Ask Robin Forum


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Robin Maynes


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Ask Robin Forum

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Just click my pic and ask!

Ask Robin Forum


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Notes From Robin

The inquiries criteria for the "Ask Robin Forum" should relate to MUSIC:

  • making money with music...performing/sales/agents/getting gigs/etc

  • theory of music...notation/software/figured bass/elements/applications/etc

  • composition of choices/copyrights/etc

  • arranging music...formal structures/instrumentation/transpositions/etc

  • music styles...popular/art/classical/jazz/performers/tempos/etc

  • instruments...types/families/tunings/ranges/ethnic/techniques/learning/etc

Actually, I'll probably answer any question about anything but  my most qualified

answers will pertain to music. If the question is informative/entertaining in some way,

it will get posted below! Thank you!



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(This Page Added July 10th, 2003)



Question: Hi Robin. I was in Bitzee Mama’a Restaurant last week having dinner while you were playing the piano. I heard you mention your web site and so I looked it up and found your Forum page. It was enjoyable to hear you play what seemed like about six or so movie themes in a row and I was wondering…do you have a favorite composer that writes music for films?  Linda

Answer: Thank you for your question Linda. Actually, I have many favorite film composers. Here’s my quick answer: John Williams (ET, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones trilogy, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), James Horner (early Star Trek movies, Titanic, Braveheart), Jerry Goldsmith (Poltergeist, later Star Trek movies), Danny Elfman (Batman, Men In Black, The Simpsons), and David Raksin (Laura 1946) just to name a few. David Raksin, now 91 years old, was the primary film score instructor for James Horner. I met David Raksin 21 years ago and found him to be an extremely knowledgeable and likeable fellow!  Robin 7-13-03


Question: Robin can you help me? I've somehow downloaded a virus or worm or whatever and my computer is running slow and shutting down and my friends that I've talked to are of no help to me. I don't know where to turn! Please respond soon?! Marta

Answer: Hi Marta. Hang in there; you can get through this! Although this is not my area of expertise, I will try to help! Click the 'Home' link then go to my "Note From Webmaster" page. When you get there, click the appropriate link(s) to acquire patches, tools, directions, information, etc., on how to fix your computer. Contact again if you need my help further! Robin 8-23-03



Question: Hi Robin. As a faithful customer of Bitzee Mama's Restaurant and a big fan of yours, I visit their website often. I found the link to your personal website and decided to contact you online. I hope you don't mind ;-)  I really enjoy clicking the button that says "DO NOT PRESS" because I always know I'll be entertained, amused, or even reflective when the page opens. It's enjoyable to see the new material you put there weekly. I especially enjoyed your tribute to Gregory Hines. I was a fan of his. And the way you approached his tribute was very unique. When did you begin making Flash movies, and will we see more of your movies in the future?? MaryAnne

Answer: Hello MaryAnne. I don't mind at all that you wrote. I thank you for the nice compliments. To answer your question, you will see many more interactive flash movies from me in the future! I recently took another computer information systems course, purchased the software, and have created about a dozen movies so far. I'll be posting them on this website for all to see soon! Keep checking the restaurant's website (  and check out the new page on this website called Flash Movies from time to time to see new movies added. We'll see you soon at Bitzee Mama's Restaurant!  Robin 9-19-03


Question: Robin. I think this is something you can help me with. I am studying Advanced Harmony at Mesa Community College. My music theory instructor played some cool chords that I didn't expect to hear when he played an excerpt from BRAHMS, Liebeslieder Walzer, Op. 52. One chord especially stood out as he called it a borrowed chord creating a deceptive cadence. What is a BORROWED CHORD and where is it borrowed from? Helen

