If you listen to a piece of music, will you hear the same as me? It would make sense that we both hear the same notes and lyrics, so we must hear the same thing. Sure, our emotional response may differ to it, but the music is exactly what it is and can only be heard in that one fixed way. We will both here the same words during the song. We may even be able to write down the words that we hear. But can we both write down the music?
Exploring a Song
When you go to music college, you will learn to not just listen to music, but to actually hear it as well. You will be able to write down notes at the right place, in the right rhythm and for the right duration. You can hear bent pitches and small embellishments.
When you listen to the song again, you will start to pick up on its structure. You will figure out what the form of the song is and you will be able to judge whether or not that was the correct choice of form.
Then, you will start to pick up on the different instruments, including the summer. You will figure out which instruments play chords and which ones play melodic linear lines. You will also learn to pick up on the harmonic intervals.
Once you are at that point, you will start to be able to tell how many chords are used in the song, usually by the strings, keyboards and/or guitars. You may even be able to find out which chords those are how they are spread out, which can be open or close voicing. And you will learn to write all of that down. This takes years of practice, but it is only when you master this that you can truly hear music.
It is at this point that you can learn to transcribe music. You can only do that if you can both hear and analyze the song you are listening to. This is something that takes a great deal of intuition as well. Most musicians will tell you that it is something they ‘just get’, rather than something that they can explain. Just as some singers are able to reach the perfect pitch, they tend to be able to ‘just do’ that, and not have to think about it.
If you want to know whether you have ‘it’ or not, try a little experiment, presuming you have learned all of the above in music school, of course. Sit down in a quiet room somewhere and imagine a song. Pick something easy like The Star Spangled Banner. Now write it down. If you are able to do that, then you are able to truly ‘hear’ a song as well.
Everybody can listen to music and they will hear the same. The difference lies in having to ability to truly hear a piece of music, to be able to analyze it. Not everyone can, or would want to, do this.