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comment How can I move beyond learning songs?
Great answer, but I would add a couple of things in terms of Ear Training. The first is to learn the style of music. When I first started in a Gospel Choir that didn't use music, it took me a while to get an ear for how the Gospel harmonies are put together. (I come from a strict classical music upbringing.) The second is to transition from see->finger->play->hear to hear->finger->play. A musician with good ear-training can hear a note and then just finger the note without having to first think about what note it is.
comment How is counterpoint different from harmony?
Counterpoint is one of the reasons I have always enjoyed playing Bach. The 2nd part is not secondary and just harmony with the 1st part. It stands on its own and often crosses the 1st part, making is fun to play.
comment Deciphering the series of numbers shown for songs in a hymn book
@KeithS I knew there was a better name. I just couldn't seem to find / recall it. Thanks.
comment What is the importance of tempo and time-signatures?
6/8 can be done either as ONE two three FOUR five six or ONE two THREE four FIVE six, depending how the composer chooses to use it. In some pieces, the two may both be used for the same measure in different parts to create a hemiola effect. (Paul Creston's setting of Psalm XXIII is a great example of this.)
comment What does a conductor actually do?
The conductor is most often the only person who can see all of the parts that are being played. Normally, the musicians in an orchestra only have their own parts and a few queues some editor thought might possibly be useful (but usually aren't). Thus it is usually only the conductor who can get the orchestra back together should something goes wrong (like the featured guest soloist forgetting to repeat a section during the performance and instead inserting a new cadenza).