Recently, it occurred to me that the way I react to music is rather unique. It goes a little like this:
If I like the song, my toe will begin to tap in time with the music. My head may bop. As long as the melody doesn't vary too much from verse to verse, humming along is also a distinct possibility.
If I don't like the song, I may still unconsciously tap, bop, or hum. Consciously, however, I only give the song one more chance to win me over. If it's no better the second time around, from then on it will fall on deaf ears.1
Thus, the rest of this guide is only applicable on songs I do like.
The toe-tapping becomes more enthusiastic. If I'm alone (or wtf),2 my humming turns to singing during the chorus, and I may hum the bass line or insert backup vocals in other spots. My fingers tap on the closest available surface, miming the fingering on a violin. Strangers start to give me funny looks.
Instead of singing along, I harmonize. My fingering now mimics a potential violin duet. I've got the chorus pretty much memorized, and have started to pick up the rest of song. If I'm alone or wtf, I may dance with reckless abandon.3 My fianceé starts to give me funny looks. Strangers back away slowly.
I try out different harmonies, sometimes matching up with the singer, sometimes with a guitar or another instrument playing a melody. The finger-tapping becomes faster and more complex, and I may do some percussion with my other hand. My dancing is recklesser and more abandon-y. My fianceé backs away slowly.
Here's where it gets interesting. Although I've sung along ever since listen #2, only now do I begin to actually pay attention to the words I'm singing. Only now do I start to realize what the song is about. My fianceé, on the other hand, has known ever since her first listen.
There are exceptions, of course. I may catch on earlier if the lyrics are peculiar, insightful, or peculiarly incite-ful. But typically, it takes much longer than it should for the lyrics to find their way past my tongue to where they can penetrate my skull.
You might think it's odd for a writer to notice the music long before the words, but the explanation's simple: I've really only been a writer for four years. I've been a musician since I was four.
You do the math.
But enough about me. What about you, dear readers? How do you listen to music? Do you hear the lyrics first, or the notes? Are you a toe tapping, head-bopping, singing, dancing fool? Or do you just lay back and let the music wash over you?
Inquiring minds want to know. And so do I.
1 Unless I'm holding an umbrella.
2 With the fianceé.
3 i.e. Like a white guy, but with rhythm.