How do I enjoy music better?
August 24, 2010 1:35 PM   Subscribe

How can I learn to listen to music better? I want to better understand what makes a well-crafted, beautiful song, beyond just knee-jerk reactions.

I'm interested in learning how to better enjoy music. I find myself engaged and excited, or otherwise emotionally effected, by music I enjoy. But beyond that, I don't really understand music. I did have music classes in middle school, but I mostly just learned about rhythm and the scale of notes. I also briefly played the clarinet.

Anyway, what can I do to better appreciate music? I'm not ruling out learning to play an instrument or trying to write a song, but what else could I do?

If it helps, I enjoy dance music, like from Animal Collective and Daft Punk. I do enjoy Lady Gaga (sorry, Front page!), but holistically as the entire act. Her music strikes me as good, but not deeply engaging.
posted by mccarty.tim to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Music, believe it or not, is all about pattern recognition, and that takes place at a pre-conscious level (somewhat in the way that you can predict the trajectory of a thrown ball without having to actually solve the ballistic equations that apply). I suggest listening to a wide variety of types of music, rather than just listening to whatever is currently popular. If you sense something interesting, listen to that piece again, it may become even more interesting.
posted by grizzled at 1:40 PM on August 24, 2010

My advice is to not ruin your enjoyment by learning what someone else thinks "good" means. For the following reasons:

1- Everyone likes what they like for their own reasons. Very often they have nothing to do with the music of the music, but other sociological and psychological reasons.

2- There aren't very many people who will have the same ear as you and their good won't be yours.

3- You'll end up not enjoying anything, because any new thing you hear will get tainted by your newfound critical skills.

4- And you'll end up being that insufferable shit who feels the need to share that with others.

What I would suggest is to do what you have already done some of and learn some of the language of music, in order to better understand why you like what you like, rather than learn "what is good". There is a book called Songwriting For Dummies written by the Eye of the Tiger guy whose name I am forgetting. (Edit: Jim Peterik) It is an excellent book for understanding the various frameworks of pop-type music and some of the tricks used to make any piece of shit sound good.

But take my advice with a grain of salt: I am one of those people who does NOT get enjoyment out of overcoming initial revulsion. You will NEVER get me to sit down and eat a lobster, because the idea of cracking apart a giant insect at my dinner table is disgusting to me. So I will never get any enjoyment of some crap song just because they threw in some jazz progressions and I can recognize them.
posted by gjc at 1:47 PM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am not a scholar of music by any means (I quit piano lessons as soon as my parent-inflicted 7 year torment was up), but this is what I do when I want to evaluate music.

Listen to something universally regarded as good (like Beethoven or something) and listen to something universally regarded as bad (I don't know, let's say Britney Spears, but you or someone downthread can come up with a much better example that works better here, I'm sure). Listen to them both and make notes (like, actual notes on paper) about why one is better than the other.

Is one piece more complex than the other? Does it involve a lot of instruments or just a few? Does it have parts that surprise you or is it predictable? Does the piece require the musicians/singers to have a high level of skill or can anyone crank it out (I call this the "Louie Louie" effect)? Does the piece make you feel feelings or are you just getting swept up in a rhythmic bassline? ...And so on. Ask your own questions, too.

Then, take these notes that you've made for yourself and apply them to other pieces of music you come across. Rather than just listen to the song, think about all the elements that make it up and evaluate it based on the rubric you've created. If I want to get all judgy about a piece of music, I try to think of it in terms of effort, skill, and execution. But that's just me. Again, I'm not a particularly musically inclined person.

If you want to get really serious about it, I think learning an instrument would be a great idea.
posted by phunniemee at 1:52 PM on August 24, 2010

I'll agree with grizzled about pattern recognition, but add that what helped me tremendously was a basic Music Theory class; learn about intervals and chords and progressions. When you can recognize the "same four-chord progression in every pop song", then you can start listening for new and interesting chord progressions. To further borrow from grizzled's comment, it's like figuring out the trajectory of a ball, but then realizing that it's a slider or curveball.
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:53 PM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I find myself engaged and excited, or otherwise emotionally effected

That's it. That's what good art does. The end. The only difference between Beethoven and Britney is that one has stood the test of time, and the other probably won't. Most of what you're being given above, about crazy chord progressions and such, will tell if something was difficult to play, but nothing about its artistic merit or lack thereof. (It may also turn you into an Yngwie Malmsteen fan.)

