Music as a Second Language

One evening while watching TV I saw an infomercial advertising guitar lessons. The narrator said how easy the method was and one didn’t even have to learn how to read music, as if reading music was the worst thing on the planet. That’s like telling a child that’s it’s OK to not learn how to read or write, just learn how to speak and everything will be just fine. Aside from the immediate disgust I felt, the whole thing struck me as odd. The guitar is a musical instrument, why wouldn’t someone want to learn the language of music and be part of the whole musical community…you know…violinists, tuba players, singers, pianists, saxophone players, etc. etc.

I run into this all the time with people who play the guitar. They too often look for that short cut or gimmick (tabs) to play their favorite song or favorite guitar lick. They may or may not accomplish their goal but I seldom hear any of these people say they want to be better musicians. In my opinion it’s because of this attitude I constantly hear – “I don’t know how to apply what I know”, “I know all my chords but I’m stuck”, “How did you do that?” or the most common one, “I’ve hit a wall”.

LEARN THE LANGUAGE!!! That’s the path to creative, musical freedom. Granted there are countless, outstanding musical artists who can’t read or write music. I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with many of them but to a person, every single one of them surrounded themselves with musicians who can.

I’m aware that music, like any other language, can be complicated, confusing, illogical, tedious and frustrating. The back end though is rewarding, inspiring and simply fun.