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... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?!

Posted By: Farago

... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 01:04 AM

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?
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 01:30 AM

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.
Posted By: dogperson

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 01:47 AM

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?
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 02:13 AM

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'?
Posted By: Carey

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 02:36 AM

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..

Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 02:37 AM

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?
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 02:51 AM

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?
Posted By: Carey

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 03:10 AM

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
Posted By: Carey

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 03:15 AM

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
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 03:22 AM

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?
Posted By: cmb13

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 03:25 AM

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.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 03:26 AM

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.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 03:30 AM

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.
Posted By: Carey

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 04:00 AM

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.
Posted By: Carey

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 04:04 AM

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
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 04:28 AM

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.”
Posted By: Carey

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 05:33 AM

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?"
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 05:50 AM

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.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 06:14 AM

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'.
Posted By: Opus_Maximus

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 07:10 AM

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.
Posted By: Opus_Maximus

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 07:45 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
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?


Sadly, this is what more and more students (in Western Countries) are wanting.
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 08:38 AM

I think it's generally not too helpful to use Liszt and Mozart, et al., as examples of anything. Their experiences do not generalize to most other musicians. Liszt may have been able to play Hummel concertos by ear, but I suspect that skill is unavailable to nearly 100% of other musicians. I suspect also that this skill cannot be taught using any method we currently know of.

I think the overwhelming majority of musicians, or trainee musicians, who want to play in the western classical tradition will simply have no practical alternative than to learn to read music. For better or worse, the cultural expectation in that musical field is note-pefect conformity to some published score, with tightly constrained interpretive freedom. It's certainly possible to argue about whether that's a "good thing" from an aesthetic standpoint, and whether the situation was different in the past, but that's the way things are now.

So it's not really a matter of whether it's a good thing to learn to read music -- it's a necessity -- but how much early training should focus on that, and how much on other skills. I could easily be convinced that note-reading features too strongly in most early training.

I can't see anybody with an interest in non-classical musical genres actually being harmed by learning to read music, but the unavoidable necessity is less obvious.
Posted By: Carey

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 09:04 AM

Originally Posted by Farago
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.
I figured you'd respond in this way. You didn't disappoint.
Originally Posted by Carey
Seems like your personal biases are showing.
Originally Posted by Farago
If you're going to go that route, let's have you specify those biases. wink
OK - you seem to have a problem with "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
Originally Posted by Farago
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.
Originally Posted by Farago
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".
So what does this have to do with Chopin not being shown chords by other people? I'm talking basics and you are talking about innovation. The most successful classical composers had a good grasp of the basics as well as the ability to innovate..
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.
Originally Posted by Farago
Who's to say that he wouldn't have been the next Chopin?
I've recently heard a recording of him playing two of his early compositions. Nothing particularly earthshaking or innovative..
Originally Posted by Carey
Apparently "reading" means different things to different people.
Originally Posted by Farago
This is exactly what I assert.
You make it sound like your definition is the only true definition.
Originally Posted by Carey
Who, specifically is "we?"
Originally Posted by Farago
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.
It works for some kids but not for others. There is no right or wrong here. You just have to find an approach that works for the individual.

I'm done.
Posted By: Fareham

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 09:07 AM

Of course reading isn't absolutely necessary, whether it be language notation (such as a book), or musical notation (which, thankfully, is an international standard)

If your mother taught you poetry at her lap as a child, and you learned it by rote, you would probably have a better feel for it than you would if you were just taught to read and given a book of poetry. Generally, it's no different with music. With an able teacher and an even more able child, you can go a long way without needing to learn musical notation. In essence, this is how most pop musicians start out (mostly by mimicking others), and as long as things are kept relatively straight forward you can build endless 3 minute songs without having to delve deeper.

The strengths of musical notation become obvious when you do delve deeper. It can describe the music pretty exactly in written form, and as far as I know is unique in that. That enables musicians to look at a few hundred year's worth of music and decide what they want to do with it. In short it's no different to being able to read text, which opens up the entire contents of a library to you.

I can't see what building lists of people who can and can't read music achieves. If you're suggesting that teachers should start off teaching by rote and add reading musical notation at a later date, you might have a very valid point.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 10:10 AM

I like the question and think it's very valid. And perhaps the answer is that it depends on the individual.

In my own case I was only introduced to the piano at the age of 7 when I could read. Apparently when on holidays at the ages of 4 and 5 I would sit under the piano of the daughter of the landlady listening to her playing. And when I came to learn to play I quickly became very good at sight reading and could also 'read' from memory by 'seeing' the music in front of me. Unfortunately that latter ability soon disappeared and it is a source of regret that I then just relied on my sight-reading ability.

In contrast, a younger cousin of mine had a piano in the house and mb the age of five was playing anything that he heard on the radio by ear. And went on to be a successful musician.

I wonder what would have happened if the situations had been reversed?
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 11:03 AM

Originally Posted by Farago


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

You're confusing improvising & composing at the piano with playing (someone else's) music by ear. Chopin didn't play Bach's WTC by ear. He played Chopin by ear.

I also improvise - and play myself - at the piano, by ear (amazing but true).

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.

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?

You're right, my ability to play by ear is confined to TTLS, and just about extends to Rachmaninov symphonies, and maybe (at a push) Rautavaara's Cantus Arcticus.

How about your own ability? Can you play TTLS by ear?

BTW, every kid plays by ear, as I did. If you've read a few of my 10000+ posts, you'll know that I had to do that as a student because the internet - and IMSLP - weren't around then (amazing but true), and I couldn't afford to buy any music scores for myself (even more amazing but true). So, I banged away at Beethoven symphonies as well as ABBA songs à la Francis (aka Liszt) entirely by ear, like many of my fellow students (who banged away at other composers more to their liking, like Francis and Freddy).

I think you're just trying to stir up discord for its own sake. Who cares if you can read music? In fact, who cares if you can read English? If you don't care, no-one else does. Except of course, you won't be able to read what I post, which is a pity, because you might be enlightened by them (even if I say so myself)....... wink
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 12:19 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
[quote=Farago]

I think you're just trying to stir up discord for its own sake. Who cares if you can read music? In fact, who cares if you can read English? If you don't care, no-one else does. Except of course, you won't be able to read what I post, which is a pity, because you might be enlightened by them (even if I say so myself)....... wink


I think you nailed it there. His own description says: "Hobbies Arguing with you." He likes to argue, and sees himself as an intellectual, imo....
Posted By: Nahum

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 12:22 PM

Farago, answer the following question: for a full-fledged performance of a classical work, the study and analysis of a musical text is required. How do you think - music analysis is easier to do by ear or by notes (for a musician with ordinary memory)?
On the other hand, there are examples, like Imre Ungar.

