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... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! #2722348
03/18/18 09:04 PM
03/18/18 09:04 PM
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Farago Offline OP
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Howdy, y'all!

Bringing up an age-old debate here, because I'm really interested in hearing where the "State of Debate" is in 2018 on this contentious topic.

It seems that just about every piano teacher would say, "Reading music is absolutely necessary."

I'd be inclined to reply with:

"Oh? Just as it’s necessary for you to do all your dialoging with text, dear teacher? Context truly matters, dear teacher. Notwithstanding the fact that the vast majority of earnings in the music industry go to - and have gone to - non-readers, let’s say that the reading demands have come from your students (though they almost never do)."

The vast majority piano teachers steer their collective millions of beginners toward the decoding of musical notation as if it were the gateway to musical learning, knowledge, writing, and performing.

But is it?

Counting down the seven best-selling musicians of all time, whose art earned them countless millions of fans - and dollars - are:

Number 7: Pink Floyd
Number 6: Led Zeppelin
Number 5: Sir Elton John
Number 4: Madonna
Number 3: Michael Jackson
Number 2: Elvis Presley
Number 1: Lennon & McCartney of the Beatles.

Michael Jackson was once asked, in a court case: “By the way, do you read music?”

Michael answered, “No I don’t,” and followed up with, “I don’t think it’s necessary.”

An interviewer threw the same question at McCartney too: “… and - you don’t read music?”

To which Paul replied, “I don’t, no,” and followed up with, “You got a problem with that?”

(The interviewer timidly replied, “No.”)

What about the rest of them, though? Turns out that all seven groups hadn’t learned to read music.

(Elton John did earlier on, but didn’t fancy it, so he quit).

If you had the opportunity to round up all the top-selling musicians, and ask them, “Which of you read music?”

You wouldn’t get too many. Among the non-readers, we have: Chet Baker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Taylor Swift, Danny Elfman, B.B. King, Charles Mingus, Pete Townshend, Jerry Garcia, Kurt Cobain, Luciano Pavarotti, Bob Marley, Dave Brubeck, James Brown, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, Wes Montgomery, Erroll Garner, Frank Sinatra, The Bee Gees, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Smith, Slash, Louie Armstrong, and Tori Amos.

Chet Atkins would pipe up with his clever quip:

“Not enough to hurt my playing.”

What truth is there in Mr. Chet Atkins' word?

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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722357
03/18/18 09:30 PM
03/18/18 09:30 PM
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It's not necessary for pop music but this is a classical music forum so it seems a strange place to pose this question. I think the ability to read music would make learning jazz much easier. The teachers you mention are either teaching classical music where it's necessary unless one wants to learn every piece by rote or teaching pop music where it makes learning pieces infinitely faster.

I don't see any truth to what Chet Atkins said. All the people you mentioned were successful not because they couldn't read but music in spite of their not knowing how. For a singer, their singing ability/charisma is more important.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 03/18/18 09:49 PM.
Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722363
03/18/18 09:47 PM
03/18/18 09:47 PM
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Interesting that you have posed this question since, according to your profile, what you play is chopin, Bach, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin. Are you proposing then that reading music is not necessary for classical music, even though Classical music was not listed in your post as a consideration for whether or not music reading is important? I don’t think you would find many proponents here that reading music is essential for all genres.

Are you posing this question, therefore, for your career as a writer rather than your personal interest as a classical pianist?

Last edited by dogperson; 03/18/18 10:10 PM.
Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722374
03/18/18 10:13 PM
03/18/18 10:13 PM
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Farago Offline OP
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
this is a classical music forum so it seems a strange place to pose this question.

Specifically, how is classical different from pop?

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think the ability to read music would make learning jazz much easier.

How does reading sheet music make learning jazz easier?

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
The teachers you mention are either teaching classical music where it's necessary...

Necessary why?

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
...unless one wants to learn every piece by rote

How is rote learning different from learning to read?

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't see any truth to what Chet Atkins said.

What was he saying then?

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
All the people you mentioned were successful not because they couldn't read but music in spite of their not knowing how.

This is obvious.

Compared with pop music, what is it about classical music that necessitates reading sheet music?

Originally Posted by dogperson
according to your profile, what you play is chopin, Bach, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin.

