https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jeanette525

Teaching Music on Duolingo: A Response

Hi all! A few hours ago, Duolingo user FrederickEason made a suggestion for a music course on Duolingo. I liked this idea so much, I went ahead and applied to be a course contributor for a music course. Yes, I know it probably won't happen, at least not any time soon, but at least now they know there is interest for it. Here is my application:

"I strongly believe that music is a language to be considered alongside any of the other traditional languages. While it may not be "spoken" or "written" in a way that would typically be thought of, it definitely has its own unique aural and written components.

Music is a way to communicate thoughts and feelings to other people, across cultural and language barriers. Most cultures in the world use today's notation system, and every culture from the ancient Greeks to African tribes to modern day Americans have used music as a tool to entertain and communicate.

Possible lessons in a music course could be: -notation: identifying and placing notes on the staff; recognizing clefs; understanding rhythmic notation/note value; understanding musical terms and symbols

-ear training: hearing and identifying played pitches, intervals, and scales; playing back rhythms by tapping a key; hearing and identifying chord qualities and functions

-music principles: understanding and building scales; spelling chords; creating chord progressions; basic part writing (how to move from chord to chord)

-music history: learning basic facts about well-known composers; hearing well-known pieces and identifying them by ear; instruments of the orchestra, from past to present-day

-world music: listening to and identifying music from other cultures; learning about the characteristics of music in other cultures (for example, what makes Native American music unique?); music genres

I know it's highly unlikely that Duolingo will add this as a course in the near future, seeing as it's a completely different format from what's in place, but I wanted to submit this application just to let you know that there are people out there who would be willing to build a course like this, and millions of people who could benefit from a music course. It could be used in any music classroom, from kindergarten up to college level. It would be a fantastic alternative to expensive (and non-user-friendly) ear training/notation programs on the market currently.

As for qualifications, I am in my third year as a university music education student, and have been reading and playing music for 10 years. I am proficient on most band/orchestra instruments and currently teach piano. I have passed through all my music theory, ear training, and music literature (history) requirements. It is my passion to teach music and I would absolutely love the opportunity to build a course to teach music across the globe."

January 20, 2015

47 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StrapsOption

I never thought of that before, but that's actually a fantastic idea. And it would be easy enough to make courses for speakers of lots of different languages. Full support!

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jeanette525

Hmm there would need to be a British English vs. American English version.

January 21, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StrapsOption

Do you mean 'half-note'? It could say 'minim/half-note', but I think it better to give the notes their real names.

January 21, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jeanette525

"minim" isn't wrong; it's just another term for it.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StrapsOption

No, I'm saying minim is right . The real name for the note is minim, but it is also called 'half-note' because that's how long it is. Its real name is 'minim'.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

They are both 'right' - I believe minim is the older term, but neither is incorrect.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/idshanks

Half-note is equally its real name. It's just a matter of which region's musical tradition you are most familiar with.

Let's not slip into any sort of ethnocentrism or cultural elitism; gods know there's enough of that with languages and dialects as it is before dragging it into music as well.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StrapsOption

So which one should we use, or should we have 'minim/half-note'? I just thought that's a bit wordy.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/idshanks

There are options. It'd be quite feasible to have a setting, but incorporating both would be quite useful and IMO preferable - after all, they're just synonymous words in a language, and Duolingo can already deal with such things quite effectively. Teaching both ensures new students are best able to understand the difference/equivalence and be prepared for a situation in which their regional variant is not the one in use.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

Both would definitely be the best option. It is far better to have the flexibility that comes with knowing both systems, and neither system is inherently superior.

As a Brit, I sometimes find it slightly frustrating that all the English translations on here are American English - "pants" does not mean the same to me as to an American. I wish that both variants of the language were included. I don't see any good reason for one or the other variant of the musical language to be excluded, either.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StrapsOption

That seems reasonable enough.

January 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/connorhay12

Great ideas! A music course would really help me play the clarinet better.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

I think it's a fantastic idea! I would certainly take that course.

