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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722599
03/19/18 12:00 PM
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I'm not entirely clear on why we're having this discussion. There's no rational argument to be made for the idea that NOT knowing how to read music isn't anything but a disadvantage to be overcome. In other words, just because it's not absolutely necessary and can somehow be accommodated doesn't do anything to diminish the idea that it's an ALMOST-indispensable part of musicianship.

Similarly, I guess I could just memorize all of Shakespeare's plays, but I certainly wouldn't make the argument that being illiterate is a fine state of affairs for scholarly study because some people have managed to learn them without being able to read.

The example of composers finding it difficult to put the music in their heads into notation is not an argument for illiteracy, either. ALL WRITERS have that problem. It doesn't mean the act of writing is such an interference with the creative process that we should consider teaching and learning without written text. Also, no writers would make the argument that because they have trouble writing sometimes that they then avoid the use of written text to learn OTHERS' works. I guarantee you Chopin did not prefer to learn the whole canon of Beethoven's works by ear.

And I don't get how the fact that many musicians learned by listening and playing when very young makes any argument for musical illiteracy. We all learn that way. What, because I learned how to talk and speak before I learned how to read is a reason to remain illiterate? A person who falls in love with Shakespeare by seeing and listening to the plays first is a defense of illiteracy?

Not being able to use music notation among musicians is nothing but musical illiteracy. Musical illiteracy is not an asset even if somehow one can dredge up examples of musicians who managed to deal with it, nor is it an asset even if you focus on the one moment in the creative process of composition where the act of writing notation can sometimes get in the way.

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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Mark_C] #2722607
03/19/18 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
I would understand it if learning how to read music were complicated or very hard.
It isn't.
Children learn to do it in days -- and I don't mean prodigies, I mean just about any kid.

It's not like learning the Theory of Relativity. grin


I found learning to read music hard. I didn't start until I was in my forties; I'm dyslexic, and I have visual defects in both eyes. I found relativity much, much easier.

I don't for a moment regret the very considerable effort involved; but it isn't easy for everybody.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: kevinb] #2722610
03/19/18 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by kevinb
I found learning to read music hard. I didn't start until I was in my forties; I'm dyslexic, and I have visual defects in both eyes. I found relativity much, much easier.

I don't for a moment regret the very considerable effort involved; but it isn't easy for everybody.

OK -- you had a bit of a special situation. I was being purposely over-simple, to make a point. I do realize that it's not necessarily easy for anyone, and that some people do have special situations. Another example, a more extreme one, would be people who are blind or extremely visually impaired. But our guy who asked the question didn't indicate any such thing. He just asked basically, "What for?"
So I said, why the f*** not. grin

And, interestingly, you did go and learn to read music, despite the obstacle -- and you found it worthwhile to have done so.

BTW, even unsighted people sometimes learn to read music -- I guess there are Braille versions -- and find it worthwhile.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: TwoSnowflakes] #2722612
03/19/18 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
I'm not entirely clear on why we're having this discussion.
And I don't get how the fact that many musicians learned by listening and playing when very young makes any argument for musical illiteracy. We all learn that way.


I am not sure about the latter point. I think I learnt by playing and listening. Hence my previous post. Would I have been taught better another way?

As for why we are having the discussion, well it get's people thinking - or at least talking.

@WhoDwaldi - I'm afraid you have lost me completely - sorry if I am being thick.


Roland LX7

South Wales, UK
Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Mark_C] #2722616
03/19/18 12:44 PM
03/19/18 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Mark_C

BTW, even unsighted people sometimes learn to read music -- I guess there are Braille versions -- and find it worthwhile.

Braille notation is complicated and time consuming to read. So even if I have similar issues as kevin, I try to remember how fortunate I am to be able to see and learn pieces from traditional notation.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: Farago] #2722619
03/19/18 12:52 PM
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Personally, I believe that those pop people who openly admit to not being able to read music wish they could, though they might want their fans to think that they blossomed into flowers entirely of their own accord just by listening to themselves without being contaminated by the 'establishment' which would occur if they could read music grin.

After all, isn't it cool(er) to allow your own unique talent to do its own thing rather than to study other people's scores and get influenced by them?

Of course, if you then fancy composing your own (Liverpool) Oratorio, you get the help of a real composer and orchestrator/arranger like Carl Davis to work with you and write things down and turn your tunes into something resembling an oratorio. Because how else can you expect 200 musicians to learn your magnum opus for solo singers, choir & orchestra? By hearing you sing it and play it? Each and every part?