You could take a theory class, or read a book on music history. Or you could just listen to more music. I personally started with Bob Dylan and worked backwards to the point where I can now have a decent, if cursory, conversation about folk ballads from like three centuries ago. You could try that kind of "tree" exploration for whatever genre you dig.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:58 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

And always always please remember this: Any kind of theory you learn is a language to describe why something is good or not, and a way to better understand what you like about it. It is NOT a way to judge whether something is good or not.

Keep liking what you like. There's value in figuring out why you like it, but not in altering your opinions to better conform to some theory or peer group you want to impress.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:02 PM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

1 pair of Sennheiser Headphones:75 dollars
"Here Comes The Sun" by The Beatles on iTunes: 99 cents
Careful Listening on Repeat for as long as you need: Approximately 20-30 minutes.
Having Your Mind Blown: Priceless

Seriously though, go back, and just listen very closely to your favorite Beatles songs. Listen to the chord changes. Listen to the structure. Listen to the way that the bridges seem to appear, both out of nowhere, and yet somehow make total sense.

This will help. I promise.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:03 PM on August 24, 2010

If you like the Beatles, Alan Pollack's Notes On series is an outstanding way to discover how their music worked. If you don't have much of a musical vocabulary, some of it will be over your head, but much of it won't, and you'll learn a ton along the way.
posted by dfan at 2:20 PM on August 24, 2010

Friends who appreciate music will help you out the most in this endeavor - nothing like someone else passionate to get your own interest fired up and pointed in the right direction. My ex-boyfriend and longtime friend is a musician and the most intense music nerd I've ever met, and man he's taught me a lot. Everything that goes into it is fascinating to him, and I get caught up in it. The history of the band members and what other musicians they're affiliated with, the evolution of their sound, the theory some musicans like to apply to how they craft their sound... the history of the genres themselves and where they stemmed from... the history of the instruments... the different technologies available now to create the different sounds, the qualities of the different instruments... Well, suffice to say the background of the music certainly makes me appreciate it far more.

But supposing you don't have incredible music nerds at your disposal, try watching some documentaries or reading articles on the bands you currently like. For example, my friend had me listen to Melody Day by Caribou and invited me to go see him live at the local indie venue. I liked it, great show. But I fell in love with Caribou a few weeks later when a documentary came out on (Dan Snaith) and learned how he was actually a ph. d. student in mathematics at the time, and he writes and records everything on his own (his bandmates are musicians hired to perform their parts on tour). There was also some discussion on how Brian Wilson focused on creating a very full, well-rounded sound in the Beach Boys' music - Dan admires that and makes it an objective when creating his own songs. Needless to say it left me in awe of the musician, but also with a better understanding of the music itself and a better ear for music in general.
posted by lizbunny at 2:28 PM on August 24, 2010

I like most of these answers, especially what gjc said: ""Everybody likes what they like.."

Now, from experience I can tell you there's no question that somebody explaining a complex piece of music/art to you if you don't understand what it's about might actually make you actually like the thing more.


I personally tend to prefer art that does not have to be spoon fed to me with assistance because it's too complicated for me to 'get' even after a couple go-arounds by myself. This, even after 4 years of music school and tons of 'modern', 'post-modern', 'alt-whatever', music exposure.

So, while it may be brilliant that Mozart used those retrograde inversions in the 3rd movement of the 4th symphony which recapitulated the primary theme from the overture, or, that [Some Visual Artist]'s Extreme Pathos of Red Blotches On Canvas was created just so due to a fork in the eye, that doesn't mean I'm going to like it any better.

I like to evaluate each piece of music/art based on its own merit, and then, I also try to give credit where I feel it is due, even if I don't like the end product overall. (e.g. I think Phish are incredible musicians, but I really do not appreciate any of their singing voices... )

Either way: learning stuff is cool.
posted by bitterkitten at 2:32 PM on August 24, 2010

Copland's book isn't a bad place to start, and was written exactly for people like you!
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:33 PM on August 24, 2010

IMO the most essential skill is the ability to recognize basic intervals: octave, diminished seventh, major fifth, minor third, etc. Tons of music, especially pop, is built on those very basic parts. You don't really need to know any music theory or memorize any scales to be able to recognize an interval because it's just a relative difference in pitch between two notes. If you're not quite at that level yet, then at least try to listen to a harmony and pick apart when it goes up in pitch and when it goes down.

