The Beauty of Great Music

Photo by Mohammed Mehdi on Unsplash

I found this music survey on a blogger friend’s post over at ARHtistic License. She also found it elsewhere here at A Guy Called Bloke. I thought it would be fun to answer myself.

1.) How important is music in your life?

I would say it’s fairly important. I sing in a church choir — currently on break due to the pandemic — and have sung in choirs or musical groups pretty much continuously since I was a high school freshman.

Below is a song I’ve sung with my church choir. (This isn’t my choir performing.)

It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, but I have recently been venturing out into solos. I took a few music electives in college including private voice lessons. Music can inspire me in different ways for different things that I do.

2) What is your favorite type of music and what is your least favorite?

I agree with Andrea of ARHtistic License that I like all sorts of music. This is partly what makes it difficult to define my tastes to someone else or even to myself at times. Lately, I listen to a lot of classical, jazz, folk or folk rock, so maybe those are favorite categories, although those are fairly broad categories. I also like world music, opera and “popera”/classical crossover music. I listen to music in a bunch of different categories and from different time periods, including decades that predate me.

To make things more confusing, I also like music that is a fusion of different styles …

or songs that have been flipped from one style to another.

Earlier, I would say that heavy metal was my least favorite style of music, and that is still, probably, mostly true. I discovered that Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a band I like, is considered “symphonic metal,” so there are exceptions. I’ve also found I can appreciate some operatic, symphonic or folk metal, but I explore these cautiously, because the themes are often dark or pagan. Sound wise, these can be interesting. Rap is probably not something I would normally listen to, but there have been exceptions there too. I wouldn’t listen to “cop killer rap” or something that was full of curse words, etc.

There are songs or singers I don’t really like even under the categories I like the most, so my interests are broad and yet discerning. As I said, it is difficult to pin down.

3) Do you have a music collection or do you listen to whatever on whatever?

I do have a CD collection, but lately, I listen to more music on YouTube or Pandora radio or on Alexa. YouTube is how I discovered Peter Hollens and his acapella multitracking videos …

and this crazy woman, Malinda Kathleen Reese, and her funny Mad Lib style Google Translate Sings videos.

In the late ’90s, I worked in a bookstore. A coworker of mine was very interested in ska music, and, at the time, I thought it wasn’t for me. Then, in more recent times, I learned that one of the Wii Just Dance songs I like a lot is from a ska band. So, I went on a YouTube binge discovering ska songs I like.

One rock subgenre I like is surf rock. I kind of associate that style with the ’60s, but YouTube helped me discover a current band that is creating new music in that style. You can see though that they are going with a retro ’60s feel with their hair, outfits and setting.

4) Are you a singer, hummer or whistler?

Yes, I would say I do all three at different times, but I try not to be bothersome to those around me by humming or whistling. I do remember whistling absentmindedly recently, and my dad suddenly turning to me.

This song has a pretty whistled chorus …

5) Show through links your five best songs.

This is a hard one. It’s not that I don’t have favorites. It’s just hard to narrow it down to what are the top ones out of all the favorites. Since my musical interests are fairly wide, it’s also hard to compare apples to oranges, favorites in different categories. I will link different picks throughout this post, which will, hopefully, give you some idea. I do think of “Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin as my favorite classical/orchestral piece.

7) Have you ever been to an outdoor concert?

Yes. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a major concert that was outdoors, but, as a reporter, I sometimes covered local outdoor concerts. Some towns sponsored outdoor summer series of concerts, and I attended some of them and wrote about them. Right now, I’m having difficulty remembering which groups I saw perform, but I know I saw a local band called The Infernos.

8) Do you ever go out to see music live? When was the last time you went to a concert/gig?

Maybe, a month or two ago, I went with a friend to an outdoor church worship band experience. I’m not sure it was exactly a concert. It was more of an interactive singalong. Since then, a brass band performed, again outdoors, at my own church, but, sadly, I had a migraine and missed it.

8) Do you sometimes feel like dancing when you hear music? Under what circumstances, do you dance?

I love dance fitness. I have tried dance fitness from DVDs or videos in many different styles: Latin, jazz, ballet, ballroom, country line dance, hip hop, reggae, African, disco, retro, club, etc. However, I’m an introvert, and, for me, dancing is something I do alone for my own health and happiness. The chances of me breaking out the dance moves at a crowded party are pretty much nil. If you happen to catch me in the right mood with a small circle of friends, you might see me dance. If I’m in a good dance fitness habit, I am more and more inclined to want to dance when I hear music. I might spontaneously make up my own choreography if I’m alone. I have even semi-danced in the grocery store aisle while shopping, but my introverted self would only do this if I was alone in the aisle.

9) When do you listen to music?

I would probably listen to music more often if I didn’t need to worry about bothering anyone else with it. I’ve been having trouble lately with headphones too. I do often listen to music while I’m dressing and getting ready for the day (something energizing,) while I’m exercising (also energizing,) when I’m relaxing before bed (something mellow) or even to help me sleep, (something very, very mellow.) For a while there, I had Alexa playing music for me while I was cooking. You can ask her to play “music for cooking,” and she comes up with some interesting playlists.

This is a funny, food-themed jazz song “she” played for me one time while I was cooking.

10) If you answered yes to 6 & 7 — who did you go and see?

I answered these as parts of 6 and 7. I’ve seen Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, Fernando Ortega, a few others.

