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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
Bhav #2975668 05/06/20 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Bhav
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Bhav
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It's similar to the 'identify notes/read patterns' problem. Identifying the key is a painful place to be - if you've never been shown how to practice being musically fluent inside that key.

This I don't agree with because all the keys are simple to play by ear and I was doing this since I was 5. I've never understood the need to practice keys or scales as this has always come easily and naturally to me. The only thing that's always held me back is never having been taught how to sight read and not having taught how to train finger independence.

Are you saying you don’t know how to read music? If you want to learn, No one has to teach you. Buy a used copy of any beginner method book and teach yourself. It happens here every day.

Just don’t say you can’t do it because you weren’t taught how.

No one has to teach you English, Maths or Science either. You can learn it all yourself. What even is the point in learning anything from others then?

A child doesn't know how to teach themselves the full A-Z of music, but that is the situation most children and up in because no one takes the subject seriously anymore.

The point here is that it's not a case of people refusing to learn. It's a problem of people refusing to teach. You can't expect anyone to learn something that no one is even teaching in the first place.

I didn't know how to read music for a long time, and any time I tried to ask music teachers for help they didn't even have an answer and were unwilling to teach it themselves.

I thought this was about you; if you were not taught how to read music as a child, as an adult you have the tools and adult perspective to teach yourself. It is up to you.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
Bhav #2975670 05/06/20 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Bhav
Because music has both a written and physical element? You can't express a novel via playing an instrument, well you could simply read or speak the words, but there is no physical element of something like an instrument to play.

You can physically sit down and play an instrument without reading anything and simply play what sounds correct by ear, but you aren't going to be able to build up a repertoire of classical pieces or become a concert pianist if you cannot read music.
In my analogy to the story teller, the physical element of the latter is the creation of, say, a book. The physical element is represented by the use of a writing implement, whether pencil, pen, computer, or a stylus on a clay tablet. The reality is that there are few storytellers (any more) who are illiterate with respect to the written word. Yet there are more musicians who are illiterate to musical "writings". I just don't see where my analogy breaks down. Enlighten me.


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2975671 05/06/20 09:48 AM
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I thought this was about you; if you were not taught how to read music as a child, as an adult you have the tools and adult perspective to teach yourself. It is up to you

Yes but by that point I am so far behind what people who had the privilege of having full classical training have already accomplished in even less than half as many years. Do you think the 9 year old kid on YouTube who can play the full Hungarian Rhapsody flawlessly self taught himself how to do that? Of course not, he had a good teacher and regular lessons to learn that.

This would be the equivalent of simply not having schools or education of anykind for anything, and simply expecting everyone to just figure out what they want to learn on their own!


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
Tyrone Slothrop #2975673 05/06/20 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Bhav
Because music has both a written and physical element? You can't express a novel via playing an instrument, well you could simply read or speak the words, but there is no physical element of something like an instrument to play.

You can physically sit down and play an instrument without reading anything and simply play what sounds correct by ear, but you aren't going to be able to build up a repertoire of classical pieces or become a concert pianist if you cannot read music.
In my analogy to the story teller, the physical element of the latter is the creation of, say, a book. The physical element is represented by the use of a writing implement, whether pencil, pen, computer, or a stylus on a clay tablet. The reality is that there are few storytellers (any more) who are illiterate with respect to the written word. Yet there are more musicians who are illiterate to musical "writings". I just don't see where my analogy breaks down. Enlighten me.

You still need to be able to write to create a book. You don't need to be able to read to play an instrument. But if you want to learn enough music to fill a 2 hour concert of high techncallity pieces, good luck doing that without being able to read music.

Or actually you don't need to be able to write to make a book, you could simply use speech to text recognition software nowadays.

Also your analogy would be more correct being compared to acting instead of writing. If you write a play you can physically act and speak it out, it doesn't necessarily need writing down. But writing it down is so that other people can learn and recreate it more easily.

Last edited by Bhav; 05/06/20 09:54 AM.

