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#732604 - 06/25/09 12:44 AM Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And …  
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Jean Bullock Offline
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Why do so few musicians and singers read music?

And …

Do you think it's important to read music - if so, why?

Do you think it's unimportant to read music - if so why?

If you think it's important - what tips and suggestions can you offer ?



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#732611 - 06/25/09 01:05 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Joe Wrabek (D) Offline
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Jean, I'll answer your second question first. I read music sort of, like it's a foreign language. I had six years of Latin and four of German in school, and if you show me a piece written in either I can puzzle it out after a while. Sheet music is pretty much the same way.

I think it's important for *me* to be able to read music because I can't *hear* it very well. I am mostly tone-deaf. I don't know about anybody else. Maybe people who can hear notes don't need to be able to read sheet music; I'd think they don't need to as much as I do.

The biggest drawback I see to professional (i.e., music school) training is the people who've had it appear to be dependent on sheet music, and i don't think that's great for performing. I think it's important to be able to play without props. I think that dependence on sheet music also gets in the way of improvisation--and I think you have to be able to improvise if you're going to write music. I don't have the sheet-music dependency, in part because I don't have formal music training--everything I know I have picked up from other musicians, and that's helped.

I do think that absorbing--somehow--enough music theory so that you know how chords are put together, and how to go from one to another, is a real good thing to have. A lot of people who have not had formal training don't go anywhere because they haven't the rudiments of what to do or where to go.

That help? I have a feeling I haven't answered much.

Joe

#732614 - 06/25/09 01:13 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Stephen John (singch Offline
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Well the learning to read and write is just to learn the language the jargon. But , really and truly musicians feed off each other (well outside of Classical music that is) we don't really need to talk to understand each other. For a new comer however they will need the documents to interact with others who have attained a certain level that doesn't.

Reading is important because there are some situations that will require that skill. It's a usefull skill that can pull you out of a hole or give you that extra edge for a gig.

#732618 - 06/25/09 01:32 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Stephen John (singch]  
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Mike Dunbar Offline
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I have two blind friends who are absolutely excellent musicians. So, is reading essential? Not at all. It is just one other way to conceptualize the tools of music.

After four years of college music theory, making straight A's, and then teaching music theory for another six years, I moved to Nashville. Here I was introduced to the Nashville number system as a practical way of reading and conceptualizing music. I had learned the number system used in Bach's time, utilizing Roman numerals and figured bass, but was using the Nashville system practically to sight read music at sessions. Click. The light went on. A few years of that and my understanding of music jumped way ahead of what it was even after all that traditional learning and teaching.

I recommend that people learn to conceptualize music as many different ways as they can, then concentrate on the ones that suit their individual strengths and sensibilities. Yes, take the time to learn standard notation. It is, by far, more detailed and accurate, while being elegant, than any other system I've seen. It is, to me, though, not as descriptive of the theory and harmony of music as numbers are. Standard notation has the same problem, to me, that the piano keyboard has. It is biased toward one key...C. You've got to know the keys, of course, but many folks end up relating everything to C. Whereas if you relate everything to 1, 2, 3, then you get the concept and than can relate it to the different keys. Heck it even works if you've tuned the guitar to a note that's a little off from C smile

Learn tablature, shape notes, Gregorian script. Learn the moveable clef. Don't forget the solfeggio. You could even learn the Kodaly hand signals and look like one of the E.T.s from Close Encounters. It's all good. Whichever one makes your synapses go "click," that's the one that makes you a better musician. Most likely, they'll all play a part to lead you to true understanding.

When I turned 40, my wife asked, "What's the best thing about being 40?" I told her, "I fully understand the basics of music." When she asked "What's the worst thing?" I told her, "I fully understand the basics of music."


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#732622 - 06/25/09 01:42 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Johnny Daubert Offline
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Originally Posted by Jean Bullock
Why do so few musicians and singers read music?


Kids playing guitar or keys usually will just start trying to play what is perceived to be cool for them to play. (Leads to Cover bands mostly). Same goes for singing. If they branch off into originals, the music is created within their imaginations, or by just playing something on the guitar or piano. No music needed to for that, s far as they are concerned.

I think that is why, for the most part.


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#732623 - 06/25/09 01:44 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Johnny Daubert Offline
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Originally Posted by Jean Bullock
Do you think it's important to read music - if so, why?