I highly recommend that you download a real-time running spectral-chart / spectrogram program and listen to your favorite music as it scrolls by (example). A related type of spectral visualization can be found at the Music Animation Machine (one of the best examples).
posted by Rhomboid at 2:57 PM on August 24, 2010

I would highly recommend looking into learning a musical instrument and taking lessons. A deeper understanding of how music helps in the perception. With music lessons (ear training, rhythm training, etc), you're actually training yourself to listen to every single detail of sound that you hear.

With this training, I was able to broaden my appreciation to a wider range of genrers. A year ago, I more or less just listened to rock and alternative music, but now, I find myself actually liking Lady Gaga, classical, flamenco, R&B and many more. I can't speak how well a song is put together, but it's just that I can hear finer details (or patterns as grizzled puts it) with the training.

So if you're serious about wanting to appreciate music, study it.
posted by onich at 3:03 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you should ignore anyone who tells you to avoid taking an academic approach to art because it will "ruin your enjoyment" or because "taste is subjective," etc. Enjoyment is not the same as appreciation, and I think it's the mature listener who can learn to appreciate something that he may not enjoy.

Anyhow, just listening to a lot of music is a good idea, but to really advance your understanding I think you need to learn some music theory. This will give you the framework for the pattern recognition that grizzled mentions; if you understand e.g. what a I IV V progression is and what it sounds like, you can start hearing it in different contexts and drawing parallels between them. I'd recommend starting with the lessons at to get some basic understanding. Then if you have any fondness for The Beatles, I heartily second the recommendation for Alan W. Pollack.

Having a keyboard or guitar on hand and developing some basic facility with it will be very helpful with your ear training and understanding of theory, but be aware that one can learn to play an instrument with a very high level of technical proficiency without ever learning anything about the bigger-picture theory stuff that you're asking about.
posted by JohnMarston at 3:33 PM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thanks for all the advice, everyone. I don't mean to say I want to learn what songs are objectively good, as I know that's impossible. The same is true of books, wine and movies. What I want to learn is how to cogently understand why I like certain music, and how I can use that to explain to others and myself what I like.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:08 PM on August 24, 2010

Also, forgive me if that sounded at all snobbish. I want to learn how to savor music, not learn how to lord my taste over others.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:10 PM on August 24, 2010

I wholeheartedly endorse drjimmy11's posts.

You know those charts that turn 1d left vs right political orientation into 2d (social, economic)? These days I tend to see music on an axis a bit like that.

Y: an intellectualised, 'objective' assessment of the music, really being a bunch more axes in itself, but I can't think in that many dimensions: including one or more of music theory (harmony, modality, structure & arrangement, rhythm &c.); engineering, sound design, mixing, mastering, &c; instrumental/vocal virtuosity; perhaps even ethnomusicology, art history, literature (lyrics), &c;

On the X axis: pure personal taste.

I think most people's musical tastes plotted - honestly! - on such a chart are more of a pollockian paint splatter than a focused dot or trending line. Some people bunch lower, with, for example simplistic, formulaic pop music, or 'musically empty' dance music, some higher, with the densest classical works or avante garde jazz. But most people range around somewhat. Many people also sneer a lot at stuff outside their range, in any and all directions.

Any how, the point is, the "knowledge of the y axis" can let you file some stuff in the top left under "tolerate, respect" rather than simply "hate". That's never to be confused with shifting it to the right into "like/love", but it's still horizon-expanding in a way. It can give you words and tools to understand why you like the stuff on the right. It can give you access to stuff 'higher' than you listened before, in the same way that greater erudition and vocabulary give you access to more challenging literature - but you may still instinctively hate it regardless! It can also encourage your tastes 'lower', as you understand the underproduced, simplistic, sloppy, repetitive, minimalist, &c as a [deliberate?] contrast or reaction to their respective opposites, rather than as a failing.

