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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
JJHLH #2974940 05/04/20 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by JJHLH
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by JJHLH
Being able to play while looking at music, and not your hands, is fundamental. I can’t think of anything more important in learning to play the piano. It isn’t easy, but with time and effort the results slowly become more evident and satisfying. As a beginner I made the decision at the start to learn this.
Even the most advanced pianists look at their hands some of the time while playing with the score and not just for big jumps.

I agree. But the most advanced pianists don’t have to look at their hands. Sometimes they do, but it’s not required. A blind pianist has won a gold medal at the Cliburn.

And he has visible issues with his posture and hand positioning that will lead to injury sooner than later. One of the reasons why pianists look down at their hands is to do a "technical check" and make sure not just that the notes are right, but so too are the curvature of the joints, the height of the wrist, the rotation of the wrist, the depth of the press in relation to the key bed.. all of these are things that can be hard to gauge at speed without a visual reference, and especially with the adrenaline pumping. It's surprisingly easy to power through using a poor position that will come back to bite you after a 2-hour concert.

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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
dogperson #2974941 05/04/20 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
It’s too bad this thread was not used to listen to people who do not read music. Rather we label them as ‘lazy’ ‘undisciplined’ among other pejorative descriptions. No wonder they won’t try to explain.

What is there to explain? Care to divulge?


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2974943 05/04/20 05:09 PM
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I learned to read music when learning the piano from age 6, but I can kind of relate to this because for a few years I went to Scottish traditional fiddle classes where everything is done by learning by ear and memorising without reference to written music at all. You have a tune, you maybe have a second "harmony" part (which actually isn't usually harmony but a counterpoint), you have an understanding of the prevailing chords at each point and everything else is made up on the spot. You then all go down the pub and play lots of these things in a session without anyone consulting written notes at any point.

This of course is the opposite of the classical tradition, in which the composer specifies pretty precisely what he wants to happen at every point, melody, harmony, counterpoint, tempo, rhythm, dynamics, expression, and so on. There is a spectrum which ranges from Mozart letting you provide your own cadenza and embellishments in a piano concerto (although the orchestra mus do precisely as it's told), to Mahler where the dimensions of the wooden block that the percussionist is to strike are specified exactly, as is the size and material of the hammer he uses to hit it. And in music of this complexity there is no alternative to a standard code for writing it down, and it makes life jolly difficult if you don't read that code.

However pianists in traditional (and jazz) music groups and sessions may play music of equal complexity by learning the skeleton of the music and filling in the rest themselves either from memory or ex tempore. So I think the answer is that if you want to communicate your musical intent to someone else to reproduce, below a certain level of detail you need notation, but if you are only playing your own inventions there may be no need to write it down.

Last edited by chateauferret; 05/04/20 05:11 PM.
Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
jeffreyjones #2974947 05/04/20 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
And he has visible issues with his posture and hand positioning that will lead to injury sooner than later. One of the reasons why pianists look down at their hands is to do a "technical check" and make sure not just that the notes are right, but so too are the curvature of the joints, the height of the wrist, the rotation of the wrist, the depth of the press in relation to the key bed.. all of these are things that can be hard to gauge at speed without a visual reference, and especially with the adrenaline pumping. It's surprisingly easy to power through using a poor position that will come back to bite you after a 2-hour concert.

You may be right. On the other hand I think the kinesthetic sense and proprioception of the most advanced players is developed to such a high degree that their visual perception adds very little, which is why they often close their eyes even while playing difficult repertoire. This is speculation on my part, but it corresponds with what I’ve observed firsthand during concert performances.


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
chateauferret #2974948 05/04/20 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by chateauferret
I think the answer is that if you want to communicate your musical intent to someone else to reproduce, below a certain level of detail you need notation, but if you are only playing your own inventions there may be no need to write it down.
There aren't many examples from classical music, but here is a rare one, of a lovely piece by Schubert that he played but never wrote down, and was "handed down" by ear (like a lot of folk music is), until R.Strauss heard it, and "transcribed" it on paper and had it set in stone.