Posted By: dogperson

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 01:17 PM

Originally Posted by NobleHouse
Originally Posted by bennevis
[quote=Farago]

I think you're just trying to stir up discord for its own sake. Who cares if you can read music? In fact, who cares if you can read English? If you don't care, no-one else does. Except of course, you won't be able to read what I post, which is a pity, because you might be enlightened by them (even if I say so myself)....... wink


I think you nailed it there. His own description says: "Hobbies Arguing with you." He likes to argue, and sees himself as an intellectual, imo....


I initially asked if he is asking this question for himself, or for his job as a writer. No reply.
Posted By: malkin

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 01:25 PM

Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by NobleHouse
Originally Posted by bennevis
[quote=Farago]

I think you're just trying to stir up discord for its own sake. Who cares if you can read music? In fact, who cares if you can read English? If you don't care, no-one else does. Except of course, you won't be able to read what I post, which is a pity, because you might be enlightened by them (even if I say so myself)....... wink


I think you nailed it there. His own description says: "Hobbies Arguing with you." He likes to argue, and sees himself as an intellectual, imo....


I initially asked if he is asking this question for himself, or for his job as a writer. No reply.


Somewhere buried in there, I think I saw that he said "both." I'm not going back to find it.
Posted By: JayWalkingBlues

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 01:32 PM

My perspective on this topic is different than most in this forum, but not completely unique. I'll start with my answer, then explain my rationale.

-No....it isn't COMPLETELY necessary, BUT.....

So my musical journey began 26 years ago, with a guitar and zero musical education. I played for over 20 years, achieving considerable skill, with only the most rudimentary understanding of some music theory. So yes, you can learn and be very good at playing an instrument without learning to read music. Here's where the BUT comes in though. A fuller and more complete understanding of music theory, which includes reading, will strengthen almost any musician's ability. I'm not talking about great sight reading skills, I'm talking about being able to analyze and understand music. Spending a little time to understand key signatures, chord progressions, basic scales, timing, and dynamics will allow you to (1) Learn songs more quickly with less effort (2) Play more effectively with other musicians (3) Have better focus when playing and (4) the ability to Improvise. The heights you can reach and the speed you can get there are easily tied to understanding the music. Reading is really a small part of this, but a useful part.

Being able to put sheet music in front of you and just start playing it, is really a niche ability that is difficult to develop. Sight reading is certainly a valuable skill, but depending on your goal in music, may certainly not be necessary at all. Although music theory goes as deep as you want to follow it, significant understanding is far simpler than appears. It is daunting when it is unknown, but as you start to understand it, it's simplicity becomes more apparent. Playing, reading, writing, understanding, improvising, these skills are all related. Although they may not require each other, they do help each other. Strengthening any ONE will strengthen the others.

Just don't fall into the one pitfall of sight reading. Too many musicians learn to play only by sight reading. That's ok if it's all you want, but it's very limiting. Once there's a direct connection between your eyes and your hands (which is really what sight reading is), It can be difficult to play if you remove the "eyes" from the equation. Make sure you practice playing from memory ALSO. You need to develop the brain to hands connection as well as the eyes to hand connection. Otherwise, you will have real difficulties or may otherwise be completely unable to play without sheet music. To me, that's as limiting as not reading music at all.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 02:47 PM

Originally Posted by NobleHouse
Originally Posted by bennevis
[quote=Farago]

I think you're just trying to stir up discord for its own sake. Who cares if you can read music? In fact, who cares if you can read English? If you don't care, no-one else does. Except of course, you won't be able to read what I post, which is a pity, because you might be enlightened by them (even if I say so myself)....... wink


I think you nailed it there. His own description says: "Hobbies Arguing with you." He likes to argue, and sees himself as an intellectual, imo....
I think this is a major troll thread and best to ignore. I thought many of my comments very early in the thread were self evident yet each one got a response of "why?".
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 02:57 PM

Like many slightly 'controversial' topics on this forum, I think many of the responses tend to say more about the responders than about the actual subject matter.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 03:04 PM

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
My perspective on this topic is different than most in this forum, but not completely unique. I'll start with my answer, then explain my rationale.

-No....it isn't COMPLETELY necessary, BUT.....

Just don't fall into the one pitfall of sight reading. Too many musicians learn to play only by sight reading. That's ok if it's all you want, but it's very limiting. Once there's a direct connection between your eyes and your hands (which is really what sight reading is), It can be difficult to play if you remove the "eyes" from the equation. Make sure you practice playing from memory ALSO. You need to develop the brain to hands connection as well as the eyes to hand connection. Otherwise, you will have real difficulties or may otherwise be completely unable to play without sheet music. To me, that's as limiting as not reading music at all.

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.
Posted By: Lakeviewsteve

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 03:17 PM

Not only is reading music extremely necessary to play classical music, it is also necessary for orchestral pieces. Can you imagine an orchestra trying to play where no one knew how to read music? I think it would sound awful. Also reading music is critical for musical plays as well. The musical director not only directs the orchestra pit, but entire cast as well. If they couldn't read music it wouldn't be possible.
Posted By: WhoDwaldi

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 03:21 PM

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Like many slightly 'controversial' topics on this forum, I think many of the responses tend to say more about the responders than about the actual subject matter.


And it is easy to be generous with someone else's practice time.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 03:39 PM

Haven't read all the posts, just skimmed, but it looks like this hasn't been asked:

Why such questioning and resistance about knowing how to read music?

Why not learn it??


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
It's not like, "How important is it to understand Einstein."

What's the big deal??
It's not hard to learn, and it's a great advantage, whatever kind of music you might be into.

What's the big deal? Why any resistance about it?
It takes less time and effort to do it than to be asking these questions. ha
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 03:50 PM

A lot of people who took / are taking music lessons playing Classical assumed reading music is a necessary part of the curriculum.

What is the purpose of music notations? Howard Goodall who worked with the BBC did an excellent documentary "The Story of Music". Going back a few hundred years before the invention of recording devices, people relied on paper and ink to record music. Before music was written down, priests & monks relied on memory. Memory is unreliable and very often a tune passed from person to person would change a little bit until it becomes unrecognizable from the original. The first attempt to record music was placing lines above Latin text in a hymn book to show pitch rising & falling until Guido d'Arezzo from Italy came up with a practical way of recording music (on paper) using notations.

Fast forward a few hundred years in the southern US Jazz was evolving from the Blues. The people were mainly illiterate and music would be passed from person to person by memory. Every time a tune is sung / played on an instrument by another person, he/she would change the tune a bit and add embellishments. This is why Jazz and later Pop music tend to be open to improvisation while Classical is seen as music that is played "by the book" note-for-note because the great composers in Europe wrote everything on paper. However, composers in Europe also improvised on a keyboard / piano. The time when Jazz became popular, around the corner was the first gramophone invented by Edison. With sound recording available, people no longer need to rely on notations on paper to "record" their songs. While Jazz musicians tend to play by ear, Scott Joplin who wrote many famous Ragtime pieces was trained as a Classical pianist in Germany and notated his pieces on paper.