I have a self-taught jazzer friend (who can't read music and plays by ear in his own band) who used to turn up his nose at people (like me) who learn pieces from the scores - until he came and heard me play a recital. He realized how complex many classical pieces are, with multiple melodic strands running & passing in both hands, melodies frequently entwined with harmonies, the myriad variety of textures and harmonies, much of it indeterminate........and all to be played with ten fingers. He admitted for the first time that he couldn't begin to start playing any of it by ear.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2722630
03/19/18 01:37 PM
03/19/18 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
[...]
Once met somebody who managed to learn to play Debussy's "Clair de Lune" reasonably well by watching video demos and learning by ear. It is not an easy piece whether you go by sound recordings or notations. On the other hand, he completely bypassed the need to read notations. It is totally possible to learn compositions without heaving to read music. Reading music is something you'd do at home practicing your instrument. In a performance you can go by sheet music or memory and the audience wouldn't care as long as you make a good sound...


The question that this approach to learning "Clair de lune," and to "learning" a piece of classical music in general by this method, is: How accurate is the learning? I would find it hard to imagine that the person who learned "Clair de lune" in this manner had it down note-perfect unless s/he were a musical prodigy of some sort. Perhaps it sounded almost right, but is it known whether a given chord or arpeggio was in the right inversion, or was it just an approximation of what was heard or what the person thought s/he heard? To many, an approximation would be just that, but it wouldn't be "Clair de lune."

As an investment in time, learning to read classical music is a much more efficient (and accurate) method of producing what a composer has written than trying to reproduce what one thinks one hears.

All that said, I have played a lot of pop standards in my day, and for many of them I have not seen the music. In this field, it's a totally different approach: one reproduces the melody in the key of ones choosing "by ear", and the accompaniment generally follows the harmony of the original, but there is usually no "original" score which must be reproduced note-for-note.

Regards,


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722640
03/19/18 02:11 PM
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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: Farago] #2722641
03/19/18 02:11 PM
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When I was younger I had some peers who played piano very well and have learned (classical) pieces I've never tackled. But they were completely stymied at sight-reading and regarded sitting down and simply reading through a piece, even slowly, as some kind of black magic. How they learned pieces was completely different than how I learned pieces. One of them told me he could play all of his best pieces for years from memory after he stopped lessons and stopped practicing. But one day he sat down at the piano at a friend's house and discovered that it had all completely vanished, and never returned.

I had an odd conversation once with someone who was puzzled that I could read music that was written by people from other countries. "But the music isn't in English!"

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Farago] #2722644
03/19/18 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Farago
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..”


Devoid of nuance.... ?

The misunderstanding here is that notation is capable of nuance. Notation is extremely useful and convenient, but it has some shortcomings.

Notation can tell the pianist exactly which keys to press. It's a 100% solution for that. When and how long to press, it's rather coarsely quantized into halves, quarters, eigths, etc. How hard to press (how loud), it's very subjective. This can be demonstrated with any of the notation editing programs. They play back exactly what the notation is able to contain, and the results definitely lack the nuance that turns three G's in a row into Cole Porter's "Night and Day".

So, you want nuance? You gotta bring your own.

As for notation being necessary, I could definitely walk to New York. There might be a few people here who could swim to London. But it's a whole bunch easier just to buy an airline ticket.


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: David Farley] #2722650
03/19/18 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by David Farley
When I was younger I had some peers who played piano very well and have learned (classical) pieces I've never tackled. But they were completely stymied at sight-reading and regarded sitting down and simply reading through a piece, even slowly, as some kind of black magic. How they learned pieces was completely different than how I learned pieces. One of them told me he could play all of his best pieces for years from memory after he stopped lessons and stopped practicing. But one day he sat down at the piano at a friend's house and discovered that it had all completely vanished, and never returned.

I read a teacher's account of how he once met a woman on a cruise ship who played three classical pieces quite well on the piano. But she couldn't play anything else (her reading skills were apparently non-existent), and had been playing the same three pieces for years and years.....

Would she put up with only being able to "read" three books all her life, and cannot read anything else - newspapers, magazines, War & Peace, A Brief History of Time (RIP Stephen Hawking), trashy novels wink - and rely on listening to professional readers in audiobooks, or else make up her own stories..........yet musicians who cannot read music are exactly in the same boat, musically-speaking.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: JohnSprung] #2722653
03/19/18 02:57 PM
03/19/18 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by Farago
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..”


Devoid of nuance.... ?

The misunderstanding here is that notation is capable of nuance. Notation is extremely useful and convenient, but it has some shortcomings.

