Learn Music!

Music Theory for Anyone

Music is easy. There, I said it. I don’t care what anyone says, it just is. I don’t have any special talent, but I enjoy music. You don’t need any special talent. You’re human, music is one of those things we have an instinct for. So, to prove it, I’m posting up tutorials.

Don’t think you can learn music? That’s probably because somebody tried to “teach” you. Let me explain.

What’s Wrong with School?

When I was in school, we had music lessons. The way they taught us went like this. They put up a bunch of musical notation, and made us memorise the names of the symbols. Crotchets, quavers and all that. Then, they tried to teach us the treble clef.

Once we were sufficiently scared and confused, they let us loose on glockenspiels. If we bashed around on them randomly, we were told to stop.

Having then sucked out all the fun from having a noisy thing to play with, they then tried to teach us nursery rhymes from musical scores. Get real, I was thirteen, and into Aerosmith!

Learning to Talk

Learning English was different. What happened? I don’t remember much of that, but I’ll bet nobody sat me down in front of an alphabet, and made me construct words from them before I could speak!

No. What happened, I discovered I could make noises. I played around for months, making random sounds and trying to copy what I heard. When I hit upon a word, I was rewarded with praise.

Fast forward a little, and now almost fully proficient with speaking English, was able to progress to reading English. Having said the word “dog” over and over, it made complete sense that the letters d-o-g put together make that word.

A little while later, I learned to make those letters myself. Another human child joins the ranks of the literate!

I just thought I’d mention, in my final exams, I passed English. I failed music.

Music as a Language

Later on, I left school, and taught myself to play music. I bought myself a harmonica and played with it. I bought myself a guitar and learned a few chords and a couple of scales. I bought myself a computer and filled it with music software. Jazzware midi, Hammerhead Rhythm Station, ReBirth RB-338, ModPlug tracker, Jeskola Buzz – all the really good freeware!

I discovered that all the music theory they were trying to teach me in school suddenly made sense. After I had learned to speak the language of music, I was now able to learn to read and write music.

So that’s it really. I hope to teach you first, how to play with music, how to speak it as a language and have fun with it, then I hope to teach you how to read it, and finally how to write it.

I’ll start with microtunes. They’re just really short tunes (like the Windows login tune, or that bit at the end of the Simpsons, or a power-up in a video game!) before moving on to short songs.

What You Need

You’ll need a musical instrument. One with a piano-style keyboard. Alternatively a music software with piano-roll input for programming.

It’s better to have a keyboard instrument for learning music, but if you want to get a guitar, harmonica or penny whistle etc, you’ll find it all helps. My lesson things are based around a keyboard, as is music notation, so it’s a good place to start playing around.

In my next post I’ll outline some free software you can use, but owning a real, live instrument is cool too. Cheap “toy” keyboards are available from places like Argos, also melodicas are pretty good, cheap instruments. Craigslist and Gumtree are always offering free pianos if you have the van, manpower and space to put it, and don’t forget to check the pawn shops like CashConverters for keyboards and other cheap instruments!

It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like listening to, either. The more you mess about with music in general, the better you’ll get.