Music notation before the 20th century was the only way to "record" a piece of music. Therefore, to learn a piece one must learn notations. The Suzuki approach to learning to play music for the first year involve students learning songs by ear (listening to CD recordings) and imitation (hand positions and fingerings) by watching teachers doing demos. Reading music is introduced later. Teachers & students who are into Classical music tend to take a balanced approach of having good ear-training & be proficient note readers. Jazz musicians tend to take reading music as optional (either reading lead sheets or play by ear approach).

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...
Posted By: WhoDwaldi

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 03:53 PM


Originally Posted by Mark_C
Haven't read all the posts, just skimmed, but it looks like this hasn't been asked:

Why such questioning and resistance about knowing how to read music?

Why not learn it??


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
It's not like, "How important is it to understand Einstein."

What's the big deal??
It's not hard to learn, and it's a great advantage, whatever kind of music you might be into.

What's the big deal? Why any resistance about it?
It takes less time and effort to do it than to be asking these questions. ha


eh, nevermind.
Posted By: David Farley

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 03:57 PM

If it's a serious question and the OP didn't post it on this particular forum to troll up some Colonel Blimp enraged spluttering to add to an article he might be writing...

Why not turn the question around? Why did musicians who probably early on ran way ahead of their formal training feel compelled to write their music down? And in many cases were very clear that they wanted their music played as written. The obvious answer is they had to because the recording industry didn't exist at the time. But even if it had would Chopin and others have been content to leave their music to their own recordings and only those who could play them by ear?

It's not like people who teach music professionally don't get that it isn't just reading notes on paper. I got my degree from a school that specialized in training music teachers, mostly K-12. Even though that wasn't my concentration, a good dose of training in pedagogy was required from everyone, and it included solfege, and Dalcroze Eurythmics, among other things. Despite the fact that most of them get stuck in positions where school boards think music is properly taught for an hour every two weeks, if that, if left to their own devices music teachers would give kids a thorough grounding in all the fundamentals before reading sheet music even came into the picture.

Posted By: TwoSnowflakes

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 04:00 PM

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.
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 04:28 PM

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.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 04:37 PM

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.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 04:39 PM

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.
Posted By: outo

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 04:44 PM

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.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 04:52 PM

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.
Posted By: BruceD

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 05:37 PM

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,
Posted By: JoelW

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 06:11 PM

troll
Posted By: David Farley

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 06:11 PM

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!"
Posted By: JohnSprung

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 06:30 PM

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.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 06:43 PM

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.
Posted By: David Farley

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 06:57 PM

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.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 07:19 PM

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.
Posted By: Vid

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 07:57 PM

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.
Posted By: Greener

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 08:19 PM

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?



Posted By: Lakeviewsteve

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 08:22 PM

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!
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 08:31 PM

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.
Posted By: Terry Michael

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 08:36 PM

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.
Posted By: JayWalkingBlues

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 08:38 PM

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.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 08:49 PM

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.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 09:03 PM

Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
Originally Posted by bennevis

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?
Sadly, this is what more and more students (in Western Countries) are wanting.

Where do you get this information?
Posted By: TwoSnowflakes

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 09:06 PM

Originally Posted by Vid
What would it mean for classical music if no-one could read music?


Bingo.

Originally Posted by Vid
Could you study law through oral tradition? I don't think so.


I recall several classmates of mine who tried.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 09:08 PM

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
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.

Actually, it's a bit more nuanced than the black & white scenario you've painted. Any classical musician who's been taught well should have sufficient aural skills (certainly by the time they've reached intermediate standard) to play simple songs by ear. They might well also have sufficient improvisatory skills to 'fill in the blanks' while playing the bits from the classical pieces they've learnt recently.

When I was a student in my late teens 'Inter-railing' around Europe (travelling with a backpack around Europe on a month-long Inter-Rail train ticket, which used to be a rite of passage for young Europeans), I came upon the lovely Bösendorfer showroom in Vienna, and spent an enjoyable afternoon playing the Imperial Grand there - with no sheet music at my disposal. All I could remember were some bits and sections of several classical pieces, so I just "joined" them up with my own improvisations, and had a great time, despite not being able to play a complete piece from beginning to end.

Quote
I started as a guitarist. As a performer, I cannot imagine performing to sheet music. I also sing........

I also 'started' as a guitarist - accompanying myself and friends in pop songs, long before I learnt piano. All I needed to know were a few choice chords (C, D, E, E minor, F, G, A & A minor), and by trial & error, applied them to every song, if I couldn't find it in the songbook. It worked well - I could even choose between two keys (C and G major) to sing them in.

But that wouldn't work for classical, which isn't straightforward tune with simple chords.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/19/18 09:25 PM

Originally Posted by kevinb
I think it's generally not too helpful to use Liszt and Mozart, et al., as examples of anything.

Why not? They were humans.

Originally Posted by kevinb
Their experiences do not generalize to most other musicians.

But appreciation of their musical output sure does generalize to many, many, many people. "Non-musicians" included.

Originally Posted by kevinb
Liszt may have been able to play Hummel concertos by ear, but I suspect that skill is unavailable to nearly 100% of other musicians.

Why? Because that's what seen nowadays?

Originally Posted by kevinb
I suspect also that this skill cannot be taught using any method we currently know of.

I conjecture that it can be fostered with the proper environment, and minimal interference. What say you about that?

Originally Posted by kevinb
the overwhelming majority of musicians, or trainee musicians, who want to play in the western classical tradition will simply have no practical alternative than to learn to read music

Here's the issue: you presuppose that the great composers whose music constitutes the Western classical tradition achieved what they achieved through reading music. This is a harmful assumption. See the latter part of my post here.

Originally Posted by kevinb
... the cultural expectation... is note-pefect conformity to some published score, with tightly constrained interpretive freedom... that's the way things are now.

Ironically, all the great composers whose legacies the Western tradition purports to be upholding are all rolling in their graves. Improvisation was something that they revered. Foisting sheet music is the first step in cutting off a student's own creativity.

“Improvisation is something you do if you want to study jazz,” classical tradition teachers say.

The vitality of improvisation has been drained out of our historical conception of what classical music was. Common conceptions of how composers thought and worked is flipped on its head, and understanding of the evolution of Western music has been terminally distorted.

Johann Sebastian Bach, known as the godfather of music, was little-known as a composer when he was alive. However, he was renowned as the greatest improviser on the organ in all of Europe. Bach put improvisation skills at the center of his teaching. He often wrote out several different versions of his most popular pieces, such as the inventions, to show how a student might improvise on the structure.

Bach’s uncle Johann Christoph (who Bach called a “profound composer”) was known for organ preludes that were known to be “written-down improvisations”. Bach’s predecessors, the German composers Andreas Werckmeister and Dieterich Buxtehude also put contrapuntal improvisation front and center. They completely tore down Renaissance composer Gioseffe Zarlino’s rules, because, “serious improvisers regarded them as so complicated and obscure that one couldn’t easily in a moment recall them.”

