Music is a language

No one has to formally teach children the basics of their native language. Each child absorbs its rules and vocabulary, first through immersion, and then by internalizing its grammar and replicating its sounds. If the child is exposed to a different language during those same formative years, it’s almost as easy to learn that language, too.

Music is a language of its own, with dialects, and immersion is the primary way it is learned. (Reminder: I am specifically discussing music of “the West”, but this holds true for all musical culture.)

So, be careful what musical language you introduce.

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This is the place to start. The explicit goals for this site are sketched out here.

What do I mean by “amateur musicians”? That’s those of us that will probably never get paid (or not much) for providing music for a dance; who will never make real money from recordings; who won’t pen the next Broadway musical; who aren’t likely to be asked to sing solo in the choir unless there’s no one else.

On the other hand, no one will stop us from getting together with friends to play music; people will be glad to learn some tips or tunes from us; our favorite recordings will mean more to us as we try to emulate them; we can pass along the fun we’re having to the next generation.

Why should you care about doing amateur music? Because it’s accessible to most people and one of the great joys in life.

Musical savants are often identified (or created, in some cases) early in life and are then groomed by an entire industry of teachers to prepare them (hopefully) for a professional career in classical music. What they are able to achieve is astonishing, though they sometimes pay a heavy price for their skill.

This website isn’t for them. It’s for everyone else.

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How do you get started as an adult?

The Basics


Can you tap your foot to a tune? (Congratulations — there may be hope for you as a dancer…)

If not, try humming Row, Row, Row your Boat. The singer is waving his arm on the “beat”. The tune goes like this, where every bullet point is a beat, and the tempo is like walking, taking a step on each beat.

  • (1) Row,
  • (2) row,
  • (3) row your
  • (4) boat,
  • (5) gently
  • (6) down a
  • (7) stream.
  • (8) (pause)
  • (1) Merrily,
  • (2) merrily,
  • (3) merrily,
  • (4) merrily,
  • (5) life is
  • (6) but a
  • (7) dream.
  • (8) (pause)

If you have insurmountable difficulty with this, try saturation. Keep playing the video over and over and make some part of your body move back and forth for each “tick”, even if you’re sitting down.

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