Can You Read Music?

Design Mom Music Nook 3

By Gabrielle. Image by Kristen Loken for Design Mom.

I’m working on a companion piece to yesterday’s post about missions. But my emotions are still quite raw and I need to pause for a minute on it. So instead, today I have a different topic I want to talk about. It’s music. My big questions are: Do you read music? Can you sing parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass)? Did you ever take music lessons? Do you play an instrument?

I guess I’m curious about how common it is. I grew up doing all of these things. I took piano lessons for many years. I sang alto in advanced choir in both middle and high school. I sang weekly at church — as a congregation and in small groups. And of course, there was the recorder in sixth grade. As a kid, none of this was unusual. It seemed like most people around me were having similar experiences.

As an adult, I can read music, but only sort-of. Meaning I can easily find the notes on the piano that are on the page of music, but I can’t sit down and sight read a new piece. It would take many, many hours of practice to play a new piece — not even a particularly difficult one. And I rarely play at all — maybe once a year I’ll sit at the piano and play something. Honestly, I don’t seem to miss it or crave it. I don’t think it was ever particularly important to me to be able to play piano. It was just something I was signed up for as a kid.

Singing is the same. I still sing with the congregation at church, but I have no desire to join the church choir. I’ll sing with the radio or if the kids turn on something while we do the dishes. But that’s about it. I don’t consider myself a voice performer in any way, and don’t value that for myself. And parts? I can only sing a harmony if I have learned and memorized it ahead of time. I definitely can’t pick out a harmony on my own, or in the middle of a song. In fact, I can’t sing a harmony by looking at notes on the page — I can play a middle C, but I can’t sing one unless I hear it played first. Does that make sense?

That said, I loved when my siblings would sit around with guitars, or whatever instruments we had on hand, and have a jam session. I love when my kids do the same thing. And I love listening to music. I feel like I value music very much, even if I don’t care to be the one who performs it.

In contrast to me, there’s Ben Blair. He took far fewer lessons than I did, but enjoys singing and playing music (guitar, mandolin, piano, and everything else we have in the house) far more than I do.

What about you? What sort of role did music play a role in your childhood? And what role does it play now as an adult? For those of you who like to perform (either sing or play), do you have opportunities to do so? Did you ever get the chance to learn how to read music? And did you have formal lessons, or are you someone who is naturally musical and can play by ear, or sing a harmony the first time you hear a song?

P.S. — As a parent, I for sure value music for my kids. Each one of them has lots of experience with music lessons and performing with bands and choirs and during recitals. I know music helps with brain development, and I love the skills they learn from lessons — things like how to perform, how to do your part within a group, how to be disciplined and practice. But sometimes I lose sight of what the goal is. Or wonder if there’s a goal at all. How long should they take lessons? And what skill level should we be aiming for? Is the idea a music profession of some sort? Or just the ability to engage in and enjoy music throughout their life? I have no idea. Hah!

36 thoughts on “Can You Read Music?”

  1. I love this post! I was always involved in music as well. I played four different instruments (starting violin at age 4)! I also sang in choirs and performed in orchestra and musical theater! I didn’t end up choosing a career in music, but I certainly use my abilities on a regular basis. I don’t have to pay someone else to teach my children, because I already have the skills. I feel comfortable and competent performing and/or teaching others. I have been able to fulfill music callings at church. When I lived in Taiwan, I was called as the pianist for our congregation (no one else there could really play the piano). I can sing parts or join in with an instrument in most situations where I would like to be involved. Music is something I love and my training has served me well. I don’t think you have to be phenomenal, just having the basic skills will help enrich your life!

    1. “just having the basic skills will help enrich your life!”

      I agree. And I think that’s probably where my kids will end up. But I’m interested to see if any of them lean toward a career in music. Ralph LOVES music. In fact, he often write and records the music for his films. And Betty is our resident singer-songwriter. It will be interesting to see if any of this turns into a future job.