Depends on what one wants out of playing music. If it's to tryout for college, or an orchestra, or many recording studios, then yes.


Actually a Member Since 1996 or 97 (Number One Hundred Something).
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#732624 - 06/25/09 01:46 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Patti Smith Offline
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Mike,
That is funny and helpful to a non-musician. I also like your reference to the brain. That I do understand.
Jean, thanks for another good topic.


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#732625 - 06/25/09 01:49 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Johnny Daubert Offline
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Originally Posted by Jean Bullock
Do you think it's unimportant to read music - if so why?


Depends again.

Rock, blues, or just about any guitar/piano based band has players by the tens of thousands if not more that do not read music. Lennon/McCartney didn't. But Elton could. All were successful. Many who didn't read music still were considered great musicians. A natural "Feel" comes into "play" for a lot.

So, it all depends on who you are in the first place, and what you do, with or without the reading skills.


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#732626 - 06/25/09 01:54 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Johnny Daubert Offline
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Originally Posted by Jean Bullock
If you think it's important - what tips and suggestions can you offer ?


For those needing to read for a professional reason, learn early to later get a scholarship to a good University for advanced study in music, to be in a better position to beat out the other readers for that certain job.

Otherwise, just play!


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#732627 - 06/25/09 02:12 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Johnny Daubert]  
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Hey Jean,

Not having an understanding of music theory, is like being able to speak, with not being able to write.

To effectively communicate, you need both. I think it's not about being able to read the notes so much. It's the understanding of their relative relationships.

I don't know about "so few" being able to sight read, or follow a chord chart. If you call yourself a musician, then by default, I think the great majority can sight read to some extent.

cheers, niteshift


#732662 - 06/25/09 06:55 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: niteshift]  
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Jean Bullock Offline
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Oh, pooh. I just realized that I posted this in the wrong forum. I wanted it in the songwriter forum.


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#732663 - 06/25/09 06:58 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: niteshift]  
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BIG JIM MERRILEES Offline
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Most musicians are not classically trained hence only a few are able to read/write music scores.

The merits of being able to read and write dots are obvious and recommeneded. That said it is not really a big handicap if you cannot. There is a huge list of internationally succesful musicians and songwriters who make it without this skill.

I know lots of sight readers who can play anything if they have the sheet music. Ask them to play by ear, busk or improvise is another story.
There are also many who cannot read but sure can play just about anything in any style.

My tip is simple..... if you are a serious musician then learn to play as many instruments as you can, read and write dots and guitar tabs plus everything else relating to music playing and record production. The more skills and knowledge the better.

#732665 - 06/25/09 07:15 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: BIG JIM MERRILEES]  
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I think this is a complex question.

I've seen musicians who are crippled because they need everything to be theoretically correct. Then you could argue if you knew enough music theory, you would never adhere to anything theoretically correct, but still I've seen musicians who can't improvise, make stuff up or finish ideas because they are so dependent of music theory wanting to do everything by the book.

So I believe music theory is good, if you can develop a reasonable relationship to theory. Theory is not answers to everything, it is tools to assist you in situations where you can't rely solely on your senses. Music theory can help you to work faster, more systematic, and mostly for the benefit of you.

But if your thinking is fundamentalist in nature (kids often are as they are in constant processes of learning right and wrong, so therefore it might be better not to learn music theory, before you encounter an absolute need for it), it can cripple your creative abilities. If you have a pragmatic nature that works for you and not against you, music theory can really help you stay in business IMO

So my tip is, get your perspective of yourself tested with others, and then consider if you really need music theory now. Learn to play firsthand, and then learn music theory if it can do something for you along the way.


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#732667 - 06/25/09 07:28 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Kolstad]  
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Hi Magne. It is the same old story. A little knowledge is dangerous but too much knowledge can be catastrophic.
How much you know or what skills you have learned is not really important. It is how you utilize those skills and knowledge that is crucial.

Practical skills can be enhanced and better understood by knowing the theory behind them. But no amount of theory is any good without having the practical skills.

#732669 - 06/25/09 07:34 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: BIG JIM MERRILEES]  
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Jean Bullock Offline
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Reading music and knowing music theory is not the same thing.


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#732673 - 06/25/09 07:43 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Kolstad]  
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Quote
.... it might be better not to learn music theory, before you encounter an absolute need for it), it can cripple your creative abilities......


Hey Magne, I really don't understand that line.