In the "What type of music do you like?" field, I listed: "Rachmaninoff, Bach, Chopin, Ravel, Liszt, Schubert, Brahms, Chopin, Prokofiev, Scriabin, and just about everything else."

Originally Posted by dogperson
Are you proposing then that reading music is not necessary for classical music...

It's unnecessary for any beginner instrumentalist.

Originally Posted by dogperson
...even though classical music was not listed in your post as a consideration for whether or not music reading is important?

What exactly is it about classical music that differentiates it from 'pop'?

Originally Posted by dogperson
Are you posing this question, therefore, for your career as a writer rather than your personal interest as a classical pianist?

It's for both. smile

In my mid to late teenage years (I'm 26 now), I listened non-stop to concert pianists performing music by the great composers. I adored it beyond anything else. I also studied piano, and was an aspiring concert pianist myself.

Before getting into what I've written below, I'm curious to know your opinion on this article advocating reading music right away. To me, the author is out to lunch. Does she make perfect sense to you? Also - be sure to check out all the comments at the bottom of the article!

So...

The most common support that I've encountered for the "Reading music is necessary!" argument comes only when classical music comes into the picture, because: "Classical music is fundamentally different than pop music - therefore, it must be treated and learned differently!"

Is this true?

Piano teachers have rolled their eyes at me, smirked, and some of them have made little effort to conceal the fact that they, wiser than me, obviously needed to benevolently forgive my ignorance.

“All those musicians are pop musicians,” they’d say. "If you want to play classical, then you must read music first.”

It begs the question - what is fundamentally different about music that is popular now, compared to music that was popular back then?

My research involving these great classical musicians and composers:

- Van Cliburn
- Clara Haskil
- Leopold Godowsky
- Sergei Prokofiev
- Sergei Rachmaninoff
- Josef Hofmann
- The Rubinsteins (Anton and Arthur)
- Vladimir Horowitz
- Alexander Scriabin
- Frédéric Chopin
- Johannes Brahms
- Martha Argerich
- Ruth Slenczynska
- Denis Matsuev
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
- Josef Lhévinne

*inhales deeply*... and many others...

... taught me that they started first with playing by ear, and that the sheet music came afterward.

(Hofmann was reputedly a poor sight-reader, and Brahms invented his own method of committing his compositions to paper before he was ever introduced to ‘proper’ sheet music.)

Evgeny Kissin joins this group too. Here's an autobiographical account of his early childhood:

“My older sister, who is ten and a half years older than me, studied piano at the time when I was one, and my parents were absolutely delighted that I was such a quiet child. I would stand all day long in my cot - quietly. All of a sudden, on one fine day when I was eleven months old, I sang the theme of the Bach fugue my sister was studying at the time…

Only then did my parents realize that I had been listening to my sister’s playing all the time - and from that moment on (according to what my parents tell me) I started singing practically everything I heard from my sister, from the radio, from the records - and then, at the age of two, when I grew up tall enough to reach the keyboard, I started playing - first with one finger - then with all the fingers - again - everything I heard from… wherever.”

In his autobiography, Kissin wrote that one of his earliest memories was of sitting at the grand piano, playing by ear, improvising and composing a song about how his neighbor treated their dog Gypsy badly.

He wrote that, “More than anything else in the world, from early childhood, [he] wanted nothing more than to play the piano, picking up music by heart and improvising to [his] heart’s content.”

These improvisations wandered over all possible keys, but in the end always returned to the key in which he had begun. This went on for years before his studies started at age six.

Figuring that her son needed instruction, Kissin’s mother took him to the Gnessin Institute, where they met his teacher. The three of them went into classroom No. 7. There, he played, by ear, Chopin’s Third Ballade, Liszt’s Twelfth Hungarian Rhapsody, and excerpts from The Nutcracker.

When his mother said that he liked to improvise on themes he was given, his teacher suggested that he, “play about a dark forest… and then the sun comes up and the birds sing,” and he did.

His teacher said, “Oh what a good piece! Play it again!”

“But I don’t remember it,” was his reply.

His teacher didn’t believe him, saying, ‘Well, play another piece about a forest,” thinking that he’d play the same thing. He improvised something completely different.

The teacher said to his mother, “I am afraid of teaching this child; he can play by ear Chopin’s ballade and Liszt’s rhapsody, and I must explain to him how to read music, give him simple little pieces to play – he will be bored.”

