Quora: How do I choose chords or scales to make people feel specific emotions ?

clef-799259_960_720There is no mathematic formula for this part of the art of composing music. But it’s also so subjective because different people feel different things. What are some songs that make you feel moved? Study those songs. Which chord changes in those songs felt the most powerful to you? It’s not a crime to write songs with those changes. Nobody has a copyright on any chord structure.

You are asking us to tell you which chord changes make you feel emotion, but we don’t know which changes do that for you. Only you do. Study good songwriting, but also study the songs that move you. Learn them inside and out. Which chord inversions are your favorite songs using? Moving from a Bm to a C might not be powerful to you if both are in root position. But if the Bm is in 2nd inversion and it moves to a C major in 1st inversion, you may feel a burst of emotion. There’s no telling what chords will move which people.

I’m glad you’re searching for an answer. Remember that any art is just a series of corrections. So if you are having a hard time finding the notes or chords, then you are getting closer to an answer, because each time you try something you are eliminating things that don’t work.

You have my best wishes in your journey – find what moves you.

Vertigo – any help would be appreciated.

640px-Glass_Floor_of_the_CN_TowerI’m trying to put things in perspective here,

for myself as much as for anyone who reads this. I am NOT scared of heights. Of course, there’s the old joke that says, “I’m not scared of heights, I’m scared of falling.” Not so funny because it’s true. However, I don’t have any problems with heights in general, except that every once in a while something will trigger either vertigo (as I understand it) or something else that makes me feel like I’m going to lose control and fall over or worse.

Because this feeling is induced by heights, for the longest time I thought I was afraid of heights and I stuck to the ground as much as possible. But over the course of time, too many things have happened for my problem to come from the fear of falling.

Vertigo as I understand it:

640px-A_leaning_child's_view_through_a_skyscraper's_window_and_glass_floorI somehow fear that my body will lose control. There’s no actual fear played out, I don’t feel dizzy, I don’t feel like I’m going to fall over, there’s no “end result” that I’m scared of. It’s hard to describe, I just feel like I might lose control of my body. I also have a physical reaction, a not quite painful feeling throughout my body that I can only describe as sharp. I feel it in my legs, stomach, groin, and arms. It’s the feeling I get when I’m going down a hill in a roller coaster, but it happens when I’m standing still.

The internet is full of articles, but vertigo is always described as dizziness or the feeling that one might fall over. None of the descriptions of the problem have ever been close enough to my own symptoms for me to feel comfortable diagnosing myself with the word.

When vertigo “kicks in”:

When I am up high, like in the mountains, and I am trying to walk closer to the edge. Even if the edge has a fence and there is no way that I could ever accidentally fall, the vertigo still rears its ugly head. I was in Washington just a few days ago at the Columbia River, and we pulled over at a scenic viewpoint to take some pictures. I did okay…



If you see the plaques on the lower left and right hand sides of my photo, you will understand that this “edge” is a tourist attraction, and people are meant to walk right up to the plaques and read them. I couldn’t do it. This photo was taken with my iPhone about 10 feet away from the edge. I just wanted to walk up and touch the stone at the lookout point, and I took steps towards it, but just couldn’t finish because each step got more and more painful. But it’s not only being up high that  causes my vertigo…

When I look up at a high object, even though my feet are solidly on the flat low ground. The higher the object, the more intense the feeling of vertigo.

One time I was (as a car salesman) carrying helium balloons outside to affix to the cars in the morning. I was actually scared to carry them to the car because I had the feeling that if one of the balloons got away I would experience that loss of control. The thought of watching a helium balloon go up and up and up triggers the vertigo.

Nothing to fear but fear itself…

As I was driving through the mountains the other day I realized that I wasn’t scared of driving through the mountains. I wasn’t scared of going off a ledge and dying. I was scared of experiencing that loss of control that comes with SEEING the heights, and the expanse of nature. I have the same exact feeling if I’m on the low ground and see a huge mountain next to me, and I’m scared of that, too. So it’s not heights… But it does create a lot of fear – I’m scared of the vertigo, the problem, itself.

So when I head towards the mountains again on the way home, I will be scared, but not scared of the mountains.

WebMD on Vertigo

Wikipedia on Vertigo

Wikipedia on Acrophobia (fear of heights) with special guest star, Vertigo

This represents three of the sites I used to look for my specific issue, but I researched quite a few more that all said about the same thing.

Amelia Lois is HERE! Born 10/10/2014

Amelia Bennett 20141010_162015_Android


I am the luckiest guy in the world to have a beautiful, happy and healthy family! This is going to be my most important journey ever!