Werckmeister promoted the need to “not think” while improvising. Werckmeister’s circle of fifths completely shattered Zarlino’s paradigm of treating chromatics as mere “ornaments to adorn the diatonic”.

Werckmeister wrote of the superiority of improvisation to much of written music, and wrote about the importance of removing constraints on improvisation. He said, “Legitimate musicians get more from creating something on the clavier extemporaneously than by depending too much on the tablature.” He effectively liberated the keyboard into full modulation participation.

Half a century after J.S. Bach died, it was written that his improvisations, sometimes called his “extemporal fantasies”, were superior to his written pieces. It was agreed that they were more “free, brilliant, and expressive.”

Bach had a bunch of kids, the most well-known of them being his son, Carl Phillip Emmanuel, known widely as C.P.E. This young boy was blown away by the intensity his father improvised with. He would eavesdrop on his father as he improvised upon their clavichord. Contemporaries gave enthusiastic reports about Bach’s improvisations, all conveying a person possessed.

“In his free fantasies he was quite unique and inexhaustible. For hours he loses himself in his ideas and in an ocean of modulations. His soul seemed to be far removed, the eyes swim as though in some ravishing dream, the lower lip drooped over his chin, his face and form bowed almost inanimately over the instrument. Only in his improvisations does Bach tickle the ears of his listeners with a larger palette of musical interval contrasts.”

Entire elaborate improvisations emerged from from a single melodic idea. Whereas his scores were described as “frozen” improvisation, seemingly made “plastic” through notation. In improvisation, Bach could let himself go, fueled by the energy
inherent to circular well temperament tuning. Today, Bach’s written music is treated like the bible printed on gold leaf paper.

Other composers revered improvisation too. Handel wrote a treatise on performance – and half of it was devoted to improvising dances and fugues.

Mozart was most famous in his day, according to scholars, “first as an improviser, then as a composer, then as a pianist”. In a famous piano competition in front of the Pope, Mozart and Muzio Clementi not only had to improvise in the final round, they had to improvise pieces together.

Beethoven became famous in Vienna not as a composer but as an “astounding” improviser. It was a full ten years that he was known as an improviser before he started gaining recognition for his compositions. He improvised publicly until the end of his life, but way before that, when young Beethoven got to meet older Mozart, the meeting didn’t start so well. Mozart considered the piece that Beethoven had prepared to be nothing more than a a flashy show-piece. So - Mozart was somewhat cold in his expression of admiration, and Beethoven took notice. Beethoven then begged Mozart for a theme to improvise on. Mozart obliged, and, Beethoven, inspired by the presence of his idol, poured his heart out with this improvisation. It was only then that Mozart turned and quietly said to a colleague, “Mark that young man. Someday, he will give you something to talk about.”

Schubert was almost completely unknown as a composer in his day – but he was renowned as an improviser, playing in taverns all night, improvising waltzes, dances, character pieces, and because he was in taverns - drinking songs.

Brahms did the same thing - he made money as a child playing the piano in bars, improvising waltzes and dances in Viennese fashion.

Debussy saw improvisation as his main creative source, claiming that his harmonic innovations came from, “following the law of pleasure of the ear”. In particular Debussy, with his love of exotic sonority, loved to improvise on out of tune pianos, letting the novel sonorities move him in innovative ways.

Liszt gave solo piano recitals, which consisted of playing prepared, memorized music. However - Liszt would close his concerts with dazzling improvisations on the themes of the local operas and ballets that were familiar to his audiences at the time.

Rachmaninoff improvised, and he would deviate from the harmonies in his printed scores all the time - even when he recorded his own works. When interviewed about his improvisatory facility, he said, “My music comes directly from my heart.”

So too for one of Rachmaninoff’s greatest inspirations: Chopin.

Composers disagree though - for example, take Sergei Taneyev - a little-known Russian composer. He published a gigantic two-volume treatise called “Convertible Counterpoint in the Strict Style” - it took him 20 years to write. Taneyev used a quotation from Leonardo da Vinci as its inscription:

"No branch of study can claim to be considered a true science unless it is capable of being demonstrated mathematically.”

In it, the laws of counterpoint are broken down, explained and brought into focus as a branch of pure mathematics. He thought musical creativity should be both deliberate and intellectual, with preliminary theoretical analysis and preparation of thematic materials. His teacher said, “Whoah, whoah, whoah. Not the way to go!” - and that teacher was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Above all else, Tchaikovsky prized spontaneity in musical creativity. Dropping out of studies in law school to do music, he would sit at the piano, improving via improvving.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who wrote this firecracker of a hit, considered Taneyev's compositions "most dry and labored in character.”

Not just Rimsky-Korsakov, however. Music lovers around the world have agreed with their clicks. On YouTube, most of Taneyev’s compositions have less than five thousand views, and there isn’t one that cracks forty thousand. There is something of his with 95,000 views - this - it’s an amateur pianist playing his arrangement of Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky.

Sure, Leonardo da Vinci may have dropped the line about a study not being “true science” unless it is, “capable of being demonstrated mathematically”, but he also dropped the line that goes, “Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.”

Last, but not least, we have Master Einstein.

His mother Pauline, a talented musician, introduced him to the piano when he was a small boy and encouraged his passion for the violin, an instrument he studied from ages six to thirteen. He remarked that he never thought in logical symbols or mathematical equations, but in images, feelings, and even musical architectures.

Einstein’s autobiographical notes say, “I have no doubt that our thinking goes on for the most part without the use of symbols, and, furthermore, largely unconsciously. No scientist thinks in equations.”

In other interviews, he attributed his scientific insight and intuition mainly to music. "If I were not a physicist," he once said, "I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music... I get most joy in life out of music.”

He regretted that “[i]n Europe, music has come too far away from popular art and popular feeling and has become something like a secret art with conventions and traditions of its own". As a result of this specialization, music performance achieved high standards, certainly, but any variation or deviation from the work as composed was “often prescribed” - if tolerated at all.

Einstein was thinking 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. He 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.” According to Mueller, Einstein's friend Alexander Mozskowski says that, “Einstein recognized an unexplainable connection between music and his science, and notes that [Einstein's] mentor Ernst Mach had indicated that music and the aural experience were the organ to describe space.” Music also embodies time. Could music have therefore provided Einstein with a connection between time and space through its combination of architectonic, or structural, nature combined with its spatial and temporal aspects? Mueller has conjectured that the physicist’s, “disposition to architectonic logics of abstraction was formulated by Einstein's musical experiences, and even enlarged by a constant struggle for musical experiences which helped him build a rich mental perceptual fabric of space and time in which to perform his scientific theorizing.” His son, Hans, amplified what Einstein meant by recounting that, “whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music, and that would usually resolve all his difficulties.” Something in the music would guide his thoughts in new and creative directions, and after playing piano, his sister Maja said, Albert would get up saying, "There, now I've got it.”

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” If we wanna see efficiency, we’ve got to see... uh... fish... in... (the)... sea.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 09:28 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
Rachmaninov 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.