  2. Growing up, I wanted desperately to take piano lessons. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a piano or the means to pay for lessons. I did play the saxophone in the high school band and learned how to read music. I can’t sing at all. I’ll sing at church, but only quietly. I’d love to take a few voice lessons some day so I don’t feel so self conscious about singing.
    My oldest two children are currently taking piano lessons. Not because they wanted to per se, but because I want them to have exposure to music. Once they have taken 4 or 5 years, and at the very least have a handle on how to read music, I’ll give them the option to stop or try something else. My daughter will most likely switch to guitar and my son wants to play the drums. Both of which I am happy to oblige. I will sign my younger children up for piano as soon as they are old enough. I love how playing makes them think. I also see the sense of accomplishment on their faces when they learn to play a song that people actually know.

    1. Yes to voice lessons! Or whatever will allow you to sign freely with confidence! I don’t know you but I want to make that happen. If I can sing out at church, with my very non-performance-worthy voice, then I hope anyone would be comfortable doing so.

  3. Man on man, how long are we allowed to go on these comments! ;) I am a piano instructor–I teach private and group classes, collaborative piano, and music theory. I started taking lessons when I was 6 and continued on grouch college as a piano performance major. I have performed my entire life in countless capacities–solo piano, solo voice, piano and voice together, collaborating with other musicians, classical, funk, soul, church, schools, you name it! To say music is a big part of my life is a vast understatement. The best way to describe how music feels to me is to compare it to being bilingual. I don’t remember a time in my life when I could not read or play music. Reading and playing music are second nature to me now. I speak both English and “music” fluently! Sometimes music feels more like my first language. ;) It is also impossible for me to adequately explain what I believe to be the value of music. Learning music and playing, even if the goal is just to be able to play for yourself, is invaluable. There is immeasurable evidence to support music’s ability to strengthen your brain, your emotional health, your physical health, lower your stress levels and heart rate, calm anxiety, connect with emotions, strengthen communication and problem solving skills, work better as a member of a team. Like I said, how much room do I have here?! ;) In short, the answer is YES–in my opinion, any question about music and it’s place in the human experience is simply yes! Do it! :)

  4. My musical level is almost exactly like yours: after years of piano lessons and choirs in childhood, I can read music, but not play a new piece well without a lot of work unless it’s absolutely elementary. I have sung in choirs on and off as an adult, and can basically sight-sing, but not with 100% accuracy, especially if it’s a musically tough part.

    My parents’ goal was giving us musical literacy, I think, and I’m grateful for that, though of course I wish I had worked harder and could really play with proficiency. But what music I do have has certainly enriched my life.

  5. I looove music, but no, I never performed it. I can make a mean mixed tape though.

    I took piano lessons for a very short time – I have “piano player hands,” they say – but I have hyperhydrosis, so as puberty hit, it was too embarrassing to try any instruments (or sports).

    1. Annie, I can SO sympathize. I, too, have hyperhydrosis and I distinctly remember at every lesson trying to discreetly wipe down the keys of my piano teacher’s baby grand without her noticing because there were literally sweaty fingerprints on every key I’d touched. She was very gracious about it, but it was a source of endless embarrassment for me… :(

      1. That’s so sad to hear that it kept you from fully enjoying making music. The girl before me at piano lessons would leave the keys wet, but my teacher had a towel and just wiped them down like it was no big thing. I think as kids we just followed that lead and none of us thought it was a big deal either.

        We’re on the hunt to buy our first family piano now that we have the space. I’m looking forward to our eldest starting lessons and the chance to play again myself. I learnt piano, voice and clarinet through school and while I left the clarinet behind on the final day of year 12, I love having piano and voice as a way to relax, to make music with others, to join in with my husband who taught himself uke and banjo… Love finding joy and freedom with music.

