Learning Words and Tunes

Do you find it easier to learn words or tunes?

If you’re like me, my students, and most people I’ve asked, the answer is tunes. Thus the number of times you’ve sung along with the radio, and nailed the song but made up words.

I mention this for two reasons.

First, because it’s good to know this characteristic as you work at memorizing a piece: your effort should be directed to reflect your weaknesses. So, more time on words than on tunes.

Second, because I think this tells us something really important about our brains. We are hardwired to hold onto tunes we hear. Oliver Sacks argued that language is actually a useful by-product of our musical brains. I think our relative ease of learning songs vs. learning lyrics is very telling.