As it turned out, he did get bored. His mother’s remedy to this was to tell him that the composers were telling of 'something' through their music, and that began to stoke his imagination.

When he was introduced to musical notation, he picked it up in short order. Compulsively, he began writing down his own music. During many lengthy illnesses in childhood, he’d lie in bed and write piano pieces dedicated to his, “dear, beloved teacher Anna Pavlovna Kantor.”

As soon as he discovered something new, he immediately used it in his own committed-to-paper compositions.

So it went for the rest of the greats. Diving into research about these composers whose music I adore, there seemed to be no exception. Virtually every great pianist and legendary composer started in the same way that all the great pop musicians did.

Was the medium of pen and paper critical for the aptitude of these people? Or was it a result of them wanting to ensure that their legacies lived on?

Why was it that, back then, the great composers' music that was committed to paper was referred to as 'stale' and/or 'pale' and/or 'frozen'?

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722384
03/18/18 10:36 PM
03/18/18 10:36 PM
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Could be challenging for a large orchestra, chorus and conductor to perform Beethoven's Missa Solemnis by ear.

Musical scores tend to be helpful in those types of situations.

Also - after a composer commits an original composition to paper, someone eventually must be able to READ that notation in order to reproduce the work in performance.

As musicians we all have our strengths and weaknesses. My ability to play by ear is limited at best - and my memory skills are also fairly unreliable. - but fortunately I could always read music well and follow a score.- both classical and pop..


Last edited by Carey; 03/18/18 10:48 PM.

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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722385
03/18/18 10:37 PM
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Of course you don't have to be able to read music. Did Hildegard of Bingen read music? Hmmmm......

You can spend your lifetime playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, maybe even Happy Birthday by ear. Who wants to play Chopin or Rachmaninov or Prokofiev or (God forbid) Messiaen anyway, when you could spend your lifetime playing nice tunes by ear with RH and make up stuff with LH?


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Carey] #2722387
03/18/18 10:51 PM
03/18/18 10:51 PM
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Carey, I'm inclined to agree with you on this first bit:

Originally Posted by Carey
Could be challenging for a large orchestra, chorus and conductor to perform Beethoven's Missa Solemnis by ear.

Musical scores tend to be helpful in those types of situations.

It certainly is not impossible, however.

I'm getting at the question of, "Is foisting sheet music upon beginner instrumentalists the best thing to do?"

Your next assertion is questionable:

Originally Posted by Carey
Also - after a composer commits an original composition to paper, someone eventually must be able to READ that notation in order to reproduce the work in performance.

Someone could also hear someone (e.g. the composer) play it aloud, then reproduce, by ear, what they heard.

Please see my reply to bennevis below.

bennevis:

Originally Posted by bennevis
Of course you don't have to be able to read music. Did Hildegard of Bingen read music? Hmmmm......

You can spend your lifetime playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, maybe even Happy Birthday by ear. Who wants to play Chopin or Rachmaninov or Prokofiev or (God forbid) Messiaen anyway, when you could spend your lifetime playing nice tunes by ear with RH and make up stuff with LH?

Appreciate the sarcasm there, brother! (Kidding. I'm being sarcastic.)

People have played works far more intricate than Mozart's Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by ear. Liszt played Hummel concertos by ear (he'd hear his father Adam Liszt playing those). I've read that Clara Haskil, as a child, played Mozart sonatas by ear. Later in life, she did the same thing with Liszt's Feux Follets. She learned it by ear, and performed it shortly thereafter without consulting the score (and therefore she reproduced the mistakes as well). I've heard that Argerich learned a significant amount of Prokofiev's 3rd Piano Concerto by ear when her flatmate played it.

Robert Roux, a well-known professor, would play Beethoven symphonies by ear after hearing them on the radio.

All of Chopin's music was initially played by ear. By Chopin.

According to a segment of Kissin's autobiography, mentioned above, he too was playing pieces more complex than Mozart's Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by age six.

I can see how 'playing by ear' carries the connotation of 'exclusively playing simple ditties'... but does that stem from the fact that your capability is currently at that level? Do you think it's possible to push beyond that?