Answer: First of all Helen, let me point out that a Deceptive Cadence is simply "landing" --where you'd ordinarily expect to reach a Perfect Authentic Cadence bringing resolution to the passage--on a chord that doesn't resolve the passage but tells the ear that more is coming (particularly evident up through the Romantic Period but is still used as such even today). The normal triads built in the major scale (for example) are in this order for the scale steps: tonic>major; supertonic>minor; mediant>minor; subdominant>major; dominant>major; submediant>minor; leading tone>diminished. If you use a chord within your composition that falls outside of the diatonic expectations, it is considered a "borrowed" chord. The reason I place the word borrowed in quotes is because, according to Dr. Robert W. Ottman: "These chords are not literally borrowed from a...key, but the term "borrowed chords" conveniently describes them." Therefore, in the key of Dmajor, a flatted mediant chord (Fmajor) would be classified as a borrowed chord. I hope that I've been of some help to you. Thank you for writing.  Robin 10-19-03


Question: Hi Robin. I'd like to make a CD with all Christmas songs for 2004. I play the guitar, I know lots of chords and come up with melodies and words pretty easily. Since I don't read or write music, I don't know how I can get my stuff copyrighted so nobody can take the credit for what I compose. Do you have any ideas about how I can protect my songs and lyrics? Dennis

Answer: Hi Dennis. I can think of two things right off that would work: First of all, type out your lyrics with the chord symbol changes above them and make sure to write "lyrics and music to song 'title of song' composed by Dennis © 2004". Then, record your performance of the song onto a cassette tape or CD. Don't forget the copyright information. Have the lyrics page notarized. Put your recorded song and lyrics page into a sturdy express mail type folder and seal it with packing tape. Mail it to yourself. Do not open it. After you receive it in the mail, put the sealed package into another slightly larger package and again mail it to yourself. When you receive it in the mail, do not open it (ever); put it in a safe place. If litigation concerning ownership of your song ever arises, your unopened package is your primary evidence and proof that you own the rights to the words and music. Another way is simply to send in your recorded performance of your song (with the appropriate application form and fee) to the United States Copyright Office Library of Congress. All the information you need can be found at their Good luck! Robin 12-18-03


Question: Hi. I heard about your Ask Robin Forum from a classmate that seems to believe you can help me. I've been singing in my church for a couple of years and I accompany myself on the piano a bit. After last week's service, this older gentleman walked by and asked me if the piano was tuned to A-440. I told him I didn't know but was a bit embarrassed to show my ignorance by asking what he meant exactly. Why do you think he would ask me such a question and what is A-440? Carrie D.

Answer: There are actually several parts to you question that I'll address, Carrie. I'll keep it "light". You're referring to a standardized pitch reference. The letter "A" refers to the name of the pitch. The "440" refers to the piano strings' vibrations per second, which also specifies in what range you'll find the A-440 key on the piano. Therefore, if the "A" above "Middle C" vibrates 440 times/second and the rest of the piano is tuned with respect to this reference point, the piano is said to be tuned A-440. This standard pitch reference is important to music the same way the standard height of a basketball hoop is to the NBA (sort of). Standards exist most everywhere in most everything. In J. S. Bach's day (17th Century), equal temperament tuning was adopted for keyboard tunings so music composed/performed in more than just a couple of keys could be used and sound "in tune". You would think that by starting with A-440, simple division/multiplication would dictate the vibrations per second for every pitch needed to be tuned. But, the strings are not the same thickness and length throughout or proportion, etc.; hence, Inharmonicity. A piano--if tuned correctly--is tuned "out of tune" so every home key (tonic and its diatonic triads) sound "in tune". Remember, if each interval was tuned beatless, the piano would sound like it's had too much Nyquil. Some piano tuners use electronic devices (which have inherent problems) and some never use a direct reference to A-440. A tuner might use a tuning fork (C 523.3) to tune the C above Middle C, then tune Middle C, then the surrounding F pitches, the temperament, etc., and never specifically refer to A-440. Although there are many methods and approaches to tuning an equal temperament piano, if all components are workable, the aim and end result will be an A-440 tuning (or very close). Actually, the resulting pitch from 440 vibrations of anything will essentially give you A-440 -- a.k.a. concert pitch.