Music theory is used in every musical situation there is. If you can't say to someone "Ok, can you make that chord a maj7th", or "play me the relative minor at this point" or "could you try a higher inversion" etc....... nothing would happen at all.

Jim, don't know aboout " reading the dots ". That's just one small part of the whole picture.

The full musical spectrum encompasses both practical and theoretical knowledge. Just like engineering, design, and many other forms of combined technical/creative persuits.

I fail to see how anyone can learn music without the knowledge of how any given note relates to another. That may be formally taught, or informally in pattern recognition, but it can't be seperated from the process. It is intrinsically built into the structure. Music is structured, therefor "theory" is part of it's being.

cheers, niteshift

#732678 - 06/25/09 08:05 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: niteshift]  
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Well, I absolutely agree that music theory is a must in sessions, as it works like a language for communication. But it is not necessarily so in songwriting, and that was my concern. You don't need music theory to make music, as music theory is generated from music in the first place. But that is not to say is can't be useful. All you basically need is your voice to hum a melody, the ability to slap your thighs to make a beat, and perhaps a pencil to write some words to it. Some would argue that harmony is a must, so if it is you can walk outside to do it, and then the background noise can work like harmony. Thios is not controversial at all, it's just the stripped down version.

Hey I got a fun game: You can assign diatonic chords to the dots on a dice, then throw the dice 6 times to decide the sequence of chords. Then assign a bar to the dots, throw it one time for each chord, and then you have the measures (you can make it more complex of course). Then you can assign a note to each dot on the dice, and throw to find a melody. Continue till you have the sections you want. Play it in succession, and after repeating it 10 times, I promise you'll hear some good stuff in it :-)

If you're a group you could do this without the diatonic premise, and come up with some really fun jazz stuff! :-)

But I would argue reading music is not of any use to a songwriter. The few uses of reading music I've come across, has been for session work, where you sometimes have to learn a piece in 10mins, and perhaps suggest changes for your own part or others. That's where it's useful.


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#732679 - 06/25/09 08:09 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: BIG JIM MERRILEES]  
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Originally Posted by BIG JIM MERRILEES
Hi Magne. It is the same old story. A little knowledge is dangerous but too much knowledge can be catastrophic.
How much you know or what skills you have learned is not really important. It is how you utilize those skills and knowledge that is crucial.

Practical skills can be enhanced and better understood by knowing the theory behind them. But no amount of theory is any good without having the practical skills.


I think that's true Big Jim. There are not really too many new stories around, so I prefer to rely on the canons :-)


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#732691 - 06/25/09 08:33 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Kolstad]  
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Quote
But I would argue reading music is not of any use to a songwriter.


Now listen here Magne, you really have gone too far ! I would suggest that you be flung out of the songwriting fraternity, hung up by your toenails, and be forced to listen to a cat in a tumble dryer, until you come to your senses.

On second thought, that would probably be regarded as performance art, and you would win some sort of award. And you'd probably call it music too !

Reading music no use to a songwriter ? I think I've stumbled into the Twilight Zone.

cheers, niteshift

Last edited by niteshift; 06/25/09 08:35 AM.
#732694 - 06/25/09 08:37 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: niteshift]  
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Originally Posted by niteshift
Quote
.... it might be better not to learn music theory, before you encounter an absolute need for it), it can cripple your creative abilities......


Hey Magne, I really don't understand that line.

Music theory is used in every musical situation there is. If you can't say to someone "Ok, can you make that chord a maj7th", or "play me the relative minor at this point" or "could you try a higher inversion" etc....... nothing would happen at all.

Jim, don't know aboout " reading the dots ". That's just one small part of the whole picture.

The full musical spectrum encompasses both practical and theoretical knowledge. Just like engineering, design, and many other forms of combined technical/creative persuits.

I fail to see how anyone can learn music without the knowledge of how any given note relates to another. That may be formally taught, or informally in pattern recognition, but it can't be seperated from the process. It is intrinsically built into the structure. Music is structured, therefor "theory" is part of it's being.

cheers, niteshift


Hey Shifty!

There are many good posts on this thread from people I respect and admire. I generally agree with most things you say. You're pretty smart and talented! I would like, however, to offer a different point of view on this line you wrote:

"I fail to see how anyone can learn music without the knowledge of how any given note relates to another.