  6. I loved reading this post! I’m a lifelong musician: studied piano as a child, progressed to clarinet and saxophone, and ended up with a music degree in college. My husband and I had the chance to travel the world playing and singing music as a part of our college ensembles. I can say confidently we wouldn’t be the people we are today without music as our foundation. I got a graduate degree in arts administration with the goal of managing arts non profits, and that is still the kind of work I am doing now, 11 years on. My organization is a museum learning center focused on agriculture so technically not still music but not too far afield from a management perspective. We play music with our two young sons, mostly guitar and ukulele duets that are kid friendly, I play my wind instruments when the need arises and sing loudly and proudly in the congregation at church. I’m known to blast the descants when they’re printed in the hymnal, since our work schedules are too prohibitive to be choir members at this point. To me music is just part of being human. Reading music, playing music, singing music, learning music, practicing and getting better, you could just spend a lifetime at it and still not be done. And I’m not even getting into the lifelong friends I’ve made through music programs, and the important memories I have making music with my parents and grandparents. Great post! Thanks for getting me thinking on this Thursday afternoon.

  7. I played piano from 5 – 14 years old. However I never learned to read music. I could play something after hearing it once and no one ever realized I couldn’t read the sheets. Sadly, this was to my detriment, as now I can’t learn by just hearing it anymore. I tried to go back to it last year (at 35) and couldn’t remember a thing. Guess one day I’ll take lessons again…after my kids are a bit bigger.

    1. Oh I’ll also add, I quit at 14, because my teacher at the time wouldn’t teach me if I refused to preform. I loved playing, but hated hated performances. And well at 14 I finally got vocal about it and in the end, I quit and didn’t look back. Until a few years ago at least. But that was nearly 20 years later.

  8. I took piano lessons (well, keyboard, technically) and sang in my city’s children’s choir at my church when I was very young–5, 6 years old. I enjoyed singing but I remember being very intimidated by our choir director, a big man with a booming voice who was wanted us to be very disciplined about our singing even though we were all under the age of 12. The choir involved a lot of travel and performances around town and regionally, and eventually it became too much of a time commitment and I stopped participating so that I could try other things.
    In the 4th grade we were allowed to start orchestra at school. I chose the violin and played it for two years. I never did learn to read music (I still can’t read it), but I could hear a song once or twice and then play it by ear. Despite being unable to read music and only rarely practicing at home I was always 3rd or 4th chair. I think if I’d actually committed to it I probably would have been quite good, but I just didn’t feel passionate about it. I liked it, but didn’t love it. I quit in 7th grade because I wanted to do theatre class instead and didn’t have enough elective space to do both things.
    In middle school and high school I dreamed of being a Broadway star, so I took private voice lessons and sang in the church choir with my dad, which was a fun bonding experience (I was the youngest person in our choir by at least 20 years!).
    I sang in a couple of musicals in college, but then stopped pursuing music altogether once I graduated. By then I was more interested in directing and had gone on to graduate school to pursue an advanced theatre degree and didn’t have the time to devote to singing.

    I realized recently that I really don’t sing much anymore. I used to be an avid shower and car singer, but now I listen to talk radio or audio books and rarely belt out tunes. I sing with and to my children almost daily, but feel as though that doesn’t really count (everyone sings with their kids, right? Or maybe not?). I also don’t really miss it, though. I do think I’ll join the choir at church again once my children are older and I have time (so, uh, maybe 20 years from now? Haha!) In the meantime, like you with the piano, I don’t really feel an urge to use my vocal instrument.

    My husband, on the other hand, was a drummer from middle school through college. He was in a band, even made a demo recording at one point, but stopped pursuing music once he graduated from college and realized he was probably never going to hit the big time. I know he still longs for his drumming days, though. He still plays occasionally. A friend in our hometown has a band and lets him sit in whenever we visit, he has taken his bongos and played for fun at our local farmers market, he even busks with bucket drums outside of the metro station once or twice a year. He also took piano lessons for a couple of years as an adult, but had to quit once we had a second baby and we just didn’t have the time/budget. I think once we’re out of the tornado of the early childhood years he’ll definitely go back to pursuing music in a more serious way, and I know he wants our children to learn to play some sort of instrument.