Does it sound like real, pure Schubert? Not very. It sounds like a piano transcription of a Schubert song by a composer of a later generation, which is what it basically is:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAEkbgFW_bQ


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
JJHLH #2974950 05/04/20 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by JJHLH
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
And he has visible issues with his posture and hand positioning that will lead to injury sooner than later. One of the reasons why pianists look down at their hands is to do a "technical check" and make sure not just that the notes are right, but so too are the curvature of the joints, the height of the wrist, the rotation of the wrist, the depth of the press in relation to the key bed.. all of these are things that can be hard to gauge at speed without a visual reference, and especially with the adrenaline pumping. It's surprisingly easy to power through using a poor position that will come back to bite you after a 2-hour concert.

You may be right. On the other hand I think the kinesthetic sense and proprioception of the most advanced players is developed to such a high degree that their visual perception adds very little, which is why they often close their eyes even while playing difficult repertoire. This is speculation on my part, but it corresponds with what I’ve observed firsthand during concert performances.

Performing is a very personal thing. It puts the performer on display, and that makes the performer feel profoundly vulnerable. We all have different ways of dealing with the pressure and nerves, as well as maintaining the level of focus we need to keep our attention on the performance. And then some of us are just daredevils. Closing your eyes while playing something really hard strikes me as a daredevil kind of thing to do...

Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
JJHLH #2974959 05/04/20 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by JJHLH
... As a beginner I made the decision at the start to learn this.

And that is the fundamental reason you were successful.

It usually needs to be something the person just decides is part of learning to play piano.


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
jeffreyjones #2974961 05/04/20 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
Performing is a very personal thing. It puts the performer on display, and that makes the performer feel profoundly vulnerable. We all have different ways of dealing with the pressure and nerves, as well as maintaining the level of focus we need to keep our attention on the performance. And then some of us are just daredevils. Closing your eyes while playing something really hard strikes me as a daredevil kind of thing to do...

You may be right, it may be a form of showing off haha.

But I do think it’s important to be able to play without having to look at your hands. Its something my teacher encourages, even challenging me to play one of the pieces I’ve memorized with my eyes closed. As a beginner I can see the value in this exercise. It helps to better develop the sense of space and localization in your mind while playing, allowing even greater confidence when you open your eyes again.

Also, how do people read music and play if they are constantly looking at the music as well as their hands? All that up and down motion can’t be good for the cervical spine over time if one is practicing a couple hours a day.

Here is a recent Josh Wright video which recommends practicing with eyes closed and the benefits of doing so. In my opinion, for a beginner I think this is a fundamental part of learning how to play.

https://youtu.be/XDCZ11sjFJw


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2974962 05/04/20 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
...To me, reading music simply means understanding what the composer is trying to tell you, understanding what the notes mean (pitch), understanding how many counts a note has (rhythm), understanding the dynamic markings, etc. It also means I can translate what is written on the paper to the piano or keyboard or whatever instrument I am playing.

The one thing missing from what "reading music" means to you, according to what you just wrote ....

Is .....

Translating what is written on the paper to the piano (in time) .... as you are simultaneously reading the notation.

Shouldn't that be in your definition, also ?


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
dmd #2974963 05/04/20 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by dmd
Originally Posted by JJHLH
... As a beginner I made the decision at the start to learn this.

And that is the fundamental reason you were successful.

It usually needs to be something the person just decides is part of learning to play piano.

Thank you, I agree completely! It is definitely worth it. It makes practicing so much more fun and allows more time to be spent on the numerous other challenges of learning how to play.


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
David B #2974965 05/04/20 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by David B
Here is an example. I had to play a hymn from the Duane Shinn Praise and Gospel Course (that I just started) 72 times before I could memorize it and didn't have to look at the music anymore. I can't look at the music and play with fluidity at the same time. My brain just can't do it yet.

I am very surprised to hear this.

However, when you mention the part about .... "memorize it and didn't have to look at the music anymore" ....

That is a big red flag !!!!

That process is circumventing your efforts at learning to read music as you play the music.

You have removed the need to look at the music while you play.

