On Musicality

A working definition of Musicality

As the wikipedida article notes, a working definition of “musicality” is hard to pin down. First noting the difficulty in identifying the underlying “cognitive and biological mechanisms” it makes a stab with:

A person considered musical has the ability to perceive and reproduce differences in aspects of music including pitch, rhythm, and harmony

But to my mind that focuses only on a limited set of skills and misses other important but “softer” aspects that may or may not be important to us as individuals:

  • an enjoyment of experiencing music - yes, listening counts;
  • a desire to develop skills or wider appreciation or exposure;
  • seeking collaboration with others in a shared endeavour;
  • a creative outlet;
  • for academic satisfaction;

For some musicality may be seen as the ability to technically perform a difficult passage. Others may understand it as an emotional outlet by performing or through composing or writing. Personally, when the kids were young we experienced musicality in picking up random instruments and playing simple lines en-mass with others as guided by community musicians. While some may be happy with a handful of skills, others may want to continuously learn and develop a deepening understanding and ability.

“My name is Steve and I’m a tech-aholic”

My musical story starts with a bad experience in my first ever lesson, leading to my self identifying as ‘not musical’. Then a friend turned up with a radio circuit board and demonstrated how by touch various parts we could get squeals and burps (these days it’s called “circuit bending”). I was hooked, leading to hobby electronics projects like electronic bongos, a stereo amplifier and more. Then I discovered digital electronics and computers but eventually circled back to digital audio projects like DA / AD converters and MIDI. Live sound recording also proved a great experience.

I very much enjoyed electronics and had also developed a broad (post teenage) interest in listening to music and learning about the activities and ideas of the musicians. But I realised this was all one step removed from actually being engaged in music myself and I’d love to ‘be musical’, or in other words, ‘have musicality’.

I made several faultering attempts to self learn as an adult through books and lessons. First with keyboard and then bass. But I guess the mental barriers were still there and time pressure meant minimal progress. I identified ear training as a key skill I need and found a few programs (including GNU Solfege and Auralia which are poles apart). But to be honest, I too easily slipped back to the safe land of technical ‘left brian’ aspects and book learning, resulting in frustration.

More recently I’ve managed, with the help of an awesome teacher, to get Grade 1 on the bass. This feels like I have made a milestone of sorts and I’m figuring out what to do next. I expand on that in later posts


So I’ve read quite a lot of books on theory, a natural tendency of myself and I suspect many adult learners. As an adult who like to learn new things, music was different in that the usual approach of fitting new concepts into the framework of my existing knowledge didn’t work. Most books I ead fudged the explanation of concepts like “key” and describe them in terms of other musical concepts. Not helpful to a complete newbie. To some extent you right back at square one as when learning the alphabet or numbers. You just have to take some things as just being so and memorise them. Then you build on those. That’s hard for someone like me who always wants to understand ‘why’ something is so.

But I’ve finally come to realise it is actually engaging in the making music that matters most. Developing musicality as an internal understanding requires making music. Like any skill this takes a lot of persistent, applied practice and driving through the frustration of feeling “I’ll never get this”. This drifts into self improvement psychology terratory.


That then is the background to FullMeasure and what I’ll try to address here. We’ll cover things that help with developing a Full Measure of ‘musicality’ through exploring skills development plus psychology along with useful tools, services and technology.

It’s definitely NOT going to be “Tech for tech’s sake, Money for God’s sake” as 10 CC almost sang. Or I’ll just get distracted for making music

Support Steve at ko-fi.com