    My daughter (almost 2) isn’t particularly interested in music. She just shows the same general amusement with it that most kids her age do. My son (4.5), on the other hand, really enjoys singing. He’s always the “loudest and proudest” singer at music time at preschool, his teachers tell me. He picks up songs very quickly and is very interested in whatever he’s hearing on the radio. He also likes to write his own songs–he can’t literally write yet, but he’ll make up a little tune and lyrics and recall them later. He’ll sit down at our piano and tinker around and pretend to write things in a composition book. I haven’t put him in one-on-one music lessons yet because I don’t want discipline to kill his natural passion before it really takes full root, but we did the Music Together classes for several years, which he loved. I think I’ll start looking for a piano teacher for him when he’s 6 or 7 if he’s still showing interest then.

  9. Great post! I learned to read music in elementary school music class and played the violin, starting in 5th grade. With no musical talent or strong passions, I stuck with orchestra through high school because it was fun, it provided great opportunists (like trips to Washington DC and Chicago), but most importantly–my kooky orchestra teacher! I consider myself to be one of the most unmusical adults I know–but being a preschool teacher means I get to sing every day!

  10. I did more with music before I graduated high school than my husband did. We both came from families where our parents weren’t exactly musical but wanted “something better” for their kids, and music was part of that. I sang in junior high and high school and am a pretty confident alto, although I don’t find time to sing in the church choir or anything like that.
    My husband and I met at band camp, of all things, and stayed friends for 8 1/2 years before marrying in our mid-twenties. We both did band all the way through junior high and high school, took private lessons on our respective instruments, and my husband performed with a local youth symphony in high school.
    My high school band teacher and my flute teacher REALLY wanted me to go to back east to music school, but as much as music was a passion for me, I knew I wasn’t competitive enough to make it in a music major. I tried a music minor but that was tough (it’s really set up to weed people out!) and ended up being an English major, history minor and teaching secondary ed for several years before kids.
    My whole life as an adult has been teaching: swim lessons, flute lessons, 7th/8th grade history and now 9th grade English, but I have had my moments of sadness and loss that I have kind of let my music go. I’m trying to reclaim it, but there’s also a tendonitis injury from practicing a lot as a teen for my own personal recital and fear that I’ve just lost my skills and will never get them back. I tried out for a bell choir when I was pregnant with my first, I failed miserably and cried the whole way home from the audition. It wasn’t the not getting in, it was the fact that I could feel my chance for a musical life slipping away from me.
    Our kids take piano lessons, one is showing interest in percussion because that’s what my husband does semi-professionally. He has done SO much more than me since we have graduated high school and sometimes I’m envious. He now performs in the Orchestra at Temple Square, has been in since 1999, and gets to do a lot of amazing things as part of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
    It’s amazing also because by training, he’s an electrical engineer.
    So, now that I’m incredibly long-winded, music is a huge part of our lives in our family. I can’t imagine my husband not in the orchestra, the kids think it’s pretty cool (at least for now…). It has become an identity for him and for our whole family and our marriage.

  11. My 5yo can read music more quickly than words. She is learning piano and violin, and we have sung to her almost every day since she was born. But I’m biased: the only amateur musician from a family of professional musicians and artists. I can’t imagine not being able to pick up my viola and sight read anything that’s put in front of me, and I want my tiny human to share that world. Music connects and transcends!

  12. Your experience sounds exactly like mine. I took piano lessons growing up, played trumpet all the way through middle and high school and was even 1st chair, took some voice lessons, and sang in church but have done hardly anything with it as an adult beyond the singing in church. And I don’t really miss it. My kids are all learning instruments at school and seem to enjoy it but I don’t think any of them have become passionate about playing. My husband, however, plays loads of instruments and almost went into piano performance in college. He misses playing so much and dreams of moving out of our apartment and getting a real piano. I’m glad I’m not alone in my experience.

  13. Love this topic. I started taking piano when I was 4 and I’ve been playing ever since. I’m 37 now. I have a degree in piano performance. The number one thing that people tell me when I tell them that is, “I took piano as a kid and I regret quitting”

    I’ve sung in choir off and on. My friends in high school were choir geeks and so they were always singing and making up harmonies, so I feel like I learned a lot from them too. I’ve had every musical calling in church too. At this point, I feel like I should always have a calling in something else..but then volunteer where they need me. I try to play something big once a year in church.