I had thought of a series of courses on everyday technology, so that we understand how things work and know how to fix them if they break, or make them from scratch or from parts if we want to. I'm a geeky engineer and so such things fascinate me. We could start with simple stuff like lamps and switches, then move on to electric motors and generators, and then other household machines like vacuum cleaners, heaters, dishwashers, washers and dryers, air conditioners and refrigerators. Skills could be simple electric circuits, magnetism, motors, then valves, pumps, and maybe fans, then on to appliances like mixers, blenders, hair dryers, drills, saws, and on up to machines with complicated timing and controls like fridges and washers. I would love to help build such a course, and it would be a great start for future engineers and inventors.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brina431719

Fantastic application! Of course there would be limits as to what Duo could do with a music course, and I agree that there are lots of 'traditional' languages that should probably take precedent, but if there are lots here already interested and several people with the ability to create the course, then surely it's got to be worth seeing if a music course could fit into Duo's models. It might be that it needs a different type of course structure that can't be offered here, but I'd definitely be interested to here what Luis and the gang have to say about the idea :)

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jeanette525

Agreed. Like others have suggested, perhaps another website, such as Khan Academy would be better for a course like this. Khan Academy actually does have a few music lessons on it now, I learned today. I haven't had a chance to explore them yet, but it looked like they were primarily videos. The problem with that is that there is little to no interaction with the learner. It's like sitting and listening to a lecture, which might be effective and useful for some people, but not for others.

I would love to see a spin-off site to Duolingo, dedicated to giving free education to the world, with all different topics. Hundreds of courses could be designed using the Incubator with these types of gamified exercises.

Like I said, I doubt this will get added, and I'm not going to be pushy or obnoxious about them creating a course for it. But I wanted to get people thinking about the possibilities of this site, and also about how music can be compared to a language. Looks like I've done that. :)

January 21, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DogePamyuPamyu

I can't read notes. That was so hard for me. I memorized piano and violin songs by ear for like 5 or 6 years before I gave up. Notes are so hard to learn how to read. ;~;

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jeanette525

DogePamyuPamyu, it sounds like you have a fantastic ear, but need some more help on your notation reading! That is perfectly normal.

language020, everyone is different. While note reading may come easily to you, it might be difficult for other people. Note reading came easily to me too, but I struggled to learn the ear training aspects of music. My current piano student is the opposite. Like DogePamyuPamyu, she can play things by ear really well, but struggles to read the notes.

If Duolingo were to build a music course, I would love to have it offer many different skills, to help people struggling on different things.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DogePamyuPamyu

Yeah this is a pretty good idea and it'd be good for music classes... But if Duolingo teaches music, why not also teach other off-topic subjects like a course for art techniques? It's the same concept. I feel like Duolingo is more for languages.

Doesn't stop anyone from making a Duolingo-like course on another website for music. Maybe courses in different kinds of music, different instruments. $$$ ;)

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Skoldpaddor

Luis has mentioned the possibility of using Duolingo to teach reading. Why not music? Especially considering that there are several musical languages.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

Because an art technique is not a language the way musical notation is.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/G0108

I didn't mean it would be easy for him. I was just giving my input.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/G0108

I have been learning how to play the Trombone for two years now and notes aren't all that difficult to read.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DogePamyuPamyu

IDK, it's hard for me.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

Everyone is different. Some people pick it up quickly, others struggle.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MusingThoughts

Definitely! I love music and that would certainly rock!

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/The_wrighter

As someone who plays a few instruments, I must say that a course like this which teaches a foundation in music theory and ear training would be incredibly valuable. I've taken my fair share of collegiate music courses and ear training alone is a life saver. I would totally support this!!!

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SarahBecraft

I think it's a great idea in theory... I would love to learn music in my spare time. I am very fond of cello music in particular (though obviously learning keyboarding would probably be easier, as keyboards can be bought much less expensively) and I can hardly remember how to read notes (not even touching composition.)

What I don't understand is, why would DuoLingo be best for this? To me, a lot of this sounds like it would function best in a completely different type of interactive program. Some of this actually sounds like it would be a GREAT Khan Academy course.

Just some food for thought, there are other sites like DuoLingo that this type of music education may function better on. (And in fact, some of the ideas you have spoken of - and some I'm seeing other people mention - sound like they could be their entirely own program design and/or Khan Academy coursework.)