Rachmaninov practiced hard to get the notes - his own notes, composed by himself - into his fingers and memory, in order to do his concerto justice in his first American concert.

Quote
How do bands with complex music (e.g. Queen - take Bohemian Rhapsody - a very complex 'pop' song)

Bohemian Rhapsody is a "very complex pop song"? grin

I recall playing it by ear - in fact, almost exactly the same notes that Freddy played on the piano - as a student. It is that simple. And I have absolutely no musical talent, not even of any sort.

You're showing your ignorance, I'm afraid.

No, actually, I'm not afraid - I already knew that from your first post........
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 09:33 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Rachmaninov practiced hard to get the notes - his own notes, composed by himself - into his fingers and memory, in order to do his concerto justice in his first American concert.

He also regularly deviated from his own harmonies, and had full improvisational facility. His recordings, as incredible as they are, don't reflect exactly what's written in the score. He was a great storyteller with his music, not simply a rigidly regurgitative rote repeater.

He once said, “Too few students realize that there is continual and marvelous opportunity for contrast in playing.”

Originally Posted by bennevis
You're showing your ignorance, I'm afraid.

Oh? What am I ignorant of, specifically?

See this post.

Originally Posted by bennevis
I recall playing [Bohemian Rhapsody] by ear - in fact, almost exactly the same notes that Freddy played on the piano - as a student. It is that simple. And I have absolutely no musical talent, not even of any sort.

I think that, if you chose to go busking, and you played Bohemian Rhapsody by ear, many enthusiastic people would disagree with you. Reading these sad words makes me even more dejected than your attack on me.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 10:01 PM

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
A fuller and more complete understanding of music theory, which includes reading, will strengthen almost any musician's ability.

How so?

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
I'm talking about being able to analyze and understand music. Spending a little time to understand key signatures, chord progressions, basic scales, timing, and dynamics will allow you to:

(1) Learn songs more quickly with less effort

(2) Play more effectively with other musicians

(3) Have better focus when playing and

(4) the ability to improvise.

The heights you can reach and the speed you can get there are easily tied to understanding the music. Reading is really a small part of this, but a useful part.

But how does reading allow one to be better at improvising?

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
Being able to put sheet music in front of you and just start playing it, is really a niche ability that is difficult to develop. Sight reading is certainly a valuable skill, but depending on your goal in music, may certainly not be necessary at all.

Right? There's clearly a negative correlation between roaringly successful musical careers and ability to sight-read scores.

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
Just don't fall into the one pitfall of sight reading. Too many musicians learn to play only by sight reading.

Agreed. It seems that's what all piano lessons try to do.

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
It's very limiting.

Agreed.

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
Once there's a direct connection between your eyes and your hands (which is really what sight reading is), it can be difficult to play if you remove the "eyes" from the equation.

Makes sense.

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
You need to develop the brain to hands connection... Otherwise, you will have real difficulties or may otherwise be completely unable to play without sheet music. To me, that's as limiting as not reading music at all.

Agreed.
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 10:17 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by kevinb
I think it's generally not too helpful to use Liszt and Mozart, et al., as examples of anything.

Why not? They were humans.


Throughout history there have always been a few people who have been able to pull off extraordinary feats. Sometimes there are clear biological or social reasons for these prodigious capabilities, and sometimes the reasons are completely obscure.

The fact that I am of the same biological species as Usain Bolt does not mean that I will ever be able to run 100m in less than ten seconds. I probably won't revolutionize physics, or lead a revolution, or create a new religion, despite sharing a species with Einstein, Che Guevara, and Siddartha Guatama.

When it comes to devising methods for music training (and any other kind of training) we need to focus on what is achievable for people with normal levels of skill, dedication, and resources. The few people with prodigious gifts will find a way to use their genius, with or without training. Training is for the rest of us.

I could be wrong about all this. It could be the case that, just because Bach could improvise a fugue in six voices, anybody could learn to do the same, given sufficient application. However, it would take an awful lot to convince me that this is the case.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 10:19 PM

Originally Posted by David Farley
If it's a serious question and the OP didn't post it on this particular forum to troll up some Colonel Blimp enraged spluttering to add to an article he might be writing...

Certainly not aiming to troll, despite what certain highly-eloquent people...

Originally Posted by JoelW
troll

... may think.

(To JoelW, I say, "thank-you for the brevity," and, "RRRWWARRRRGHHABLLLAAAOUW!!! GET OUT FROM UNDER MY BRIDGE!!!")

Now... David:

Originally Posted by David Farley
Why not turn the question around? Why did musicians who probably early on ran way ahead of their formal training feel compelled to write their music down? And in many cases were very clear that they wanted their music played as written. The obvious answer is they had to because the recording industry didn't exist at the time. But even if it had would Chopin and others have been content to leave their music to their own recordings and only those who could play them by ear?

Interestingly put. I think that Chopin and others would have adored recording technology, and they would have improvised into recording devices, much like Michael Jackson, the Beatles, and other great musicians actually did. Chopin found himself in a right state after his improvisations. He would decamp into deep flow state, and upon his return, he would fight to recall his improvisations that were enabled by dipping into his dreamlike states. Why would he fight to recall them? Well - for posterity and for music publishers' payments, I presume! Oh how I wish recording equipment captured his and Bach's improvisations, which, by all accounts, blew their written compositions out of the water.

Originally Posted by David Farley
It's not like people who teach music professionally don't get that it isn't just reading notes on paper.

I wish I could say I agreed with that. I worked at a music school for beginners with a very high enrollment, and extremely high turnover. Virtually all the teachers' actions suggested that lessons were about "just reading notes on paper".

Originally Posted by David Farley
if left to their own devices music teachers would give kids a thorough grounding in all the fundamentals before reading sheet music even came into the picture.

Sadly, I've seen precisely the opposite of that. As have many of my music school friends.
Posted By: cmb13

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 10:23 PM

OMG too long. For a 'bogus' thread it sure got a lot of responses quickly. It seems like the OP is just stirring the pot, or playing devils advocate, but it does raise interesting questions and discussion. I tried to play guitar forever without proper lessons and largely failed. As an adult beginner in piano I wanted to do it the 'right way' and I'm glad I did. My goals though are to develop a new skill and for enhanced cognitive training. I have no delusions of playing in front of an audience; any piece learned is one more than I hoped for.

Some commercial successes aside very few people can make a living out of playing.....those quoted are still one in a million. And very few of those successful musicians can play complex classical music. Now if a classically trained musician switches to pop, the music would likely be more complex and interesting. I'm sure there are examples of this.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 10:25 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think this is a major troll thread and best to ignore. I thought many of my comments very early in the thread were self evident yet each one got a response of "why?".

I didn't find them self-evident at all. What's incontrovertible for one isn't necessarily incontrovertible for the next. Iconoclasm moves society, and our species, forward.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out!