    I used to have a big piano studio full of kids, but now I have my own kids to run around to their activities so working in that capacity isn’t possible. I do a lot of accompanying at the middle and high schools for different festivals where other instrumentalists need accompanists. Our school district is pretty musically minded. My kids have lessons in viola and cello at school during one of their three orchestra times during the week, which I love. (However, being a piano teacher, I always feel like their string teachers are never good enough…and that’s hard to let go of) Also, my kids are so busy with swimming and running and homework that when they practice, they only practice their string instruments. I HATE that! I’m always thinking of ways to help them or bribe them or influence them and trick them into thinking that piano is way cooler then anything else. I’m loosing that battle.

    1. Also, I want to say that I’ve taught 3 out of my four kids piano since they were very young. I feel like it’s my one gift that I can give to my kids-even though my husband says I have many more gifts than that:) But I love being able to teach them something that I love and teach them the correct way. I also try to take them to see orchestra and piano concerts whenever possible. It’s so important to listen to good music and know how it’s supposed to sound. (Especially with the string instruments…because those first few months are really hard on the ears:) We all practice in the morning before school and I know that it opens their brain up and gets it primed for the day of learning. I think that they have a better day to when they’ve practiced in the morning.

  14. I can read music and played the clarinet for 10 years starting at about 8. Before that I played violin and piano, all with a mix of formal and informal lessons. As an adult, I really appreciate that my parents encouraged me to get into music when I was young, and although I don’t currently play anything (I’m broke and instruments aren’t cheap) I’ve always found I have a natural affinity towards most musical instruments. There’s a great community in the music world, and although some people chase it competitively, it was never in my nature to do that. But I’d love to just sit in the afternoon and spend some time making nice sound on whatever was around :)

  15. Personally, I have limited music reading ability-three years of piano lessons gave me the ability to find middle C and pound a melody with much trial and error. But I love it. My husband took vocal lessons for many years and has a beautiful voice. We love to sing together. We have a family rule that we can’t sing at the table, otherwise no eats their food.
    As huge fans of musical theater, we are known to break out into song together at the drop of a hat. I run the after school drama club at our high school (where my husband is a math teacher) and we look forward to putting on the musical every year. My kids (ages 7,5,3, and 6 months) can sing along to a dozen musicals, but couldn’t tell you a thing about sports (One actually asked us one time, “What are sports?”). I remember well when my husband performed in the school talent show the first year he started teaching; the students were floored. They had no idea their goofy young math teacher could belt like a Broadway star.
    Our oldest recently started piano lessons and I hope she learns more from them than I did because it really is a gift to read music. My mom always says there are two kinds of people in the world, those who are glad their mothers made them practice, and those who wish they did. While I may not have been the best practicer, I’m so grateful that she provided that opportunity, and that both of my parents nurtured in me a love for music and performance.

    1. Ha! We had a family rule of no singing at the table too. However, our rule was established because my sister thought of herself as an opera singer and would burst into an over-the-top aria with no notice. It was traumatic to sit next her at meal time…

  16. To be brief, I’ve had a lot of musical experience, but I really wish I would’ve had more professional training. Since having kids, my music time has been super limited. Recently I’ve pulled out my old music and tried practicing for 15 to 30 minutes a day. It’s been a wonderful experience! I feel more grounded, like I’m more myself after practicing. Sometimes even like a missing puzzle piece was quietly slipped in.

