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"Learning to Learn to Recognise the Guru Within" - South Indian Music Learning Series (Vol. 1)

This series is meant to help and guide the music learners. 'Learning to learn' has to be the ideal for one who is passionate about learning music or in fact, anything. This ideal will make one explore music "to follow knowledge like a sinking star beyond the utmost bound of human thought!". Now let us learn about some broad categories in musicality.

Broad Categories of Musicality

1) Musical prodigies...

  1. are capable of imitating any melody, however complex either in voice or on any instrument or both.

  2. stylistically prodigious (could be stylistically limited in musical responses).

  3. capable of imitating any sound heard (but a prodigy will not stop at that).

  4. have coordination capabilities.

  5. are emotionally rich in expression.

  6. are creative by nature.


  1. Capacity to imitate or adapt is rather high. Musical family based prodigies have great advantages. With proper care and training they can be outstanding. The proclivity to perform is rather high.

  2. Those outside of this circle would need a proper teacher, who is committed to teaching systematically at the prodigious level.

2) Musically capable...

  1. vary in degrees.

  2. may have beautiful voice capable of negotiating simple melodies within certain limits and can naturally hum or whistle a film or a classical tune.

  3. are capable of simple rhythmic responses.

  4. can be trained well to be good performers and teachers.


  1. This category can be easily misled to competitions and showmanship enthused by parents, friends and the media.

  2. Those who are not trained by sensitive, intelligent and committed teachers may lose a great amount of time, energy and resources before they can find the right teacher.

  3. Since music learning involves, precise learning, proper practice with guidance and periodic evaluation, they are likely to be frustrated before they can find a good teacher.

  4. Unlearning is the most frustrating experience!

3) Musical talents hidden but not brought to the surface or induced

  1. Some people may have naturally beautiful voice but may not know they are musically capable.

  2. They love to listen to any kind of music. They are open minded.


  1. A formal training is sure to transform them. The progress will be slow but consistency in learning and practice will surely make them move forward. Once induced and motivated can do very well, there is no stopping them.

  2. They can perform well enough with consistency in learning.

  3. They can be good patient teachers.

  4. Once they acquire the required musical intelligence, they will be able to engage in any activity with self confidence.

4) Musically inactive

  1. They may be called tone-deaf, but it is not a disease. It means they have no proper responses to pitch. They may sometimes respond to simple melodies and might unconsciously sing but might lack coordination skills.

  2. They could be brilliant in any other field.


  1. Inducing them to music makes them more vibrant and emotionally more expressive.

  2. Coordination skills make them aware of musicality in other areas of intelligence.

How do you recognise and assess the musical sensitivities?

  1. Regularity in beat (with or without metronome): 1) use a metronome, 2) set it to 60 beats per minute, 3) keep beating to synchronise with it and 4) observe whether you can do it.

  2. Responses to simple rhythm: if you can do 1, you might be able to do this

  3. Responses to more complex rhythms: you would need an expert to help you if you have access.

  4. Rhythmic memory-short and long: ability to repeat a rhythmic phrase short or long.

  5. Consistent reproduction of one single tone: sing a tone and hold on to it.

  6. Response to simple tunes: sing or whistle any tune, popular, folk or classical.

  7. Complex and more ornamented tunes (for advanced learners).

  8. Melodic memory-short and long: ability to repeat a melody

  9. Stylistic flexibility: see whether you can imitate any style of music (for advanced learners).

  10. Cross rhythmic response: keep a tala steady in a simple 4 pulses to a beat and recite a rhythmic phrase repeatedly (for advanced learners).

  11. Ambidexterity or multi tasking musical orientation: two different talas in two hands (very advanced level)

  12. Clarity and speed in articulation in languages: repeat a phrase slow and fast with proper intonation and stress on the syllables.

  13. Linguistic intonation: check whether your pronunciation is correct with respect to syllables peculiar to the language, say Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu and so on.

  14. Emotional expressions in speech: by reading or speaking are you able to emote?

  15. Sensitivity tests for details in pitch variations (gamakas) and micro rhythms: (for advanced learners).

  16. Capability and accuracy in rhythmic responses (conscious recognition of silence between two activities) (for advanced learners).

  17. Synchronization: perfect coordination of phrases sung or played (for advanced learners).

  18. Harmonic capabilities however rudimentary: (for advanced learners).

  19. Structural understanding: structure of a tala or a given melody. (for advanced learners).

  20. Creativity within a given rhythmic and melodic structure (for advanced learners).


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