When I was five-years-old I began taking piano lessons. My mother and my grandmother both played piano and wanted me to. I didn’t want to. I saw that as a “girly” thing and also at age five I had a lot better things to do with my time than sit in front of this big thing that had unending teeth that laughed at you because you knew nothing about it.
If you fast-forward 11 years later you find a young man who wanted to be part of a rock band so bad he actually taught himself to play the piano and organ as well knew the trumpet, French horn and drums because he loved music so much. What changed? Was it just a matter of aging? No, I don’t think it was.
Music had become part of my language and I wanted to learn more. I found music contained parts of different histories and parts of different cultures. I became hungry to learn them.
If I had been more aware of things I would have known that we learn music from day one of our lives. Our parents sing to us; we learn from other family members; we learn at school and at church. We not only learn about music but we learn about our culture. Later we listen to records, tapes, radios and television
When we play music a quote from Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones becomes accurate: “Everything you’ve ever listened to comes out.”
Music can have a written language known as sheet music. To give you some idea music is written in two “clefs”, treble and bass. We’ll look at the treble clef. I have linked to a site that shows written music and also the most basic scale which is the “C” major scale.
The treble clef is made up (basically) of five lines and four spaces. The lines are “E,” “G,” “B,” “D,” “F”. The spaces are “F,” “A,” “C,” “E”. The way I was always taught to remember them was that the spaces spelled “face” and the lines stood for “Every good boy does fine.” If you notice by putting it together there is actually a repeating scale “A-G”. The scale you see is actually the staff.
Each one of these letters is a tone. If you go up a half-step it is called a “sharp” and is notated on the staff with “#”. If you go down a half-step on the scale that is shown “b”.
That is the way we learn music formally.
In Northern India sometimes a student will live with his master our “Guru” to do errands or be chauffeur just to get a basic “lesson.” These are not formal.
African cultures include everyone playing instruments but then sooner or later those that have skill will be called aside to get “special lessons” by those that are more learned.
We learn music many ways. This article just touches on a few.
“Transmission: Learning Music,” Annenberg Media