Have you ever watched the popular music reaction videos where a young person listens to a vocalist from the past for the first time? I love them because they’re uplifting. Seeing young people who grew up in an auto-tuned world experience genuine emotion and humanity in music is joyful. They’re often surprised and momentarily overcome with real emotion. Not the kind performed on TikTok.
Watching Rick Beato is a different pleasure. Not better, not worse, but a mature pleasure. Rick was around when The Carpenters were new. He has a lifetime of musical experience, watching styles and talents come and go.
Give this a try. Yes, you. You don’t know The Carpenters. OK. You don’t “know much about music.” OK.
You know more than you think you do. You ear knows, and your heart knows. It may only be that you can’t put words to what’s going on. Every Westerner who isn’t tone-deaf (and few really are) understands the grammar of Western melody and harmony and what it does emotionally. It’s in your in your core, even if you think it’s not. I learned this when I took my first piano instruction in my early 30s.
An entire world of understanding opened up. You know how I say that learning about Cluster B personality disorders put a lifetime of home violence into an understandable taxonomy for me? That’s what happened—but in a beautiful way—when I learned basic music theory.
Now I knew why I felt the way I did when the key slid upward at the chorus in “We’ve Only Just Begun.” I understood that the racy, campy dance hit “It’s Raining Men” made me feel exalted not because it was racy, but because it spoke gospel’s musical language. I heard how Bach and the Beach Boys were doing the same thing.
Rick Beato is in love with music as music, and you can feel it come off him. Listen to him tell you about the kinds of chord progressions that made The Carpenters sound like they did. Pay attention to what he has to say about Karen’s voice and vocal technique, and about Richard’s harmonic arrangements, and you’ll be able to think more clearly about what you don’t hear anymore in music.
Listening to the clips he played, I noticed that I do something weird when I listen to The Carpenters; I’m listening for the sound of a page of sheet music turning, or Karen’s hands touching the music stand. There’s a recording of Karen singing a guide track (basically a first draft for the musicians involved in a recording) for “Trying to Get the Feeling Again” that was long un-released. In between the first and second verses, you can hear Karen turning the page and taking in breath for the next verse in a way that would be edited out of any final release.
Karen sings so directly and personally to the listener that, at least for me, it’s an almost perfect illusion that you’re listening to her in real life, right now, in the room with you.
Are you thinking to yourself, “I don’t know anything about music, this isn’t for me”? It is for you. You think you “just like what you like”, and you do. But I promise you that you’ll like it even more when you learn some of the reasons why.
And if The Carpenters are not to your taste, check out any of Rick’s videos. Something he’s done will tickle your auditory nervous system the right way.
Two videos for you:
1. Rick Beato on The Carpenters
2. Karen’s guide track for Trying to Get the Feeling Again
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Rick Beato is a national treasure. I am a casually professional musician (I get paid every once in while, but not much and not often...) but I have the pleasure of wide acquaintance with more serious performers and all of them revere Rick Beato and get excited every time he posts a new video. He is not only knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the material, he is incredibly generous. His tribute to Gordon Lightfoot on his passing a few weeks ago had me in tears.
Sometimes when I need something nostalgic to make me smile, I love listening to Kids react to.....(Queen, Hair Bands, old music videos etc.). I have never heard of Rick Beato, but I will definitely check him out.