Here is the birth story as written up by the doula:

QuoteBirth Day of Amelia – October 10, 2014

Well, Amelia, everyone waited patiently (more or less) for your arrival; especially your mama. You kept everyone in suspense about when you would come until the very last minute!

On October 8th, Janelle agreed to try and entice you to come and went to St. Vincent to begin preparations. You didn’t seem to mind too much and by morning we thought it was likely you would probably make an appearance sometime that day…

October 9th, 6am, mom is feeling the changes that will ultimately bring you. Things are calm, and Matt and Janelle are excited, pensive, hopeful, nervous, wondering how your birthday will unfold. Nancy is our nurse in the early morning and she is helpful and kind. Janelle is leaking fluid by now and it’s clear and baby is doing well. Ctx are a little frequent, so nurse gives more fluids and things quiet down . Janelle is tolerating them fine.

Room is busy all morning. Nurse Robin comes in to begin care. Olivia, a student nurse joins the group and an intern, Dr. Brotherson, stops in as well.

7:15am Janelle up out of bed for a walk around the hall and then back to bed. It’s nice to refresh and stretch. She eats a few animal crackers and Matt goes out for a stretch and a break. The ctx are changing a little, sharper. Janelle is calm and collected and has a great attitude. She is smiling and expectantly waiting and observing what is happening inside and outside.

8:10 Stephanie comes in to check on Janelle and learns she is 1-2 ct. She releases Janelle’s water – still clear and good – and places the balloon to help dilation. She also places a device to measure ctx strength and starts Pitocin.

9:05am – Matt is softly talking with Janelle, rubbing her back and encouraging her. Janelle is still in good humor and shares that pressure is building. She would much rather be upright, but is confined to laying/reclining for a while after last exam and rupture of her waters to make sure baby’s cord stays in a safe place. At this point, she has lots of questions – great! Robin, our nurse, is very good at explaining and trying to answer all questions Janelle might have. (5)

9:40 Janelle is on the floor on hands and knees. Ctx are pretty regular and we resist turning up Pit any further for now.

9:50 Janelle is back to leaning on bed (6)

10:10 Janelle tries leaning on back of raised bed.

10:30 Starting to vomit, ctx are getting stronger and she expresses some worry for the first time. Janelle receives some Nubain to take the edge off and it seems to help for a while. She is able to rest a little more easily between ctx and Matt actually snoozes a bit in the chair. I rub Janelle’s legs for a while and this seems to help her to relax. (6)

1pm Balloon cath is removed and Janelle’s cervix is 4-5 cts. Labor is much harder now and Janelle is needing more support and encouragement from Matt and I. We take turns doing a press to help open her pelvis and this gives her a welcome relief. Even Olivia pitches in to try and help. Janelle is constantly on the move now, trying to find positions that give her relief. The ctx are very frequent at every 2-3 minutes and they require all of her attention and focus. (36)

3:15 Steph finds that Janelle’s cervix is 5-6 cts dilated. By now, Janelle is very, very tired and has coped incredibly well with artificially strengthened contractions that come very frequently. Baby is tolerating the augmented labor, but it’s starting to wear on Janelle. She requests an epidural. Dr. Semple comes up very quickly and places epidural. By 4pm, Janelle is resting comfortably, so everyone else takes a rest too! We get Janelle all tucked in, Matt retires to the recliner and I go to next room to sit awhile.

5:30pm Everyone is still resting, but awake. Samantha is our new nurse and she’s got lots of energy! It’s nice in a way to help infuse the atmosphere with new energy, especially with Janelle being confined to bed now and feeling a little static. (60)

6:00pm Samantha notes that the ctx don’t seem to be registering and she is being asked to increase the Pitocin. Suspicious that ctx are actually very strong and frequent, she palpates the old-fashioned way (yay!) and finds that Janelle is contracting just fine – and strongly! She won’t increase the Pit because of her findings and relays info to Stephanie. Steph comes in and finds that Janelle is now almost complete! Baby is doing fine and tolerating labor well. We help Janelle to change positions from back to side to back to side to help baby’s position. Janelle is still comfortable, but she can feel pressure increasing. Steph suspects that the baby may be posterior and that’s part of reason we keep trying to help Janelle shift position to help move baby to a better place.

7:25 Janelle tests pushing a little. By 7:40 she’s pushing with more confidence. She’s able to hold her own legs easily and push with lots of strength. Now we have Nurse Laura helping.

