Musicmaking and Learning 101: Beyond the Staves and Headed Stems

“Sa Jingle Magazine natutong mag-gitara. Sinifra ang mga kanta sa cassette at plaka.”

I have heard this line from a song called “Betamax,” one of the most popular songs of Filipino band Sandwich. If we think of learning music, the first things that come to our minds are clefs, staves, note stems, and note heads. It’s fine because those elements were recurring in our MAPEH classes.

However, learning music, especially here in the Philippines is more than those elements. Here are some of the other ways music is learned and practiced.

1. Oral Tradition – This is the earliest method of learning music. The leader teaches the material and s/he continues to pass it from one generation to another. This is commonly done in teaching chants, Cordillera ensemble patterns, and kulintang.

2. Written Notation – The Western version is commonly found in learning materials used in conservatories, whether for instrument classes or for theory classes. Both the Chinese and Japanese use numbered notations where each pitch corresponds to a number.

3. “Ouido” – Also known as “sifra” in Tagalog slang, this is commonly done by bands performing in bars. As they hear an existing recording, they try to either decipher the chords as heard or tweak them a little. Cues are learned from the recordings provided but music directors and vocal coaches are present during rehearsals to guide the performers.