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722394
03/18/18 11:10 PM
03/18/18 11:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Farago
I'd agree with you on that Carey, but... is sheet music the first thing that should be foisted upon hopeful instrumentalists?
Not necessarily - but it shouldn't be ignored either Chords, scales and basic harmonic progressions are important to learn too.
Quote
Robert Roux, a well-known professor, would play Beethoven symphonies by ear after hearing them on the radio.
These would have been transcriptions of Beethoven symphonies.
Quote
All of Chopin's music was initially played by ear. By Chopin.
Actually we don't really know how he composed.
Quote
According to a segment of Kissin's autobiography, mentioned above, he too was playing pieces more complex than Mozart's Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by age six.
Can't we assume that he wasn't a normal kid?
Quote
I can see how 'playing by ear' carries the connotation of 'exclusively playing simple ditties'... but does that stem from the fact that your capability is currently at that level? Do you think it's possible to push beyond that?
With practice and sheer will power, yes. ha


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722396
03/18/18 11:15 PM
03/18/18 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by Carey
Also - after a composer commits an original composition to paper, someone eventually must be able to READ that notation in order to reproduce the work in performance.


Someone could also hear someone play it aloud, then reproduce, by ear, what they heard.


Of course - but if the second "someone" couldn't play it aloud by reading it, then the first "someone" would be kind of screwed. ha


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Carey] #2722397
03/18/18 11:22 PM
03/18/18 11:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Carey
Chords, scales and basic harmonic progressions are important to learn too.

What specifically will these help with?

Originally Posted by Carey
These would have been transcriptions of Beethoven symphonies.

A transcription is either:

(1) a written or printed representation of something or (2) an arrangement of a piece of music for a different instrument, voice, or number of these.

It was not (1). It was (2); he went from hearing it on the radio to playing it on the piano.

Originally Posted by Carey
Actually we don't really know how [Chopin] composed.

This is not true. Take this excerpt from Chopin in Paris: The Life and Times of the Romantic Composer by Tad Szulc:

Originally Posted by Tad Szulc
Naturally, there was a piano at the Chopins’ apartments. Justyna played it alone or to accompany Mikolaj when he picked up his violin or flute. Soon, she began teaching piano to her daughter Ludwika as Frycek (Frédéric Chopin), then three or four years old, listened with rapture (legend has it that as a baby he wept uncontrollably at the sound of music). Before long, his mother started teaching him, too, but Fryderyk mastered the instrument so rapidly that before he turned six, he could play every melody he had ever heard, and began to improvise. He had essentially learned the piano by himself, including harmonizing melodies with simple chords, but his parents concluded that henceforth he should be taught music seriously and systematically.

As fate would have it, Chopin’s parents ended up hiring Wojciech Zywny - no typical teacher - he was a sixty-year-old florid violinist and music teacher from the Czech lands. He was to instruct six-year-old Frédéric in composition and harmony, however - he was a man who recognized the sheer genius in what kid Chopin was already doing. He did not attempt to improve on it, opting instead to simply guide and help it. He never tried to change boy Chopin’s unusual and intricate piano fingering. Unsurprisingly, Chopin’s music would be lauded by pianists over the ensuing centuries not only as some of the greatest ever written, but also as the most comfortable under the hands.

Chopin amused his friends with his uncanny imitations of people - mimicking them with his face, voice, and with his music. While at the piano, he would portray their feelings and character traits. He sketched hilarious caricatures with pen and pad, but also “sketched” dispositions of his intimate friends by certain figures and passages on the piano so exactly and comically that everyone would burst out laughing.

Though he performed publicly, he let only a small circle of select friends hear him improvise, including his close friend, and partner, the writer George Sand, who felt that Chopin’s compositions were “but pale shadows of his improvisations” - a remark echoed by the rest of Chopin's social circle, who he would play for at receptions until dawn, enthralling them for hours on end with heaven-inspired improvisations. These people concurred with Sand - asserting the superiority of sheer beauty and imagination of the improvisations as compared to the compositions that Chopin painstakingly committed to paper. Chopin lamented, “The pen burns my fingers,” and it was excruciatingly difficult for him to put down on paper the melodies that filled his mind. George Sand recounted that during their walks near her country home in Nohant, for example, Chopin would hum a new melody, then later struggle at home to write it in coherent form.

