Traditionally, a child learns to play music by being taught how an instrument works, and learning to play easy pieces that they practice over and over. They might also play music with other beginners. All the rules come first -- notes, chords, notation -- before they play.
But with language, young children never know that they're beginners, Wooten said. No one makes them feel bad when they say a word incorrectly, and they're not told to practice that word dozens of times. Why should it be different with music?
"If you think about trying to teach a toddler how to read, and the alphabet, and all that stuff, before they can speak, we'd realize how silly that really is," Wooten said. "Kids most of the time quit, because they didn't come there to learn that. They came to learn to play."
He remembers learning to play music in an immersive way, rather than in a formulaic sequence of lessons. When he was born, his four older brothers were already playing music and knew they needed a bass player to complete the band. "My brothers never said, 'This is what you're going to do,'" he said.
Wooten took this philosophy and created summer camps to get kids excited about music in a more natural way.
"It's rare that I ever meet a musician who doesn't agree that music is a language. But it's very rare to meet a musician that really treats it like one."
There you have it: Music that gets stuck in your head can be annoying, but it also serves a multitude of other purposes that benefit you. If you treat it like a language, as Wooten suggests, you might learn new skills and reap some of the brain health benefits that neurologists are exploring.
It's more complicated than "A, B, C," but that's how amazing the mind can be.