Ultimately I believe that increasing your knowledge/conscious awareness of the y axis stuff rarely seriously influences where you place music on the x axis, but it doesn't hurt or pervert or belittle that process either, as people sometimes imply. I felt, and I've heard many others agree, there can be phases where it feels like that, but you get through and out the other side.

As for how to explore the y axis stuff, I can only agree: do it. My attempts at reading, writing, performing and music and my ability to appreciate and understand other people's have always been in a perpetual loop of mutual influence.

Failing that / as well as that: listen widely. Very widely. Every era has produced greatness, and "world music" is not a little detached category of quaint anthropological obscurity, it's exactly that, an entire world's worth of diverse, amazing music to discover. I believe tools like are quite amazing for joining the dots and finding your gems from any place, any where, which, with minimum hipsterism/snark/disrespect intended, you would be unlikely to stumble across via the scenes & promotional channels which respectively brought your 3 examples to prominence.
posted by Slyfen at 4:46 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Word theft gremlin attack: that was "performing and recording music", sorry.
posted by Slyfen at 4:50 PM on August 24, 2010

My entire musical taste paradigm changed for me when I took an ethnomusicology course in college, so I'd recommend reading up on that subject. I honestly don't think that an appreciation for music - or any art, in general - is based on recognizing it's most objective merits (like chord progression, or whatever the fuck), but rather on the sociological and anthropological implications that influence us as well as the songs, singers and genres.

You say that you want to understand why you like what you like and the answer to that is probably a mix of a few things. But mostly because you've probably been heavily culturally conditioned to find enjoyment in certain sounds and harmonies based on a number of factors ranging from geographic location to social status. Play Bach to a West African tribe and I doubt they'll "get it", but that doesn't mean they have a limited understanding of (or appreciation for) music - they simply have been conditioned to listen to or use music in a different way. Likewise, a bunch of people who paid 200 bucks for a Joshua Bell concert (one of the most acclaimed classical violinists in the world) would probably (maybe) have no fucking clue how to evaluate something like indigenous Didgeridoo music.

Speaking of Joshua Bell, check out "Pearls Before Breakfast", a Washington Post Magazine story that ran a few years ago which was a "social experiment" written by this asshole named Gene Weingarten, where they basically have Joshua Bell street busk at a busy metro station during rush hour with a million dollar violin. He plays "Chaconne" and - SHOCKER - all of the government worker bees walking by simply DO NOT GIVE A SHIT. Here's the worst part of the article, in my opinion:

"Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something. "

Oh, phew, yeah, it was something. I was just losing all hope in humanity and FINALLY one of these philistines knew how to APPRECIATE good music! The prick who wrote the article doesn't seem to understand that not everyone was raised with fucking classically trained ear - maybe some of them come from blue collar roots and would rather hear some Bruce! Or they grew up listening to Zeppelin, or Public Enemy, or who knows. Now if they actually listened to a lot of classical music, then duh, they'd recognize Chaconne (and in the article, a few of them do.) And on the other hand, if Gene Weingarten actually listened to more hip hop and gave it a fair chance he probably wouldn't have written that piece of trash in the first place because he wouldn't be assuming that beauty can be ranked on some sort of objective scale (as I believe Jessamyn put it in one of her comments on the article somewhere), and that playing Chaconne on a million dollar instrument is at the tippity-top.

So I guess what I'm getting at with this rant is that if you want to learn to appreciate music, then listen to more music. All of it. Don't rule anything out. Be proactive. Give everything a fair chance. Did you hear a country song and think to yourself, "christ, this is awful"? Go online and read up on country, try to understand why people like it, read about it's social, cultural and political history, and listen to a bunch of country artists until you find one that does make your ears tingle. I used to be a big music snob and this exercise (which we would do every week in class with a different genre) really helped open my mind.

The point is to be able to listen to everything on a relative scale (though still a personal one) and not an objective one. Listen to music the same way Roger Ebert reviews films - according to Wikipedia, "he reviews a film for what he feels will be its prospective audience, yet always with at least some consideration as to its value as a whole." I have a friend who thinks "all rock music today pretty much sucks" because no one will be "as good as the Beatles". I think Ebert would tell him he's doing it wrong.