8:20 Dr. Tseng comes in to evaluate and see if he can turn baby. He asks for epidural to be turned down and Pitocin to go up. He feels that in ½ hour, when Janelle is able to feel more sensation that she will be able to push more effectively. So that’s what we do and then we help Janelle to get on hands and knees on bed. This position will help baby to turn. Janelle can take a break from pushing unless she can’t resist and wait for contractions to bring baby even lower and gather her strength for the pushing efforts that lie ahead.

9:35 Janelle is back to pushing in earnest. She can definitely feel more and it is helping her efforts to move baby. She pushes and pushes. She is so amazingly strong. She likes to get in as many pushes as she can every time she feels pressure to push and her pushes just get better, with her last pushes always being her best! Every ctx, she’s ready to go and asking to push and then pushing for as long as she can before resting. All the while, she is still holding her own legs and supporting herself. We help to guide her by counting, which she likes. It seems to help keep her on track and remember to stop for breath. This is really hard work and Janelle is feeling the strain. It’s exhausting and long and she wonders if she is really making progress. She’s hot, thirsty, hungry, tired and has to keep pulling energy from some mysterious place. She looks at Matt after another effort of pushing and says “You better love me!” to which Matt replies, “I do, hon. I do.”

Janelle continues to work hard. Baby is still tolerating labor and Pitocin. Janelle’s primary effort is to get baby to move under the pubic bone. Steph has to consider whether Janelle has the steam to do that and then still finish bringing baby the rest of the way. She explains that she wants Dr. Tseng to come assess Janelle and the baby and then make a call on how to proceed. Dr. Tseng does so and feels that Janelle is pushing with much more effectiveness and that she can birth the baby on her own if she continues. (!!!!!!) So that’s exactly what Janelle does. She pushes and pushes and pushes. Such effort in another scenario could have birthed multiple babies!! Who is this passenger that Janelle is working so hard to bring?!?! She finally gets the baby past the tough and works for another hour, pushing and pushing. We see more and more of the baby. It won’t be long now and we keep encouraging Janelle who is giving it everything she’s got.

11:55 Dr. Tseng is watching as Janelle has gotten the baby to crowning. Janelle is so, so, so close and Dr. Tseng sees that she is exhausted. He asks her to push and he helps her and baby with a small vacuum to help bring baby the last bit of way. Janelle births the baby’s head!! A pause and then Stephanie helps guide the shoulder. Baby is no longer posterior and has rotated into better position. A longer pause and Stephanie works on guiding the baby’s body while Janelle pushes some more. This is not a tiny baby!! One more push and baby is out. Wow! She’s here! It’s 12:01, October 10th, and she’s here on her own time! Welcome Amelia!

On reading

So many books, so little time

Stephen King reads more than 80 books a year. I thought I was ahead of the game attempting to read 50 books a year. Since I started keeping track:

2010 – 10 books (It was a bad year in many ways) (9 fiction, 1 non-fiction)
2011 – 32 (14 fiction, 18 non-fiction)
2012 – 33 (24 fiction, 9 non-fiction)
2013 – 37 (24 fiction, 13 non-fiction).

I felt rather chastised after reading King’s book On Writing because he is reading all the time (even waiting in line at the post office, etc). His advice is basically that writers must immerse themselves in books in order to improve writing skills. I agree with this. And as I am writing fiction, I feel like I haven’t been reading enough fiction.

This year I decided to read more fiction, and I started the early months off wonderfully. I read 11 books by the first week in February. But I am not Stephen King, and there was a backlash…repercussions. Since that first week in February I have been reading strictly non-fiction (except for some of the blogs I keep up with). I went far too long without getting my dose of reality. My interests are far too varied to keep my nose buried in novels when there is so much I have to learn and know about everything.

And as far as the 50 books/year goes, well – I will keep that goal, just so that I am constantly moving forward and improving myself. And even though I feel bad sometimes that I haven’t made that goal yet, I don’t think that is a bad thing, considering that I don’t take into account the thousands of words of news I read daily, or my subscriptions to The Economist, YES!, Wired, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Entertainment Weekly, Family Handyman, Mother Jones, Urban Farm, Grit, Reason, and a couple of others I may have missed, plus my local newspaper. Yeah, I feel satisfied that I read the equivalent of at least 100 books a year, if not more.

So maybe I’m not learning as much about how fiction writers write fiction. But I’m sure that my varied interests and all of my learning will somehow reveal themselves in my own fiction, and even though my books may not become NYT bestsellers (although there’s always a chance), at least they will be unique, different, and mine. Stephen King* can read all the fiction he wants, I just can’t do it.

