Reading music, eh! You either do, or you don’t. How’s that for stating the obvious!! I was wondering the other day how many HUB readers actually think that reading music is a necessary requirement for making music, especially in a world of computer aided music creation.
I find myself in a curious position here because being a professional musician, I myself don’t read music. Well that’s not exactly true. I can read, but I’m no sight-reader. It takes me a while to go through and work it all out. When I say a ‘while’ I mean about a day!!
It’s not like I don’t know what all the notes, timing values and markings mean, it’s just it doesn’t make any sense to me. I think I might be dyslexic, musically! I think the more likely answer is I never practice sight reading therefore I’m no good at it!
Saying that I have no problems ‘writing’ music on a stave quite quickly. Which is odd! The thing I’ve noticed is that if I start to read something and I recognize the tune, I immediately disregard the dots and start playing by ear which is the way I’ve always done it. For me, it’s a lot faster to hear a melody and play it. This is probably a product of working things out from records for years as a kid (listen, rewind, listen, rewind) which trains you to identify musical sounds and colors very quickly.
I have to admit I’m slightly torn by my ability (or lack of) to sight-read, and what I consider to be the advantages of learning the ‘informal’ way (by ear) and just making it up as I go like many other musicians do. Sometimes I wish I could sigh- read and then I think ‘Why do I need to?’. I guess that depends what type of music you play and what type of gigs you’re going for.
The first thing I usually tell prospective clients who approach me for sessions is that I don’t read. I think that’s the honest and best way to approach what I do (and the least embarrassing!! ). I’d say it loses me one in ten jobs.
Music has always traditionally been documented on paper. There’s hundreds of years worth of music written on scores allowing us to relive and hear the works of great composers like Bach and Mozart who are long since gone exactly the way they intended it to sound. There’s nothing like hearing an amazing orchestra read these works back to us just like a great actor might read back the works of Shakespeare aloud.
However, the documentation of music has now changed significantly where you can now ‘record’ that music and listen back to it anytime you like. A symphony can now be stored in a MIDI file or an MP3. You can now document your musical ideas without the need for a written language.
The important thing to remember is is that music is a language. In everyday life, there’s no reason you have to be able to ‘read’ English to interact and communicate with somebody who speaks English. You just need to be able to ‘speak’ English. With music, learning the language is quite important if you want to communicate with the locals (musicians), but ultimately music speaks for itself and can be understood by everyone, no matter what language you speak. And does not being able to read music make you any less musical or able to communicate or understand musical ideas. Certainly not!
Maybe you have an opinion on this? If so I’d like to hear it. :)