11) Is there a song that makes you emotional?

There are probably several songs that would be fitting, but the first one that came to mind when I thought about it was “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables.

12) Do you feel that you have a special connection with some types of music? Which types?

Hhhhmm…. I think that would be folk. I’m interested in several subgenres under this umbrella. I think that if were a songwriter, my songs would fall under this category. As a singer also, I think lyrical songs in this category would suit my voice.

Lately, I’m enjoying some modern folk groups/singers like The Lumineers.

13) Have you ever tried singing in a karaoke bar? What was that experience like?

As I’ve explained, I have had some private voice lessons in college and have sung in choirs for years. More recently, I have begun venturing out in some solo singing, but it took me a while to overcome my stage nerves. (I can’t say I’m completely rid of them yet.) I have gone out with friends once or twice for karaoke, not so much to a karaoke bar but a karaoke pizza place. I didn’t get up the courage to sing, but a friend of mine sang and gave a pretty good Cher impression.

14) Do you listen to music when writing? If so which?

I don’t often listen to music when writing. I seem to need quiet to focus. If I do listen to music, it would be instrumentals, either classical, movie soundtracks or YouTube playlists created for writing. There are songs with lyrics that have inspired my writing, but I will listen to those right before writing a scene, not really simultaneously.

Movie soundtracks can be inspirational. I really enjoyed the soundtrack to The Man from U.N.C.L.E, the 2015 movie. It might help with certain creative stages like imagining the action scene, but I think, would be a little too exciting for me for the actual typing and sentence forming.

15) Have you ever gone to see a musical? Provide link please.

I am actually quite a musical enthusiast, which is interesting, because I forgot to even mention this category in the opening of this post. I could have gone back and edited that, but I thought it was more interesting to take note of that omission and the complication of giving an overview of my interests.

I’ve seen several musicals at New Jersey Performing Arts Center. These include The King and I, The Sound of Music and The Fiddler on the Roof. I saw Les Miserables live in London. A friend and I went to see two Disney plays on Broadway: Mary Poppins and The Lion King. I saw Big River, based on Huck Finn, at another playhouse local to me. Additionally, I’ve seen several others in smaller high school productions, such as Bye Bye Birdie.

16) Do you know all the lyrics to all the music that you listen to?

I have a pretty good memory for lyrics, but I can’t say I have a perfect memory for it. I’d probably be fairly decent at a game that asked you to remember lyric to songs … provided I was familiar with the song.

17) When you are listening to music — are you listening to the music itself or the lyrics too?

It depends on how distracted I am, if I am listening to music while doing other things. I listen to both. I can sometimes enjoy simple songs with simple lyrics, but the writer in me enjoys music with more complex lyrics. I can also be pretty analytical of songs and their meanings, even with songs I don’t particularly like.

18) Do you listen to music when you go cycling/jogging or working out at the gym? [or any other physical activity?]

Yes. I do a lot of YouTube workouts. Sometimes, the fitness instructors don’t have the license to use very interesting music in their workouts, so I’ll find my own music to play on another tab.

19) Many operas are in French, Italian or German. If you listen to opera, do you understand the libretto (text) or are you happy to get the main idea (gist)?

A little bit of both. I actually enjoy a lot of different music in foreign languages, not just opera, and it isn’t completely necessary for me to understand everything to appreciate it. I do appreciate an English translation and will often look it up if it’s not provided. I have studied both French and German so know a little of both. I’ve never studied Italian but have picked up on a few words and phrases from Italian restaurant menus and studying librettos side by side with the English translation. Some years ago, I saw a Metropolitan Opera film of Les Comtes d’Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach. I liked it so well that I borrowed the soundtrack from the library. Because French was already somewhat familiar, after looking at the French and English side by side, I found it much easier to understand than other operas.

This is just an aria from that opera in a concert format, but I love this one with a mechanical doll that winds down and has to be wound up again.

Here is another foreign language song, in Arabic, that was just recommended to me by YouTube. It sounds so different from western music but so pretty. She has a lovely voice. The English translation is provided.

20) Are you deleting any questions? If so, which ones?

This one … I guess.

21) Do you enjoy watching music videos? What music videos do you enjoy watching most?

I think it should be obvious by now that the simple answer to that question is “yes.” Some music “videos” on YouTube aren’t really videos at all, just the sound with a still picture as in the video I posted for the soundtrack of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It’s always fun when you can find a music video that has great music and is visually interesting. I like Katie Melua and think she has a unique quality to her voice. This video is interesting, and someone has commented that the effects are odd. I guess it is a bit surreal, but I think it is meant to represent her traveling in her mind/dreams.

Musical Wanderings

Twelve Girls Band, Photo from YouTube

Interesting Cultural and Musical Mashups

With such things as Pandora radio and YouTube making recommendations based on music you’ve played or liked, your musical wanderings can sometimes take you to some interesting places, introducing you to new artists and new songs, possibly even new instruments or cultures. The more curious you are and open to new things, the more you will be introduced to more interesting new sounds.

This playlist features songs that have some relationship to folk or world music but aren’t purely so (with the exception of the first one.) It may be modern songs played with traditional instruments or western songs played with eastern instruments or some other mashup of cultural sounds. This first one by the Gothard Sisters is not so much of a mashup or twist, but it fits the theme of “wandering” so well, with the video featuring scenes from the group’s world travels.