I personally do not read music notation. Nor do I have any knowledge, whatsoever, of musical theory. But, in my own opinion, I'm a pretty darned good composer. And I'm gonna jump on my own band wagon and say I am an excellent guitarist. I can compose very complicated and intricate pieces, but I haven't a clue about theory. And, as I said, I do not read notation at all.

For whatever reason (God-given ability?) I am able to compose such pieces. I can typically hear almost anything just one or twice and play it. I do know what the relative minors are, the dominant and sub-dominant. But, until the last 2 or 3 years, I had no clue what a relative minor, dominant or sub-domiant were. they were all just a bunch of chords that I knew how to put together. I could not begin to tell you "how" I know their usage, but I do. I know how to make almost every chord there is on the guitar...there are a few I still don't know, though...and I know how to arrange them and impliment them effectively. But I honestly have no idea why all of that comes together for me. it just does.

You might find this a little amusing. As I learned to play the guitar, I always referred to the tonic chord (the one chord) as the "Basic Chord"; the four chord was the "Forward Chord", the five chord was the "Back Chord". the six minor was the "Primary Minor Chord"; the four minor was the "Secondary Minor Chord". The two chord was the "Up Chord", etc., etc. Each realtive chord had a name, but it wasn't anything like the formal names. When I am composing still today, I mentally use those descriptors. To this day I am not sure what an inversion is. I could look it up, I guess. But, whatever it is, I am assuming I know how to use it. You had mentioned the term "higher inversion". I am assuming that means playing the chord such that you are playing the lower notes of chord in the position of the higher notes. And, a lower inversion would be just the opposite. Just a guess! If that is true, my reference for that are "turning the chord upside down, or downside up".

I know how to play the major 7ths, major 6ths, augmenteds, flatted 13ths, flatted 9ths, diminished 7ths, etc. By the way, those types of chords are what my father always referred to as "debris in the lnaes of the musical highway." I disagree with him there.

So technically, I do have a theory. But it ain't like nothing you learned formally! But, it works for me. I've been playing professinally since 1962 ($8.00 a night back then...wohoo!!!) and never once has anyone ever said to me "can you play that in a higher inversion", etc.

I've rambled long enough (too long, myabe) about all that. I do say the following a bit tongue in cheek: someone once asked a prominent nashville session player if he could read music. He replied "Not enought to hurt me." I don't fully buy that either.

Take care my friend. Have a cold beer for me! All the best.

Alan

#732697 - 06/25/09 08:50 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Jean,

Excellent questions!

To answer them directly,

"Do you think it's important to read music? If so why?"

I think it depends on what your music goals or requirements are. If you're going to play in the local band at the joint on the corner do mostly cover, I say nope, it isn't necessary at all. Why not? It simply isn't necessary. if you play by ear, as I do, you just listen and then play it. It makes no difference what you call the chord you are playing as long as you know how to play it and when to play it. In Country and Southern Rock, the genres I played for 35+ years, I doubt more than 2 or 3 percent of the musicians I played with knew any musical theory whatsoever. I don't know a single one who could read notation. we're talking many hundred oof musicians.


"Do you think it's unimportant to read music?"

A quick, easy answer. No, I do not think it is unimportant. Any new knowledge is a good thing. It makes the brain work harder and there are a lot of brains out there need to be working a little harder.


If you think it's important - what tips and suggestions can you offer?

First, the importance depends upon your musical goals. If your goal requires you to learn to read music and/or theory, find books ot read on the subject and, if you can, take a few college classes. I know, that sounds over simplistic. But, maybe it really is simplicstic - not learning theory and notation, but deciding how you are going to go about it.

Very good thread!

Alan

#732699 - 06/25/09 09:07 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Two Singers]  
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Heu Al,

Good to see ya.

Well, you just totally proved my point. You know your music theory, you just don't know that you do.

If you play by ear, you know the relationships between single notes, forming chords, and how the next is relative to the first that you played. If you didn't know the relationship, you would not be able to compose the way you do. It would be random, without structure, and be gobbeldygook.

You can transpose right ? So if you started the sequence as EGDA, and it had to up into the key of F, you'd "know" that it would be FAbEbBb right ? So you know the relative relationship of the notes involved.

A C chord can be played as CEGC. It can also be played EGCE. Sill a C chord, just the first inversion.

So wether your music theory is formal or informal as you've stated, you do KNOW it, but maybe don't wish to articulate it in that way. I rest my case.