I'm not sure why the older gentleman asked you that question; perhaps he's a retired teacher, you looked hungry for knowledge and simply wanted to give you "food for thought". Thank you for your question, Carrie! Robin 3-15-04


Question: Hi Robin! I really like the way you play the piano and sing. How long have you been playing the piano anyway? Your fingers move so fast and gentle all while ur singing slow and romantic. The whole performing thing comes so easy to you. Is it a gift or do you have to work hard at it? I've been trying and trying to stroke the keys like you but I can't make it work out right. You really are special! Also now that I'm 21 can I ask you do you date younger women? I'm tall, blond and very pretty and I work full time and have my own car. If not can you date my mom? She looks just like me and is almost 40 and thinks you are very special too but she doesn't talk as much as me. Anyways I think it is very cool to have a local hero and you are it!!!!!! Jennie S. 

Answer: I've been working hard at studying the piano, many other instruments, and voice since the age of four. Thank you for writing and thanks for the compliments (I think)?! Robin 7-20-04


Question: Hello Robin. Just one quick question. As a guitar player I enjoy trying out every "ax" I get my hands on. I know you also play guitar. What's the oldest guitar you've tried out and liked the best? Jeff S.

Answer: That's easy! I most enjoyed playing a friend's archtop no-truss Gibson L3 acoustic, made in 1924. The tone rings forever, intonation is exceptional and it's a bit smaller than contemporary acoustic guitars. It fit well on my lap and I could easily refer to the 19th fret (if you know what I mean). But I tend to gravitate toward the Gibson brand pretty much anyway. Keep on picking! Robin 2-11-05


Question: Hi...theory question for ya. What's a half-diminished 7th chord and how is it constructed? I play at a guitar. Derrik B.

Answer: Thanks for inquiring. A half-diminished 7th chord is an old and beautiful combination of pitches. The distances (intervals) between the pitches that formulate a half-diminished 7th chord are 2 stacked minor thirds with a major third on top. (Remember, a minor third is 3 half-steps and a major third is 4 half-steps. On a guitar, a half-step is moving from any fret to the immediate next fret; up or down.) The pitch that you start the stacking on gives the letter name to the chord. For example, a C# half-diminished 7th chord would use the pitches: C# up to E up to G up to B. This would be a C# half-diminished 7th chord in root position. Put the C# above the B and you have a C# half-diminished 7th chord in first inversion...and so on and so forth. This method of construction applies to music from any instrument that can play a chord. To play a C# half-diminished 7th chord in root position on your guitar, play a C major chord in first position. Holding the chord, lift the first finger off the fret board and slide the third finger up one half-step then strum or apply a plucking rhythm. Robin 6-28-05


Question: Isn't it true that to be considered a successful singer you have to be trained or at least coached by a vocal teacher? Amanda C.

Answer: To answer your question with any authority I'd need to know your definition of "successful". Generally speaking I'd have to say no, not necessarily. Let me ask you this: Have you ever heard Bob Dylan or Kris Kristopherson sing? But I will agree that some training is always better than no training at all! Robin 10-29-05


Question: I have an old Whitman upright grand piano with ivory keys. I have it next to a window and the sun shines in on the keyboard. It this harmful to the piano being exposed to the daily sun? Everybody's Aunt

Answer: Well, it is my understanding that if the ivory keys are left open to the air rather than covered, the ivory is allowed to "breathe" and less discoloration will take place over the years. But even if the ivory becomes yellowish, the playing of the instrument will not be affected. My concern would be the temperature alternations caused by passive solar heating that could cause your tuning to fluctuate. If you don't mind playing on a piano that needs a tuning every month or so, you shouldn't have any major worries. I suggest you hang some translucent drapes over the window and set a lamp on the piano. Thank you for that interesting poser. Robin 3-15-06


Question: I have two questions. I've heard and seen you play piano before. In some songs you play notes that pass by so fast that they barely register in my ear and your fingers sort of blur together. What kind of notes are they and what are they called? Sami O'l.

Answer: I'm glad you were paying attention. You must have caught the end of my act when I become a major show-off. Seriously, to answer both your questions, I can play any kind of note fast, that is to say, a whole note or a half note etc. But more than likely the note values were probably sixteenth notes, thirty-second notes or sixty-fourth notes. Sixty-fourth notes move pretty quickly at any tempo so that is probably what I was playing. Another name for a sixty-fourth note is: hemidemisemiquaver! Robin 5-31-06