In this next one, YouTuber Luna plays an American rock song, “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors on a gayageum, a traditional Korean instrument with 12 strings. It really has an interesting sound that some commenters described as “spooky.” It appears she had to play three different parts at separate times and do some overdubbing.

I’ve seen a few videos now from Paola Hermosin, Spanish guitarist. She is not just a “Spanish guitarist” in the sense of guitar style. She is also from Seville, Spain. Although all of her introductions are in Spanish, there are English subtitles, and I always learn miniature lessons on music history, composers and singers and song structure. In this one, she has arranged a song composed for the koto, a Japanese instrument somewhat similar to the gayageum, for the guitar.

This YouTuber, who calls herself Alina Gingertail, is from Russia. She is a multi-instrumentalist who plays all sorts of interesting traditional and folk instruments. She often covers video game theme music.

You would expect a bagpiper to come from Scotland or Ireland or to be someone with that heritage. You wouldn’t expect one to come from India, where this bagpiper, who calls herself the Snake Charmer, does. In this original song, she pays tribute to both Irish and Punjabi culture and even collaborates with a rapper, Raoul Kerr. I love watching all of the traditional dancing from both cultures.

I first discovered Twelve Girls Band from China in a PBS special. They play western music with traditional Chinese instruments. The instruments played include the erhu, a two-stringed fiddle, the pipa, a four-stringed instrument, the zhongruan, also known as a moon guitar, the dizi, a traverse flute, the yangqin, a hammered dulcimer, the guzheng, a zither, and the duxianqin, a one string plucked instrument. Here, they cover “El Condor Pasa” made famous in the English speaking world by Simon & Garfunkel, but the song has an older history than the folk duo. It was composed by a Peruvian composer, Daniel Alombia Rombles, in 1913. The Simon & Garfunkel version featured a different folk instrument, the pan flute, which originated in ancient Mayan and Incan civilization.

Patty Gurdy plays a hurdy gurdy. I’ve met a lot of people who play instruments, but I can’t say I’ve ever met someone who can play the hurdy gurdy. It’s a folk instrument that is hand cranked to turn a rosined wheel against strings. Keyboard buttons also press small wedges against strings. In this video, Patty Gurdy covers an ’80s song by the Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams.”

The next video is from B&B Project, a duo from Ukraine, who seek to popularize their folk instruments, the bandura and button accordion. Here, they cover “Clubbed to Death” from The Matrix soundtrack.

Below is one of the most unusual yet, a Mongolian folk metal band, The Hu, (not be confused with The Who.) They use a singing technique called Mongolian throat singing, where the singer can sing more than one note at once.

I first got acquainted with music by Ahmed Alshaiba when he collaborated with Peter Hollens. Alshaiba is a Yemenite, and he often covers pop songs, giving them a bit of a Middle Eastern sound, with his oud and guitar. Here he covers “Blinding Lights” by the Weeknd.

Alex Boye is originally from London, England and now living in the U.S. He was born to Nigerian parents and likes to perform what he calls Africanized covers of pop songs. Here, he plays “Royals” by Lorde and has a little fun with African tribal masquerade and a little humor with a Christmas wreath. I discovered him on YouTube, but at that point, he had already gained some fame on America’s Got Talent. I love his harmonies on this one.

I first heard this cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Regina Spektor on one of my Pandora radio station, and I tuned in. It almost gave me chills. I’m not sure why. It is not my favorite song by the Beatles, and I’m not sure I agree with the message behind it. I think it’s partly due to the beauty of Spektor’s voice. This version with its unique Japanese instrumentation also seems oddly emotive. It was made for the soundtrack of Kubo and the Two Strings, a movie I’ve never seen. The song features the shamisen, a three stringed Japanese instrument.

Perhaps, I am more open than the average person to world sounds, but I hope you enjoyed your tour of interesting musical mashups. Which did you find the most interesting? Which did you like hearing the best?

Cuteness Overload — Babies and Dogs Reacting to Movies and Music

Sensitivity can be a really good thing. Reading and the arts help nurture our ability to empathize with others. Watch these babies and dogs be moved by music and movies.

Baby emotionally moved by Bocelli song to Elmo

What a beautiful baby. He lights up with joy as Elmo sings and seems moved almost to tears by Bocelli’s singing.

French bulldogs’ adorable reaction to saddest scene in “Inside Out.”

I’ve been following these Frenchies, Griffin and Haru, for a while. Is it just coincidence that they decide to cuddle at that moment? Some dogs don’t seem to notice TV. I’ve observed some of the dogs I care for reacting to the TV, especially when there are dogs or other animals on the screen. Just wait until the last video. It seems it is possible for dogs to follow some of the action and to empathize.

Baby reacts to “Moonlight Sonata.”

This little boy had an emotional reaction to hearing his older sister play “Moonlight Sonata” at her recital. I think there is an artist in this boy. One of the commenters on YouTube suggested he should take piano lessons himself when he is old enough. I think that perhaps he is right.

Adorable dog reacts in cutest way to “Lion King’s” saddest scene.

Before seeing this, I really didn’t know that it was possible for a dog to understand and follow what is going on in an abstract scene on TV. This dog really seems to have some understanding of what he is watching and is sympathizing so much with Simba. No wonder dogs are so sensitive to our emotions and seek to comfort us when we are sick or sad.

We all need sensitive souls and the ability to empathize. I hope this touches you and makes you smile.