I'm not an expert by any means, but I say don't worry about chord changes and song structures - just listen, learn, and see what resonates. I personally think this is how someone comes to appreciate music.
posted by windbox at 8:55 PM on August 24, 2010

I've found that when I discuss music with friends that even when we like the same song we are often picking up on different parts of the song, and that going back and listening for what they liked can increase my appreciation for the other "ingredients" that went into the song to make it "work". I personally don't think that studying intervals, etc. is going to be the key to appreciating your music more. A better exercise is to just listen to your music carefully and focus on different aspects. Listen to the whole song following just the drums, then again following the bass line, then concentrate on the vocals, or synths, or whatever else. After you have a good sense of how each of the parts work individually then try to see how they go together. In what ways do they complement each other? In what ways do the instruments and their parts "make or fill in space" in the music? Listen for how the music production has enhanced the song. Headphones are great for listening to placement on the sound stage (where the instruments are in terms of near/far and left/right). How have the levels been adjusted to bring out different parts in each section of the song? What effects (reverb, autotune, etc.) are being used?

But then after all the careful listening just sit back without any distractions, crank it up, and enjoy it!
posted by doctord at 7:11 AM on August 25, 2010

Learning to appreciate performance can help. The book Singers & the Song (I have an earlier version, with Sinatra on the cover - but I couldn't find it online quickly) helped me to understand why I liked some singers and songs and songwriters more than others. Sometimes it comes down to the choice of words in the lyrics (which ones sustain better), length of phrase and other things like that as much as the performance or emotional depth. While it focuses on big band singers and the hits of the time, it translates to all performers and performances.
posted by peagood at 7:27 AM on August 25, 2010

I don't think you need to learn music theory at all with the exception of a few basic concepts like progression, harmony, melody and rhythm, by which I mean to say that if you hear a progression or etc. you should be able to call it a progression. Music theory will give you names for the structures you hear, but realistically all the information you need to detect those structures is in the sound itself.

It seems to me that what you're concerned with developing is an acuity of listening that will allow you to hear those structures with better fidelity, which I think manifests as power of distinction: someone with good listening acuity might be able to tell two very similar renditions of a song apart by pointing to, say, embellishments of the melody in one performance, where someone with a less developed ear would have difficulty identifying what part of the performance made it different or even whether there was a significant difference between the performances at all. A useful thing about this skill is that it's not bound by genre; you can adapt it to anything by using it to pick apart the components of the sounds you're hearing.

I'm sort of piecing this together in my mind as I write it, but I think there are probably a few strategies for gaining that power of distinction. All of them involve listening to music, and ideally listening to it actively -- that is, when you're listening to music, only listening to music, and concentrating actively on what you're hearing. This is itself is a nice skill to have, and I call it a skill because it actually does take practice. We're generally conditioned away from devoting our full attention to music when we listen to it, so it takes a bit of adjustment. After a while I think you'll find that it becomes easier and more automatic. Anyway,

STRATEGY 1: IMPROVING YOUR POWERS OF DISTINCTION BY DEPTH OF LISTENING. Find a genre you like and really explore it to its limits. Start with one person or group and trace out their influences, the acts they've influenced, their collaborators or side-projects, etc. This will expose you to a lot of things that are very similar in a lot of ways, and after a while the patterns or rules will start to stand out in your mind. After a longer while you'll start coming across the exceptions that prove the rules, and that's probably most important: it'll give you a good sense of how a genre can be bent without breaking it and turning it into something else.

STRATEGY 2: IMPROVING YOUR POWERS OF DISTINCTION BY BREADTH OF LISTENING. Find a few acts from a bunch of genres, as people have said above. The more wide-spread in terms of sound and origin the better, though again it's probably a good idea to trace a path from most familiar to least along some axis of influence or similarity, so you can compare what changes and what doesn't. I think this will serve primarily to give you a different perspective on the components of the music you're familiar with, in much the same way that going to a different place gives you a new perspective on your home.

STRATEGY 3: IMPROVING YOUR POWERS OF DISTINCTION BY FINDING TRANSITORY ACTS. I don't know if this deserves its own category or not but I think there's probably value in finding performers that straddle the fence between two well-defined genres, either because they've settled in that niche or because, chronologically speaking, they were an outgrowth of one genre and a precursor to a second. Someone like Beethoven, who saw the shift from Classical values in music to Romantic ones, or Iggy and the Stooges, who were making music that sounded pretty punk rock almost a decade before '77 hit, or Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, who were using breaks from funk recordings to support their rapping. Anything you like where you can find some of those people, it doesn't matter.

