My troubled experience with music as a child

As an instrument maker you may assume that music has played a deep roll in my life. Unfortunately that wasn't the case and I only grasped it as an adult.

It's a strange outcome looking back at it because I grew up surrounded by instruments including piano, guitar and multiple recorders. However neither of my parents actively played them. My dad used to play the clarinet but he stopped before I was born.

Around the age of 5 or 6 I had music lessons on the keyboard and violin but it didn't connect with me at the time. Exposure to my grans folk and theater music lead me to develop an interest in music around the age of 10. I remember particularly liking the songs from the musical Oliver.

I wanted to learn to play these but did not know how to relate what I was hearing to an instrument. The piano was intimidating with so many keys and I did not know the fingerings for the recorder. Consequently it was extremely difficult to make anything musical. When I did by chance there was no clear progression and I quickly lost interest.

Several years later when I started high school I remember one music class that introduced the basics of sheet music. For the first time ever something actually made sense. I took home the music from the class and learned to play Fur Elise on the piano.

This small success raised several questions: what are the black keys for? Why are multiple keys called 'A' when they clearly sound different? The music teacher in school shrugged off the questions. I had other interests that were proving to be more fruitful so music was once again abandoned.

It only 'clicked' for me in my early 20's. I happened to play Final Fantasy 9 which I'd missed as a child. The games music strongly connected with me and inspired me to attempt to learn it. Unlike my prior experiences access to information wasn't a problem anymore. I discovered a tutorial that explained the major scale formula and within a few minutes had an idea why the black keys exist.

Simultaneously I discovered the origin of octaves. When the frequency of a note is doubled or halved the human mind perceives both pitches equivalently. For example the note A4 has a frequency of 440Hz. If this is doubled to 880Hz you get A5. Similarly the note A3 is half at 220Hz. This realization allowed me to grasp the repeating note names.

With these two revelations everything else fell into place. I started playing the ocarina and within a few weeks could play a number of the themes from FF9. From there I branched out to other instruments. I learned to play a few chord progressions on the guitar and began playing a wide range of traditional folk music. This has been my main interest since.