I ran last night after work, in my new shoes, and it felt great! It’s so funny how much difference new shoes make. I don’t realize, over the course of 6 months, how much cushioning and flexibility a running shoe loses. Plus I’m not convinced that the Asics are the right shoe for me. They never fit as well as the Brooks do – I had fit problems with the Asics from the beginning but just endured it. Shouldn’t have done that – my feet were signaling something important.

I have half a mind to call Emily at Fit Right NW and thank her!

Anyway, grabbed some dinner, then caught a bus home. Then Christi called with a favor to ask, and Tracy called, and Smacky demanded some attention and food (equal parts of both). I gave some time to my friends (I include Smacky in that category) and then I took some “me” time.

I sat down to play with my new keyboard.

No… the musical keyboard. The one I bought for my 3-year-old New Year’s resolution? Yeah, that one.

And, I finally got to the good part of my music theory book.

I was learning scales. And it’s so cool.

I always knew, in a general way, that music had a mathematical underpinning. And way back in grade school and junior high, I took some music theory classes, but for whatever reason, the whole idea didn’t gel in my head. And 15 years ago or so, I tried to learn harmonica, since it seems to be the easiest instrument to learn, but again, I was just memorizing what I was being taught. I couldn’t break out of that to see the basic idea that would allow me to create new songs.

Either the book I’m reading now is written by a brilliant teacher, or I’m finally ready to learn, or some combination of the two, because last night was an epiphany.

I learned about how notes are just vibrations (yeah, I knew that already) and how vibrations that are exactly double or half of each other sound alike (didn’t know that) – so that a note that’s, say 100 vibrations per minute has a similar sound to one that’s 200 vbm and one that’s 50 vbm.

That explained how people have broken up the notes in-between those similar sounds into discrete, evenly-spaced notes – the familar C-D-E-F-G-A-B scale.

It gets a little more complicated with flats and sharps (the black keys on a piano) but that’s just for convenience and language – the basic idea is that each key is the same “distance” from the keys next to it. So there are twelve steps from one C note to another C – that’s the chromatic scale.

The part that made me sit up and go “wow” is that each type of music only uses a few notes out of those twelve, usually 5 or 7 of them. And if you restrict yourself to those notes, you can improvise that type of music. There’s the major scale and a minor one, that’s the basis for most Western or European music, there’s a scale for Blues, there’s the pentatonic scale that’s the basis of Country and Western music. And rock is either based on the Blues scale or the C&W scale – the difference there is the chords and the beat.

This is probably over-simplified for any musicians out there, and might not be interesting to any non-musicians. Sorry ’bout that.

But man I was having fun last night, recording a simple chord (which is three or four specific notes in a scale played together) and drumbeat in GarageBand and picking out random notes in a specific scale and being amazed at how much like an actual song it sounded like!

Holy freakin’ cow! I’m a musician!

I know, I know, I have a long way to go before I could play anything live. But now that the essential concept has taken root in my head, it’s like I have a brand-new brain. I’ve been given a new way to look at the world, a new sense to complement the traditional twelve. I’m hearing songs on my iPod as if for the first time!

I don’t know why it took me so long to get this. I’m just glad I did.