I don’t watch a lot of commercials on TV, thanks to DVR and on-demand movies. Yes, I’m sure the ad companies are just dying as I write this.

But yesterday, we happened to be switching channels and we came across this now months-old Cheetos commercial. For those of you who learned to play the piano as you were young lads and lasses (or maybe old lads and lasses) the tune will be a familiar one.

Who can forget Chopsticks, the one tune you could teach pretty much anyone to play on the piano, regardless of whether or not they would take their musical pursuit further?

But there is a small yet significant difference between the original Chopsticks and the Cheetos’ version. While my music theory is rusty, I am 99% sure that the original Chopsticks is played in (and was written in) 3/4 time, whereas the Cheetos’ version is in 8/4 time.

Why is this such a big deal to me?

Look at this video of the original:

So basically, if you were counting the beats in each measure, you’d go da-da-da, da-da-da, etc. 1-2-3 1-2-3…

And now look at this video of the commercial:

According to this, you’d go (very fast) da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da, etc.1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8…

Can you see, and hear, the difference?

Sure, the commercial is cute and all. But by virtue of the liberty it takes with the measure, and if it takes off, it may just reinvent one of the most beloved (ok, familiar, if not beloved) tunes of our age.Because Chopsticks in 8/4 time, just isn’t the same as Chopsticks in 3/4 time.

The beauty of the original version is that it steps away from the most common musical time signature, at least in Western music – the counting of 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, etc. It makes us go 1-2-3, 1-2-3, which you will recognize as the time signature for the waltz. Not quite as easy for the feet, let alone the brain, to grasp.

It also has “spaces” within it, teaching our brains (and fingers) to be limber, and not get stuck in a 1-2-3 1-2-3 rut. It teaches us a left-hand/right-hand, or left-foot/right-foot coordination that doesn’t come naturally to most people (if you’ve ever tried to learn swing dancing, without having a natural aptitude for it, you’ll know what I mean).

And with no scientific studies to fall back on,my assertion is that learning “odd” formats such as this makes our brains more nimble.

Because we learn to deal with the unanticipated … in fact, we learn to predict the unanticipated, which is, I believe, a quality you’ll see in very very very good public relations practitioners.

So when Cheetos starts to mess with Chopsticks’ original format, and makes it go 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 ad nauseam, they’re not just messing with a silly old tune.

They’re messing with our brains.

I’m all for innovation, but Cheetos, don’t you mess with my Chopsticks.

Image: MagnuZ via Flickr, CC 2.0

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke