Language is Music to My Ears
Music is a piece of culture that I am positive is a universal language experienced by most human beings. It has grown and evolved over the years through a variety of genres and through many different traditions held by people around the world. I understand music as a lifestyle. It has transformed from a pastime into a way of living and making it through each day just as I need food, air, and drink; without music I find it impossible to truly, completely express and be myself. Just like different languages are spoken throughout the world, music too is a form of language I find myself reading and writing with a burning passion. I choose to say this so deeply due to my past experiences in which music has played a significant and critical role in my life.
My first experience with music was similar to that of almost every musician I have associated with, and that being introduced to the recorder instrument in the third grade. The reason for it being the recorder was that it is basically the introduction instrument to the musical field. I know, not a big or dramatic first experience, but it was enough to hook my interest. It was not an elaborate or pristine instrument, but it was something different than writing assignments and doing homework. The monotony of school work was pushed aside and a new challenge that involved practice and dedication caught my interest. Yes, homework would technically be considered practice but this was actually fun for any child and it enabled me to discover a talent I never knew I had. I was excited to try something different and be like the kids in the grades above me and my cousins who played instruments in junior high and high school.
Before I was allowed to actually play however, I needed to understand the basics of music. Just like the basics of learning a new spoken language, I had to learn to read and understand the sheet music. I had to begin with the baby steps, like the alphabet of the English language I needed to know the alphabet of music: notes A-G. Not only did I need to learn the alphabet, but I needed to understand the number and counting system as well; this encompasses learning when to play a note, how long to count until the next note came, and how fast or slow a rhythm is supposed to sound and look. Then came the next baby step, understanding where each letter gets placed and the different ways of writing them. Just like mechanism’s in the English language for learning or memorizing important things like conjunctions for example, we do so with music. With conjunctions, students normally memorize them by the acronym known as FANBOYS. In music we do something similar to memorize the notes and their position, and there are two ways to do so. For notes on the line, we as musicians use “Empty Garbage Before Dad Flips” in order to memorize the notes E, G, B, D, and F. For the notes in between the lines, we use the acronym “F.A.C.E” like the body part, in order to remember that from bottom to top, the notes are F, A, C, and E. As for the different ways of writing them, a note could be on a higher scale than the other, symbolized to be louder or quieter, or a note could be held out for a longer count. Music has many logistics to it just as the English language has with grammar, it just takes time and practice to become literate in it.
When I finally earned the privilege to play my itty bitty recorder, I was as excited as a child getting the newest toy on the shelves, or the latest iPhone. But as this recorder came into my hands, I realized I still had learning to do! I knew which notes were what on the page, but now I had to get those notes on the paper to come out of my instrument. So the next baby step became learning to correlate the notes to the fingeringso play the instrument and how much air to force into it. In regards to learning how much air to force into it, there were symbols on the music sheets that distinguished when to play louder and when to play softer. The faster you force the air through the instrument the louder, and the latter would mean softer. Constant practice and repetition allowed me to become a stronger musician, just as practice of writing essays and revising over and over shaped me into becoming a stronger writer. As I mastered these baby steps, I was determined to evolve these reading and comprehension skills to use them for my next instrument, the clarinet.
Playing the clarinet was a piece of cake with the comprehension skills I had learned through the recorder. I played the clarinet from the fourth grade all the way up until my sophomore year in high school. I was able to play a variety of music forms thanks to the comprehension skills I had learned in order to completely understand whichever sheet music I was presented with. I was able to play intense orchestrated pieces, soft and intimate solo pieces, I was even able to interpret some of today’s mainstream music through the notes of my own instrument! My last two years of high school I switched to oboe and also taught myself piano which only enhanced my musical comprehension skills and my love for music.