Originally Posted by Tim Urban in The Elon Musk Blog Series
We were taught all kinds of things by our parents and teachers—what’s right and wrong, what’s safe and dangerous, the kind of person you should and shouldn’t be. But the idea was: I’m an adult so I know much more about this than you, it’s not up for debate, don’t argue, just obey. That’s when the cliché “Why?” game comes in (Elon Musk calls it “the chained why”). A child’s instinct isn’t just to know what to do and not to do, she wants to understand the rules of her environment. And to understand something, you have to have a sense of how that thing was built. When parents and teachers tell a kid to do XYZ and to simply obey, it’s like installing a piece of already-designed software in the kid’s head. When kids ask Why? and then Why? and then Why?, they’re trying to deconstruct that software to see how it was built—to get down to the first principles underneath so they can weigh how much they should actually care about what the adults seem so insistent upon. The first few times a kid plays the Why game, parents think it’s cute. But many parents, and most teachers, soon come up with a way to cut the game off: Because I said so.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 10:33 PM

Originally Posted by cmb13
OMG too long.

Leave G*d outta this! wink

Originally Posted by cmb13
For a 'bogus' thread it sure got a lot of responses quickly.

How's it bogus? Numerous people have agreed that it's a valid question.

Originally Posted by cmb13
It seems like the OP is just stirring the pot, or playing devils advocate, but it does raise interesting questions and discussion.

Yay. Thank-you.

Originally Posted by cmb13
I tried to play guitar forever without proper lessons and largely failed.

That's a long time, heh. How did you try?

Originally Posted by cmb13
As an adult beginner in piano I wanted to do it the 'right way' and I'm glad I did.

What's the 'right way'?

Originally Posted by cmb13
My goals though are to develop a new skill and for enhanced cognitive training.

But why? You weren't aiming to express yourself musically?
Posted By: Carey

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 10:33 PM

Are we still having fun?

The GREAT classical composers who lived prior to 1900 and who performed GREAT feats of improvisation are PRIMARILY remembered and appreciated today for the musical ideas they actually committed to paper - usually by themselves, whether they were adept at reading a score or not.

Well rounded classical musicians should be able to read music in addition to all the other creative stuff they do. The more versatile you are, the better.

As far as pianists go - the ability to read a score is essential for anyone seeking a career as an accompanist or chamber musician. It's also rather important for anyone who attempts to turn pages for one of those pianists during a performance.

Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 10:45 PM

Originally Posted by Carey
Are we still having fun?

Yes indeed, birthday boy! (Happy birthday once again!)

Originally Posted by Carey
The GREAT classical composers who lived prior to 1900 and who performed GREAT feats of improvisation are PRIMARILY remembered and appreciated today for what they actually committed to paper - usually by themselves, whether they were adept at reading a score or not.

Precisely - but - their improvisations were said to be far greater than what was committed to paper.

Originally Posted by Carey
Well rounded classical musicians should be able to read music in addition to all the other creative stuff they do. The more versatile you are, the better.

But a lot of classical musicians aren't creative! They're repeating what's already been written. There are things that could have been done to stoke their genius. Slowly forcing them into interpretership isn't one of them.

As a certain Piano World user wrote ten years ago:

Originally Posted by Zom
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. This includes economics, health, music and even science. 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 (most of them anyway), we would DEFINITELY have great composers today following in their footsteps.

So - for how many more decades will the quintessential 'Western classical tradition' teacher be allowed to continue their business practice? Sheet music decoding is the perfect pretext for the continuation of lessons that don't foster creativity. Nearly all students end up quitting.

Why is that?

The dogmatic thinking predominant today has already been around since the 1930s. Will it ever be quashed it once and for all?

Originally Posted by Carey
As far as pianists go - the ability to read a score is essential for anyone seeking a career as an accompanist or chamber musician.

I don't disagree, but also... this video comes to mind (relevance begins at 0:35).
Posted By: jandz

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 10:49 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
But how does reading allow one to be better at improvising?

In the same way that understanding language allows you to write more fluently and with more focus. But I think that we're conflating reading music with music theory, of which the reading bit is a rather small part. Music theory is basically an analog of language. You write much more effectively when you understand how the language joins thoughts and ideas together, this statement being at once true of both words and of music.

Don't focus so much on reading, though. It doesn't hurt anything. It's just a tool.

Originally Posted by Farago
There's clearly a negative correlation between roaringly successful musical careers and ability to sight-read scores.

Ahh! Now this is a generalization and is made from too little evidence. The pop stars of today don't need musical notation because their tunes are simple enough for the ear to understand and they have recordings to listen to when they forget. The classical guys had no such thing. If you knew a collector - the rare collector - who had a copy of Bach's WTC, there was no way you were borrowing it. You had to copy it, by hand, and be able to read it again later at your own instrument. Musical notation was your recording. And really, it is the only recording we have for most of the greats. Interpreters of the classical style learn to read precisely so that they can "hear" the music as close to how the composer intended it to be as possible. Hearing someone play Beethoven on the radio is hearing another interpreter's version of those notes, not hearing Luddie himself.

But that aside, Liszt was "roaringly successful" in every meaningful metric (wealth and fame) and history regards him as perhaps the best sight-reader that ever lived. He was the first rock star, paving the way for the pop stars of today. So this statement is really only true for musicians of the middle of last century who, as has been noted, played simpler tunes and had recordings when their memories failed them.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 10:54 PM

Farago: Just wanted to say, besides that I still don't see you having given any reason for why you doubt that being able to read music is a good idea, and even being somewhat of a wiseguy myself.... grin

....That smirking pic of you isn't much help for taking this stuff seriously.

Taken together with this seemingly provocative semi-troll-like stuff, I for one find it awfully annoying, borderline intolerable.

Maybe it's just me....
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 10:58 PM

Originally Posted by jandz
Originally Posted by Farago
But how does reading allow one to be better at improvising?
In the same way that understanding language allows you to write more fluently and with more focus.

So, let me get this straight:

Reading promotes improvisation

... in the same way that...

understanding language promotes fluent, focused writing?

This doesn't make sense to me. Can you elaborate?

But I think that we're conflating reading music with music theory, of which the reading bit is a rather small part. Music theory is basically an analog of language. You write much more effectively when you understand how the language joins thoughts and ideas together, this statement being at once true of both words and of music.

Don't focus so much on reading, though.[quote

Originally Posted by jandz
It doesn't hurt anything. It's just a tool.

Imagine if all painters were confined to this?
Posted By: Vid

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 11:01 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
Maybe it's just me....


Not just you.

Could maybe be more meaningful discussion on improvisation in modern pedagogy but this is not that.
Posted By: JohnSprung

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 11:11 PM

Originally Posted by David Farley
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.


OK, but how does that disprove my assertion that notation has significant shortcomings? They move and sing because of the knowledge and experience they bring to the information on the paper. They don't know the specific piece, but they may know the composer, and definitely know the genre and style.