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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
Bhav #2975677 05/06/20 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Bhav
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I thought this was about you; if you were not taught how to read music as a child, as an adult you have the tools and adult perspective to teach yourself. It is up to you

Yes but by that point I am so far behind what people who had the privilege of having full classical training have already accomplished in even less than half as many years. Do you think the 9 year old kid on YouTube who can play the full Hungarian Rhapsody flawlessly self taught himself how to do that? Of course not, he had a good teacher and regular lessons to learn that.

This would be the equivalent of simply not having schools or education of anykind for anything, and simply expecting everyone to just figure out what they want to learn on their own!

So what if you are behind some 9 yo? There are many here who did not have lessons as a child, but in their 40s 50s and 60s that teach themselves how to read music. If it’s important to you, you can do it.


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"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
Bhav #2975678 05/06/20 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Bhav
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
In my analogy to the story teller, the physical element of the latter is the creation of, say, a book. The physical element is represented by the use of a writing implement, whether pencil, pen, computer, or a stylus on a clay tablet. The reality is that there are few storytellers (any more) who are illiterate with respect to the written word. Yet there are more musicians who are illiterate to musical "writings". I just don't see where my analogy breaks down. Enlighten me.
You still need to be able to write to create a book. You don't need to be able to read to play an instrument. But if you want to learn enough music to fill a 2 hour concert of high techncallity pieces, good luck doing that without being able to read music.

Or actually you don't need to be able to write to make a book, you could simply use speech to text recognition software nowadays.

Also your analogy would be more correct being compared to acting instead of writing. If you write a play you can physically act and speak it out, it doesn't necessarily need writing down. But writing it down is so that other people can learn and recreate it more easily.
Actually, I was careful in using the word "storyteller" and not "writer". A writer needs to know how to write. Does a storyteller need to know how to write? I'm arguing that there is the same relationship between a storyteller and writing as there is between the musician and written music. In other words, written in formal analogy form:

storyteller:writing::musician:musical scores

Only it is far more accepted that GOOD storytellers do know how to write/read, yet it is not accepted that GOOD musicians know how to write/read (musical notation, that is).


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"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2975680 05/06/20 10:00 AM
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Think of it as learning a new language that has an entirely different alphabet. So it's more like learning to read and understand Chinese rather than learning Spanish. It might be less about refusing, and more about a complete inability to learn anew a language based activity.

If you happen to be someone who loves music but who is not linguistically inclined, it could be extremely difficult to learn as an adult. The musical part of the brain is a different part from the language part of the brain. So, if we think of reading music as the learning of a complete and foreign language, including different symbols for the alphabet, and then combine it with an entirely different brain function, (the musical part of the brain), for some adults this is just too much.

I am a good music reader and a bad memorizer. I also cannot do jazz or improvise for the life of me, and I find it really intimidating. Strengths and weaknesses. Most of us learned to read music as children and we all know that it's easier to learn a new language as a child than as an adult.


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
pianosuzemn #2975686 05/06/20 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by pianosuzemn
Think of it as learning a new language that has an entirely different alphabet. So it's more like learning to read and understand Chinese rather than learning Spanish. It might be less about refusing, and more about a complete inability to learn anew a language based activity.

If you happen to be someone who loves music but who is not linguistically inclined, it could be extremely difficult to learn as an adult. The musical part of the brain is a different part from the language part of the brain. So, if we think of reading music as the learning of a complete and foreign language, including different symbols for the alphabet, and then combine it with an entirely different brain function, (the musical part of the brain), for some adults this is just too much.

I am a good music reader and a bad memorizer. I also cannot do jazz or improvise for the life of me, and I find it really intimidating. Strengths and weaknesses. Most of us learned to read music as children and we all know that it's easier to learn a new language as a child than as an adult.

You won’t know how difficult it is for you unless you try. The option is to moan ‘woe is me, I wasn’t taught to read music as a child’


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2975696 05/06/20 10:37 AM
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It's not so much moaning as it is criticising how poorly classical training for music is taught nowadays.

A lot of music teachers / lecturers don't even have an answer for 'How can I improve my sight reading?'.

It would be like blaming people for not knowing how to code programs and simply saying it's their fault for being lazy, or for not being able to build their own house.