And yes, it's almost beer o'clock, and I shall have a cold one for you ! ( Good excuse huh ?)

cheers, niteshift


#732703 - 06/25/09 09:23 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Originally Posted by Jean Bullock
Reading music and knowing music theory is not the same thing.


Yes I understand the difference. Most people who CAN read music have a fair grasp of musical theory as well. Generally the two are taught together and go hand in hand. You do not need to be able to read and write music to understand the theory but it sure helps.

#732705 - 06/25/09 09:31 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: BIG JIM MERRILEES]  
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Hey Al Music theory as you state is being able to know how music is constructed. Lots of self taught musicians have this knowledge..... they just do not realise it. You are not the exception to the rule..... you prove the rule. However learned every musician and songwriter must know and use a certain amount of theory. You do not need formal tuition to learn theory sometimes just intuition is enough.

#732707 - 06/25/09 09:50 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: niteshift]  
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I know little about music in general and nothing about reading it. I know maybe 20+ chords on the first three frets, can't do bar chords, but some how I still managed to write 3000+ songs. I know if I was a better composer I could write better melodies, but I'm stuck with what I have, too old to learn now. Reading music is great if someone passes you a sheet music of a song you never heard before, you'd be able to play it, where someone that can not read music wouldn't know where to start.


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#732709 - 06/25/09 10:08 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Everett Adams]  
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Al,

You were right about of lot in what you said, but you were Major wrong (or is that minor or diminished wrong) about one thing: You know more about music theory than the vast majority of singers, players, dabblers and what-not. Look back at what Mike said earlier about "systems" -- you just found the one that worked for you.

So please, no more about not knowing theory -- you know way, way more than I do.

Kevin


"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The 'hard' is what makes it great."
Kevin @ bandcamp: Crows Say Vee-Eh (and Kevin @50/90 2019)
#732713 - 06/25/09 10:40 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Kevin Emmrich]  
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I can't remember his name, but this quote stuck in my head. Paraphrasing a world famous classical guitarist's comment on reading music :

"Reading music lets mediocre musicians sound accomplished, and makes accomplished musicians sound mediocre."

Active


Active Reasoner is the name of my art projects. I am an obscure musician, artist, and writer. My life is dedicated to creative self expression. For more info, please see my Google Plus page.
#732720 - 06/25/09 10:48 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Kevin Emmrich]  
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Why do so few musicians and singers read music? For singers and musicians, it's probably a case of starting out doing mostly covers of tunes that one already knows. Therefore the need isn't there to read music - just sing or play the way one hears it. For those who've attended church and learned to sing from a hymm/song book - that's reading music. So, since I've heard about many singers who've have done this, I have my doubts that "few" singers can read music. Whereas with musicians, the reason I gave previously seems to prevail and many truly start out as unable to read music.
Whether it's important or not depends on what you want or need to do with music. If you're only going to be a club player, you have no need to learn to read music. So why spend the time and effort? For singers who will only ever do covers, there's no need there either. However if one is writing and/or composing originals, it is important.
When I began songwriting, I made lead sheets of my songs and sent the lead sheets to demo companies for recording. If those singers and musicians couldn't read a lead sheet, they could not have produced my songs. Therefore, in those kinds of situations there is an obvious need to be able to read music.
As I evolved from a songwriter only into a performing songwriter, I started to write differently. Now instead of the lead sheet, I use a lyric sheet with chord changes and rhythm. Still, learning a song with such a lyric sheet requires an ability to "read" music as one needs to know what each particular chord is and when to change them according to the rhythm and the placement of the chord change. So anyone who is involved in composing or learning to play original music should be able to "read" music to some extent - even if it is just chord changes.

#732722 - 06/25/09 10:51 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Active Reasoner]  
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Oh, I think I've figured out why it's taking me so long to learn to play music!

In HS I learned to read music (a little, basic course for credit, nothing in depth) and I've since forgotten it all. Just as I learned French and have forgotten all but how to ask for a burger and fries, I know nothing useful now. But, I remember the music teacher drilling the importance of reading music, before playing music. Maybe that's what's holding me back. I'm trying to do something that while useful, isn't completely necessary for what I intend to do. Could be??