There's more to music than can be contained in notation.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 11:21 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
Farago: Just wanted to say, besides that I still don't see you having given any reason for why you doubt that being able to read music is a good idea

You must not have read all my posts then. Foisting sheet music upon beginners is foisting a detrimental crutch upon them (akin to paint by numbers being foisted upon hopeful young painting students). Fast-tracking students into codependence on scores stymies the ability to truly play by ear, which is a requisite skill to segue into musical creativity.

Originally Posted by Mark_C
....That smirking pic of you isn't much help for taking this stuff seriously.

Surely the content of my writing weighs more heavily than a 150 x 150 pixel image?

Originally Posted by Mark_C
Taken together with this seemingly provocative semi-troll-like stuff, I for one find it awfully annoying, borderline intolerable.

Maybe it's just me....

Maybe it's a sign that your tolerance for healthy debate is low?

I'll change the picture of my face if one moderator requests it, or if twenty or more non-moderator users request the change.

Originally Posted by Vid
Originally Posted by Mark_C
Maybe it's just me....

Not just you.

Perhaps your tolerance is a little low too, Vid?

Originally Posted by Vid
Could maybe be more meaningful discussion on improvisation in modern pedagogy but this is not that.

It could certainly turn into that. Why not give input there? Improvise a little.

Both of you could benefit from reading this.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 11:30 PM

Originally Posted by JohnSprung
... how does that disprove my assertion that notation has significant shortcomings?

It doesn't. You're right, John.

Sheet music has its benefits, and I'd be the last person destroy sheet music. It can, as some people have pointed out here, be very useful.

However...

I am asserting that it is misused. Fast-track foisting sheet music upon beginner students may seem to help them initially, but it insidiously works agains them in the long run.

Originally Posted by JohnSprung
They move and sing because of the knowledge and experience they bring to the information on the paper.

Precisely correct.

Originally Posted by JohnSprung
There's more to music than can be contained in notation.

Right again.

Originally Posted by JohnSprung
The misunderstanding here is that notation is capable of nuance.

I don't misunderstand this.

I know a man with hundreds of songs in his repertoire, he plays by ear, and performs songs and plays. He remarked, that, “A lot of readers I know don't have any ‘feel’. That’s one of the reasons I'm so in demand... I'm one of those people who can read through sheet music.”

I've encountered many of these players. People who can immediately hammer away when presented with a score, who sound bad.

It might sound like I’m anti-reading. I’m really pro-reading. Being fully literate is amazing. But nearly all readers nowadays are not truly literate, because they can’t get emotionally affected when looking at an unfamiliar score without decoding and getting their instrument to produce sounds. A lot of them learn to do it really quickly - but - if you can’t take in and comprehend what’s on the page silently, you’re not actually reading.

Here's a relevant analogy: Growing up in Canada, my classmates and I were subjected to one hour per day of French classes throughout elementary and high school. We never conversed in these classes, other than Madame’s “Bonjour class, comment ça va?!”,

(… to which we’d reply, in unison, “Ça va bien, merci, et vous?”)

Then Madame would say “Très bien, merci,” and begin the lesson.

… Which consisted of memorizing a bunch of somewhat-related words, and conjugating verbs like être and avoir:

Je suis, tu es, il est, elle est, nous sommes, vous êtes, ils sont, elles sont.

(Which means, “I am, you are, he is, she is, we are,” and so on.)

I can’t remember a time in my life when, in English, to prove a point, I was required to assert, in such a verbose way, that “everyone is”.

It’d be neurotic.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that my classmates and I never became fluent, let alone conversant. I did, however, stand out, My mom wanted top marks from me in French, and so I’d shamelessly go for top marks in the “sight reading” portion of our French class, doing the best French accent I possibly could muster, when lined up in front of the chalkboard, reading passages from French books.

Madame would exclaim, in English, “Thomas, your accent is beautiful! It’s like a breath of fresh air when I hear it!”

Yet - I had zero idea what I was saying. I could have been dictating instructions to you on when, where, and how shove me off a cliff (as I'm sure Vid & Mark_C want to do wink )... yet I wouldn’t know it.

You could say that I couldn’t read “through” it.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 11:42 PM

Originally Posted by Farago

Originally Posted by Carey
The GREAT classical composers who lived prior to 1900 and who performed GREAT feats of improvisation are PRIMARILY remembered and appreciated today for what they actually committed to paper - usually by themselves, whether they were adept at reading a score or not.

Precisely - but - their improvisations were said to be far greater than what was committed to paper.


Where on Earth (or Mars) did you get this idea??

To get some idea of how great composers improvised, you only have to look at their cadenzas for various concertos. Bach wrote a long one for his Brandenburg Concerto No.5. Mozart wrote several cadenzas for his piano concertos (not least K488, and almost everybody plays his cadenzas), Beethoven wrote several for his. Are they great music??

No, they consist of a lot of note-spinning on various themes from the body of the music itself - which indeed is great music. Music which had been thoroughly worked over, and developed. Compared to which, the cadenzas are mere flashy note-spinning:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY8ekoCj2MI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hH8dI962Iqg
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 11:52 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Farago
their improvisations were said to be far greater than what was committed to paper.
Where on Earth (or Mars) did you get this idea??

BACH and TUNING By Johnny Reinhard © 2009

Originally Posted by Johnny Reinhard
In Werckmeister’s estimation, Gioseffe Zarlino’s Renaissance rules simply didn’t work
for serious improvisers because they were too “complicated and obscure that one cannot easily in
a moment recall them. Our rules, however, derive from the chords, where below and above a
third is always placed, and thus cannot fail” (Dodds, p. 15).21 Werckmeister promoted the need
to “not think” while improvising, so Zarlino’s time worn methods were expendable. The
Werckmeister circle of fifths completely shattered the Zarlino paradigm of chromatics as mere
ornaments to “adorn the diatonic.”

George Buelow describes Bach’s uncle Johann Christoph Bach’s organ preludes as
quintessentially “written-down improvisations” (Buelow, “Johann Sebastian Bach,” New Grove,
p. 306). The removal of improvisation constraints effectively liberated the keyboard into full
modulation participation. Werckmeister wrote of the superiority of improvisation to much of
written music. “Legitimate musicians get more from creating something on the clavier ex
tempore than by depending too much on the tablature.”22

Forkel reported a half century after J.S. Bach died on the superiority of Bach’s
improvisations, particularly as compared with Bach’s written pieces. Speaking of Bach’s
“extemporare fantasies” at the keyboard, Forkel estimated that they were frequently more “free,
brilliant, and expressive” than written compositions (Forkel, Bach Reader, p. 436).
In trying to imagine how someone improvised in the past it is valuable to study certain
pieces of music that that may have been described as a “frozen” improvisation, seemingly made
“plastic” through notation. In improvisation, Bach could let himself go, fueled by the energy
inherent to circular well temperament tuning.