  17. Jasminum "Jas" Greenwood Sr.

    Do I read music? You bet I do! I don’t read as well as I should, since it wasn’t my idea at the time. I was a nine-year-old kid, living with my family in Chicago, Illinois in 1961ish. I say “ish” because dad was military, (actually he was in Viet Nam at the time), I always must remember where we living when I think of my age.
    I wanted to take voice lessons, my mother who worked as an LPN nurse (being a middle class “Negro” as we were referred to then), made me take piano lessons. Agh piano lessons! I didn’t want piano lessons, I wanted voice lessons! Most folks in our culture wanted their kids to learn to play, it was a source of pride. I didn’t hate piano, but I didn’t like it either, so the Sister, (Presentation, Catholic school), talked my mom into letting me quit. Thank goodness!
    I did sing soprano in the church choir. I thought the altos sounded awesome, so I asked if I could change. The Sister directing the choir listened to me and said I was to stay a soprano. I remember singing Gloria in Excelsious Deo, (I tried three different times to spell this correctly, and I probably failed), Santus, Santus, Ave Maria, and all the absolutely beautiful Christmas music.
    I auditioned for advanced choir in high school in Lincoln, Nebraska, and made it, but we moved to Chambersburg Pennsylvania. I studied piano on and off over the years, including in college. I was able to take private voice lessons for a short while as an adult. I sang in a gospel choir for a while at my mother’s church in the 70’s after the family moved to Arkansas. I left Arkansas after a few years, I can’t stand the South.
    I joined the LDS Church in March of 1997. Talk about a turning point! I sang in the choirs of most of the many wards I have been in and am grateful for the training I received. I also had a lot of fun. My youngest daughter, Jas Jr. (25), and I moved to Utah County in 2007, we now live in Pleasant Grove.
    All this time I thought I couldn’t sing, when everything I did supported my desire to learn to sing. On July 28th, 2016, I auditioned for and was accepted into the Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir, (formerly Genesis Choir). We are a professional performance choir, and I ‘m having a ball since I finally get to sing,(alto), professionally, which is what I always wanted to do. (Maybe I’ll take up the Saxophone!!!)

  18. I enjoy music but I don’t perform it. I had the typical Grade 4 recorder then took band (oboe) grades 6 through 9 but never sang in any trained capacity. I could read music if I had too, but I don’t. I do sing in the car a lot either solo or with the family. And I know what I like (and don’t like) in music. My husband has rejuvenated his guitar playing (electric now) with a weekly jam sesh (or two) with his friends.

  19. Though neither of my parents are particularly musically gifted (my dad can hold a decent tune and used to play saxophone, though I don’t know how well, and my mom can NOT hold a tune, but did play flute in school), my siblings and I are all pretty decent (instrument-wise- my brother inherited my mom’s ability to hold a tune). I’m pretty sure it wasn’t really an option to NOT play an instrument. My sister and I both started very young with violin- I was 7 and she was 5. We both played and took lessons throughout all of elementary school, middle school, and high school. I took up alto sax for a few years (4 or 5), and although I was decent, I never really loved it. I never practiced violin a whole lot, but when you play an instrument for so many years, it really becomes second nature. My sister and I were also really lucky to get involved in our church choir and our choir director was our strings instructor (from the time we started to when we graduated high school) and our organist was the strings instructor before her, so we were also given plenty of performance opportunities both in and out of school and church. I can read music, and can sight-read pretty well on violin, but not vocally. I don’t play often now, but after so many years of playing, my fingers still know exactly what to do. I’m so glad I never quit (pretty sure my parents wouldn’t have let me anyway!).

  20. i took piano for about 6 years and can sightread some but never got proficient enough to play for church like my mom. i did join choir/chorale in high school (christian boarding academy) and it gave me a real appreciation for music – learning the different parts, appreciating classical music, etc.. now my 8 year old daughter just started piano and i’m very excited for her. it adds a whole new dimension to your world!

  21. I think music is for the enjoyment and pleasure of the soul. I grew up with a father who loved and played opera and classical music every evening. He took opera lessons in college and was in chorus throughout his teen years. My mother landed in the US three years before I was born and blasted Italian pop all day long. That is the music of my childhood. That is the music that I LOVE. (I can still break out into Italian pop songs from the 80s at the top of my lungs–good stuff).
    My sister and I took flute lessons for approximately 8 years, and learned to read music, but it was never a passion for either of us to play. I can still read some basic music notes, and can surprisingly still play the flute, but don’t care to. Plus we always sang in chorus growing up.
    Today both of my children take private music lessons because they seem to truly enjoy it. My daughter begged for an entire year to learn guitar, and my son plays saxophone in the school band, plus a separate jazz band which he adores. I’m learning to love jazz because it was never a part of the background noise of my life.
    In our home we listen to mostly a mixture of American pop, classical music, jazz, and classic American rock (thanks to my husband).