Each year into my band classes, I would learn something new about the music I was being asked to play by my teachers. It was no longer only about how to play the music to my capabilities, but what it meant to play the music and interpreting the story behind it. Question’s would arise like “Why did the composer choose this title for this piece? How does this sound tie into their purpose? What did the composer want the audience to experience listening to this piece? What was the composer’s goal or purpose of the piece?” When I began asking questions like these, music had so much more of a purpose in my life. Reading my sheet music was like reading a story book. Understanding how each note flowed with the other would bring in a flow of emotions. Music notes do not express images like words in a book but they express sounds, sounds of love, sounds of rage, sounds of melancholy, and sounds of delight. When I grasped this concept I would read the notes and music without playing, and I already had the tune of the music playing inside of my head. This realization fascinated me. Not only did I have to skill to read words and generate images and pictures with my own imagination but I had the skill to read simple lines connected to a dot and make out the delightful sounds within my own head, even while being surrounded with silence.
Coming to this realization, I had such a stronger passion to learn more and continually improve my musician skills. As I have mentioned before I play several instruments; playing different instruments is a talent that is not necessary to some, but to me it was necessary because it only enhanced my comprehension skills of sheet music. Different instruments have different sheet music because they each tell their own story, and when they all play together they connect as one. By understanding the stories being told by the different instruments I chose to play I felt that I become a more well-rounded musician.
I play and read my music to relax myself after a stressful week or to simply entertain myself when I have nothing else to do. Relaxation comes when I play a heartwarming or sad tune; I become so entranced with the music that I lose myself in the emotions being poured out by the music. It is during these times I also continue the search for new music through the internet or different YouTube channels. In these searches I find different versions of the same song from different people; I find it fascinating that what one person hears differs from another, but in the end the point still gets across as to what song is being played. As poets use different words to radiate similar emotions, musicians use different notes to radiate similar stories.
Throughout my life I have gone through many life changing experiences, some better than others. In high school however, I had more of my worse experiences; I lost sight of who I truly was and found myself at my lowest. I did not have motivation anymore. I did not know what to do to keep myself occupied. One day my father came home with a piano keyboard and said, “Here, try something new. Show me what you’ve got.” I took this as a challenge. So outside of my school work and responsibilities I lost myself in teaching myself another comprehension. I was in search for piano fingerings, sheet music, different methods of playing and different styles. By dedicating my time into this practice, I was able to self reflect on the reasons I had lost myself and lost my motivation. As I explained how emotion radiates through the music that is poured out, the music I would play would also speak my emotion. It expressed and interpreted everything that was going on in my mind. It basically put what I could not express through words, into sound. I was able to reflect my motivation of mastering this skill, into motivation for my purpose in life again. I applied the hard work and dedication into my life daily, through any activity I chose to participate in I gave it my all. Through music, I was able to pick myself up. I can truly say that music was the key to resurrecting my lost self.
By improving my skills in this expertise, I have learned to be patient. Practicing music is never always a piece of cake. It really takes time and effort to understand the notes that flow together and be able to transfer it through your instrument. Sometimes the timing goes too fast for my fingers to play and sometimes the timing is purposely set off beat, so I have to play outside of my habitual timing that is already set in my head. Even though I would find the complicated tasks as frustrating as ever, I had to remind myself the practice is necessary if I truly wanted to be skilled and passionate about this talent. I attribute this patience with everything else in my life like school work and studies. If I want to get the best grade, it is not going to just happen; I need to be passionate about it and patient with my study habits and practices.
My basic skills of reading and writing have helped me to read the notes and understand the definitions of what each note and what each symbol means. It is not just notes I have to read, but symbols. These symbols each have their own purpose and their own meaning, and so understanding and being comprehensive of these symbols is key to being skilled at playing any instrument. Writing and reading has helped me to understand that every piece has a story or purpose. There is a reason each note is placed specifically as so on the sheet music, just as each essay or journal article has specific and precise words in their assigned places. Being able to write my own sheet music and understanding of a song just by listening to it involves comprehending which notes I hear flowing through the air; writing has allowed me to be a competent musician to transfer these notes onto music spreadsheets.
Music is something that encompasses a variety of skills. It encompasses reading, visualizing, listening and hearing, touch and sensation; basically the five senses except taste, unless if you want to be silly and include the taste of the mouthpiece between your lips. Music is a whole new language one has to learn and be patient at excelling in just like reading and writing Spanish, English, Russian, or any other language spoken in the world. The sheet music and instrument together form the backbone, and the sound you translate through the instrument becomes your voice. What then comes through your voice is a story that anyone can interpret and apply to each of their own lives in the manner they choose.