The Random Jukebox That Is My Head

The Songs That Get Stuck in my Head … or just Pop Up Randomly

Photo by Spencer Imbrock on Unsplash

With my busy life lately, I have not been taking that much time to listen to music for pleasure. This, apparently, has not stopped my brain from mentally replaying songs that are familiar to it, as I’m going to bed, just waking up, even in the middle of my sleep or just at random times during the day. It remembers songs from TV commercials, songs playing on the radio in stores while I’m shopping or sometimes just pulls songs from the mental archives that I don’t remember hearing recently. It might even decide to put on “repeat” a song I don’t particularly like. I find music hard to ignore when I hear it. My brain just tends to tune in whenever I hear it, whether I particularly like it or not.

So, I started making a list of the songs that either popped into my head or repeatedly played mentally over the past few days. It’s quite a list: ’70s pop, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Celtic, Christian contemporary, ’80s New Wave in French language … I think I might be the only quirky ding dong in the universe whose brain could come up with this particular list. I almost wondered if this was too embarrassing to post, and it reminded me of the meme below.

So, here is the first one, “I Think I Love You” by David Cassidy from Partridge Family. I do remember how it got started. I recently heard this while food shopping, and it hasn’t fully left my brain since. I do happen to like it. It’s sweet and innocent and tells a little story. Though I remember watching the show as a kid, I’m not sure that I remember the song from then. I think I was reminded of it some time later, probably from listening to oldies radio.

A short time later, my brain pulled up this one from Brady Bunch, and I thought, “Really, brain?” Again, I watched the show as a kid but was reminded of this song since from a friend who is a pop culture aficionado. Unlike David Cassidy, the Brady kids aren’t exactly known for their hit songs. It may have been some mental association between Partridge Family and Brady Bunch that brought this up in my mind, but then, I remembered that there was another reason why this song would pop up. I’ve been hearing a snippet of it in a recent 2020 commercial. I couldn’t recall which one, but, with help from the Internet, I found it, a Perdue chicken commercial. Now, I am wondering how many people have heard the song from the commercial without knowing its Brady Bunch origins? I don’t believe the commercial has the original Brady kid voices though. Some of the lyrics do seem to fit the pandemic, “I just can’t stay inside all day. I’ve got to get out and get some of those rays.”

Okay, so, now we are out of the ’70s. Mandisa’s “Overcomer” was mentally playing in my head as I was waking up one morning. It’s a song I heard a lot on Christian radio when it was a new hit, 2013. I don’t remember hearing it recently, but it was most definitely not the worst song to wake up thinking about. I’ve had a few struggles lately, caretaking for parents. Both Dad and I were bitten by a dog recently, and Dad has now had two surgeries to close the wound and cover it with skin. These positive thoughts are certainly welcome.

This Loreena McKennitt song, “The Highwayman,” was on a playlist I used to help me to sleep, and, oddly enough, my sleeping brain began a mental playback on another night without any help from the actual music playing. It’s a long storytelling song, so you might wonder how much of it my sleeping brain could reproduce. I’m not sure. Maybe, it was one section of it on repeat, but it seems to me my brain recalled a full sound, the voice and instruments.

This next one is an odd one. I am a bit of a musical theater enthusiast, but State Fair is not one of the more popular Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, and its title song is also not the most popular of Broadway style songs. Still, out of nowhere, this little piece of music came to mind, “Our state fair is the best state fair. Don’t miss it. Don’t even be late.” I couldn’t recall any other words, but there it was.

I enjoy this song from South Pacific, but the way it came to mind was very odd. What I remembered first was this little dramatic orchestral section that follows her beginning phrases in the song, say, right after “my faith in romance.” That part came to my mind alone, and I had to think hard to remember why this orchestral bit was so familiar and in what song it belonged.

This next one is in a completely different category, an ’80s New Wave song in French. I was not familiar with it in the ’80s but learned of it more recently through Wii Just Dance games. I don’t think this particular song is available on U.S. versions of the game, but I found the Just Dance song on YouTube. My interest in French language led me to look up the French lyrics and the English translation and then the original video and the story behind the song. By the time I did all this, I gained more and more of an appreciation of the song. The whole video has a bit of a surrealist feel. In spite of its bright colors and costumes and dancing, the subject matter is rather dark. It’s about a woman who died from cancer, a friend of the band and a dancer. The rhythmic beginning and more lyrical sections of the song express a celebration of the woman’s life, but the more aggressive sounding section speaks more bluntly about death, “It is cancer that has assassinated you …” There are a few hints in the video of the sad, dark content: bones used as percussion instruments, a splash of red paint, tears in the lead singer’s eyes. I do have an appreciation for it but feel that an English version would feel too blunt for me, rather than hearing it through the filter of a foreign language.

I have quite mixed feelings about the next one, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Melodically, it’s very pleasing. Lyric-wise, it is cryptic. I’m not sure which rendition became familiar to me first. I’ve listened to both the Leonard Cohen version and the Jeff Buckley version, and neither seem particularly familiar. Lately, I’ve heard renditions by several artists and bands I like including Pentatonix. In spite of its title and mixed Bible references to David and Bathsheba and Samson and Delilah, it is not essentially a religious song and does not belong on either a Christmas album or album of sacred arias. I’ve seen it on both. It seems to be more about a human relationship, and the expression, “Hallelujah” which literally means “Praise to the Lord,” does not seem sincere to me in its literal meaning. After all, the writer expresses, “Maybe there’s a God above” and seems even in doubt about this basic faith. Still, I like to hear it sometimes and puzzle over the artist’s meaning. This article in Rolling Stone might give some enlightenment.