Notation can tell the pianist exactly which keys to press. It's a 100% solution for that. When and how long to press, it's rather coarsely quantized into halves, quarters, eigths, etc. How hard to press (how loud), it's very subjective. This can be demonstrated with any of the notation editing programs. They play back exactly what the notation is able to contain, and the results definitely lack the nuance that turns three G's in a row into Cole Porter's "Night and Day".

So, you want nuance? You gotta bring your own.

As for notation being necessary, I could definitely walk to New York. There might be a few people here who could swim to London. But it's a whole bunch easier just to buy an airline ticket.



I meant to respond to that particular statement earlier. Most "trained" musicians I know will usually begin to move and/or sing, often without realizing it, when they're looking at an unfamiliar piece of music. The whole scenario given sounds like it's coming from someone who hasn't spent time observing musicians.

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: Farago] #2722666
03/19/18 03:19 PM
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Just to add further to the discussions, I started at the age of 7. It was discovered that I had perfect pitch so my father, bless his soul, with the best of intentions trained me by playing horribly dissonant chords and getting me to name all the notes. As a consequence of this it was until I was about 15 or 16 that I realised that chords had sounds. To me if C and G were played that's what I heard and thus it was a perfect fifth. Obviously I did hear the sounds, but not consciously and to me the individual notes were what registered first of all.

This also came back to bite me 50 years later when I got back into playing and discovered that the now universal tuning to concert pitch meant that what I I heard didn't correspond with what I was seeing and playing.

An extreme example, obviously, but yes I think we need to think carefully about how we teach children.


Roland LX7

South Wales, UK
Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: Farago] #2722678
03/19/18 03:57 PM
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What would it mean for classical music if no-one could read music?

Kind of a non-starter isn't it? At best you would have people trying to play pieces from the western canon by ear. Could such a feat be done with something as complex as a Chopin Ballade, or a Bach fugue? Would such a skill be accessible to even musicians at a professional level let alone amateurs? Who would have time to figure it all out and still be satisfied with the results?

Its another matter if improvisation and learning to play by ear should be part of music education. I think there is room for discussion there but let's get real. Could you study law through oral tradition? I don't think so.


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: bennevis] #2722683
03/19/18 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
...
I read a teacher's account of how he once met a woman on a cruise ship who played three classical pieces quite well on the piano. But she couldn't play anything else (her reading skills were apparently non-existent), and had been playing the same three pieces for years and years.....


Don't understand though why you would want to put her down. She can play 3 pieces quite well which is 3 more pieces then 95 % of the worlds population can play. What about the Grade 8 RCM students on that cruise that couldn't play anything because they didn't bring their sheet music.

----

If you are going to play in ensemble, any ensemble, you need to be able to communicate and reading is the way. Non classical groups may rely more on lead sheets, but you still need something.

The more ways you can pick something up, the better off you will be. So it makes no sense to knock any way of achieving the same thing. Once you play a piece well, who cares how you did it?




Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: Vid] #2722684
03/19/18 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Vid
What would it mean for classical music if no-one could read music?

Kind of a non-starter isn't it? At best you would have people trying to play pieces from the western canon by ear. Could such a feat be done with something as complex as a Chopin Ballade, or a Bach fugue? Would such a skill be accessible to even musicians at a professional level let alone amateurs? Who would have time to figure it all out and still be satisfied with the results?

Its another matter if improvisation and learning to play by ear should be part of music education. I think there is room for discussion there but let's get real. Could you study law through oral tradition? I don't think so.


I can't imagine someone who can't read music being able to do fingering necessary for a Chopin Ballade either!


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: Greener] #2722686
03/19/18 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Greener
Originally Posted by bennevis
...
I read a teacher's account of how he once met a woman on a cruise ship who played three classical pieces quite well on the piano. But she couldn't play anything else (her reading skills were apparently non-existent), and had been playing the same three pieces for years and years.....


Don't understand though why you would want to put her down.

This:

Would she put up with only being able to "read" three books all her life, and cannot read anything else - like newspapers, magazines, War & Peace, A Brief History of Time (RIP Stephen Hawking), trashy novels wink - and rely on listening to professional readers in audiobooks, or else make up her own stories........
Quote
She can play 3 pieces quite well which is 3 more pieces then 95 % of the worlds population. What about the Grade 8 RCM students on that cruise that couldn't play anything because they didn't bring their sheet music.



Well, if they had passed Grade 8 RCM, they should have sufficient aural skills to play pop songs by ear. (I was playing pop songs by ear by Grade 3/4 ABRSM, as were my fellow music students on their respective instruments.)