At the piano, because of the nervous excitement that his music created within him, his face would be altered like a person who was about to faint. When he got up from the piano, he was so exhausted and enervated that he simply did not know what was happening with him. He did not respond to all the compliments and expressions of admiration with which he was being thanked because he could not articulate a single word. He needed a long time to calm down and regain his equilibrium.

Originally Posted by Carey
Can't we assume that he wasn't a normal kid?

We could, but your learning and the process of discovery would stop dead in its tracks. The interesting question to ask is: what would happen if many more kids were raised in situations nearly identical to his?

Originally Posted by Carey
With practice and sheer will power, yes.

But what exactly does that involve?

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722398
03/18/18 11:25 PM
03/18/18 11:25 PM
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Tori Amos attended a music school - she definitely knows how to read sheet music. I understand she was not very conventional while attending but I'm sure she could muddle through some reading.

I recently met a musician who writes for broadway - he played my piano for a few minutes. I was working on a piece by Liszt, and he commented that he didn't know how to read music. I was surprised and astonished. He makes up melodies, plays them, and has someone transcribe for him. I have to wonder if that hinders him, limits his skill and must think his compositions could be better if he were trained. However I'm not all that familiar with his work, as Broadway musicals are not a favorite genre of mine, so I wouldn't know.

Maybe it's not necessary as clearly commercial success doesn't seem dependent on reading. I do believe however that readers are more proficient , technically, at their craft than non readers.


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Carey] #2722399
03/18/18 11:26 PM
03/18/18 11:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Carey
Of course - but if the second "someone" couldn't play it aloud by reading it, then the first "someone" would be kind of screwed.

But recording equipment exists nowadays. Composers can play straight into a microphone.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: cmb13] #2722402
03/18/18 11:30 PM
03/18/18 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by cmb13
Tori Amos attended a music school - she definitely knows how to read sheet music. I understand she was not very conventional while attending but I'm sure she could muddle through some reading.

In 1986, Amos formed a musical group called "Y Kant Tori Read", an homage to her difficulty sight-reading.

Tori was kicked out of a very dogmatic classical school. It’s worth noting that she began composing her own piano music when she was five, she was accepted on scholarship into that so-called 'prestigious' music school, but then had her scholarship taken away and was asked to leave the school at age 11, because she liked rock and pop, and didn’t want to read sheet music.

She persisted with her goal - making music - dropping her debut album (also called “Y Kant Tori Read”) which was the first in a string of albums that would have her carve a career path:

1) Writing her own music,
2) Touring the world, and
3) Building a sixty million dollar net worth because of what she created.

The same can’t be said for the vast majority of classically trained students, who get to do zero of the above three things.

Originally Posted by cmb13
I recently met a musician who writes for broadway - he played my piano for a few minutes. I was working on a piece by Liszt, and he commented that he didn't know how to read music. I was surprised and astonished. He makes up melodies, plays them, and has someone transcribe for him. I have to wonder if that hinders him, limits his skill and must think his compositions could be better if he were trained. However I'm not all that familiar with his work, as Broadway musicals are not a favorite genre of mine, so I wouldn't know.

Richard Rodgers, chief composer for the duo “Rodgers and Hammerstein”, pieced together bits of melodies using two fingers on his family’s piano when he was four years old. By the time he was six, he was playing by ear with all fingers. His parents tried to foist reading sheet music upon him, but he promptly threw it to the side, opting instead to improvise his own melodies and perform songs his parents would sing - those were two of his favorite things. Richard Rodgers was the musical half of the what would be called the greatest musical theatre writing partnership of the 20th century. They won thirty-four Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, and two Grammy Awards.

Irving Berlin, the writer of the best-selling single ever (“White Christmas”) didn’t read music. He had a transcriber write down what he was playing.

Originally Posted by cmb13
Maybe it's not necessary as clearly commercial success doesn't seem dependent on reading. I do believe however that readers are more proficient , technically, at their craft than non readers.

What contributes to your belief here, cmb13?