I remembered that a friend and I were riding together in a car and a version of this with more Christian lyrics came on the radio. The one below may have been the one we heard. If you are a person of faith, or even if you aren’t, give this one a listen. This version would be appropriate on a Christmas album.

And, similarly, here is an Easter version.

Very Random Music Playlist from All of My YouTube Subscriptions

Lately, I’ve been again reflecting on how difficult it is to define my diverse musical interests, so I decided to blog a long playlist with a sample from all of my musical YouTube subscriptions.

This post is more about discovering YouTube talent than mainstream artists from the radio. A few of these artists are musicians with YouTube channels but are not primarily YouTubers. Although some on this list are gaining more and more fame and a few of them have competed in or won TV talent shows, there is a good chance most of these will be unfamiliar to you. You may recognize many of the songs they cover, but be prepared for completely different interpretations or creative remakes from the originals. Also, there are a few worthy originals from lesser known artists.

I have a lot of YouTube subscriptions, so this is a pretty long list, 57 of them, to be exact. You can read things over and click on what interests you most from the description or video preview. There will also be a link to the full YouTube playlist at the end of this post.

1. Everybody Wants To Be a Cat (from The Aristocats) Big Band Cover — Seb Skelly

Seb Skelly plays multiple brass instruments and creates multi-tracking videos where he plays all the parts and harmonizes with himself. He also does some of his own compositions and arrangements. Here, he collaborates with a lot of other artists to form a full band with vocalists.

2. In the Hall of the Mountain King (Grieg) Harp Twins — Camille and Kennerly

This might not be the best example from these pretty young identical twins. Everyone expects classical pieces from the harp, but not everyone expects rock, pop and even heavy metal arranged for and played on harp. These girls play a lot of different pieces and produce beautiful videos where they film in outdoor settings and dress in identical outfits or costumes. They also play a lot of theme music from movies, TV and video games. I chose this one, because it was a newer one I haven’t overplayed. It’s great, sets a mysterious mood, and even features some of their vocals.

3. Google Translate Sings: “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran

Malinda Kathleen Reese (Translator Fails) uses Google Translate to translate the lyrics of popular songs into one foreign language after another and back into English to get Mad Lib like results. This Ed Sheeran song transforms into a song about someone who really likes geometry and biology. The original is a little suggestive, but the Google Translate version is somewhat more innocent, although a few strange words have slipped in, accidentally, of course. Watch out for the “Gradually Watermelon” part.

4. Bad Guy — Billie Eilish Cover (violin/cello/bass cover) — Simply Three

The original Billie Eilish song is very popular right now. Simply Three covers this one using a combination of acoustic and electric instruments, and I think they did a fantastic job creating interesting effects with acoustic instruments that match the original.

5, I Don’t Know Birds That Well — MonaLisa Twins (Original)

The MonaLisa Twins are 20-something identical twins from Austria, who, interestingly, do a lot of covers of Beatles and other American music from the ’60s. They both play guitar and sing in harmony. They also have a number of originals that are very enjoyable, and this is one of them. “I know I don’t know birds that well, but they always seem to sing about love … “

6. Material Girl — Walk Off the Earth

So, I always had a little trouble with this song because of the lyrics, because I really hope I’m not materialistic. The way Sarah sings it makes me believe she means it only satirically, which helps me appreciate it more. Several members of the band are multi-instrumentalists, so many different instruments show up in this song. There definitely wasn’t a theramin or banjo in the original! There’s also a clever percussive use of piggy banks.

7. (Toy Story) You’ve Got a Friend in Me — Sungha Jung

I first discovered Sungha Jung as a child prodigy with guitar. He’s a little older now but still a fantastic guitarist.

8. Hey Ya! — Avriel & the Sequoias

You may remember Avi Kaplan as the bass from the acapella group Pentatonix. He left the group and began his own folk band, Avriel & the Sequoias. I really enjoy creative restyling of songs, so here is a folk rendition of a soul/funk song.

9. Cheap Thrills – Sia (Oud Cover) by Ahmed Alshaiba

I don’t remember how I discovered Ahmed Alshaiba, but I’m glad I did. He plays an instrument which may seem a little strange to western ears, an Arabic stringed instrument called an oud. I began to write that there is a “wavery” sound though it was not the most musically precise term and then was reminded that the term I was wanting was tremolo. I’ve kept both terms, in case some readers might appreciate a less technical term. He plays a western pop song with the oud, guitar, bass, keyboard and percussion and ends up with a worldbeat song that sounds a little eastern and western at the same time.

10. Tetris Opera — Video Games Live (VGL) — Jillian Aversa

Tetris has a really great theme song, and here is an operatic version of it performed by Jillian Aversa at a past Comic Con. Aversa is a composer and vocalist who describes her style as “ethereal vocals/emotional music.” She has recorded music for several game franchises and has three solo albums.

11. Joachim Horsley — Beethoven in Havana (7th Symph., mvt. 2 Rumba)

Here is a rumba/Latin jazz version of a movement from a Beethoven symphony. The original piece feels a little melancholy to me, but not this version. I am impressed with the musical skill required to make such a successful arrangement. He also transforms the piano into a rhythm instrument. Joaquim has an impressive resume as a composer, creating scores for the Disney show, “Big City Greens” and the National Geographic show, “Great Migrations,” just to name a few.

