What is Music?

Before I go into the answer to that rather large question, I would like to say that my teaching method is somewhat unorthodox, and has been frowned upon by some teachers. Their main complaint is that I don't emphasize enough the importance of reading and writing notation. My answer to that is that if I don't know how myself, how on earth could I teach it? What I can do is play the guitar. I learned by ear starting at a very young age and I have my own way of 'seeing music'. Standard notation is another way of seeing music, a way I never learned properly. I wish that I had, of course, and I've certainly given learning it a good try over the years, but I think perhaps I'm a little dyslexic in that regard. I just can't seem to make those little symbols stay still on the page. There is a structure to music, though, and that structure can be described in plain old English and depicted using graphs and the guitar fretboard itself as notation or graph paper.

One more time for any frowners: I wish I could read music and teach notation, but I can't and don't. I agree that it would be better to be able to read than not, but I also believe that it's the making of music rather than the notating of it that's important, and that implying to beginners that you MUST read music is plain wrong. I'm living proof.

OK, here goes: What is music?

  • Music is a system with rules and regulations
  • Its raw ingredients are sound and time
  • The basic units of sound are notes, or pitches
  • The basic units of time are beats


Let's start with notes →