471px-Stephen_King,_Comicon*Before anyone gets the wrong idea, King is one of my all time great idols. And I only have a few all time great idols. He is a hero to me. It is because of my respect for him that his statement in the book bothered me enough that I had to write about it and justify, if only for myself, why I don’t follow in his footsteps in this area.


Analyze your writing with Expresso

glasses-272401_1920I have seen text analysis engines before, but these engines generally are used for text mining, or data mining of text. I have never seen an app that analyzed a writer’s style. Until today. I just found Expresso, and I am incredibly impressed.

Before I get into the details, I need to say that this is one of the cleanest, purest, uncluttered apps that I have ever seen. It is beautiful in its simplicity.

From the website:

Learn practical techniques to improve your writing style

QuoteWhile good writing style is hard to master, there are several simple yet powerful techniques which many writing guides and coaches focus on. They can quickly improve the quality of your texts. Expresso teaches these techniques by applying them directly to your writing.

I picked a random post from my blog, and copied a random paragraph from that post, and pasted it into Expresso.


Now as I click on each stylistic “problem” from the metrics on the right, it highlights the related portions of my text, and I am able to determine whether or not to make a change. I can also change the text in the app and analyze it again if I want to.

Here I have highlighted all instances of “passive voice” (green) and “modals” (blue):


Having just discovered this internet gem, I’m sure there is a lot more to discover, and if it proves to be a really helpful tool, there is no doubt you’ll be hearing more about it. But go ahead and give it a try. Just remember, it’s not a writing god, it’s just an app, so before you go ahead and change that beautiful sentence of yours, remember:

… don’t blindly optimize metrics in your texts


Writing metrics employed by Expresso can be powerful but they are not a “magic bullet”. They highly correlate with good writing but are not the cause of it, just like umbrellas correlate with rain but, of course, don’t trigger it. Therefore, there is no benefit in optimizing the metrics blindly. For example, constructing short nonsensical sentences out of several common short words — “it”, “get”, “all”, etc — will result in a low readability grade; however, the text will be unintelligible. Instead, use highlighted metrics to identify weak areas and to get ideas for possible edits.

Good writing style remains an art, not a science…

“It is what it is” and the meaning of life.

I was tired, so I sent my shadow to take this picture.

Janelle and I have a difference of opinion about the meaning and implications of the phrase “it is what it is”. The interesting thing is, we’re both right – it’s all about perspective and experience.


In Janelle’s experience, this phrase has been used as resignation, and many times as an excuse NOT to change. She has heard the phrase used in this manner so often that she is sick of hearing it.

I can easily see why you’d get tired of the expression if someone were using it like:

Well, you may not like how I’m acting, but it is what it is.


Nobody likes being mugged at gunpoint, but I need some heroin, so I’m really sorry, but it is what it is.

Reality Check

For me, the phrase is actually an inspiring reality check, and the reason is that I had a job for five years with a boss that I really admired, and he used this often, and in this way.

So we’re five people short at work, and we have to get 26 flights loaded on eleven different ramps, and keep them all guarded. It is what it is. Let’s get moving.

Basically, in my interpretation of the phrase, we are saying. This is reality, we can’t change reality, and we can’t change the situation – but we can change ourselves and challenge ourselves, and figure out a way to get this job done.


I like my perspective on this commonly used phrase much better than I like her perspective. This should be very surprising to exactly zero people.

Janelle still hates when I use the phrase, but like I tell her, it is what it is.

Kennedy, Lincoln, and Snopes oh my…


Every once in a while I wander over to Snopes.com and hit their randomizer button in order to see if I can learn anything new. A few days ago, I landed on the Lincoln/Kennedy Coincidences rebuttal, and I was entirely surprised at the demeanor of the unnamed author of the rebuttal. I have read hundreds of Snopes articles by now, and I have never seen one that seemed as distressed or as angry as the article on this urban legend. The author seems downright irritated that this particular legend persists. Usually Snopes has a good sense of humor about their mission, but there is a tone throughout the piece that is somewhat distressing, and it makes me wonder what set the writer off on the tangent. Below are some quotes, but it is the article in its entirety that has the underlying anger.

QuoteWe’re supposed to be amazed at minor happenstances such as the two men’s being elected exactly one hundred years apart, but we’re supposed to think nothing of the numerous non-coincidences

QuoteAnother non-surprise. Absent all other factors, the odds were already one in seven that both killings would have occurred on the same day of the week. (Don’t even think about writing to tell us that we’re wrong and the odds are really one in forty-nine. If you think we’re wrong, you don’t understand the question.)

