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Showing 1-10 of 54 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 88 reviews
on December 2, 2012
As the title says, this is a book about how music works -- but about how it works in physical sense, not in an artistic or emotional sense. This took me aback, since I'd expected (having foolishly failed toread the write up or the reviews) something about sense and sensibility.

But I am very glad I got the book, and read it. The author sets out to make the mechanics of music clear even to readers with no musical education. I am just such a one, and the book does indeed make a lot of things very clear, starting with what makes a sound musical. It proceeds through pitch and frequency, tonality, intervals and scales, keys, modes, and on and on.

I learned a lot from the book, and enjoyed doing so. The style is very clear and simple, the organization is excellent, and the examples are well chosen. Only time will tell whether or not having read the book enhances my appreciation of music, Meanwhile, I've learned a lot of stuff that is fun to know.

My only question about this book is whether it might be TOO clear and simple for readers who already know a lot about music. I can"t judge that, but such readers might want to read reviews by their peers.
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on May 25, 2013
Disclaimer: I have not finished the book, I am taking my time to read it slowly to fully understand the great information provided. I also read parts aloud to my husband, who understands music theory quite a bit but is definitely learning from this book. I say this is a great book if you are new to music -- and I mean that you are new to playing music/instruments. Music is its own language, and this book is the beginning of how to understand the language. The author explains concepts using everyday language and both familiar and unique examples. I found his discussion on the harp and the glockenspiel very entertaining and enlightening. Plus the author has a "laugh out loud" sense of humor (yeah, I could have said LOL, but I like words...) Unless you have studied music theory for many years, I believe that anyone who is a musician or a wanna-be musician like myself, will find this book worth the price and the time.
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on May 4, 2017
An outstanding explanation of as the title says how music works. Practical easy to follow and understand with plenty of smiles and laughs as a bonus. I use it as a reference and have read it more than once, that's how good I think it is.
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on March 15, 2016
Great book. Especially if you are like me and always need to know why something is the way it is. He explains why some notes sound better together rather than just telling you they do. He talks about the interaction of sound waves. May not be for someone who doesn't care about the science behind the theory.
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on December 27, 2010
After casually seeing the title in a bookstore a few days ago, I knew what one of my first purchases of my new Kindle would have to be, and this title by John Powell Did not disappoint.

How Music Works takes a scientific look at a subject that is ubiquitous within our nation, and our world: music. It slowly unwraps the mysteries of things such as pitch, loudness, timbre, and harmony in ways that even a non-scientific brain that lacks proper jargon can totally understand. Prior to reading the book, I had a cursory understanding of what made one note different from the next, but I can honestly say that my knowledge about music and sound in general has increased tenfold since I began the book.

Powell splits the book pretty efficiently, typically devoting entire chapters to a concept such as perfect pitch, loudness, or timbre; in doing this, he allows a concept to be explained fully without becoming overly cumbersome.

That's not to say that the book doesn't drag at points...there are sections in it that are sure to be uninteresting to different segments of people, but the overall picture and flow of the book will excite anyone that enjoys a good tune on the radio or on their iPod now and then - and it may even make you enjoy it a little more after you're through.
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on October 2, 2012
I've been playing the piano off and on for about 35 years (badly and much more off than on). Recently I got the bug again and realised I was just kidding myself that I understood what scales are, what the difference is between major and minor keys, and lots of other fundamental stuff. It was like driving a car without knowing where petrol comes from..., uhm, you know what I mean.

For the first time I now feel I understand music theory, thanks almost entirely to this book. I have read it twice and will read it again. I bought the paperback version and the one for the Kindle. My 14-year old, rock-guitar-playing son, has read it and loved it. I now even want to talk about music theory with other people, who probably think I'm just trying to show off. I now feel much more confident when I'm playing because, for example, I understand the real importance of what thirds and fifths are in any key. I highly recommend it. It avoids all the jargon and gets straight to the point in very simple terms. It's also well documented and researched.

It might be a little too British for the tastes of some of you Americans on (I'm English), with its wacky humour and references to chip shops and curry (curry?), but it's still very worth reading. I even laughed out loud a few times (what, reading a music book?).
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on May 3, 2017
When I first read the beginning of this book, I was less-than excited to finish reading it. Boy, was I wrong. This book is fantastic and covers a wide range of music topics and is easily comprehend able to both musicians and non-musicians. My favorite section was about the different scale and key signatures. A good read for any budding musician or anyone interested in the topic.
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on October 17, 2016
This book dispenses with the sterile rigidity of theoretical frameworks, and boils down these concepts to everyday experience. I think of it as a DK illustrated book, but in word pictures instead of graphical ones. Wonderful!
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on April 18, 2013
Having read David Byrne's How Music Works over Christmas, which deals largely with how music works on an emotional and cultural level and how the music industry works Mr Powell's book with the same main title, How Music Works, was suggested by Amazon's recommendation fairies as something I might enjoy - and they were right. As a non-musician with an interest in using DAWs such as Reason, Cubase, FL Loops etc for largely empirical compositions I found this book gave me a great insight into some of the fundamentals of music that had eluded me up until now. No, it won't make you a musician just by reading it and competent musicians may find the information somewhat basic, but for the rest of us who love music but never really spoke it's language this is a must read. And Mr. Powell's witty prose never allow it to be boring, even when he's discussing "fiddly details".
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on September 18, 2013
I learned the piano when I was a kid and started up again recently. Even though I did some music theory back then, this book is a much more enjoyable and understandable approach to the subject than those old exercise books. My favorite parts were learning about why scales are the way they are, key shifts, and explaining the jargon of classical music. Personally I was less interested in the earlier chapters about how musical sounds are physically generated - we've all seen those diagrams of vibrating strings already. The author's style is readable and friendly, and the accompanying CD is at times helpful. It also makes you feel that composing need not be a fantasy. If you've ever wanted an actual explanation of why we play the notes and keys we do, this is a terrific book.
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