How would you explain one of the most technically proficient pianists of all time, Art Tatum? His technical facility was astonishing, and yet he was blind.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722404
03/19/18 12:00 AM
03/19/18 12:00 AM
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Carey Offline
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Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by Carey
Chords, scales and basic harmonic progressions are important to learn too.
What specifically will these help with?
Making music..
Originally Posted by Carey
These would have been transcriptions of Beethoven symphonies.
Originally Posted by Farago
A transcription is either:
(1) a written or printed representation of something or (2) an arrangement of a piece of music for a different instrument, voice, or number of these.
It was not (1). It was (2); he went from hearing it on the radio to playing it on the piano.
Yes - it was 2. However, we don't really now how accurate he was, do we?.
Originally Posted by Carey
Actually we don't really know how [Chopin] composed.
Originally Posted by Farago
This is not true. Take this excerpt from Chopin in Paris: The Life and Times of the Romantic Composer by Tad Szulc............:
"These people concurred with Sand - asserting the superiority of sheer beauty and imagination of the improvisations as compared to the compositions that Chopin painstakingly committed to paper. Chopin lamented, “The pen burns my fingers,” and it was excruciatingly difficult for him to put down on paper the melodies that filled his mind. George Sand recounted that during their walks near her country home in Nohant, for example, Chopin would hum a new melody, then later struggle at home to write it in coherent form."
OK - this tells us that improvising was easy for him, but composing was difficult.
Originally Posted by Carey
Can't we assume that he wasn't a normal kid?
Originally Posted by Farago
You could, but your learning and the process of discovery would stop dead in its tracks. The interesting question to ask is: what would happen if many more kids were raised in situations nearly identical to his?
Then we'd probably have more kids playing classical piano.
Originally Posted by Carey
With practice and sheer will power, yes.
Quote
But what exactly does that involve?
Persistence and trial and error.


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722406
03/19/18 12:04 AM
03/19/18 12:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by Carey
Of course - but if the second "someone" couldn't play it aloud by reading it, then the first "someone" would be kind of screwed.

But recording equipment exists nowadays. Composers can play straight into a microphone.
So are you suggesting that we throw out musical notation altogether? crazy


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Kawai CA-65 Digital
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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Carey] #2722408
03/19/18 12:28 AM
03/19/18 12:28 AM
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Planet Earth, System of Sol, M...
Farago Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by Carey
Chords, scales and basic harmonic progressions are important to learn too.
What specifically will these help with?
Making music..

But Chopin wasn't shown the chords by other people. He figured them out as a strapping young autodidact. As did all the other composers.

Originally Posted by Carey
we don't really now how accurate [Roux] was, do we?

He was certainly far more accurate than the people who can do naught but push keys (with varying levels of understanding and nuance) once they're presented with a score.

Originally Posted by Carey
OK - this tells us that improvising was easy for [Chopin], but composing was difficult.

What's the difference? Is improvisation not simply composing on the fly?

Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by Carey
Can't we assume that [Kissin] wasn't a normal kid?
We could, but your learning and the process of discovery would stop dead in its tracks. The interesting question to ask is: what would happen if many more kids were raised in situations nearly identical to [Kissin's]?
Then we'd probably have more kids playing classical piano.

What if Kissin hadn't been constrained, forced into interpretership? He's admittedly self-conscious about his compositions (he submitted them to Arvo Pärt for inspection). He's had a nagging desire to return back to composition. I've heard that he spends most of his time improvising, rather than practicing pre-written repertoire.

Originally Posted by Carey
So are you suggesting that we throw out musical notation altogether?

No, I'm suggesting that most people who think they can read can not actually read. They can’t silently look at an unfamiliar score, comprehend what’s on the page, and (thus) get emotionally affected by it. They’re trained to look at a score, decode it, and make their instruments produce the right tones. Almost always devoid of nuance, some do this quickly - most slowly. This isn’t reading.

I'm also suggesting that we stop stifling creativity. Albert Einstein would agree. He lamented the effective disappearance of the practice among 19th century musicians of improvising on the pieces they played during performance, making recitals both unpredictable and exciting. By the 1930s, this practice had long since died out, to be replaced by an overweening respect for the written notes of the score. Einstein could (and on occasion, he did) play all the notes of his favorite composers, but he improvised as well. His sister Maja recalled that when he took up the piano, he quickly became dissatisfied with the written notes and, "constantly searched for new harmonies and transitions of his own invention.”

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722416
03/19/18 01:33 AM
03/19/18 01:33 AM
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Carey Offline
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Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by Carey
Chords, scales and basic harmonic progressions are important to learn too.
What specifically will these help with?
Making music..

