10 Great TED Talks on Music

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

TEDTED talks have been a growing phenomenon in popular culture over the past few years. These talks are perfect for people who want to learn random information from the comfort of their own couch…instead of cleaning/working/practicing/doing anything they should be doing. At least it’s productive procrastination, right?

While TED was actually intended to represent “technology, entertainment, and design,” there are now talks about almost every topic. Started in 1984 as an annual conference in Monterey, CA, they are currently being held by people all over the world. Of these various topics, there are several on the subject of music. Here are a few TED talks on music that we thought you might enjoy!

Music as a Language: This talk is worth the 20 minutes, as bassist Victor Wooten discusses how to keep freedom in the music learning process. He also encourages musicians to learn from the music – especially how to “change your octave,” meaning how to change your perspective. Watch here.

How to Truly Listen: Evelyn Glennie is a percussionist from Scotland, and she is also deaf. She demonstrates how she learned to feel the vibrations of the music and really connect with the sound. She is an inspirational woman and is incredibly talented. Watch here.


Evelyn Glennie playing the marimba

To Hear This Music, You Have To Be There, Literally: Ryan Holladay gives an awesome talk about music that he composed for a landscape, which he then recorded onto an app. As a listener moves around, the music unfolds in certain ways depending on where they are. The existing music is written for places on the East coast, but they are currently working on music to accompany Highway 1! Watch here.

Building the Musical Muscle: Doctor and surgeon Charles Limb discusses how deaf cochlear implant users hear music. While the new implants are adaptive for basic function, they have a long way to go before they can accurately transmit the beauty of music. Watch here.

Trusting the Ensemble: Trust is an important part of any relationship, and musical relationships are no exception. Conductor Charles Hazlewood gives his perspective on the necessity of trust and respect in ensembles, especially between the leader and the rest of the group. Watch here.

Charles Hazlewood conducting

Charles Hazlewood conducting

Hidden Music Rituals Around the World: Vincent Moon tells of his journeys around the world, filming simple, real music videos for people he meets. He aims to capture the traditions in order to share diversity and history with future generations. He claims, “The way we show the world is gonna change the way we see this world.” The talk ends with an incredible performance by Nana Vasconcelos. Watch here.

Music is Medicine, Music is Sanity: Robert Gupta tells his story of meeting Nathaniel Ayers, a man who played upright bass at Juilliard until he developed schizophrenia and became homeless. Ayers was portrayed in the book and film, The Soloist, but Gupta gives a different perspective on their time spent playing together. He demonstrates the power of music to alleviate symptoms and transform through connection. Watch here.

The Polyphonic Me: Beardyman talks about all the different possibilities for the human voice and performs different techniques on a machine. He gives a performance on a machine that he built himself, which can loop, distort, and assign his voice to keyboards. Watch here.


A One Man Orchestra of the Imagination: Andrew Bird uses looping to truly be a one man band, demonstrating his instrumental and vocal talents. The flow of his insight and creativity is evidenced in his music, and it is a blessing to hear. Watch here.

The Beat of My Own Bucket Drum: Jared Crawford gives a drum performance on his two buckets, which may look familiar to those of you who are familiar with Music Motive. The real question is…was he ever a Bucket Buster? Watch here.


Jared Crawford, AKA “Choclattjared”

Happy procrastinating! To find out more about TED, check out their webpage.


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