That is precisely what everyone does to avoid the difficulty of learning to read as they play.

The result is .... as you know .... you do not gain that skill.

I know all about it because I did it and I still do it and I still cannot play music while looking at the notation.

That is how it works.


Don

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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
dogperson #2974966 05/04/20 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
It’s too bad this thread was not used to listen to people who do not read music. Rather we label them as ‘lazy’ ‘undisciplined’ among other pejorative descriptions. No wonder they won’t try to explain.

I totally agree.

We should not attach a character flaw to someone unwilling to go through the process of learning to play piano while reading music.

It is difficult and not for everyone.

It is a choice made based on what we perceive is our chances of eventual success.


Don

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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2974981 05/04/20 06:48 PM
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In the jazz world, my experience is that people who play mostly by ear and are weak readers are jealous of those who can read, and people who are mostly music based are jealous of those who have better ears. The great ones in jazz, of course, so both equally well.

Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
dmd #2974982 05/04/20 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by dmd
Originally Posted by David B
Here is an example. I had to play a hymn from the Duane Shinn Praise and Gospel Course (that I just started) 72 times before I could memorize it and didn't have to look at the music anymore. I can't look at the music and play with fluidity at the same time. My brain just can't do it yet.

I am very surprised to hear this.

However, when you mention the part about .... "memorize it and didn't have to look at the music anymore" ....

That is a big red flag !!!!

That process is circumventing your efforts at learning to read music as you play the music.

You have removed the need to look at the music while you play.

That is precisely what everyone does to avoid the difficulty of learning to read as they play.

The result is .... as you know .... you do not gain that skill.

I know all about it because I did it and I still do it and I still cannot play music while looking at the notation.

That is how it works.

I don't know how else to do it. Opening up the hymnal and playing a song will take me about a half hour to play all the notes that are written. So I keep playing it over and over in a painful process until eventually I realize i'm not looking at the music as much and then eventually not at all.

Same thing happens with every hymn. I can only read one staff at a time. I don't know how people can look at both the treble and bass clefs at the same time and play. I suspect I might never be able to do that.

God Bless,
David


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2974989 05/04/20 07:11 PM
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Hi David
Back in my childhood, I played hymns A LOT so I can attest it is not easy but I can also promise you will get better and quicker the more you do it.

What made it easier for me was speeding up the time it took to recognize the bass as patterns rather than individual notes. Try just playing the bass in a lot of hymns so you start to recognize the chords as a unit... and quickly identify intervals. do it a lot every day. Once you start recognizing the patterns, go back to practicing hands together. When you no longer need to concentrate on 50% of the music, you can’t help but speed up. 😊

Always read the music from the bottom up.. but you probably already know that.

I’ll see what else I can think of that will help. If I could do.it, you will too.


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
David B #2974992 05/04/20 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by David B
I don't know how else to do it. Opening up the hymnal and playing a song will take me about a half hour to play all the notes that are written. So I keep playing it over and over in a painful process until eventually I realize i'm not looking at the music as much and then eventually not at all.

Same thing happens with every hymn. I can only read one staff at a time. I don't know how people can look at both the treble and bass clefs at the same time and play. I suspect I might never be able to do that.
If your interest had been in classical music rather than playing and re-arranging hymns, you would have prioritized note-reading, and the amount of time you spent on the latter would have paid dividends by now.

I have a friend whose only interest is classical music, and who started piano lessons at 60, when he retired. He single-mindedly pursued his goal (with his teacher) of becoming a classical pianist who can eventually do justice to Chopin nocturnes and Mendelssohn Songs without Words etc, which is why, some years on, he is able to do just that, and read music competently. He can easily sight-read hymns, if he chose to (he has a volume of Bach Chorales written mostly in 4-part harmony, which he often sight-reads through for pleasure).

In the end, we pick our battles as adults. Children get their battles picked for them by their teachers.


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2974995 05/04/20 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by dogperson
It’s too bad this thread was not used to listen to people who do not read music. Rather we label them as ‘lazy’ ‘undisciplined’ among other pejorative descriptions. No wonder they won’t try to explain.