But Chopin wasn't shown the chords by other people. He figured them out as a strapping young autodidact
Not necessarily. Apparently his mother helped a bit at the beginning ....Per Tad Szuk "Naturally, there was a piano at the Chopins’ apartments. Justyna played it alone or to accompany Mikolaj when he picked up his violin or flute. Soon, she began teaching piano to her daughter Ludwika as Frycek (Frédéric Chopin), then three or four years old, listened with rapture (legend has it that as a baby he wept uncontrollably at the sound of music). Before long, his mother started teaching him, too, but Fryderyk mastered the instrument so rapidly that before he turned six, he could play every melody he had ever heard, and began to improvise. He had essentially learned the piano by himself, including harmonizing melodies with simple chords, but his parents concluded that henceforth he should be taught music seriously and systematically."
Originally Posted by Farago
. As did all the other composers.
Happy generalization.
Originally Posted by Carey
we don't really now how accurate [Roux] was, do we?
Originally Posted by Farago
He was certainly far more accurate than the people who can do naught but push keys (with varying levels of understanding and nuance) once they're presented with a score.
Seems like your personal biases are showing.
Originally Posted by Carey
OK - this tells us that improvising was easy for [Chopin], but composing was difficult.
Originally Posted by Farago
What's the difference? Is improvisation not simply composing on the fly?
Sure it is. Beethoven was terrific at improvisation too - but when it came to actually writing his musical ideas down for posterity, he struggled as well. Lots has been written about that.
Originally Posted by Carey
Can't we assume that [Kissin] wasn't a normal kid?
Originally Posted by Farago
We could, but your learning and the process of discovery would stop dead in its tracks. The interesting question to ask is: what would happen if many more kids were raised in situations nearly identical to [Kissin's]?
Originally Posted by Carey
Then we'd probably have more kids playing classical piano.
Originally Posted by Farago
What if Kissin hadn't been constrained, forced into interpretership? He's admittedly self-conscious about his compositions (he submitted them to Arvo Pärt for inspection). He's had a nagging desire to return back to composition. I've heard that he spends most of his time improvising, rather than practicing pre-written repertoire.
I'm guessing that if Kissin hadn't been constrained and forced into" interpretership" he wouldn't be as well-known today - but he might be a lot happier. Who knows.
Originally Posted by Carey
So are you suggesting that we throw out musical notation altogether?
Originally Posted by Farago
No, I'm suggesting that a lot of people who think they can read can not actually read They can’t silently look at an unfamiliar score, comprehend what’s on the page, and (thus) get emotionally affected by it. They’re trained to look at a score, decode it, and make their instruments produce the right tones. Almost always devoid of nuance, some do this quickly - most slowly. This isn’t reading.
Apparently "reading" means different things to different people.
Originally Posted by Farago
I'm also suggesting that we stop stifling creativity.
Who, specifically is "we?"


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Carey] #2722420
03/19/18 01:50 AM
03/19/18 01:50 AM
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Planet Earth, System of Sol, M...
Farago Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Carey
Apparently his mother helped a bit at the beginning

Sure, "his mother started teaching him, too, but Fryderyk mastered the instrument so rapidly that before he turned six, he could play every melody he had ever heard, and began to improvise. He had essentially learned the piano by himself, including harmonizing melodies with simple chords."

Did his mother teach him his own unique ways of harmonizing melodies with simple chords?

No.

Was his mother there showing him every single key sequence from every piece he'd ever heard?

No.

Do piano teachers today do that?

Yes.

How?

With top-down videos of keyboards and fingers (on YouTube), with their own fingers, or with sheet music.

There's far less about what Chopin's mother Justyna did than what her son autodidactically did.

Also, Kissin was mimicking tunes that he heard his family members play. With no instruction from them.

Jordan Rudess, the keyboardist for Dream Theatre, also begin picking out tunes by ear at school, well before he was put into lessons by his mother (or before his mother even knew of his musical abilities). Jordan's first piano teacher was impressed with his improvisatory facility; he improvised upon chord progressions that he invented.

Check out Cory Henry playing as a kid here. (Especially @ 1:14! 3hearts) Would you assert that he was shown, by rote, which keys to push? It seems like he really 'gets' it.

Originally Posted by Carey
Seems like your personal biases are showing.