12. Echosmith – Cool Kids (Acoustic Cover) — Gardiner Sisters

I first discovered the Gardiner Sisters after their collaboration with YouTuber Peter Hollens. I like their gentle voices and harmonies.

13. F. Waxman — Carmen Fantasie — Leia Zhu

Leia Zhu is a 12-year-old violin prodigy who was already traveling the world and playing with orchestras as a soloist at the age of six. She also vlogs about her travels and adventures, and her vlogs remind you that, though her talents are advanced, she is still a young girl.

14. William Tell Overture — Insanely Difficult Jazz Piano Arrangement — Jacob Koller

Jacob Koller, who calls himself the Mad Arranger, plays an extremely difficult jazz arrangement of “William Tell Overture,” aka “Lone Ranger Theme,” in a cowboy hat and in the middle of what appears to be a ghost town.

15. [Electro Swing Remix] Pink Elephants on Parade (Dumbo) — Dave Wave

Dave Wave has a variety of interesting videos, some that explain musical concepts, some unlikely mashups of songs as well as electro swing, stride piano, ragtime and jazz performances, some of which are arrangements of songs of other genres.

16. Dance of the Line Riders — DoodleChaos

DoodleChaos has a lot of highly creative videos that are synchronized to music, such as Rube Goldberg Piano or Ping Pong Trick Shots Play the Xylophone. In this Line Riders animation, the three sledders help you visualize the harmonies and rhythms in “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.”

17. Up Music Box with Illustrations (“Married Life”)

This YouTuber punches holes for a music box and creates adorable appropriate illustrations on the scrolling paper.

18. Super Mario Bros – A capella Medley — Julien Neel & Nick McKaig

This particular video by Julien Neel is fun and whimsical but doesn’t demonstrate his, uh, ordinary singing ability as in his other offerings. Here, he and his collaborator, Nick McKaig, scat sing and impersonate horns, kazoos and other musical sounds. The video is also entertaining as they impersonate Mario and Luigi.

Julien does a lot of multi-tracking acapella videos in several styles: traditional barbershop, Beatles covers, love songs, popular songs from various decades, hymns, national anthems, foreign language songs, themes from movies, TV and video games and even some commercial jingles. He is a French citizen who speaks English like an American.

19. Jolene — Dolly Parton (Janet Devlin Cover)

I fell in love with Janet Devlin’s voice after hearing her compete on The Voice with Elton John’s “Your Song.” This Irish girl has a sweet and unique voice and makes songs her own with her emotional musical interpretations. She has also recorded a few albums of original songs. She does a fantastic job with “Jolene.”

20. Avalon Jazz Band — Ah, dis! Ah, bonjour! (Charles Trenet)

I appreciate music from all different time periods, and, somehow, I discovered this group that performs vintage French gypsy jazz.

21. Malukah — Game of Thrones Theme and The Children Cover

So, I admit that I have never even seen an episode of “Game of Thrones,” but that doesn’t prevent me from appreciating the haunting and beautiful harmonies of this multi-tracking cover. Malukah is a Mexican singer who does a lot of fantasy and game related music.

22. The Pink Panther Fingerstyle Guitar (Marcos Kaiser)

I have become quite a fan of fingerstyle guitar, and “Pink Panther” theme is one of my favorite movie theme pieces. Marcos Kaiser has video performances in a variety of styles: classical, flamenco and various Spanish guitar styles, jazz, blues, funk, movie, TV and game themes, rock and popular music and his own compositions.

23. The Surfrajettes — Cha Cha Heels — Great Lakes Surf Battle

Apparently, surf rock is not a genre that died out completely with the ’60s. This group, The Surfrajettes, is playing an original, not an oldies cover.

24. Rhiannon — Fleetwood Mac — (Cover by Bailey Pelkman & Anna Gilbert)

I discovered Bailey Pelkman’s channel when she collaborated with Peter Hollens. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve heard from her. Her channel features gentle acoustic covers of hits from today and past decades.

25. Creep — Vintage Postmodern Jukebox Radiohead Cover ft. Haley Reinhart

Postmodern Jukebox is a fun and unique group that takes modern hits and restyles them into styles from past decades from the ’20s to the ’80s, mostly some form of jazz but also rock and some other styles like tango, bluegrass or klezmer. Here, they team up with American Idol veteran, Haley Reinhart, as lead vocalist. They don’t specify a decade here, but it is a jazz cover. Her vocals are so fantastic and so full of emotion that I think even fans of the very different original can appreciate it.

26. You Got It — Roy Orbison Cover — Anne Reburn

Anne Reburn is another multi-tracking YouTuber who harmonizes with herself as well as plays several instruments. In this cover, she plays keyboard, bass and guitar and sings several parts. She has an idiosyncratic voice. On her channel, she covers songs from different genres, from today and past decades, as well as performs originals.

27. What If Katy Perry made a Nickelback Song? — Ali Spagnola

By now, you probably know that I appreciate creative remakes of songs, which is why YouTube recommended Ali Spagnola to me. Honestly, I’m not much of a Katy Perry fan, and I think she is sometimes a little risque with her whipped cream cans and whatnot, but I just found this fascinating how Ali analyzes the music and figures out how to restyle the song. Ali actually describes her entire process before she performs. That might sound a little boring, but her personality and enthusiasm for music keeps it from being dull.