And if they could beg, borrow or steal the cruise ship's resident pianist's music scores, they'd have a ball - literally. Which would have been denied to that woman, because she could hardly read music at all.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: Farago] #2722688
03/19/18 04:36 PM
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Gosh, I can’t imagine not reading. I got lost last night on a Copin piece and I guess I’d still be sitting there wondering what notes next if I couldn’t look at the score.


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Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! [Re: bennevis] #2722689
03/19/18 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis

For many professional classical pianists who are not solo concert pianists, good sight-reading skills trumps everything else, including theoretical knowledge and playing by ear. Definitely including playing from memory.

Many of them do lots of odd gigs, including collaborative/chamber music, accompanying singers, directing choirs etc, as well as teaching. They may be called upon to accompany a ballet class and play some waltz at sight which they'd never set eyes on and never heard before, or accompany a singer at an audition who wants to sing an obscure aria by an obscure composer no-one has heard of. The music score is put on the music rest, and they have to deliver the goods there & then. Not just play most of the notes, but play them musically. They become adept at simplifying on the fly if there are too many notes on the pages (as is often the case), they get the gist of what they're playing very quickly without wasting time analyzing it (let's face it, a lot of music use the same series of chord progressions in various permutations), and once they've sight-read it, it's instantly forgotten.

I know a piano teacher who enjoys accompanying more than teaching, and never passes up any gigs. Recently, she was asked to fill in for the pit pianist (playing with a small band) who had fallen ill, for a certain well-known musical for a rehearsal and performance that same evening. She was unfamiliar with the music (musicals aren't her thing) but was totally unfazed, and told me later that once she knew the tunes, she could easily improvise the harmonies and accompaniment rather than play what was in the score.


You're absolutely right.....for a professional classical pianist, sight reading is one of the most important skills, and this is a classical piano forum. Outside the context of a professional classical pianist, it becomes less important, but obviously still has value. I still stand by the point that it is equally important, at least to myself (as I cannot speak for anyone else), to be able to play without sheet music. I have known a couple musicians (neither a pianist) that could not produce a song without the sheets. Their connection was between the eyes, and the hands. Without the eyes, the hands don't know what to do. This would frustrate me. LIke I had said, my perspective is different.....I started as a guitarist. As a performer, I cannot imagine performing to sheet music. I also sing........and while I can read some music while I sing and play, i will never be able to read a complicated score, sing, and play all together. All that said, I have worked hard on improving my sight reading, and I'm glad I have. It does have value. I do fully admit though, the world of classical music is new to me. I've only been playing classical compositions for just over a year now. I am still learning not only skills, but perspective.


Currently working on:
Asturia (Leyenda) - Isaac Albeniz
Mia and Sabastian's Theme - Kyle Landry arrangement
also working on some vocal training



Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! [Re: Opus_Maximus] #2722690
03/19/18 04:49 PM
03/19/18 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
Complexity and detail. Pop music is a few chords, and not much else.

I don't think so. Link 1 Link 2

Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
Even somebody with perfect pitch and supreme musical gifts would not be able to recreate all of it without needing to look at notation.

This is too bold a claim, and it's wrong. Link. You just think it's impossible because it doesn't happen often, right?

Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
not be able to recreate all of it

Why is this the goal? None of the greats were lauded because of their recreations.

Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
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.

Why d'you put "learn" and "wrote" in quotes? What's the subtext?

It sounds like you're sayng that Rachmaninoff didn't have the technical facility to play the Rach 3 until he played it on a silent piano? Sounds dubious. You're also assuming that what Rachmaninoff did on that boat was necessary.

He may have been:

1) Under the assumption that learning by rote repetition was required, because that's what many students did back then.

2) Working out kinks; he could have simply been ensuring that each of the chords fitted under his hands aptly.

Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
... you have the issue of ensemble playing ... can you explain how a string quartet would be able to rehearse a Beethoven Fugue?

How do barbershop quartets do what they do? How do bands with complex music (e.g. Queen - take Bohemian Rhapsody - a very complex 'pop' song) do what they do? Freddy didn't rely upon a score. He could barely read sheet music.

Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
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 really underestimate peoples' full potentials. Sheet music foisted upon pupils as a paint by numbers approach is the inflicter of harm; it prevents the unbounded exploration that the pupil would have done by himself or herself. I love a masterwork as much as the next person, but there are far more promising careers in creating, rather than rehashing.

Originally Posted by Zom, TEN YEARS AGO
Most people today have succumbed to the modern thought disease of ignoring all techniques which involve intuition and immediate feedback as a way of making choices. Very few composers improvise anymore, and those who do consciously restrain their creativity to be within a very small subset of musical possibilities. If more people would realize that unadulterated freedom at the instrument is why all the composers of the past were great, we would DEFINITELY have great composers today following in their footsteps.

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