How to LEARN Music?


I'm working on a little Mystery Cult of my own with a focus on music, mostly inspired by the recent interest of one of my players. Reading and devising some things I found something I don't quite know how to solve:

How you learn music that you don't compose? Like, there are rules to create a song [two actually] that has certain Aestethic Quality, but I assume that you can teach that song to others to perform, no?

Or it is something of the Medieval Paradigm I'm not understanding? Like, people don't sing songs composed by others peoples for example.

Any help, official or homebrew, is welcome!

There are no written rules for how many songs a character knows nor for to teach them (as far as i know).

If I were to come up with a loose and fast rule I would say that you can be able to perform normal length 3-5 songs pr. score in the music ability.

And that you can learn a song in about a days work.

This way a character with a score of 5 in music can perform about 15-25 different pieces of music at the drop of a hat. I would allow a character to write down music based on their score in Artes Liberales since theoretical music is covered by that ability. A character with Artes Liberales and music can learn a song from a written down piece of music just like they would learn it from another person but they can probably also perform it just by reading (musicing?) it aloud, if they are at least somewhat familiar with it beforehand.

Aesthetic quality I would handle outside of rules.. E.g. by stating "song X has Y aesthetic feel". If it needs a rule associated with it I would say something like "Magic effect X is activated by a song with Y aesthetic quality".

1 Like

The songs, dances and tunes known by specific people might be covered by Etiquette and its typical specialties: nobility, court, peasants, faeries, the Church etc..
Teaching songs implies teaching customs, not just their performance. E. g. successfully performing a peasant song in court requires much more than good technique of singing.
There is the legend of the fiddler attached to the Volto Santo of Lucca, that shows how even statues can be more impressed by a good peasant music performance than churchmen.

EDIT: Performing music - typically church music - from texts is possible in Mythic Europe, if one can read neumes. It really requires Latin and Artes Liberales (Music) or perhaps Music (compose) to make sense of them, though.

When I take the music ability, which I often do, I think in terms of folk music. Folk musicians as I understand them (particularly historically) would listen to others, copy and imitate, improvise and adapt. Skilled ones would listen to a song once, and they would play it. Others may need to listen several times and create something quite different even if recognisable. Never written, the song will not be the same every time; even the same performer may change it radically over time. Like spells, songs are not taught and learnt; they are reinvented.

The music ability is confusingly broad. Consider poetry for comparison, we typically have a craft skill for composition and a profession skill for performance (recital), on top of Artes Liberales where music and poetry are two of the classical seven arts. Why is music singled out as a non-craft/non-profession skill?

A medieval bard, I imagine, would hear a story or a rumour in one village, and turn it into a song by the time he gets to the next village, to perform it with grandeur. Neither learning nor composition takes long. Today, even amateur musicians rehearse several new pieces within weeks. We are certainly not talking a season, which in Ars Magica means that the time is shorter than any unit of accountancy, so why do we want to know?

So to turn back to OP. Why do you ask? What exactly do you need?
It sounds to me that you are looking at mechanics at a level of granularity for which Ars Magica was never intended. If this is really going to be some kind of mystery powers, maybe what you need is a spell like system!?

I have not read the bard rules from the Contested Isle, but I suspect it could give some ideas.

Poetry is not part of Artes Liberales. Music is, but only pure theory, not how to actually perform.

Poetry and similar is covered by (Living Language):

This Ability also covers artistic composi-
tions in the language, and telling existing tales
with verve and passion. Knowledge of stories is
covered by the appropriate Lore Abilities.

You are right. I should know better than go out without my Serf's Parma.
Yes, of course AL does not cover performance, but on composition it has something to contribute.
That aspect of living languages seems to be missed by entire troupes. It is rather counter-intuitive, since everybody has a 5 in their native language, and not everyone in real life is a decent poet or even storyteller. But granted, it is RAW.

Not helped by many writers seemingly missing it too, seeing how later books tend to add spurious Profession abilities like Profession: Storyteller or Profession: Poet.

Thanks for the answers! I will reply here that is where more things I need to clarify:

On Arts & Academe, you can produce two songs of low quality [1 to 10] in one Season. Songs of good quality [11 to 20] takes one season each.

My idea is using the Aestethic Quality of songs for some interactions on the Cult. For now, the big ideas that play with this are three:

  • The Inmortality Mystery [a la Hall of Heroes or Living Ghost] is based on the Magus creating a Magnum Opus, a Song of High Quality that he invest its magic. As long as the Song persist on the memory of someone, the Magus will continue leaving. The Cult, of course, force new members to learn the Magnum Opus of the few magi that do this.

  • Other idea is creating Songs as Enchanted Items, with the Aestethic Quality as the Level Limitator. Learning the song is learning the spell.

  • Finally, the idea is that magus can create spells with a Song attached to it [but there needs to be a connection, so the incentive to learn a Song -that I assume is more easy- than composing one] to gain a Bonus to their Lab Total in exchange to only being able to cast singing that song.


I am not sure what it means to produce a song, and I do not have time to read A&A. For this to make sense, a song has to be something more than the piece of folk music which in my mind accounts for 95% of the music in 13C.

What you otherwise describe sounds more like true names than folk music. Maybe a flat 5xp to learn the magical song is good enough? At least it is simple.

The big question you need to consider is if the magic is in the theme, and thus survives improvisation and adaptation, or if it is in the exact arrangement, which thus needs to be replicated to perfection. (Similarly, for the lyrics, if it is in the story or in the text.)

If songs are formally taught and remembered, the 5xp true name style seems both fair and playable. If you want the music to proliferate like folk music, it is a lot less predictable, and the rules should incorporate a random element.


If you want to give them more mechanical flavor, you could have them initiate Performance Music, or whatever the virtue is called, and also the virtue that gives you bonuses for a specific condition, and let them gain that when singing.

Another thing you can do, is give them a Song and Saga durations, with Song equivalent to Diameter, and Saga to an Hour, or Sun. And say that these have to be done using Performance Music.
Such spells could be Personal, with Hearing Target. Or they could just use Voice range, and whatever Target the caster chooses.