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/swntzu

This sounds like a great idea although I don't think that duolingo is really the right place for it.

However, it sounds like it could be an excellent business opportunity if someone were to create a site that uses an approach similar to duolingo to teach music...

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/psionpete

Good luck with your application but I cannot see Duo considering it when there are so many real languages that need to be produced.

I mean, Music mainly consists of notes (vocabulary) but it has no verbs or grammar. Perhaps I am wrong but something like Memrise would be a better platform for teaching music theory.

Italian would be a good language for musicians because many musical terms are Italian (piano forte for example).

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/frankenstein724

David Pesetsky, a world famous syntactician (relative to the world of linguistics, of course) actually has a whole talk about how music is grammatical just like spoken language. It's really neat. I don't know that there is really enough material for a full blown music course (though I'd be willing to be proven wrong) but just pointing out that there are arguments that it is more grammatical than most people would think.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Skoldpaddor

I passed the AP Music Theory exam (barely), and I would like to say that there is more than enough for a lot of courses. The course wouldn't just be how to read music. It would be a full, interactive, beautiful music theory course with ear training and everything.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/frankenstein724

Fair. I took a beginner-to-intermediate music theory course in college and I can also attest that after the first week or two of stuff I already knew, I was never bored in class (as in, plenty of new material, etc), but that wasn't the main point of my comment, either.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/psionpete

thanks, I didn't know that.

January 21, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jeanette525

Music is extremely grammatical. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but it's definitely there. The entire composition course I'm taking right now is comparing music to language in a huge analogy. We're analyzing how people communicate with each other and how to transfer that to our music. Our textbook isn't a music theory book, but a communication book.

There are notes, and those could be compared to words, or maybe letters. The scale of the key you're in (in tonal music) determines your alphabet. Chord progressions dictate which notes can follow which, sort of like a sentence structure. An entire chord progression or musical phrase could be compared to a sentence. At the end, the goal of both spoken language and music is the same: to communicate thoughts and feelings to others.

Also, I agree about the Italian. Even my limited Spanish and Italian helps me identify root words in my musical terms.

January 21, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

Most musicians who've been playing for any length of time already know all the Italian they need to read music. (I don't actually speak a word of Italian, but can often understand snippets of the spoken or written language because of my knowledge of French and of musical terms)

The language of musical notation is an entirely different proposition.

January 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/scarcerer

I'm curious to how you translated that to music to prove you're qualified.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jeanette525

I could sing it, if you like! lol

January 21, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Klgregonis

Khan Academy might be a better place for this sort of course. I'm not sure if they accept volunteer contributors, though. By the way, I do think that speaking with people in a second language, and playing music by ear in a jam session, do have things in common..

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/makemusic

UM YES! If my username doesn't already give it away, I would STRONGLY support a course like this. I'm a classical violinist and pianist and take advanced music theory and plan on going on in music. It would be absolutely fantastic if duolingo had a music course. Yes, yes, yes.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

If this course happened, I would totally be on board for helping create it.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/nova9127

Wow... Very original idea! I would definitely learn music on Duo!!

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/skirkwood27

I totally agree! Music is a language, just like any spoken kind.

January 21, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dr.Manhattan95

I actually proposed something like this wayy far back. I didn't get a response, but I hope you have better luck than I do. :)

January 21, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FranciscaL361464

Me gustaría saber que pasó con esto? estan realizando el curso ya? :)

October 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ConorGilse

This would be utterly fantastic. I would definitely take this course!!!

April 29, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/zoey473

I heard of a new service called Yousician, but I have not tried it yet... ~$10/month Hmm

May 7, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lasse_Grubbe

I agree. This is a fantastic idea! So I ended up spending two years creating a music theory website based on the same principles as Duolingo (free, gamified exercises): https://www.musicca.com

Contrary to the suggested courses in the original post, I have combined music notation, ear training, and music principles into the same courses (based on chords, intervals, scales and more). Learning will be improved if you practice all skills combined, rather than a skill at a time (but you are very welcome to only do the ear training exercises if you prefer this learning path).

I hope you like it, though there are improvements to be made and more topics to be included. Working on that :) Any comments are greatly appreciated. Thanks.

April 18, 2019
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