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About musophone

Imagine you want to learn Spanish.

You go to a teacher, and in the first lesson they teach you how to pronounce the letters. In the second they give you a Spanish nursery rhyme to read out loud, and as you progress you have to memorise harder and harder poems. After a while your friends say, Show us your Spanish skills!, so you stand up, recite a poem by Pablo Neruda, and they all say how great your Spanish is.

Then you go to Mexico. You need to ask the way to the train station but you can’t. Why not? Because you weren’t learning how to speak Spanish, you were learning how to recite it. That would be ridiculous, right? No-one teaches a language that way.

This is how music is taught.

In the first lesson you’re taught how to read the notes. In the second you’re given a nursery rhyme to sight read, and as you progress you have to memorise harder and harder pieces. Eventually – if you get that far – you can perform sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven, but if someone sings you a simple tune you can’t play it back to them.

Music is a language. Jazz musicians are fluent in music. If a saxophonist is playing a solo and the pianist throws her a wacky chord, the saxophonist has to adjust her solo to fit. If the two of them build to a climax the drummer has to match their energy. In a jazz band, the musicians communicate with each other, in real time. But this approach isn’t limited to jazz.

Mozart was a great improviser, and so was Beethoven. Chinese and Indian classical musicians can all improvise and play by ear, so what went wrong with Western music? We stopped teaching music like a language.

musophone is here to change all that.

On this site you’ll learn the words, phrases and grammar of music, while learning to play it. I’ll teach you how to improvise, play by ear, and compose, using real musical examples. After a while you’ll be fluent in music. It’s a long process, just like learning any language, but so long as you’re enjoying every step of the way it won’t matter how long it takes. The journey is the reward.

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