QuoteThis is one of those coincidences thatisn’t a coincidence at all; it’s simply wrong.


QuoteCoincidence? Neither their first nor last names have the same number of letters. And why should it be significant that both assassins had the same number of letters in their full names when the same wasn’t true of Abraham Lincoln and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, or of Andrew Johnson and Lyndon Baines Johnson?

A side note!

I found it kind of humorous that in the rebuttal of coincidences, Snopes actually gave us one more coincidence to consider (underlined in quote):

QuoteThis “coincidence” is another one which is exceedingly trivial in nature. The only two types of shots which reasonably assure a dead victim are chest shots and head shots, so two assassinations committed by head shots aren’t the least bit coincidental — especially when one considers that since both Lincoln and Kennedy were shot from behind and while seated, so their assassins had no other practical choice of target.

A note to the author of this Snopes piece:

It’s all gonna be okay! It really is. Have some tea and enjoy the evening.

Daily Prompt. Not so sweet dreams. (are made of this)

Dark_Clouds_over_Rum_-_geograph.org.uk_-_18088The most vivid dream I have ever had:

I woke up in room that I didn’t recognize and there was a small remote controlled toy truck on my floor. It was a dark blue SUV. I reached down to pick it up but before I could grab it the scene changed and I was standing on a platform high in the sky, all I could see were gray clouds, and two escalators. One went up to a Boeing 747 that appeared to be hovering, waiting for passengers. One went down into even darker gray clouds.

There were other people on the platform, making decisions about going up or down. I don’t remember making the decision. Maybe it was my fear of heights, and the frightening thought of going even further up with nothing underneath me, but I simply found myself Continue reading “Daily Prompt. Not so sweet dreams. (are made of this)”

The best selfie ever – Selfie analysis.

The Selfie

best selfie ever

Toot Toot!
Toot Toot!

My sister sent me this picture, I’m not going to take any credit for it. She called this the best selfie ever. My brother-in-law is driving this train. He has maybe the coolest job ever, testing trains. He came around the bend, saw the mirror, and took the shot. I’m thinking about buying him an engineer cap for Christmas.

The Selfie-Analysis

On Voice

My friend MRS recently wrote a post about her voice. Not her singing voice, although I’m sure it’s lovely. Her voice as a writer. I thought it was a really good idea, and I’m the kinda guy who loves making lists to help organize the brain. So I thought I would try to make a list for myself and my readers to sort out just what is going on in my blog, my brain, and my life.

The Problem (aka Alien Blues)

I immediately ran into a problem. What is this blog about? (Ok, so I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, that I don’t like blogging about blogs.) What is my voice? I really have no idea. Most blogs are about something, and people seem to like to choose a topic. All of the advice on how to run a blog will tell you to choose a topic instead of writing random posts. Even in my own mind, if I wrote to gain readers and to get popular I would pick a niche topic and write about it. The narrower the topic the better, like Space alien musicians that play at blues bars in Seattle. That blog would gain readers.

What I want

That’s not what I want. I do this as an outlet – something that I can pour myself into. This is more of a journal. An interactive journal. I needed something to tie everything in my life together in a neat little package. When someone says “who are you?” I can answer, “go to Matthew Alan Bennett dot com and you’ll get a better picture.”

This is a place to post my thoughts, my art, my music, my magic, my writing. If I think of something funny or smart, my first reaction is often to write a post. I don’t do Facebook, I don’t do Twitter. I do WordPress.

I think my voice comes through – I think that people can get an idea of who I am based on what is here in this blog. And the more you dig (I’ve heard), the more you learn. I think everyone is like that though. If people keep writing down their thoughts for years and you look through them, no matter who is doing the writing you’ll see intelligent thoughts and stupid ones, you’ll see beautiful coherence and blatant contradiction. When people are honest with themselves, that’s what they will end up with. There’s no way around it.

A Catalog of Experiencing Life

I’ve always wondered how to categorize a life. Can you write down the essence of a human being? My answer is no. You just can’t do it. We are too complex, too emotional, too action oriented. I might not be able to categorize my life, but I can try. And I can try hard.

This website has done something different than I thought it would. It has inspired me to  move forward. The simple fact that I am posting, and people are reading, gives me the inspiration to keep trying new things. And in the end, I guess that’s what this is all about. That is my voice. I am writing about my taste-testing of life. Experiencing what it has to offer. I write about trying new things and getting better at old things. So you will see some good paintings and some bad ones. And hear some good songs and some bad ones. Because it’s not about impressing people, it’s about doing something, anything, every day to experience life as I want to experience it.