I wrote here before about my issue with studying intervals. I got the will again and went to train my ear, but I have a great fear all of a sudden that I will listen to music and melodies recognizing intervals, not being able to enjoy the magic of just listening... What advice can you give me?
Yes, it'll change how you listen to music. Anything you learn about will affect your appreciation. Watch a magic trick, and it's magic. Find out how it's done, and it's not magic any more - to you.
Several of my students have said that now, they don't listen to music like they used to. ' I know exactly what's happening in that part', 'I know what trick's being used there', etc.
It will change the way you perceive music, but not necessarily in a bad way. For most, it's a positive thing, but the trouble is, you won't know what the effect will be for you until, actually, it's too late. Can't turn the clock back then...
But it's not just intervals, it's the whole gamut. Intervals is but a small part of it. Realising you've just heard a tts, or an interrupted cadence won't make the music any less enjoyable, only make your appreciation of it broader, and probably give you more inspiration to try out new things in your own playing. Go for it !
I go back and listen to music I haven't listen to in a long time and I hear things I didn't hear before because my ear has improved and I have learned things I didn't know before. I can now actively listen and understand more than before, which is awesome. At the same time I can just listen and enjoy.
I Understand your fear but I honestly think you will enjoy music more as you understand more and can hear better.
One positive side effect it may have is that you will be more picky and you will listen to better music. You will still like the stuff you liked before (maybe) but you will want to listen to better music. Same reason you don't read kids books anymore. Doesn't mean you can't enjoy reading cat in the hat with your kids because it holds a special place in your heart and you want to share it with your kids but maybe now you want to read Vonnegut. It's a natural part of growing up and getting better.
In my opinion, enjoyment increases with greater awareness. I still enjoy simple punk music, as I did when I had no theory training, but now I also enjoy complex musical compositions, across genres I would never have approached back then.
I can still "just listen" but I can also listen and analyse, or listen and appreciate the skill.
In general, I agree with the sentiments that learning music only improves appreciation of music. However, I find the best way to get over a fear is to embrace it. It makes sense to look at some corner cases where such fears may be realistic.
From experience there are times where you can have to overcome training. I have perfect pitch. If I go to a concert, like a Rush concert, I am immediately aware when they tune a song down a step to fit with the vocalists aging vocal tract. That awareness is part of having perfect pitches. What I do with that information is up to me. If I become unhappy that they're not performing the song properly, then my training has gotten in my way. If, on the other hand, I recognize that these musicians are adapting so that I get to hear a live concert when they'd otherwise have to cancel due to vocal limitations, then I can appreciate the sound.
Learning can change your taste. If you listen to a lot of electronic music, and you start learning about the classics, you may start to develop a taste for the richer sound that a full orchestra can bring to the table. This may cause you to appreciate the electronic music less. That's fine. Musical tastes shift. Remember, there was a time in your life where singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" at the top of your lungs on repeat for an hour straight was really entertaining. (Your parents thank you for growing out of that phase)
Beyond that, the only other way I can think of where learning hurts enjoyment is if you learn it the wrong way. The more positive the better. You want to hear your favorite song and think "Holy crap! That's a diminished seventh! That's why that sounds so cool!" If you think that way, the learning has added to your enjoyment. If you focused on negative training, say high-stress quizzing on intervals with self flagellation if you get them wrong and small mis-tunes thrown in to trick you, you'll likely develop stress whenever you hear intervals. It should be obvious, but if you relax while you're learning intervals, this shouldn't happen.
Of course, there are things you cannot unlearn. You can't unlearn just how many four chord songs there are, and you may have to snicker when you hear that progression. But even having heard Axis of Awesome make fun of that chord progression, my enjoyment of the songs they make fun of hasn't diminished.
Maybe if you play cello, the enjoyment of those songs might diminish. Poor souls.
You can still feel the same magic and appreciate the same music
You can still enjoy music in the same way after acquiring a trained ear--you just have to learn how to "turn off" your analytical brain. You can even enjoy the same music you enjoy now.
There was a time when I was transcribing jazz solos for 2-3 hours a day. After several months of this, it began happening automatically whenever I listened to music, even if I was simply sitting in a coffee shop with jazz playing in the background. It was like my OCD took over whenever music hit my ears, and I couldn't turn it off.
You might hear the suggestion that you'll appreciate different music after you train your ear--that you'll lose your appreciation for pop/simple music. I don't think this is true. The first time I got that magical feeling back was actually when I was listening to simpler, repetitive music. When the music is simple and repetitive, the exercise of analyzing it becomes boring, and the brain stops trying. And complex doesn't necessarily equate to good (which is a hard thing for a jazz musician to say!).
That said, I find that I most easily get the feeling back when I:
- listen to live music
- play music in a band/group
- sing along to music
- dance to music
- listen to music that is very simple, but still good
Gaining a new appreciation
The final thing worth mentioning is that studying music opened my eyes to a very different type of beauty in music. It's not the magical feeling you're describing--it's an appreciation for the analytical and mathematical structure. I remember studying a Brad Mehldau solo and having this light-bulb moment when I recognized a motif he had used 8 "choruses" earlier in the same solo. This type of appreciation is equally exciting, and it's not possible without studying music.
The more you know, the more you are connected to people in the know, both past and present. The more you know, the more choices you can make, the more discriminating you can be, the more you can lead others to quality stuff. No matter what you do in music, whether you play, teach, produce, etc. all this knowledge will help you be better at it.
As Tim said, this applies to every bit of music (and life in general.) Learning and growing is like opening Pandora's box - you don't know what will happen as a result, and you can't close it and return to before.
I remember when I was in Freshman theory in college and first learned about non-chord tones. My mind was blown. A whole new world was opened to me and, suddenly, I became a MUCH better player, as I had a greatly increased understanding of the movement of harmonic tension and resolution in the music.
When I returned to school later to study composition, I became frustrated with music I used to enjoy playing which I now see as just "meh". On one hand, it was disappointing to realize that what I thought was good really wasn't. On the other hand, knowing the details that are missing from those compositions helps me know how to improve my own. Now, I make sure my musical "diet" is more full of significant pieces which I trust to be high quality.