28, Mission: Impossible on Piano Feat. Tomplay — Vinheitero

Vinheitero is a talented Brazilian pianist who does a lot of interesting videos. The linked video is one of few where he actually looks at sheet music in some form, on a tablet. He is usually gazing into the camera as he plays, like in the photo above, or as one commenter put it, gazing into your soul. He plays several songs or snippets of several songs in most videos. In one, he gives a brief tour of the history of music. In several others, he does sad versions of happy songs, which shows his talent for arranging. He also does top 10 videos in different categories and much more.

29. Shut Up and Dance Mashup — Evynne Hollens and Nick Pitera

I keep mentioning Peter Hollens’ name, and he has yet to appear in this list. Evynne is Peter’s wife, and she has her own channel where she sings Broadway, Disney and pop songs. Whereas Peter does acapella videos, Evynne usually sings with instrumentals. She also does duets with her husband. Her videos are well produced and visually fun to watch. Here, she collaborates with YouTuber, Nick Pitera, in a mashup of “Shut Up and Dance” with “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

30. Tintarella di Luna — Hetty and the Jazzato Band

Hetty and the Jazzato Band is another vintage jazz band, although I think “Tintarella di Luna” is more of an oldies rock and roll song, originally recorded by Italian singer Mina in 1959. If you are an American and the title, which translates to “Moon Tan,” seems unfamiliar to you, you may have heard it before. The original was recently used in a commercial for The Venetian.

31. Lindsey Stirling — Prism

Lindsey Stirling is a violinist who plays electronic music and dances at the same time. She’s also a composer and does some singing. She was first discovered on America’s Got Talent. I chose the video below, partly for the visuals. Here, Lindsey has a lot of costume changes and sports a variety of wigs while playing and dancing with clones of herself.

32. Tarts — Performed by Erutan

The artist known as Erutan (Nature spelled backwards) is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who plays several folk instruments such as Celtic harp, lute, violin and kantele. Her musical style is Celtic/medieval. Those who know me well know I am a fan of Alice in Wonderland. This song is inspired by a Lewis Carroll poem in the book. The video is beautifully produced with costumes and visual storytelling.

33. Lenka — Everything at Once (Official Video)

Lenka is an Australian singer/songwriter who made her debut in 2008 but I’ve only discovered somewhat recently. This is a fun song with a lot of comparative phrases and a video with interesting black and white visuals.

34. 2Cellos — Smooth Criminal [Official Video]

2Cellos, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, play both acoustic and electric cellos. Their albums have covers of rock and heavy metal as well as movie scores. In this video, they cover Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”

35. Wintergatan — Marble Machine (music instrument using 2000 marbles)

Wintergatan is a Swedish folktronica group. Wintergatan means “Milky Way” in Swedish. Band member Martin Molin created this complex marble machine that plays a vibraphone, bass guitar, cymbal and drums when marbles strike them.

36. Now We Are Free (Gladiator Main Theme) — Tina Guo

Tina Guo is a cellist who plays both acoustic and electric cello. I love some of her costumes and staging for her movie theme music. Here is one of my favorite movie theme pieces, though I’ve yet to see The Gladiator. Her repertoire is pretty diverse, from classical to heavy metal.

37. Be Prepared — The Lion King (2019) — Caleb Hyles

On his channel, Caleb Hyles describes he sings Broadway, Disney, anime, Top 40, Steven Universe, and then adds, “I think that covers it?” I selected this Lion King cover, because it suits his voice so well and he’s incredibly dramatic with it, even the spoken parts.

38. Jerry Lee Lewis — Great Balls of Fire — Christopher Bill

Christopher Bill, a trombonist, collaborates with three others, Ryan Keberle, Javier Nero and Jennifer Wharton, playing “Great Balls of Fire,” while standing in a ball pit at the Color Factory in New York City. Christopher plays popular hits, theme music, does his own arrangements, creates looping or multitracking videos for harmonies, collaborates with other brass players and creates educational videos for musicians.

39. Lemonade — Alex Boye

Alex Boye was discovered on America’s Got Talent. He is known for his “Africanized” covers of popular music, sometimes called “hipster Africanized” covers. He was born in Nigeria, was raised in the U.K. and is now living in America. I like his style and personality that comes through with his performances. “Lemonade” is one of his originals. It is fun and uplifting, and the video is even a little comedic.

40. Scarborough Fair –Harp/Voice — Christy-Lyn

Christy-Lyn is a South African harpist and singer who creates videos where she sings and accompanies herself on harp, a few acapella multi-tracking videos and some educational videos for harpists. She also does livestreaming concerts on YouTube. Strangely, I remember learning “Scarborough Fair” in elementary school music class and finding it a strange song. I guess I’ve learned to appreciate it since then.

41. Honoka & Azita — Bodysurfing

These two Hawaiian girls play wonderful surf music on ukuleles. Their fingers are so fast. It’s hard for me to believe they can create this kind of sound with ukuleles.

42. Mazama Mornings — Official Music Video — The Gothard Sisters

The Gothard Sisters describe their music as contemporary Celtic music, “a blend of Celtic, folk, classical and northwest musical influences.” The three girls play a variety of folk instruments including violin, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bodhran, djembe, octave violin and whistle. They also sing in harmony.