If you're going to go that route, let's have you specify those biases. wink

Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by Farago
Chopin wasn't shown the chords by other people. He figured them out as a strapping young autodidact. As did all the other composers.
Happy generalization.

Not a happy generalization at all. In fact, it's a rather simple deduction: Composers figured out their innovative stuff as autodidacts. Debussy, for example, saw improvisation as his main creative source, claiming that his harmonic innovations came from, “following the law of pleasure of the ear”. If you can find me a classical composer, or a handful of classical composers, who made names for themselves by way of rote mimicry of some now-obscure 'teachers', then I'll concede that I made a "happy generalization".

Originally Posted by Carey
I'm guessing that if Kissin hadn't been constrained and forced into" interpretership" he wouldn't be as well-known today - but he might be a lot happier. Who knows.

Who's to say that he wouldn't have been the next Chopin? Also: interpretership is a legitimate word. wink

Originally Posted by Carey
Apparently "reading" means different things to different people.

This is exactly what I assert. Are you sitting in front of your computer, reading this thread aloud, comprehending the text only when the words' air pressure waves leave your mouth and travel to your ears?

Originally Posted by Carey
Who, specifically is "we?"

All teachers who foist sheet music upon children. I used to do that, in my teens. Because that was dogma. Eventually, in my late teens / early twenties, I started getting the nagging feeling that the "playing" facilitated by codependence on sheet music is really screwing things up for kids.

It'll change, and we shall see that day sooner than most realize.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722424
03/19/18 02:14 AM
03/19/18 02:14 AM
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Farago Offline OP
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Anyway, I'm heading to bed, but here's a quote by a great guy (who, as an autodidact, figured out how to pour his soul into his piano improvisations and compositions):

Originally Posted by Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff in the year 1910
“We must not be bound down by convention. Iconoclasm is the law of artistic progress. All great composers and performers have built upon the ruins of conventions that they themselves have destroyed. It is infinitely better to create than to imitate. Before we can create, however, it is well to make ourselves familiar with the best that has preceded us. This applies not only to composition, but to piano playing as well.”

I say that a new way of teaching should be 'composed'.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722432
03/19/18 03:10 AM
03/19/18 03:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Farago


Compared with pop music, what is it about classical music that necessitates reading sheet music?



Complexity and detail.

Pop music is a few chords, and not much else. (I'm not saying it's music of lesser quality). Anybody with a bit of training an modestly good ear can pretty much figure out how to play the chord progressions and melodies of songs like the Beatles, Taylor Swift, etc. (Or, by the same token create their own melodies). It's repetitive. The melody changes, but the chord structure remains the same, mostly. It isn't hard, which is why it's "Popular" and easily accessible for the general public.

On the other hand, take a piece like the Liszt Sonata in B minor. Even somebody with perfect pitch and supreme musical gifts would not be able to recreate all of it without needing to look at notation. (And not just rhythm and notes - I hold expression, dynamics, articulation, and pedal markings all under the category of "notation"). Similarly, if you wanted to compose a piece of similar length and complexity, you would need to have some kind of "record" of whatever it was you created the day(s) before, because there is simply too much finely crafted detail involved to be able to remember all of it. Why not just record yourself you ask?? Because you likely won't be able to PLAY it yet - having the aural image of what something should sound like and developing the technique to actually play it are different things. Rachmaninoff had to "learn" the 3rd concerto that he already "wrote" by practicing on a silent piano on his voyage across the Atlantic.

Then you have the issue of ensemble playing. If you are going to criticize the need for notation, can you explain how a string quartet would be able to rehearse a Beethoven Fugue? How would each player know how many rests to count before they come in, or how their rhythm compares to the other 3? By listening to a recording?? You cannot hear each part in isolation clearly that way. And even if you could, can you imagine how tedious and repetitive the learning process would be?? How many times would you need to rewind your iPhone or CD player to "Get it in your head", when you could just read it once?? And what about an orchestra? You do realize that in an average symphony, you have about 10-15 different instrument sections doing separate things all at the same time. How would this be coordinated? And what about the conductor? How would he be able to call out exactly which parts he wants to rehearse from in 3-hour long opera? He needs to be able to say "line 400, bar 13".

If it's simple enough you don't need to read music. But as bennevis says, there can be things fulfilling besides a melody and a few simple chords.

Last edited by Opus_Maximus; 03/19/18 03:57 AM.
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