Music as a language

Think about it.

How did you learn how to speak? Who did you speak with? How many rules did you have to follow when you started speaking?

There were absolutely no rules, you just listened to your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbours,… and started to imitate them. All these people were professionals, they spoke for years and years and they talked to you, even before you could say a word. You made tons of mistakes and everybody smiled, they allowed you to make mistakes, and sometimes even adopted your mistakes and it turned into a unique word, your word.

Before you even learned your alphabet you were already a proficient speaker and you had already been “jamming” with professionals for years. It did not take you 10 years to be able to speak fluently, you mastered it in a couple of years.

So why is it that in music we start with rules and alphabet first and you can only “speak” with other musicians who are still beginners?

If you look at kids who grow up in a musical family, they are surrounded by music in the same way as they are surrounded by language. They learn to “speak” music the same way they learn to speak.

Listen to this teaser talk for TED-Ed by Victor Wooten, a bassist and five-time Grammy winner, who asks us to approach music the same way we learn verbal language by embracing mistakes and playing as often as possible for all the reasons mentioned above.

It totally makes sense right? We are doing it the wrong way and thus need so much more time to learn how to “speak” music.

That is why I, next to the scores my classical students learn, often just sit at the piano, play some chords and let them play whatever they want, and we just play. This way they learn to explore their instrument without boundaries.

In the extended TEDxTalk, Victor Wooten digs deeper into this comparison. On top of that, he talks about how music helps us to be better people, to work together and to see things in a different perspective.

By JeroenVanbever