Learning music is a great way to develop a fun and relaxing hobby that also stimulates the mind. Whether you are interested in learning music theory or playing an instrument, music is easier to learn than you think! Once you've mastered the fundamentals, all you have to do is practice a bit of the trickier stuff each day, until you've finally gotten a good handle on the instrument or music theory!
Method 1 of 3: Know the Basics
Step 1. Study the musical alphabet
The musical alphabet is made up of only 7 letters (A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, or la, si, do, re, mi, fa, sol in international nomenclature), but it is the basic language that musicians use to write and speak about musical notes. Among these 7 notes there are also 5 other notes that are sharp or flats. Sharp notes represent 1 note higher in pitch than the regular letter they use, while flats are 1 note lower in pitch.
- For example, the sustain note is slightly higher in pitch than a regular note.
- These notes are always in alphabetical order, going from a G (A to G), on any instrument. When you go past the G note, the next note is just another A note and the whole order is repeated.
- If you play a musical instrument such as the piano, you can trace this alphabet on the instrument. For example, memorize where the note "C" is played on the piano and then you will also know where the C flat, C sharp, B, D, A, E, and F are on the opposite sides of the C key.
Step 2. Know the basics of sheet music reading
Scores are written in a set of horizontal and parallel lines called a staff. Other figures and small lines are written on or around the staff to indicate such things as what notes are played, how long each note is played, and in what rhythm the music should be played.
- Clefs are various shapes written at the beginning of a musical staff, which tell you which pitches are on which line or space on the staff. The treble clef looks like a kind of "et" sign, while the bass clef looks like a backwards C with two dots at the top.
- The key appears next to the clef and is made up of 1 or more # (sharp) or b (flat) symbols on individual lines of the staff. These symbols indicate that all notes played on that line must be played sharp or flat.
- The notes on the staff lines indicate which notes should be played on an instrument and are made up of 3 parts: the note head (a black oval that is open or closed), the stem (the vertical line attached to the head of the note) and the flag (the curved line at the top of the stem).
- Note that not all notes contain all 3 parts at the same time. Different combinations of open or closed note heads, stems, and flags tell you how long to play an individual note in terms of beats or fractional beats. For example, an open note without a stem or flag is played for 4 beats, while a closed note with a stem is played for 1 beat.
Step 3. Learn the difference between scale and tuning
Tuning refers to how high or low on an instrument a certain note is played, such as the note "C". There are 7 keys difference between 2 different pitches of the same note (for example, on a piano, you can play a note at a higher pitch by moving 7 keys to the right). Rather, scales are sets of notes that sound especially good when played sequentially and are therefore commonly used in songwriting.
- When you change the pitch of 1 note, you have to also change the pitch of any other note you play with that first note in a scale.
- There are major scales for each of the 7 notes. There are also minor scales, which are similar to the major scales, except that the third note of the scale is half a tone lower than the major scale.
Step 4. Get familiar with the chords
Chords are formed when 3 or more notes of the same pitch are played at the same time. After learning the different notes of the instrument, the next thing you should do is learn some of the most common chords played on it.
For example, the notes C, E, and G are commonly played together on a variety of instruments as a single chord
Step 5. Make sure you are aware of the importance of rhythm
Rhythm, in terms of music, refers to the consecutive arrangement of notes or beats placed at equal intervals of time. This means that you have to allow the same amount of silence between each musical note, or else the flow of the piece can be ruined.
- The rhythm with which a piece of music should be played is indicated on a staff with a time signature, composed of 2 numbers placed vertically next to the clef. The top number indicates how many beats are in a measure of music, while the bottom number represents the value of the note that represents 1 beat.
- For example, a signature of ¾ would indicate that each measure of a piece of music contains 3 beats, while each beat contains 4 notes.
Method 2 of 3: Do Music Theory Exercises
Step 1. Identify key signatures written on a sheet of music
The key signature indicates in which key the notes of the song will be played. These are represented by images of sharps or flats in 1 of the lines of the staff, corresponding to the key in which the song is found.
- So for example, a sharp symbol on the top line of the staff indicates that the piece of music is in G sharp.
- Try looking at several different written pieces of sheet music and see how many of the different key signatures you can identify. Write down the ones you can't identify and study them in more detail.
Step 2. Practice identifying the chords, scales, and notes you hear
This is a part of learning music theory called "ear training." Hear a single note, chord, or a few seconds of a musical instrument being played. Then try to name the note or notes that are being played just by listening to them.
- If you hear a chord or scale, try to identify the name of the chord or scale as well.
- If this is particularly difficult for you, try to start by identifying only 1 of the 7 natural notes when an individual note sounds. Once you've got the hang of it, move on to the scales, then the chords, and then the whole songs.
Step 3. Build chords and scales on a staff from scratch
Write a series of notes on the staff to build chords and scales that sound good to your mind. First write the clef, time signature and key on the staff. Then write the individual notes on the separate lines of the staff that make up the chord or scale you are trying to write.
- This is a useful exercise in mastering the writing component of music theory, as it forces you to write music solely on the basis of your proficiency with the "language" of music.
- Focus on building simple chords and scales at first. As you get more comfortable with this exercise, try writing longer and longer pieces of music. Eventually, you will have an entire song written!
Step 4. Use an instrument or sing to identify and play the notes written on a staff
This exercise trains you to easily convert written music into real, performed sound. Look at a score, identify the notes as they are written on the staff, and then sing those notes or play them on an instrument that has the notes marked (for example, a keyboard).
- Once you've mastered playing notes based on a score, practice playing chords and scales that you see written.
- Make sure to practice playing the notes in the rhythm indicated on the staff. If you have trouble with it, practice keeping the rhythm first by simply tapping your finger.
Method 3 of 3: Learn to Play a Musical Instrument
Step 1. Choose an instrument that you will have fun playing with
Regardless of the reasons you want to learn music, it will be much easier for you to stay motivated and persevere in learning an instrument if it is something you really enjoy. Experiment with several different instruments to see which one you enjoy playing the most.
If you can, see if there is a music store in your area that allows you to come in and briefly experiment with various of the instruments. Then if you like one of the instruments in particular, consider buying it from the store
Step 2. Practice playing notes, chords, and scales on the instrument
After mastering the concepts of notes, chords, and scales, learning to produce these sounds with your instrument is the first step in learning to play music. Start by practicing the notes first, then move on to the scales, and finally the chords.
Once you've mastered these different components, practice playing an entire song from beginning to end
Step 3. Take lessons with someone who knows how to play the instrument
You can find many music teachers available online or in newspaper classifieds. For the best results, try to find a music teacher with a music degree and teaching experience.
You can also watch instructional videos on YouTube if you don't want to pay for a real instructor
Step 4. Develop a daily practice schedule and stick to it
Learning to play an instrument is something that requires dedication; you cannot master the instrument overnight. Set aside a little time each day to practice the craft and commit to sticking to this routine for the long haul.
You don't have to spend all your time practicing; just set aside 15-30 minutes for practice and see how you progress little by little over time
Step 5. Set concrete goals for yourself each week
Goals should be realistic, measurable, and achievable, rather than general aspirations, so you can know when you've achieved them. Aim to learn a new chord, song, or style of playing on the instrument, depending on what you want to achieve by playing a musical instrument.