Not everyone can teach themselves everything, the thread title would be more apt if it was 'people who refuse to provide an education in music'. Many people struggle with sight reading, try to get help, but are simply told 'teach yourself'. It's like that meme of a person drowning with their hand sticking out of the water, and someone else simply giving them a hi five to 'help'.

Last edited by Bhav; 05/06/20 10:38 AM.

'Its too rare to break a hand from playing the piano ... But playing Hanon as written will break your hand'

- Self proclaimed 'piano teachers' on the internet.
Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2975701 05/06/20 10:57 AM
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are you talking about being taught to read music or being taught to sight read music? These are not interchangeable terms. If your’e truly talking about sight reading, the only way to get better is to read a lot of music every day. You can either do it through an app or printed music.

Last edited by dogperson; 05/06/20 10:59 AM.

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"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
Bhav #2975702 05/06/20 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Bhav
Not everyone can teach themselves everything, the thread title would be more apt if it was 'people who refuse to provide an education in music'. Many people struggle with sight reading, try to get help, but are simply told 'teach yourself'. It's like that meme of a person drowning with their hand sticking out of the water, and someone else simply giving them a hi five to 'help'.

Nope. That’s what you want the thread to be about. That’s not what I wanted to discuss. I’m the OP btw. The thread has clearly gone on a tangent but I’m glad it’s eliciting so many responses. I think people are confusing reading music with sight reading. They are different things but it appears no matter how many times this is brought up, the confusion still exists. Someone should start a thread: sight-reading vs. reading music - not the same!

As a capable adult, one should not blame others for one’s own shortcomings; one should just set out to fix those shortcomings as best as one can. Many have done that already and many will in the future.

Isn’t that why we’re all here? To learn piano? For one reason or another, we quit piano as a child or we were not given the opportunity to learn. Now we’re here to fix that the best we can.

That’s why I’m learning jazz too, because it’s hard, there’s improv which I fear, and lots of “listening” which is my weakness, but I want to learn it anyway.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 05/06/20 11:00 AM.

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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2975730 05/06/20 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Originally Posted by Bhav
Not everyone can teach themselves everything, the thread title would be more apt if it was 'people who refuse to provide an education in music'. Many people struggle with sight reading, try to get help, but are simply told 'teach yourself'. It's like that meme of a person drowning with their hand sticking out of the water, and someone else simply giving them a hi five to 'help'.

Nope. That’s what you want the thread to be about. That’s not what I wanted to discuss. I’m the OP btw. The thread has clearly gone on a tangent but I’m glad it’s eliciting so many responses. I think people are confusing reading music with sight reading. They are different things but it appears no matter how many times this is brought up, the confusion still exists. Someone should start a thread: sight-reading vs. reading music - not the same!

As a capable adult, one should not blame others for one’s own shortcomings; one should just set out to fix those shortcomings as best as one can. Many have done that already and many will in the future.

Isn’t that why we’re all here? To learn piano? For one reason or another, we quit piano as a child or we were not given the opportunity to learn. Now we’re here to fix that the best we can.

That’s why I’m learning jazz too, because it’s hard, there’s improv which I fear, and lots of “listening” which is my weakness, but I want to learn it anyway.

Reading is not compulsory.
Depending on other people's goals, some don't need to read to play the music they like or want.
Nowdays, you can actually learn things in different ways (be it by reading / hearing / watching...anything that works for a person). As long as that person is satisfied with the end result, everything else kinda becomes irrelevant.
Sure, you might view this in a certain way but this is not a "one size fits all" thing.
Reminds me of people who "refuse" to read a book...Instead they prefer to have someone read to them via audio-books. You might think it's ok, I might say they're plain old lazy.

Last edited by CosminX; 05/06/20 11:53 AM.

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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
CosminX #2975736 05/06/20 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by CosminX
Reading is not compulsory.
Depending on other people's goals, some don't need to read to play the music they like or want.
Nowdays, you can actually learn things in different ways (be it by reading / hearing / watching...anything that works for a person). As long as that person is satisfied with the end result, everything else kinda becomes irrelevant.
Sure, you might view this in a certain way but this is not a "one size fits all" thing.
Reminds me of people who "refuse" to read a book...Instead they prefer to have someone read to them via audio-books. You might think it's ok, I might say they're plain old lazy.

