Download a metronome app onto your smart phone and play with it. If you’re like me (when learning tempos – especially syncopated ones), you’ll experience a strange physical sensation in your head. You’re building neural connections.

There’s another benefit – increased neuroplasticity (building synapses in your brain). It’s all the rage these days for seniors to play puzzles and other games in order to encourage healthy brain function. As music lovers, wouldn’t it be more fun to learn the language of music?

I’ll be exploring this theme more in the coming months …