Caroline


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#732777 - 06/25/09 01:03 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Caroline]  
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Does one need to speak French to order French Fries?LOL

#732786 - 06/25/09 01:18 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: summeoyo]  
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Quote
reading music before playing
It sounds odd, but I think I know one good reason for that. If you become fairly proficient on an instrument and then try to learn how to read, it seems like such a huge step backward. What you could sit down and play quickly without music becomes an incredible chore to do while trying to read the notes.

Only the toughest minded folks can plow through that!

Other than that, the above quoted statement makes no sense.

Kevin


"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The 'hard' is what makes it great."
Kevin @ bandcamp: Crows Say Vee-Eh (and Kevin @50/90 2019)
#732790 - 06/25/09 01:23 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Kevin Emmrich]  
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Hey Kevin,

I can't see how it's a step backward. You're simply seeing the notation to what you're playing. If you already know the song, then the notation will begin pattern forming in your brain, to tie up with what your fingers already know. Convergance.

Notation is only a guide. It doesn't tell you how to perform the song.

cheers, niteshift

Last edited by niteshift; 06/25/09 01:25 PM.
#732808 - 06/25/09 02:10 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: niteshift]  
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Summ, I would assume that in France, it may be useful to order a fried potato in French. After all, I don't know which part of the sentence I remember is for fires, but I do know, it doesn't sound at all like the English pronunciation. LOL, Unless you're at McDonalds, of course then, you'd probably be o.k. asking in English. But, one should never assume.


Caroline


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#732810 - 06/25/09 02:17 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: niteshift]  
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Originally Posted by niteshift
Quote
But I would argue reading music is not of any use to a songwriter.


Now listen here Magne, you really have gone too far ! I would suggest that you be flung out of the songwriting fraternity, hung up by your toenails, and be forced to listen to a cat in a tumble dryer, until you come to your senses.

On second thought, that would probably be regarded as performance art, and you would win some sort of award. And you'd probably call it music too !

Reading music no use to a songwriter ? I think I've stumbled into the Twilight Zone.

cheers, niteshift


I guess I won't be included in the musicians club then.. hehe

Im not sure I was clear here, though. I meant sight reading, of course. Very few guitarists are proficient in sight reading, as it is mostly part of the pianist training.

I don't consider reading chord symbols, tablature or anything else that doesn't happen in realtime, for really 'reading' music. And that kind of reading is merely useful for session hands. Understanding musical theory is not the same as reading music IMO

So, I think you got me wrong there as I wasn't too clear, buddy. Im not a radical provocateur, on the contrary, my friend.


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#732811 - 06/25/09 02:19 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Caroline]  
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When I was in Germany, I asked how to order french fries. They told me I needed to tip my waiter...at least I think that's what they said. They said "Palm Fritz."


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

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#732815 - 06/25/09 02:28 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Kolstad]  
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Quote
Im not a radical provocateur, on the contrary, my friend.


Oh yes you are Magne. The first Danish/Norwegian man to stroll down music row in Nashville, munching on pickled herring singing a country song, whilst slurping on the finest pilner. Now that would be a sight ! grin

cheers, niteshift

#732826 - 06/25/09 02:50 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: niteshift]  
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Originally Posted by niteshift
Quote
Im not a radical provocateur, on the contrary, my friend.


Oh yes you are Magne. The first Danish/Norwegian man to stroll down music row in Nashville, munching on pickled herring singing a country song, whilst slurping on the finest pilner. Now that would be a sight ! grin

cheers, niteshift


I won't run away from that projection, nite. That sounds just GREAT! :-)


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#732893 - 06/25/09 06:29 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Kolstad]  
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Mike that's funny!

Palm Fritz? Was he good looking?


Caroline


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#732961 - 06/25/09 10:51 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Caroline]  
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Irving Berlin composed close to a thousand songs. He couldn't read music. In fact he only composed in one key - all the black keys on the piano. He had a knowledgeable assistant though. I always wondered how much the assistant re-worked his songs.

Someone invented a device for his piano that would change the key. That gave him some extra chords.

I bet he would have loved today’s technology.

Best, John

#732964 - 06/25/09 11:06 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Originally Posted by Mike Dunbar
When I was in Germany, I asked how to order french fries. They told me I needed to tip my waiter...at least I think that's what they said. They said "Palm Fritz."


