“Music is a language” – You’ve heard the phrase many times. And it is.
It can transcend cultural differences and verbal language barriers, can unite and divide, but if a musician, composer or songwriter is good at her job, it’s always clear to the audience what they were feeling when playing or writing the relevant piece of music.
The languages that musicians use to communicate with each other are many, and can differ greatly however.
I’m currently preparing for a gig in which I will MD (musically direct) the band to accompany 10 different choirs, each with a different choirmaster in charge. My job is to liaise with the choirmasters to get the particular arrangement they are using, and then to transfer that knowledge to the band so that we can get our stuff together in a short rehearsal on Saturday.
Some choirmasters prefer to use sheet music, some prefer chord charts, others prefer working from their ear.
Some have changed the key to suit their choir, some have changed the arrangement to suit their choir, others have done both.
Some have never played in a band situation before, and hence find it difficult to direct the band what to do, others know exactly what they want.
I love this job. When it comes to communicating with words, I can only speak one language fluently, but musically I can speak many and this gig requires me to use them all.
Verbally, some people only need to be good at speaking one language, others need to be able to speak many. It depends on what your situation and your job is.
Musically it’s the same – there’s no better or worse when it comes to how many languages you can speak, unless you can’t speak one that your job requires you to know. In that case, you need to get learning.