  22. I took organ lessons from 3-12ish (6th grade). We had an organ at home as did my Grandma. I played in the church now and again when our organist couldn’t. I was the designated Christmas carol accompanist at family gatherings. In 6th grade I started the clarinet for school band. Played that, a bit of sax, and tried the trombone for a bit. Quit band freshman year (maybe?) because I needed more college prep classes (which is so unfair to band). I sang in the choir until about the same time for the same reasons. I was never great at singing – I can match pitch with someone/something, but I can’t find it on my own. So yes, I can read music. Although not as well/quickly as I could in high school.

    My husband’s family, on the other hand, is all about the music. Mom taught violin lessons. Dad has a local bluegrass band and plays 6 or 7 instruments. One sister is a school music teacher. One gives private lessons. The other sings and plays violin in church/weddings/funerals as a side gig. My husband played violin for 14 years, but gave it up when the teacher made him choose between it and basketball. When they sing happy birthday it’s in harmony…I lip synch. :D

    My kids are now starting violin lessons, using the Suzuki method, taught by my MIL. With Suzuki there is no score reading to begin. You learn by ear. Parents also have to take the lessons along side their kids. You would THINK my hubby would take on this task, but nope. I get to do it. So I’m back to learning music. It’s a good mental exercise and I’m actually enjoying it. We took the summer off, but just started back last night! I do find it hard to let go of “what note is that?” and be all E3, A1, etc (string and finger placement).

  23. Some musical moments of mine~
    ~ may daughter stopped me mid-sentence to point out the different bass beats in the background music at restaurant. Her music lessons were tuning her ear for an appreciation of compilation, musical layering and a whole world that I wasn’t hearing
    ~ my husband preventing me from getting out of the car because he knew I needed a closed space to listen to repeated sections of Nirvana’s new hit (it was the ’90’s), he was so entranced with how they had changed the music scene
    ~ my kids exchanging secret glances between each other because they’ve realized yet again that I don’t listen to lyrics. I don’t like my family listening to derogatory statements or foul language in songs. However, I seldom hear the lyrics because the music/the beat etc sweeps me off into a state of mind that makes lyric hearing impossible for me. My husband had to tell me what Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes lyrics were because that happy song put me into such a good state (but not lyric-hearing state) with in seconds
    ~ I grew up in a very musical family (pianists, singers etc) and it used to frustrate my soon-to-be-husband that we would finish sentences in song or would bust out a tune at any tick of the clock
    ~ we have family music face-offs – someone will start with a particular song that they play from youtube which makes someone else play another song that relates to that theme – it can go on for some time as each person is spurred on to think of another song until someone comes up with the ultimate song that epitomizes the theme. So much fun!
    ~ I love to hear what my kids listen to as it gives me such an insight as to how they are showing up in the world at that time

  24. My musical experience is very similar to yours- piano lessons, high school and church choir. I very much enjoyed my experiences, but was never a “natural” at it. I could work hard, practice a lot, and do okay at piano, and enjoyed singing in a group, but would never get a solo.

    However, the ability to read music has come in useful multiple times as an adult. I worked for an opera company for a while, and the ability to read the piano and/or conductors score was a huge benefit, even in a non-musical position. I’ve also worked in event management, and again, being able to read music was very helpful (ie, knowing when it was time to get the next speaker, turn up the lights, etc).