Mike,

That is pretty funny! I lived in germany 12 years and read, write and speak fairly decent German. Of course you know they were actually saying "Pomme Frites", the phrase they use for French Fries. Oddly, "Pommes Frites" is French and means "Fried Potatos"

If anyone is planning on going to Germany, if you order Pommes Frites and don't say otherwise, they lavishly douse them in mayonaise! They also drink their beer and soft drinks at room temperature - not refrigerated.


#733048 - 06/26/09 06:07 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Two Singers]  
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I didn't have musical training so i can't read music properly
it's useful, indeed, when you have to register the songs here in spain you need sheet music, and also when you have to play with others (and trained musicians) it helps a lot that you can provide them. When i work with my cellist i need to print a temp sheet music out of the midi i make with my keyboard, but most of the times they have problems as it's not 100% right, i'm learning the basics right now to be able to at least "see" if something is looking weird on them
For the newbies I highly recommend this guy in youtube, he teaches you all the basics of piano, but mostly about music reading in free classes of half an hour each, no trick and very instructive

this is his channel

http://www.youtube.com/user/Lypur


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#733249 - 06/26/09 09:07 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: pRISCILLA]  
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In my time as an English teacher to foreigners, you'd often get the really studious students who studied all the rules but didn't speak much in class, and conversely, you'd get the guy who never did his homework, didn't pay much attention when you were trying to explain a grammar point. BUT, they had a big mouth and talked a lot! And the latter trounced the former in the speed they improved hand over fist in the rate they became fluent. They may not have understood all the grammar in a text book sense, but they knew in it a cognitive tense the way native speakers do. It's help to have the text book handy, but learning cognitively (learning without knowing you're learning) is the best way to learn.

How many people here know ALL the rules of English grammar and know what a non-defining relative clause is? Probably not that many, but you KNOW how to use them perfectly. And that's all that matters.

Lucian

#733253 - 06/26/09 09:25 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: lucian]  
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Lucian,

Because I was educated in grammar many years ago, while living in the Poconos, I can't remember what a non-defining relative clause is. Maybe you could give me a hint?

Best, John


#733261 - 06/26/09 09:48 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: John Lawrence Schick]  
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Just an interesting tidbit. One of the earliest notated songs (Ancient Greek with lyrics) - on papryrus. The time reference is iiAD (I think its the 2nd century.)


Apparently, the people at this time had a separate system of notation for instrumental music, and one for vocal music.

Here is the vocal lead sheet (the lyrics sung for us.) You can hear the whole thing or click on a line in the music to hear that particular bit.

http://classics.uc.edu/music/yale/index.html


Here is the instrumental sheet.

http://classics.uc.edu/music/michigan/index.html

Last edited by Jean Bullock; 06/26/09 10:00 PM.

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#733272 - 06/26/09 10:07 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: John Lawrence Schick]  
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Sorry I haven't read any responses yet. But music existed before there was a system of notation. Music is the sound...that's a necessity. Reading music is a handy luxury...it's not a necessity. But it sure helps to have that notational language when you write a symphony.

What I like about theory and notation: it makes music accessible to more people and provides a common musical language.

What I don't like about music theory and notation: it can turn the joy of sound into a rule-bound academic exercise.

I can't read music in real time, other than single notes at a time. I have no idea how pianists can sight-read all those cluster chords and runs without stopping. When I was 19, I spent about two weeks deciphering Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata until I finally learned it. To this day I can play that sucker from memory, but I'd never be able to read something like that and just plunk it out.

For the consummate player who doesn't create music, reading it is essential. I've met such players who can play absolutely anything...but they can't make up anything new.

We all have different abilities. When it comes to popular songs and recording studios, reading music becomes rarer, other than cheat sheets for chords, or the Nashville system. There really aren't many musical rules in popular music other than to come up with something within the genre that will sell.

So, is it important? Only if you work for an orchestra, or if you're composing scores to be played by others. Most of the stuff we hear on the radio? Nah, not important at all.

But it IS important to understand the concepts behind all that notation and theory...the more you learn, the more you know. What's wrong with that?

#733277 - 06/26/09 10:30 PM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Mark Kaufman]  
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ben willis Offline
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ben willis  Offline
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Let's turn things around with this story, (yes I like to do things backwards). I had a friend who played violin for the local symphony orchestra. He wanted to learn how to play old time fiddle but didn't know any songs. I loaned him some books with fiddle tunes so that he could read the notation. We jammed with me playing rhythm guitar as he sight read the songs. He still didn't have the accentuation or feel of the songs as an old time fiddler would have.