I don’t disagree with you. If someone says the reason for not learning is because “I don’t want to”, that’s their prerogative. I was replying to Bhav’s bemoaning that he wasn’t taught how and that’s why he can’t. I highly suspect he actually knows how to read music. I think what he’s complaining of is that he’s not a good sight-reader. Again, they’re different things.

But in any event, I still think learning to read music is fundamentally important to learning classical music. I think it can open many doors for you if you can read music in any instrument and sometimes, it can even close doors for you if you can’t. It’s like learning new languages. It opens doors. Everyone’s goals are different, which is fine.

Since you mentioned reading vs. audiobooks, I was a keen reader of books on my Kindle. Then, I got ill and had to switch to audiobooks and I loved it. When I got better, I realized I got a lot more out of actually reading instead of listening, so I switched back to reading. Clearly, I’m a reader. Some people are listeners.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 05/06/20 12:11 PM.

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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
dogperson #2975742 05/06/20 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
You won’t know how difficult it is for you unless you try. The option is to moan ‘woe is me, I wasn’t taught to read music as a child’

Oh, I love this! There is a lot of moaning going on in this thread.


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2975743 05/06/20 12:27 PM
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Yes I'm not a good sight reader and I hate it and I hate that I never got any chance to be classically trained.

I guess on the plus side once I manage to get some more pieces learned and if I manage to progress to getting my original songs sounding a lot better I can maintain that I am 100% self taught (school and uni did nothing to help).

I am reading through new music almost everyday now (ok I took a 3 day break a few days ago). Today I went back to and read and played the first 3 parts of reflection Rag on right hand and two parts on left hand but I'm still far too slow!

Last edited by Bhav; 05/06/20 12:28 PM.

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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2975749 05/06/20 12:44 PM
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If these rags are normally what you would learn, you will not sughtread them well. You need to be sight reading music about two grades easier—- play a lot of easier music and your skill will increase.

Last edited by dogperson; 05/06/20 12:44 PM.

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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2975791 05/06/20 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Why do some people flat out refuse to learn to read music, even though they themselves know that being able to read music can open up so much for them? This question comes not from a rant, but a true desire to understand why some people don’t want to learn this skill. I understand that for some instruments such as guitar, many people don’t read music. In fact, it almost seems as if to read music is geeky but to play by ear is cool. I also understand that with some genres, the ability to read is less important, such as with jazz and the use of lead sheets, where there is no bass clef, but the melody is written in the treble clef with chords written above the melody. And of course jazz has improv which doesn’t need written music. But how about all those who want to play piano music that is not jazz?

This refusal to learn to read music is so pervasive that it’s even become a marketing strategy! “If you don’t read music, no problem! You can still become a great player in 30 days!”

Am I missing something? I would like to understand all reasons/arguments please, before forming my own opinion on this phenomenon. Thank you!
Reading music and being able to put the music on a music sheet is important in as so far as a means of communication in my opinion. If you want to share a piece of music, or understand a piece of music that someone else created, reading music is very important. But music is primarily a way expressing ourselves. For many, just as with language, we learn to make music or speech before we even learn how to read music or learn who to read a language. Who can't sing happy birthday or the Star Spangled Banner (for us Americans), or song you may know in your head. That's music and no one had to read music or learn music theory to be able to do this. You're singing by ear and many accomplished singers can sing without reading a single note. The same applies to our hands when we touch the piano. We may not be using our mouths to produce words, but we are using our fingers to create tones. There was news of a young man who played classical pieces very well "by ear" who happened to have an outstanding memory and was able to play some of the most advanced repertoire out there. http://dannyboston.blogspot.com/2011/05/teen-music-prodigy-can-learn-pieces-in.html What this shows is that it is indeed possible to various degrees to learn and play even classical music without being able to read music. Again, if he wanted to create his own pieces he may have a very difficult time doing that because he doesn't understand the language of music, but I can guarantee you he plays better than most of us here.

