Learning How to Play a Song Takes Away Its Magic

I love learning how to play new songs. I’m always listening to music in my apartment, and inevitably something will come on that I can’t help but sing to, and I’m immediately compelled to drop everything and figure it out on the piano.

I usually start by looking up the chords online, and then I figure out a voicing on the instrument that’s close enough to the original while satisfying my impatience to start rockin’ now. Once I more or less have it down, I am in heaven, playing and singing as if discovering the song for the first time.

But that novelty soon wears off. Is this song really only the same three chords over and over, including the chorus? Has it been the whole time?

When we’re listening to music we don’t normally break it apart into its singular units. We’re just experiencing it pure, without analysis — that’s part of its joy. But learning to play a song is like opening the curtain in the Wizard of Oz to reveal that this grand spectacle is little more than a person pulling on a few common knobs that we’ve probably seen before a million times. The illusion fades, and we can never see the magic the same way again.

And yet, there is still magic there. The fact that the musician, through sheer passion and emotion and being tapped into the way sounds can affect our brains and our hearts, was able to cook something so divine from such few and simple ingredients...well, there’s beauty in that.