  25. Growing up we were pretty poor. There was never any money for piano lessons for me and my siblings, and so we grew up appreciating music but never playing. In middle school my brother got a guitar for Christmas one year and actually taught himself how to play the guitar, and got to the point where he could turn on the TV and play long with music videos on MTV (back when they had music on there ;) My sister who is quite older than the rest of us had piano lessons when she was younger for a year or two, which meant that for my entire childhood, there was this keyboard in our home that i so desperately wanted to figure out how to play, but never actually made it happen. My husband took piano lessons growing up like his other 8 siblings in their very traditional LDS home. All of them went on to learn and play other instruments, and all of them were very serious participants in Jazz Band at the local high school. My desire to learn the piano never went away, especially now that I have a husband who does play, so we actually purchased our first piano for $100 off of craigslist this year, and I’m working my way through my first piano book, and am self teaching myself currently. I can play a few hymns, and am starting to learn to sight read music, but like you mentioned, I have to play something for hours before I feel like I really have a grasp on it. We’re hoping to get our kids into lessons when they start elementary school, so that they can have a better musical foundation like my husband.


  26. Hi there,
    What an interesting question to ask from your readers! I’d love to give my own experiences back.
    First thing I’ve got to say, I was born and grew up in Bavaria, Germany. So our school system is pretty different from the schools in the US. I started my first real musical training by learning to play the recorder. My brother and I had lessons in the basement of our Kindergarten and I think we must have been 3 and 4 years old, maybe 4 and 5. Along the way with playing recorder, of course we learnt to read music.
    We’re from a musical family, both our parents played and still play the piano, they were engaged in two different choirs and our father started very soon after CDs were available to build an impressive collection of all classical music he could get. He is definitely what you could call audiophil, if that is a word in English? He loves listening to good performed music and there was not one single day in my childhood when there was no music in the house, when he was at home.
    That said, my musical education didn’t stop with the recorder. In 7th grade we moved and I was able to go to the school where my parents had been. It is a special musical Gymnasium, that you visit from 5th to 13th grade. Of course you get the Abitur, which certifies you are allowed to visit a university. In that special Gymnasium, you get a very humanistic classical education with extra emphasis on music and art. Every kid has to study at least one instrument, you have exams every 6 months to show your improvement. There were concerts that you were encouraged to participate, not only playing solo but also by forming different sorts of combos, like quartets or doing piano accompanied sonatas, when you study the violin, for example.
    I began in 7th grade and had to learn fast to catch up with my peers, who had 2 years in advance. I liked the piano, but not so much having to practice. So I wanted to try another instrument and began to take lessons for the flute. Turned out I was more talented, so I gave up the piano. I forgot to say, the lessons were for free in that school, otherwise we couldn’t have taken the lessons. Later on, I tried out the oboe, but that was just for fun and I stopped that after 2 years.
    I continued with the flute, I joined our brass band at school and the brass band of our home village (about 3,000 people in the village, the next city where the Gymnasium is has about 40,000 inhabitants).
    I love to remember that time. Being musical and having skills on your instrument was something to be proud of, and as a shy child that kind of attention was good for me. It teached me to go outof my comfort zone, when having to play at a concert.
    I sang in the school choir too, and when I graduated and went to university, I studied German, English and Music. Of course I joined a choir, this time a semi-professional one and enjoyed that so much!

    Today, I don’t miss the flute so much and can not sing in a choir because I’ve got 2 children who are soon 3 and 6 years old. I can’t carve out the regular time I’d need for practicing and I’m somewhat frustrated when I try to play- I had been so good at one time and now it is just so-so. Sad for me, but I hope to give my children a basic musical knowledge so they can read music. I think it is important to have a sense of our culture and has to be teached, just in case. There are so many next to useless things that children are forced to learn, so why not teach them to understand the musical culture we have? Especially in Europe I think it is such a rich and beautiful heritage we have. I am conviced that giving a humanistic approach to education helps to develop a grounded adult who values his roots.

    So, that was pretty much information and I hope it isn’t tooooooooo much. Sorry for the long ramble!
    Greetings from Germany.
    Hope you’ll be fine with letzing two of your kids go in such a short time!

  27. I grew up playing flute and piano and singing in a bajillion choirs. I went on to get a degree in music and spent all four years of college playing in ensembles and recitals. I’ve dabbled in music on and off since then, but, like you, i didn’t really miss it that much. Then about 9 months ago I started taking group mandolin lessons, and I realized how much playing music (especially with other people) makes my soul happy. So I’ve decided that I need to carve out some time each week – however minimal – for playing music. It keeps me sane!

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