The language of music is much like any other language. It is a form of communication that can provoke an emotional response and make the listener think. What the language of music cannot do is represent concrete things or ideas much like how nouns, verbs and adjectives are used in the English language.
The meaning of music is dependent upon the creator or listener because the musical language is abstract. How many times have you listened to music and wondered what the deeper meaning is? The composer or writer may share what it represents and other times they leave this completely up to the listener. There is no right or wrong answer here. It can mean whatever you want it to mean or better yet, describe your own personal experience with the music.
The language of music is a lot like many other languages. It is a form of communication that can provoke an emotional response and make the listener think. What the language of music cannot do is represent concrete things or ideas much like how nouns, verbs and adjectives are used in the English language.
The social and historical context of the music can also bring meaning to the music. As an example, a country music singer may find it helpful to have a prolonged study of Gregorian chant before choosing to perform it. Similarly, it may be difficult for a jazz musician to play Mozart unless they are willing to understand the time period and style of the music. For the most part, music is a highly affective language that gives us the experience of deep feeling and emotion. What it means to you is entirely up to you and your experience.
Understanding the language of music can be intimidating at first, but it is just as easy to learn as your native speaking language. Music contains a series of signs and symbols musicians read and translate through their voice or instrument. These signs and symbols are represented in two main areas: pitch and rhythm. The pitch tells us what the note is and rhythm tells
us how long we should hold the note.
In order to learn how to read this language, you have to know what the symbols mean in a piece of music. This could be as simple as reading a short melody line or as complex as reading a jazz “lead sheet”. These symbols appear obscure to the untrained eye.
The happy news is that anyone can learn to read and understand the language of music. This is certainly not reliant upon economics, social class, color or race. Once you begin to learn the language, your experience will deepen even further. Your ears and mind will be opened to more thoughts, sounds and emotions. A newly discovered appreciation for the art will be the result.
Don’t be afraid to take the next step and start learning what the signs and symbols mean in the written language of music. Before you know it, you will be reading music and experiencing it like never before.
As an active music instructor, Teresa Rose has a passion for helping people learn music. She especially enjoys teaching others how to learn to read music. Read more articles about music at her website and sign up for her free Learn Music Tips and Resources Newsletter.