What is there to explain? Care to divulge?

People are not undisciplined or lazy just because they did not learn how to site read music well. They might lack the skills for whatever reason. Maybe they have a fear of failure or struggles with executive functioning. They may not know how to break the task into smaller chunks. They could have struggles with hand eye coordination or with a host of other things. Plus everyone has different goals. There are plenty of things people can do just playing by ear and genres that lend well to it. It comes across as very unwelcoming to call people undisciplined or lazy. I rarely come here because of stuff like this that seems pretty prevalent. It seems if you are not here with the goal to become advanced in classical and have the ability to afford an expensive teacher and do everything perfectly then you are not really welcome.

Last edited by Pianonewbie27; 05/04/20 07:30 PM.
Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2974997 05/04/20 07:33 PM
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I suspect there will be many people like myself, who only started to learn to read as adults, that will just never get fluent enough to read anything more than the most babyish music in real time.

It doesn’t make you a bad person even if it can make you feel bad about yourself.

And it’s not necessarily about lack of intelligence or hard work. I practice sightreading endlessly, I have an honours degree and could read and write English fluently by age 4. And yet in my 50s I still can only read one note at a time at about 1 note per second.

If I didn’t memorise to some extent I would be lucky to play Mary had a Little Lamb. By memorising I can play some quite sophisticated pieces.


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2974998 05/04/20 07:33 PM
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While David B may not sight-read, he appears to improvise effortlessly, which requires a set of skills many sight-readers never appear to pick up. While sight-reading is definitely a great skill, I think having the improvisation skills that David B has may be just as great of an achievement.

Also, it seems wrong to knock memorization -- all-in-all, you can probably perform the music better once you've fully memorized it versus needing to dedicate brain cycles to reading the music on the fly.

Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
I don't consider Faber Adult All-in-One Book 1 or Alfred's Adult All-in-One Book 1 to be difficult books to go through. After either of these books, an adult student has basically learnt the basics of reading music. I'm not convinced it's such a difficult thing to do. I suspect the mental aspects are more difficult to overcome than the task itself. If it's intimidating or embarrassing, one can certainly buy one of these books and read it behind closed doors!

We're not talking about "sight-reading" here, where you read it the first time and play it without any fault. We're just talking about learning to read music in a basic way, such that you know what the composer wants you to play and how (i.e., pitch, rhythm, dynamics, etc.).

Really, is that what you consider reading music? Simply recognizing the notes, intervals, notation, etc? I consider that to be a really low bar... like being able to recognize letters and some words at a Kindergarten level. I'm sure many of the people who claim they can't read music are in this bucket and have this level of skill.

Sight-reading seems like the correct bar to apply -- it's more like actual reading -- ability to read words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, interpret and understand the overall context.

Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
navindra #2975001 05/04/20 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by navindra
Really, is that what you consider reading music? Simply recognizing the notes, intervals, notation, etc? I consider that to be a really low bar... like being able to recognize letters and some words at a Kindergarten level. I'm sure many of the people who claim they can't read music are in this bucket and have this level of skill.

Sight-reading seems like the correct bar to apply -- it's more like actual reading -- ability to read words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, interpret and understand the overall context.

Yes, when I said reading sheet music and learning to read sheet music, that's exactly what I meant, reading music from a sheet. I did not mean "sight-reading".

Why is sight-reading the correct bar (other than because you think it is)? With my original post, I meant to ask why are there people who refuse to open up a music book and learn to read the music on there and then, albeit slowly, apply what they have read/seen on the page and play the piano with what they have read/seen. That's it. Nothing more.

Sight-reading as I understand it is reading music at first reading (i.e., you've never seen it before) and playing it through once without practice as best as you can. I'm not talking about that kind of "sight-reading". That's the kind they do for exams. I do that kind of "sight-reading". My original question: why was there resistance to do even the simple, basic kind of reading music such as one would learn in a Faber Adult All-in-one or Alfred's All-in-one Book 1 or even Book 2.

I was talking about newbies here.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 05/04/20 07:55 PM.

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