Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

The Best Japanese Rock: A YouTube Music Video Collection

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

One Ok Rock

One Ok Rock got their name from their practice time, One O’Clock.  Japanese makes no distinction between r’s and l’s, so One O’Clock sounds like One O-kuroku – which was modified to the name they are now famous by.  Morita Takahiro’s surgeon knife vocals are what sets this band on top for me.


恋ノアイボウ心ノクピド (Koi no aibou Kokoro no kupido)

東京事変 (Tokyo Incidents)

After leaving a solo career as a pop artist, Shina Ringo started a fusion band know as Tokyo Jihen (Tokyo Incidents).  I consider this ultimate dance music.

群青日和 (Gunjou Biyori)

遭難 (Sounan)

Abingdon Boys School

Takanori Nishikawa (aka T.M. Revolution) has a vibrato vocal style that I’ve never heard of before.  Aside from being slightly over-produced, this band is definitely one of my favorite karaoke choices.

Innocent Sorrow


Blade Chord


This instrumental math rock band will blow your mind.  They put together so many poly-rhythms that it makes the mouths of physicists drop.

Infinite Mirror

Ghost Dance

Bump of Chicken

One of the more well known Japanese bands.  Everyone in Japan knows Bump.

カルマ (Kharma)


五月雨 (Satsuki Ame – May Rain)

This isn’t exactly one of my favorite bands, but for nostalgic purposes I really wanted to add this song.  It was the opening song for my band’s debut in Japan.  The first song I ever played at a real gig.


How to Memorize Songs

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

A few years ago my girlfriend invited me to a barbecue in her backyard. Her uncle brought a Gibson acoustic from the ’50s or ’60s, and was playing all these nostalgic backwoods guitar tunes. He must have played 10 or so songs in a row with perfect execution, no mistakes, and remembered all the verses of every song just as easy as buttering bread. It wasn’t really my style of music, but he was nevertheless exploding my mind to pieces. I was amazed at how he was able to remember everything so easily. Then my girlfriend blurted out “John plays guitar, and he’s pretty good too!” The lofty Uncle Gibson himself proceeded to hand me the guitar in eager expectation “Let’s hear it then son!”


Now I had been playing diligently for about 3 years at the time, and *thought* I was pretty good. I could play just about anything (aside from wicked fast solos), was writing music all the time, and my band had won first place in the talent show the year before. I knew I was no virtuoso, but I seriously thought I was a “good” guitarist. Funny how pride sneaks in unnoticed huh?

So he handed me the guitar, and I was lost. I knew riffs, and played the riffs; I knew parts of songs, played parts of songs; I knew some interesting solos too, and played them but fumbled horribly. I realized that I couldn’t play a single complete song from memory. It was one of those points where reality hits your right smack in the face, knocks you on the floor, and yells “Wake up you big ugly bloke!”.

From that point on I decided to commit myself to memorizing complete songs, and developed a strategy to accomplish this. A few years after that incident, I spent some time in Japan studying Japanese and learned some seriously intense methods for memorization which helped to refine my strategy for memorizing songs. This strategy will work for any type of musical memorization. May it be complex lyrical landscapes, piano concertos, intensive guitar solos, drum parts, or anything else, you can memorize it and feel more confident playing in front of others.

OBB’s Strategy for Memorizing Songs

When you learn a song for the first time:

  1. Correctness is key. This is especially important for difficult parts of a song, where we often have a habit of “letting things slide”. Don’t settle for those “fake” books they sell in stores just because they’re easier.
  2. Use mnemonics and emotional triggers for vocals. Lyrics by themselves can be difficult to memorize, but our brain often remembers better when we associate them with other, “outside” information if you will. For me, I’ve noticed the most difficult part of memorizing lyrics is the first part of verses. To combat this, I often use mnemonic tricks and emotional triggers to help my brain remember. This might involve acronyms or stories with an emotional plot involving the lyrics. I’ll give an example: In The Beatles song “Hey Jude” the verses are all very similar, and I kept mixing them up until I assigned a mnemonic (in this case, just a single letter) to each of them. Taking the first letter of the key word in each verse, we can make BAD (Bad, Afraid, Down). Needless to say, I don’t have problems remembering it anymore.
  3. Practice the harder parts more often. Our tendency as humans is to go through the path of least resistance and play the easy parts of a song. You have to make a conscious effort to play the hard parts more often.
  4. Practice until you can play the song completely through without any aids. Then stop, and do the same thing tomorrow. Maybe you have the time to play it more, and maybe even the willpower, but if we’re talking about efficiency then more practice won’t do you any good at this point. Why? Read the next number.