43. Be Thou My Vision Hymn — Acapella Arrangement — Sam Robson

Sam Robson is a really impressive acapella multi-tracker who has a ridiculous vocal range and does some astonishing music arranging and video editing. He does a number of hymns as well as gospel, Disney, Broadway, traditional folk, rock/pop and original music. “Be Thou My Vision” is one of my favorite hymns.

44. Celtic Thunder — Caledonia

Celtic Thunder is a Celtic music show featuring all-male singers who sing a lot of traditional Irish songs and mix in a few other styles such as folk, pop and oldies rock and roll. Although the singers are all men, there are sometimes female instrumentalists. They are backed by a band including traditional folk instruments and sometimes a full orchestra. The group’s membership changes from time to time. I first discovered them in a PBS concert.

45. All Time — Tyler Ward, Mike Tompkins, KHS — Timex Song — Kurt Hugo Schneider

Kurt Hugo Schneider is a music producer who creates a number of interesting videos and helps to produce music videos for a number of YouTube musicians. Here is a song featuring Mike Tompkins and Tyler Ward. It’s an uplifting love song and is visually interesting with a lot of video effects, settings and dancing.

46. Classical Music Mashup III — grantwoolard

Grant Woolard has some great talents for music arrangement and creative video editing. In this mashup, he created counterpoint arrangements with snippets from several popular classical pieces, and you can follow along the sheet music with composer heads on the staff to represent the snippets from the particular composers. He has a few other similar videos, some for classical music as well as Disney and game music.

47. Viva La Vida (Coldplay) on Harpejii G16 by Mathieu Terrade

The harpejii is an electric stringed instrument that is kind of a cross between piano, guitar and bass guitar. If you’re not sure what that is, you should check out Mathieu Terrade’s channel. He plays all different musical styles from classical to jazz, pop and rock.

48. Video Puzzle – F.U.N. — We Are Young — Joe Penna

Joe Penna, aka Mystery Guitar Man, is ridiculously creative and talented. He plays guitar, as his YouTube name would suggest, as well as multiple instruments and is also very skilled with video techniques. Some examples of his creative work are “Bohemian Rhapsody” featuring slide whistles and other instruments, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony on vuvuzelas, an orchestra arrangement where he plays all the instruments and another where he plays “Miserlou” using 90 different instruments in one video. Maybe, he should change his name to Mystery Every Instrument That Exists Man? Some of his videos are non-musical and more about playing with video techniques. This example features both his guitar and video editing skills.

49. Lucky Chops — Full Heart Fancy — (Official Video)

Lucky Chops is a brass band I’ve discovered somewhat recently. In this video, there are dancers in strange, abstract, paper costumes. Strange as that is, it does help keep things interesting, light and happy.

50. My Hair Song — Rhett & Link

Buddies Rhett & Link are fairly well-known on YouTube for their Good Mythical Morning show. I’ve only recently begun to listen to some of their comedy music. Here is one where they make jokes about their hairstyles. It’s not one of their more recent songs, and some commenters have pointed out that Link has since changed his hairstyle. My favorite lines, “A mama bird laid some eggs up there. I didn’t mind that much. She raised them in my coif ’til them birdies flew off, and we still keep in touch.”

51. Fantasy Music — Village of the Crystal Falls — Fantasy and World Music by the Fiechters

Identical twins, Derek and Brandon Fiechter, compose fantasy and world music. Many of their pieces are good for quiet moods when you want to play something soft, soothing and non-distracting. This one has a lot of ethereal sounds.

52. Loch Lomond — Peter Hollens

Here, finally, is acapella artist Peter Hollens singing a traditional Celtic song. Peter sings Disney, Broadway, traditional folk, pop songs, a little bit of everything. He has collaborated with artists such as Lindsey Stirling and The Piano Guys and many others.

53. An Awkward Duet feat. Jon Cozart — Dodie

Dodie Clark is a singer/songwriter. Here, she plays and sings this entertaining and humorous duet with YouTuber Jon Cozart on the awkwardness of feeling shy while singing with your duet partner.

54. Jackson 5 and Bach were funky way before Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” “I Want You Bach” — The Piano Guys

The Piano Guys are really one piano guy, Jon Schmidt, and one cello guy, Steve Nelson. They have a lot of creative arrangements and visually interesting videos, and often put a little humor into their acts. This is one of my favorite performances by The Piano Guys for comedic reasons, a mashup of 1770s and 1970s music.

55. Cissie Redgwick — Gimme That Swing

I do like some retro jazz sounds. This one is a little modern and retro at once in this electro swing song. I absolutely love Cissie’s sweet vocals. The rhythm is catchy, and it’s fun to watch the swing dancers in this performance.

56. Don’t Worry Be Happy — Playing for Change — Song Around the World

Playing for Change Foundation helps provide art and music education to children around the world. Playing for Change has also created interesting music videos featuring musicians from all over the globe.

57. When the Saints Go Marching In — In 11 Styles — Tal Zilber

Tal Zilber is an Israeli pianist who does some impressive playing in different styles. In this video, he works with pianist, Eyran Katsenelenbogen, to deliver “When the Saints Go Marching In” in 10 styles: boogie woogie, Mozart, stride piano, Chopin, Latin jazz, Liszt, gospel, Debussy, bebop and Bach.

The Playlist