The reason I bring this up is because I notice how absorbed many here are in regards to what level they are at by Trinity, ABRSM, or RCM standards as measured by their testing systems. Many are seeing musical accomplishments only in the test scores or milestones achieved by their syllabi. But this is not music. Knowledge of scales, techniques, chord progressions, music theory- yes I think these are important to be a well rounded musician and good building blocks but these alone are not going to make you a good musician. It starts with your ear and your ability to express yourself.

For example, I was very much a learner "by ear" and in some regard still am. I have always seen music as a way to express myself (yes, maybe through someone else work, but it is still form of expression). I have taken music theory in high school as a requirement. I was taught FACE and Every good boy does fine as a child. I was taught a few rudimentary major scales (but never practiced them). I've played the organ, piano, and clarinet- even in the high school orchestra. I now remember that I actually took a music theory class in university and did quite well. I can't say I remember much of it. I can definitely read music and attempt to learn advanced pieces. I learned most of my technique just by playing progressively more complex pieces. Most of my inabilities are probably due to time and just poor practice technique but I can hold my own with the limited formal training I have had and the little time I have available. I don't have aspirations to being a world class musician. I have to say I've never taken a test about music from any of those schools though nor been involved in their syllabus, but I am trying to discipline myself to being more well rounded in theory and technique.

When I'm polishing an advanced piece like the Busoni-Bach Chaconne with my piano teacher, she does bring up some basic music theory but most of the time we are analyzing the piece musically discussing ideas such as "how do we maintain the tension throughout this section. It's written FF but the ear can only take so many measures of FF before fatigue. We have descending octaves in both hands, how do we maintain and build tension in this section for nine measures. Busoni writes in phrases such as "like a trombone" or "with fire", or "piu largamente". This is not music theory. This is how does one express oneself.

I think at all levels of learning music we need to worry less about the mechanics of music (even including how proficient one reads music) and more about how to express oneself musically if you are going to fully understand what this is all about. As I said, none of the Beatles could read or write music but boy could they express themselves and their music stood and will continue to stand the test of time. My advice, put away the syllabus and method books at times and spend more time listening and hearing the music you are playing and work on musical expression. Play pieces at whatever level you are at and try to express the music as best you can with feeling, a story line, an idea you want to get across. That's music! Then get back to your drills, exams, etc...

Last edited by Jethro; 05/06/20 02:17 PM.

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Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Preludio: Bach/Rachmaninoff E Major Sonata for Violin
Chopin: G Minor Ballade


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Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
WeakLeftHand #2975817 05/06/20 02:48 PM
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How do you write if you can't read? Wouldn't you have to invent your own music notation?

Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
wszxbcl #2975820 05/06/20 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by wszxbcl
How do you write if you can't read? Wouldn't you have to invent your own music notation?
If you are in the band like the Beatles you play a few riffs that you all like and agree upon, put it to a beat, write some nice lyrics around it and record it at a studio. Voila! Music.


Working on:

Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Preludio: Bach/Rachmaninoff E Major Sonata for Violin
Chopin: G Minor Ballade


Shigeru Kawai SK2
Kawai VPC-1
Re: People who refuse to learn to read music
dogperson #2975825 05/06/20 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
If these rags are normally what you would learn, you will not sughtread them well. You need to be sight reading music about two grades easier—- play a lot of easier music and your skill will increase.

I just managed to read and play the fourth part right hand of reflection Rag in under 10 minutes for the first time, and it's mostly 3 note chords, that for me is mega progress.

I would rather use the scores for what I want to learn like this to continue practicing my reading as that also speeds up learning those pieces.

I had been focusing fully on learning Gladiolus Rag first but today I took a break from that and went through all of reflection rag right and half of the left hand, all from reading and playing.

I'm going to go through the remaining half of the left hand now.

Last edited by Bhav; 05/06/20 03:14 PM.

'Its too rare to break a hand from playing the piano ... But playing Hanon as written will break your hand'

- Self proclaimed 'piano teachers' on the internet.
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