Analysis of 50 years of Pop Music: What makes a song a hit?

imageI have no idea if any of you would find this interesting; I sure did.  A team analyzed the last 50 years of US pop songs, to see what makes a song a top hit..    

They found songs that are close to 120 Beats per minute seems to be the magic BPM  for the last 50 years! Plus major keys dominate the charts, make the song danceable, are about 4.5 minutes in length, and turn it up to 11.   Some things to think of when you are choosing songs and want to keep the energy going..

Here are some screen shots from a few of the things looked at:

The main page that explains what was done is here:

I would add a personal observation;  most of the top songs that I have listened to require careful listening..  Pick most top pop song playing, and listen carefully… not to what is obvious in the mix (vocals, instruments etc.) but there is almost always some sort of sound that is either ½ (or less) of the volume of the rest of the instruments or is louder than everything.  It is usually short in duration – or a *very* simple accent note,  happens once per music phrase or measure.  You won’t notice it unless you are actively listening (concentrating..)    My theory is that it is music for the ‘subconscious” part of our brain.. for some it can be sound effects as long as they are introduced and removed selectively..  which is what I do when I run sounds for bands I do this to provide additional interest (sprinkling of delay, mic volume accents.)   It is also why having a good speaker to reproduce the high frequencies is key to interest (as well as preventing ear fatigue)  the ride cymbal accents, snare accents, high-hat accents on certain songs for example are extremely important.  It’s the extra muted “chuck” on a guitar that gets inserted in certain phrases etc.   So on the surface a song is simple, but decomposed it has nuisances that break up the symmetry.  It gives our musical brains something to chew on..   Know knows, this could be completely bogus. 

What do you think?

An example that I wasn’t totally happy with, but..

#25 –  congos

#24 – on the right channel there are two things: guitar two notes – but more importantly on upbeat of the 4th beat of the song there is a slight “scratch ”or a sweep of frequencies sound. Its is hard to hear, but it’s right before the 1st beat begins.

high-hat open

#23 – i hear a guitar harmonic hit once in a while, almost banjo like

#22 – not hearing anything in the section they chose to play

#21 – guitar arpeggio ?

#20 – right channel high-hat

#19 – ?

#18 – FX (delays)

#17 – backup vox

#16- backup vox

#15 – triangle

#14 – FX (delay)

#13 – bass guitar fretless sound

#12 – this one is hard to hear:  I think it is a backup vox that hits twice on a high pitched “hohw” “Hohw”

#11 –congos

#10 – jazz organ

#9 – flange

#8 – strings

#7 – there is a keyboard echoing the phrase in a high octave

#6 – swish sound  and a block hit

#5 – high-hat  open.. delay

#4 – guitar that comes in right before it ends

#3 – banjo

#2 – ?

#1 – high-hat work (alternating open/closed)


Ok, so here I digress, but I LOVE music, sound etc.. so just some additional geek thoughts for you. Maybe reading about this might make you a better musician, better listener, or maybe you might understand a little better of the approach I take when I am running sound for band. I am not the technical guy who lines up the meters at 0 for all mics, and freaks out when the band’s dynamics change from song to song. That is a technical sound engineer. There is gear to help minimize the various if the gain structure is set right. Running sound is also a bit of an art. I bring up certain mics (besides the obvious solos) on certain songs.. cymbals, high-hat etc. I try to recreate what I hear in my mind for that song. Each band has a different blend, and I try to incorporate that some in each song a cover band plays. Not all songs because sometimes it just doesn’t matter, but other times it does! It is not just making sure everything is heard by the audience and musicians, it is something more.

El Monstero Rocks the Pageant

El Monstero is in my top five favorite cover bands.  The members are a plethora of local musicians who normally do original music.  They sell out 6+ shows a year every Christmas to do Pink Floyd songs.  I’ve seen the last few years shows, and the production team and the band do a fantastic job!  They play at one of the best venues in St.Louis for Live Music: The Pageant.  It’s highly recommended; if you find yourself in St.Louis, MO near Christmas, I would highly encourage putting this on your calendar.

I took a few photos, two of them are here.  I have them on my Pro site here:

A quote from their Facebook page:

For those first timers, here’s the skinny….El Monstero is a St. Louis based Pink Floyd tribute band. The brainchild of Stir bassist Kevin Gagnepain, El Monstero’s first appearance was a single night, sold out show @Mississippi Nights in 1999. By 2008 the show spanned 6 nights @The Pageant….who knows what 09 has in store.
The current line up includes Mark Thomas Quinn (lead vox, guitar, lap steel), Jimmy Griffin (lead vox, guitar), Kevin Gagnepain (bass, vox), Bryan Greene (elec, steel, and nylon guitar) John Pessoni (drums, vox) Bill Reiter (keys, vox) Jake Elking (keys), Dave Farver (sax) and of course the ladies….Erminie Cannon, Tandra Williams, and Kelly Wild….they steal the show; Most members of El Monstero have been in bands that were signed to major labels, and they are all top notch players. The band spares no expense on production, hiring the best sound, lighting, visual, pyro, wardrobe, set design, and stage management personnel that St. Louis has to offer, as well as the best sound and lighting equipment in town. The show is truly a St. Louis holiday tradition.
The music mainly focuses on Gilmore/Waters era Floyd and runs about 2 1/2hrs….it is a must see for any Stl area Floyd fans and is an edgier, more theatrical alternative to other tribute shows that roll through town. The show is sponsored by K-SHE95, and K-SHE DJ FAVAZZ has been a true friend since day one.

a video from the show:

was a great show!




