The mirage of the musical score

You practice music and you have already encountered some difficulties:

  • playing an instrument or singing without a score
  • improvising on a theme or composing a piece
  • playing by ear, i.e. replaying on an instrument a melody or chords you heard previously

Then this article is for you.

Music is not a unique skill

Here’s something you might not know: Meludia was created from 25 years of pedagogical experience by the co-founder Vincent Chaintrier. During this period, he had the opportunity to coach musicians with very different abilities. In 2012, we compiled Vincent’s theory into a tool by creating the Meludia web application. Since then, we have presented the application worldwide and had the opportunity to test and coach very different ear profiles. Here is a list of the ‘profiles’ we have encountered. If you recognize yourself in this list and do not believe in fate, Meludia is for you:

  • Self-confidence – non-musicians with a strong desire for music but who don’t think they are good at making music
  • Openness – non-musicians who would like to open up to jazz, classical, or contemporary music but who feel that they don’t have access to this type of music, either because they don’t enjoy listening to it, or because they fall asleep or don’t understand its musical meaning
  • Rigidity – musicians who are unable to play an instrument without a score
  • Memory – musicians who have difficulty understanding, memorizing and playing songs quickly
  • Concentration – musicians who have difficulty staying lucid throughout a whole rehearsal or concert
  • Reaction time – musicians who take too long to hear chord or interval changes, such as jazz improvisations
  • Verticality – musicians who have an absolute ear (or not) but have difficulty hearing multiple voices at the same time
  • Harmonic ear – musicians who have the absolute ear (or not), but who must “make calculations” in order to recognize the color of a chord (C-E-G, THEN “it’s major”…)
  • Remanence – musicians who fail to isolate and recognize multiple intervals or chords played consecutively
  • Renewal – musicians, self-taught or not, who feel like they’re stalling
  • Creativity – musicians who wish to be more autonomous in their ability to improvise and compose

What is touching is that all of these profiles of musicians and non-musicians could make significant progress in their musical practice if they focused on their ability to listen and feel the fundamentals of music.

Too often, the score can play a supporting role that gives the illusion of using one’s “musical muscle” (since we actually play music), but this support can, unfortunately, make us miss invaluable musical resources that we already have in us and which only need to be developed. Our brain is made in such a way that it can develop reading and playing skills on an instrument while underutilizing its musical ear. Thus, some musicians concentrate 80% of their musical practice time on skills that will not really help them.

Music is like a language

We all have language learning experts in our entourage: they are between 0 and 6 years old. This is the period during which children learn to speak in a natural way through mimicry.

Language development is a good example. When babies babble, they imitate the sounds they hear around them. Over time, and after a few repetitions, they process this information. They begin to reduce their range of sounds to those that make sense to them, like Mama for Mommy. Then they continue practicing until they can use the word in a context. This imitation and contextualization is only possible with a “powerful sensory immersion”.

The imitation follows four steps:

  • watch and listen
  • process information
  • attempt to copy behavior
  • practice

What about applying grammar? This is a question that does not arise: children can improvise and apply the theoretical rules of their mother tongue before they even know how to write!

Immersed from the very first moments in his mother tongue, the little one discovers and explores this new skill through sensations. Around 15 months of age, his cognitive and motor skills are sufficient to imitate. After repeating words and bits of sentences over and over, he reorganizes these elements to form new sentences and create his own speech. Later on, he uses the subjunctive, the past perfect, and other more or less advanced concepts without being able to name them. Finally, the desire to learn to read and write usually arises naturally around the age of 5-6.

In music, learning is similar. Only what one hears well and feels well is memorized well. We reproduce what we hear, then gradually we become autonomous and develop our own musical discourse.

If you repeat a sentence that you don’t hear or understand, your musicality will be affected, and it may be laborious, as if you were trying to pronounce a sentence in an unknown language.

To find out more about learning music as a language, read this article (to be shared without moderation with young parents and future parents!)

Music is like a language

Let go of the theory

When you start the music with a score, everything becomes more complex for the brain, because the visual and auditory zones are simultaneously called upon. That’s why Meludia teaches you music with as little analytical elements as possible. Of course, there comes a time when you may need to read a score, and therefore add to your palette the analytical elements: notes, sharps, flats, written music… Meludia does not replace the learning of theory, but it reinforces it. Talk to your music teacher.

Our progressive exercises gradually develop the cognitive skills necessary for the sensory and emotional perception of music. It is therefore normal that, for a musician who mainly uses memory and analytical skills, the Meludia approach might seem like a jump into a void. We lose our bearings, we can no longer only rely on the simple score and we are “forced to listen”.

So if you are afraid of the sensory approach, of being without a theoretical crutch, this is one more reason to try the Meludia experience! We are convinced that you will enjoy your instrument more once you let go and trust your ear. After all, even with an analytical approach (and that’s the beauty of the brain), we develop many musical skills. Learning to trust your ear is more of a psychological leap than a skill leap. Once you let it go, it all comes really fast.

For more information on this topic, follow this link:

From developing a musical ear to sight reading, discover the Meludia method


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