After learning for the first time:

  1. Memories fade quickly, but get stronger over time with practice. The first time you learn a song, your memory of it will fade quickly. Very quickly, as in – completely gone the next day – quickly. But thankfully our brains will strengthen that memory when we practice again the next day. This is why practicing a song 100 times in a single day is actually not very productive … unless you have a show the next day. You’re much better off practicing 20 songs one time than one song 20 times.
  2. Make a list of songs to practice. Not only does your brain forget parts of songs, but it forgets that you even learned a song in the first place. I’ve been in jam sessions with other people, and they started playing a song that I knew, but I had completely forgotten about it for years! What a waste! I could have been playing that song all these years, but it got lost in the abyss. So here is what I do, and you can do the same if you want, adapt as you see fit: Make a list of songs that you know in their entirety, and use this as a guide for practicing. Go through the list and play each song one time, but no more. If you encounter problems, solve them quickly. Have those solutions close at hand too – internet, song books, tabs, lyrics, whatever. Do whatever you need to get the song back to correct. If you do this I promise (pinky swear if you want!) you’ll get more out of your practice time.
  3. Continue to practice the difficult parts more often. Pursue those leeches like a rabid wolf! You are the predator not the prey. Don’t let difficult or confusing parts continue to get the best of you. Sometimes it’s not even a skill issue; you can play the part easily skill-wise, but something is just strange in the tempo or you keep forgetting what comes next. These are problems as well and need just as much attention as the (quote-unquote) “difficult” parts.
  4. There are few valid excuses for being old. (If you aren’t old, then disregard this comment. Ha ho, apologies to old people for the blatant nature of my comments.)  Studies have shown that old brains have just as much spunk as young ones, and even the dumbest brains show extremely good resilience. You keep forgetting stuff because it happened a long (and getting longer) time ago, NOT because your brain is getting fried like scrambled eggs from old age. Repeat the tasks you once did, and it will all come right back like a flash, Scout’s honor. Don’t blame age when the real problem is lack of practice (or lack of proper practice methods).
  5. I was a Boy Scout for like 2 months. That counts doesn’t it?
  6. Don’t use crutches when your legs are good. I’m talking about lyric sheets, tabs, sheet music, fake books, and playing to your stereo. They are not necessary. You don’t need them. Learn to deal without them because they won’t always be there to lean on. And besides, what would you think if your favorite artist came up on stage with a big book full of music and lyrics, and instead of making eye contact with the audience, he was looking at his music every … second … of … the … entire … show? Lame, is it not? Granted, crutches are necessary when you are starting out or forget something, but they are a means to an end – that end being full on memorization.

For those who need a more intense memorization plan (Lyrics Only):

Look yourself into something called SRS (Spaced Repetition Software). This is something that I used to study Japanese and other things, and I still use it almost everyday. SuperMemo is the original SRS program – complete with some great articles about memory and SRSing, but it’s quite old and costs money. So, I use a different program called Anki (Japanese for “memorize”), and it does virtually the same thing as SuperMemo at the cost of ~ free (無料だよ!). Using SRS, cloze deletion and some mnemonics you can memorize songs at the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness.


Memorization can be a seriously difficult task for some, but I feel that I’ve address solutions for just about any problems that you might encounter. These solutions are not an excuse to practice less, but a way to practice better. In fact, I feel like this should make practice more fun for some people since you get more time for learning songs, and a strategy for remembering them at the same time. Remember, the goal here is to have the songs written on your heart and not in some song book. Hopefully you don’t have any more excuses for not memorizing your songs, but if you do, post a comment below so I can (probably) prove you wrong. Also, do you have any other tips for remembering songs? Tell me about it, I’m eager to hear what angles other people have taken to tackle this problem.


Refine Your Music Library

Monday, November 30th, 2009

I’m an engineer by nature.  We love equations and efficiency and numbers and stuff like that.  So lets take an engineer’s perspective look into your music library.  Assume Q is the quality coefficient of your music library, L is the number of songs you like, and N is the number of songs in your music library.


The greater Q is, the greater the quality of the song library.

There are two ways of improving Q (Quality of your music library).  First is to increase L (Liked songs), and second is decreasing N (# of songs in library) that is not L.

Increase L

This is easy for most people, and pretty much self explanatory – Add songs you like to your library.  Here are some places that might help you find new music:



Internet Radio – choose an artist or song, and Pandora will play similar music



Like Pandora, but with a community



Interactive WebRadio – choose between multiple genres and moods to play music you like

You can also use the Genius function in iTunes, but I’m not very familiar with this.

Decrease N which is not L

This is a step which I think many people don’t do, and probably haven’t ever thought about doing it.  I think you’ll agree what a great benefit it can have on your hard drive and iPod.

Seriously man, you have how many DAYS of music on your computer?  Nobody cares!  Yeah, maybe I’m impressed by the sheer amount of GB your music library has accumulated over the years, but how much of those 33.68 GB is good music?  The only way to decrease the bad songs in your library is to delete them.

As a general rule, when playing my library on shuffle – I delete songs that I skip more than once.

Excommunicate these sound leeches from your life forever.  They’re taking up time and concentration that could be focused on listening to music you actually like.

“But I like all of my music!” you say.    – – – – – – – – – – – – – –     Unabashed Lies!  If your library is larger than a thirteen year old’s, and you’ve never deleted anything, then I can guarantee you still have music you don’t like and would be glad to get rid of.  Bite the bullet, and delete.

Think of your library like you would a brick of gold.  Would you want a bunch of impurities messing up the quality of your gold?  No!  You’d take out all the extra junk so that your gold would be beautiful.  Make your library shine like gold.

Wow, this post grew a lot longer than I planned.  Anyway, thanks for reading. Until next time,

Happy Listening!