And from Wikipedia is additional information about the members:

Current Lineup

Previous Members

Hair, makeup, and clothing

  • Carol Ivcich and Stephanie Asbed of iVCiCH clothing design have been responsible for Hair, makeup, and clothing since 2002

Surprising research reveals heavy drinkers outlive teetotalers

image I am not condoning heaving drinking, but apparently alcohol consumption helps you live longer, even after removing as many other variables such as socioeconomic status, level of physical activity, number of close friends, quality of social support etc.

Boeing Dreamliner 787 Flight test

I have a guest blogger today, Presson Sr. who shared some impressive information about the wing tests conducted on Boeing’s new 787 Deamlinder.  I added some notes in <>.

And now to his first post:

Boeing Confirms Success on Ultimate Load Test

All our planes, commercial and military, undergo both static (stationary) and fatigue (lifetime) testing before the design is considered satisfactory. The static test gradually increases loading on surfaces, and testing to 1.5 times the "design maximum" is standard, to provide a safety margin. Here in St Louis, we usually refer to that as the design limit loads test. We reserve the term "ultimate load" test for the next level, which is to continue adding loads until the item fails (breaks) – hence, the term "ultimate". It is amazing to see how much the wings bend as it gets to that ends of the testing – without breaking.

The video illustrates how the loading is applied, with hydraulic forces being spread out across the wing length to smoothly load the whole wing, not just the tip or some specific point. <The voiceover gets a bit too rah-rah for the team, but it’s still interesting to watch.>

The other major kind of test, fatigue, generates alternating up and down loads (and other kinds* of loading) similar to what the plane will experience in service, and continues the test for days, weeks, and longer, so that the structure gets – literally – a ‘lifetime’ of wear and tear. A month of testing may represent a year of actual service, depending on how many hours per day it is expected to fly. And it’s more complex, since the spectrum of loads used in the test varies to represent takeoffs and landings, climb and descent, cruise, maneuvering, dogfights, and whatever – the so-called "operational mission environment."

Metals do wear out from repeated bending – microscopic discontinuities in material become small cracks after continued service, and small cracks continue grow to become bigger ones. It always surprised me that a crack inspection (no giggles, now) of an airplane in service (done periodically) might result in a note to take another look at some area in between normal inspections. <In other words, small cracks can be ok – don’t think about it when you’re on an airplane.> Crack propagation (how they grow) is a whole field of interest. During the fatigue testing, inspections are done, and this testing also goes "beyond nominal" – I think they do at least 2 lifetimes to be sure. And maybe more.

It can be a great selling point that a plane lasts and lasts (kind of like the bunny). However, we also have to watch out for overdesign. If it lasts too long, we obviously made it too strong, which means too heavy (nasty, nasty), and too expensive (also nasty). The key is continual feedback so we know that we can trust our estimates and our tools – so that when we design for XX performance, the item performs at XX.

* Some are "symmetric", as when both wings bend up, others are not, as during a roll, when one wing bends up and the other down. Obviously, military aircraft tests are a lot wilder. There’s also a drop test, to simulate the vertical impact of an extreme landing (as on a carrier) – which is referred to as a "controlled crash".”

Let me Find that for YOU!

I had a belly laugh today when I ran across this wonderful link.   How many times have you gotten an email or see a post online asking what is xxx?  or where do I find that?   So what I told you I had a professional photography site named perform photography and neglected to provide a link.  Would you post a comment asking where it is?  Well, here let me help you find it:


By the way, you can find my photo site here:\



The Sound of Snow..

image Having our first real snow of the year reminded me of something I heard as a kid:  when you walk on snow you can gauge the temperature by the pitch of the ‘squeak’ or ‘crunch’ it makes.   So of course I decided to do some fact finding, or at least search the web.   I found an interesting summary from this blog:  as well as a link to the National Snow and Ice Data Center: 

Apparently at about –10°C   there is a change in sound from ‘Crunch’ to a ‘Squeak.’  They suggest there is a thin layer of water on the crystals lubricates above –10°C and does not below –10°C , the squeak sound comes from the crushing of the ice crystals.    

I was unable to find anything that indicated the pitch of the squeak changes.  On a different note, I noticed last time we visited the beach that my bare feet on the sand causes a similar type of sound.  


In any case, next time you go for a walk in the show, listen..

Widespread Y2k16 hits Windows Mobile

image Apparently tons of cell phone carriers are having a problem with SMS messages showing a 2016 date instead of 2010, mine included.  Interesting thing is 10 in HEX is 16 in decimal, so perhaps the date storing formula as a slight bug?  read more here:

TechNet Direct – Get most Microsoft Software for Cheap

image Yes this is legal.  Yes it is a good deal:  for example: get Windows 7 Ultimate, Server 2008 R2, Sql Server, Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007, etc for $349 – 28%  of the cost using this code: TMSAM07   so the total cost is $251.28.  If you already have TechNet Direct, use the code to renew, and pay only $179.28 plus tax. $186.86 for me) 

People: this is good for ~10 copies of Windows 7 Ultimate, plus 10 copies of Office 2007 Ultimate.  all for HALF the cost of one retail copy of Windows 7.


go to  and upgrade all your systems cheap.  Hurry, these codes don’t last long..



How Your Brain Filters Distracting Thoughts

image What was I saying?  Oh yes, apparently the idea that your brain uses gamma ways frequency to differentiate current experiences from past experiences.  “They found that the hippocampus selectively tunes in to different frequencies of gamma waves coming from different brain areas. The lower gamma wave frequencies are used to transmit memories of past experiences, and the higher frequencies are used to convey what is happening where you are right now.”