New ways of learning

I’m mostly a details and facts type of person. When learning something new, I usually like to start at the beginning and work my way through. When I was a child I learned to read music. It’s detailed and precise, and using sheet music can be one way of learning to play or sing a song.

However, in my choir we learn by ear and by repeating. We don’t use sheet music. It’s a different way of learning. My choir leader Gitika often teaches bits of songs starting in different places. It’s very rare that we will learn a song starting at the beginning and working through to the end. Instead, we might learn an introduction to one song, the ending to another and a chorus of another song. We also do a lot of repeating. Sometimes, it feels like we do the same bit over and over again. A few weeks later, we’ll go back to something and my mind is blank, but as soon as we start singing, it comes back to me. Muscle memory.

This way of learning doesn’t suit everyone. But I think it’s great! For starters, it means you don’t have to be able to read music to sing – even in 5 part harmony. You also don’t need to know any technical terms or what key we’re in, or even how many times to keep singing the same backing bit to a song. We learn by repeating and by listening to the other parts. And so we learn to feel when it’s time to change notes – by hearing what the other parts are doing. And that’s more fun than having to count 18 bars of singing the same thing.

Having learned all the bits to a song over a few weeks, we then put it all together. And then it makes sense and comes together.

I feel like this way of learning to sing is similar to the way I’ve been learning lessons on my Parkinson’s journey…


Different events take place and I don’t necessarily understand why at the time. Now I realise that bit by bit, I’ve been learning and re-learning an important lesson without even knowing it at the time. And then I see the big picture. I’ve had to learn some lessons the hard way, but they’ve brought me to where I need to be today. And I’m still learning and growing all the time on my Parkinson’s journey.

Sometimes learning isn’t about facts, figures and rules and doing everything in the right order – sometimes it’s about feelings. Listening to what’s going on around you. Allowing the lessons of life to seep in bit by bit. And trusting yourself – that what you’ve learned over time will help you – to know and feel what is the right thing to do.


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