So, yeah, I guess that's generally how I go about it. You'll probably find that some music doesn't reward active listening because it was designed mostly for, say, dancing, and that's ok. In either case I think you'll have an easier time thinking about what you like in terms of the specific things that you're hearing in the music, instead of having it manifest to you as just a vague, unexplainable feeling.
posted by invitapriore at 10:16 AM on August 25, 2010

Well, that was pre-caffeine, "TRANSITORY" should probably read "TRANSITIONAL."

I also wanted to add that, while learning some music theory would actually help you explain to others the things you're hearing, if you do go that route I think it should come after the things I talked about above. That way you'll learn the names for things that you're already familiar with, instead of trying to impose them onto what you're hearing.
posted by invitapriore at 2:36 PM on August 25, 2010

It is of course possible to learn to recognize musical patterns and structures simply by doggedly listening to music, without taking any kind of formalized approach. "The Beatles couldn't read sheet music," and all that jazz. However, it is the rare individual who has enough natural musical ability to be able to accomplish this.

And since the OP posted this question, it seems reasonable to assume that he isn't one of those gifted few. I'd guess he's more like me -- I was functionally tonedeaf as a kid, and not for lack of trying. It wasn't until I picked up the guitar and made a real effort to understand musical structure that I was able to start developing my listening abilities and musicianship. I eventually became a singer and a songwriter and got a degree in music composition.

And musicianship is what you need to develop. Musicianship is not just for performers, because it's not about performance -- it has nothing to do with the technique of any particular instrument. It is about the ability to perceive music accurately and engage with it and understand it. It's what separates the passive listener from the active listener. Someone with a high level of musicianship can hear a piece of music, perceive all of its nuances, perceive the underlying structures, connect them with the structures in other pieces of music, etc. One of the highest levels of musicianship is when a person can hear a piece of music and perceive it so accurately that they can write it down or otherwise reproduce it precisely. All music students, regardless of their focus, take the same tests to gauge their level of musicianship, and then develop it in largely the same way -- by honing their abilities to discern rhythm, melody, harmony, and timbre, which are the fundamental materials of music.

So I just want to emphasize that scales and chords and all of that technical-sounding stuff is not really as esoteric or narrowly-applicable as it might sound or as some might portray it. Understanding that stuff is in fact the very basis of musicianship, and for those of us who are not born with fully-developed musical instincts, spending the little bit of time it takes to learn the basics will go a lot further in developing your ear and appreciative abilities than just listening to lots of tunes and expecting to have an epiphany.
posted by JohnMarston at 3:53 PM on August 25, 2010

I don't want to derail this question, so this comment will be the last thing I say about the matter, but I have to register some pretty strong disagreement with some of your assessment, JohnMarston. I also have a degree in music composition, and in the course of taking musicianship classes I came to the conclusion that there are two kinds of musicianship; there's the low level kind in which you learn to identify scales, harmonies, notes and rhythms, and then here's a high level kind where you pick up on things like form and thematic content. Ideally those two are integrated, but for me integrating them took a long time; before that, concentrating on one type for me meant neglecting the other. You're totally right about musicianship being important, but I'm pretty convinced that the high level kind is what is probably most relevant for the OP, and I think that it is achieved mainly by listening actively.

I think you're a little off by citing the Beatles; the type of listening skill I'm thinking of is mostly something that critics possess, and I've known plenty of people that couldn't tell me what a tonic is that were good and perceptive music critics and listeners. Analysis is analysis, and while good analytical skills can be augmented by a knowledge of theory, they can be obtained without it, and I'd argue that it's probably best that way -- especially as I consider all the people I've met who have been led astray by learning theory before getting a good feel for the structures of music first, and who as a result have a hard time not applying the metrics of Western music theory to genres where it fails to account for how the music really operates.

I guess it seems to me that language acquisition is a good model for how to get familiar with music; we learn grammar long after we've gotten an intuitive feel for the structures of the language we speak.
posted by invitapriore at 8:38 PM on August 25, 2010

Try watching the series How Music Works. Most, if not all, should be on YouTube. Here is part 1 of episode 1.
posted by K.P. at 7:43 AM on August 26, 2010

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