We went to a bluegrass festival together so that he could watch the fiddlers. He caught on. After learning the songs from reading notation, playing with me, and hearing them on record, and jamming at bluegrass festivals, he became a soulful fiddle player. It started with him reading the songs from music books. He now plays by ear.

I guess the point is that a musically trained musician can be just as disadvantaged as someone who knows nothing about notation or music theory when they go into new territory or try something new.

#733516 - 06/28/09 12:55 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: ben willis]  
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Polly Hager Offline
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I think a lot of singers don't learn to read music because we're (A) LAZY and (B) SPOILED! I hardly know the keys in which I sing many songs. Musicians ask me, "What key, Hon?" and I go, "I dunno" and sing a few notes. I've been privileged to have played with musicans with good enough ears to figure it out.

I have written some songs, and hear the melody as I write them. I can then hold the melody while I locate the chords on guitar. This led to a not-so-pleasant collab between Andy and me one night, because he couldn't hear what I heard in my head. Don't worry, we have a good one coming out shortly! smile

So while I think it's a good thing to be able to read music and know music theory, when you can FEEL what you're supposed to be doing, I think it makes it more soulful. At least when dealing with rock n' roll.


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#733519 - 06/28/09 01:24 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Polly Hager]  
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Jean Bullock Offline
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Most vocal music comes out with some kind of keyboard arrangement, guitar chords and of course the melody line. Tempo is indicated, as well as other dynamic markings, but it isn't usually over specified. Most good accompanists I know combine the sheet music with following the vocalist's interpretation of the music, and also put it into different keys when required.

When it comes to reading the piano chords the answer is: practice. After enough practice, a pianist reads like people read text . They scan ahead and recognize the shapes. They are like a really good typist. They don't stop to read what they are typing. It's like their hands are directly connected to their eyes.



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#733538 - 06/28/09 04:09 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Polly Hager Offline
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Polly Hager  Offline
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Cincinnati, OH USA
Originally Posted by Jean Bullock
Most vocal music comes out with some kind of keyboard arrangement, guitar chords and of course the melody line. Tempo is indicated, as well as other dynamic markings, but it isn't usually over specified. Most good accompanists I know combine the sheet music with following the vocalist's interpretation of the music, and also put it into different keys when required.

When it comes to reading the piano chords the answer is: practice. After enough practice, a pianist reads like people read text . They scan ahead and recognize the shapes. They are like a really good typist. They don't stop to read what they are typing. It's like their hands are directly connected to their eyes.



Yeah, I've seen pianists like that, but it's almost like watching a medical transcriptionist. I mean, I get what your saying. Someone playing an orchestra gig, for real money (will never know what that's like) could go in, read the sheets, and know what to do. No soul required.

But have you ever witnessed Tori Amos play, for instance? She quit a music school she was put into because she couldn't read sheet music. Yet, she writes so brilliantly, and when she performs she practically has sex with her piano bench! If she's theoretically incorrect, I don't think people notice! LOL She is famous for writing deeply personal stuff, and I would wager that that material comes out kinda like mine does...words and melody in her head, bleeds it out on piano and runs with it. I'm in NO WAY trying to compare myself to her, just saying even some really famous people dig deeper into the emotional, soulful side and less into the technical side.

This is what I was trying to say about Andy's and my collab. I HEARD the chords in my head, but wasn't able to tell him what they were. So, he, knowing music theory, was playing other ones and I was going "No! That's wrong!" and he was frustrated (understandably) and saying, "But theoretically, these are the only ones that would fit!" After much arguing, I grabbed the guitar and feebly plucked out the chords in my head. When I was done, Andy said, "Oh, I see it now. Write it down!"

I guess all I'm sayin' is, there's more than one way to skin a cat.


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#733543 - 06/28/09 05:10 AM Re: Why do so few musicians and singers read music? And … [Re: Polly Hager]  
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Jean Bullock Offline
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Polly the thread is not about composers, who depending on the kind of music they produce, may have to know a lot about music theory. This is about the musicians who have to play the music of others. And the singers who have to sing the songs of others.

Tori is a performing composer. She is the star and what she does on the stage is part of her performance. If she were just singing and the pianist was playing the piano bench the way she does, she might tell the individual to quit stealing her thunder.

"When I was done, Andy said, "Oh, I see it now. Write it down!"
How did you write it down?







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