It was only through improvisation that Bach could tickle the ears of his listeners with a
larger palette of musical interval contrasts. For “even to the best musician, at a first hearing, a
Bach fugue seems chaos; while even to the ordinary musician this chaos becomes clear after
repeated hearings, when the great lucid lines come out” (Schweitzer I:213).
Karl Geiringer vividly portrayed C.P.E. Bach’s report of his father’s intensity when he
would improvise upon his Silbermann clavichord:23

Various contemporaries have given us enthusiastic reports on these improvisations, and they all
leave in our mind the picture of a person possessed. ‘In his free phantasies he was quite unique
and inexhaustible. For hours he would lose himself in his ideas and in an ocean of modulations.
His soul seemed to be far removed, the eyes swam as though in some ravishing dream, the lower
lip drooped over his chin, his face and form bowed almost inanimately over the instrument’
(Geiringer, The Bach Family, p. 348).24


Also, it seems like you missed my post here! I go over how Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, etc. all revered improvisation.

You know, Chopin would constantly eagerly ask people if they improvised.

Originally Posted by Farago
Though [Chopin] 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.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/19/18 11:53 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
Surely the content of my writing weighs more heavily than a 150 x 150 pixel image?

It hasn't yet, including because that's a pretty steep hill to climb, but mainly because you just haven't offered anything that seems close to justifying this doubting of the value of being able to read music.

Quote
Maybe it's a sign that your tolerance for healthy debate is low?

Nice try, but.....you don't know me real well.
Can't fault you too much for it. We haven't come across each other before, and to tell you the truth, I'm not sure I look forward to more.
Posted By: Carey

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 12:02 AM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by Carey
Are we still having fun?

Yes indeed, birthday boy! (Happy birthday once again!)
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Originally Posted by Carey
The GREAT classical composers who lived prior to 1900 and who performed GREAT feats of improvisation are PRIMARILY remembered and appreciated today for what they actually committed to paper - usually by themselves, whether they were adept at reading a score or not.
Originally Posted by Farago
Precisely - but - their improvisations were said to be far greater than what was committed to paper.
Perhaps in some instances, but this certainly doesn't apply to their orchestral works, chamber music, choral works etc.
Originally Posted by Carey
Well rounded classical musicians should be able to read music in addition to all the other creative stuff they do. The more versatile you are, the better.
Originally Posted by Farago
But a lot of classical musicians aren't creative! They're repeating what's already been written. There are things that could have been done to stoke their genius. Slowly forcing them into interpretership isn't one of them.
Can't they be creative interpreters? And what's wrong with repeating what's already been written? Many folks (myself included) get great satisfaction from playing those works themselves and don't feel the need to try to create new works on their own. Everyone should be able to participate in making music however they wish..
Originally Posted by Farago
As a certain Piano World user wrote ten years ago:
Originally Posted by Zom
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. This includes economics, health, music and even science. 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 (most of them anyway), we would DEFINITELY have great composers today following in their footsteps.

So - for how many more decades will the quintessential 'Western classical tradition' teacher be allowed to continue their business practice? Sheet music decoding is the perfect pretext for the continuation of lessons that don't foster creativity. Nearly all students end up quitting.
Why is that? The dogmatic thinking predominant today has already been around since the 1930s. Will it ever be quashed it once and for all?
I doubt most students quit because they feel their creativity isn't being stifled. Some just aren't interested, don't have an aptitude for it, or simply don't want to put the work in to get better. Somehow we still manage to produce hundreds and hundreds of music school and conservatory grads each year who hope to make music (piano specifically) their profession. Competition is fierce, and the career opportunities just aren't there.
Originally Posted by Carey
As far as pianists go - the ability to read a score is essential for anyone seeking a career as an accompanist or chamber musician.
Originally Posted by farrago
I don't disagree, but also... this video comes to mind (relevance begins at 0:35).
ha Well at least they aren't starving. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta play the musical creations of others. If they didn't enjoy it - they probably would be doing something else.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 12:03 AM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
you just haven't offered anything that seems close to justifying this doubting of the value of being able to read music.

Are you reading everything? Seems like you're skipping over the most salient points.

As I said:

Originally Posted by Farago
Foisting sheet music upon beginners is foisting a detrimental crutch upon them (akin to paint by numbers being foisted upon hopeful young painting students). Fast-tracking students into codependence on scores stymies the ability to truly play by ear, which is a requisite skill to segue into musical creativity.

And:

Originally Posted by Farago
It might sound like I’m anti-reading. I’m really pro-reading. Being fully literate is amazing. But nearly all readers nowadays are not truly literate, because they can’t get emotionally affected when looking at an unfamiliar score without decoding and getting their instrument to produce sounds. A lot of them learn to do it really quickly - but - if you can’t take in and comprehend what’s on the page silently, you’re not actually reading.
Posted By: David Farley

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 12:10 AM

Farago - you're silently editing your posts and then asking people if they read them.
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 12:15 AM

Originally Posted by BruceD
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."


You made a very good point. Forget about "it is necessary" to learn to read music for a moment. We are talking about a man who has personal issues including drug & other substance abuse that I wouldn't get into. I feel that his resistance to reading music more psychological than anything else. He had taken piano lessons years ago and now retired in his 70s. He has no interest learning to play many pieces of music or take lessons with a teacher because of the need to read. Every time I would bring up the subject there was terror on his face (like a phobia). At the same time, he feels that he lacks the ability to acquire foreign languages and notations to him is like a foreign language. If we already know what a C sounds like by ear, how difficult is it to learn to recognize the position of a C on a Staff? Reading music isn't rocket science and can be mastered in a short time like learning the alphabet.

The only reason he got into "Clair de Lune" a year ago was in memory of his father who had a college degree in music and used to play it in the house. While many of us would talk about playing 40 pieces a year as a goal, he is only interested in perfecting the 1 piece that has been very much part of his childhood. Haven't spoke to him for a while. The last time we were at piano store he played the piece with mistakes but convincingly enough people around him noticed. A lot of people who would learn by notations alone tend to play more like trial & error. They don't know what a piece should sound like and would make mistakes. The ones who learn completely by imitation (listening & finger sequences) would take much longer. At least if someone has a tune in his head, he/she would be able to filter out the wrong notes more easily. For most intermediate players like myself, learning a song by ear or by notations, we also make mistakes in the learning process. What about counting beats & dynamics? Can these be mastered by listening alone? Sidetrack for a minute to the Suzuki approach to learning: in the first year they made students imitate recordings on the Book1 CD & a teacher's hand positions before repeating the same songs to learn to actual notations. They do learn to read but the listening part comes first. When it comes to playing a complicated piece, the best approach is to do both: read the score and listen to a recording of a performance.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 12:24 AM

Originally Posted by Carey
thumb

thumb

Originally Posted by Carey
Perhaps in some instances, but this certainly doesn't apply to their orchestral works, chamber music, choral works etc.

Perhaps their universal affinity for keyboard instruments stemmed from the fact that it is the most 'able' instrument in the sense that it can 'simulate' orchestral works, chamber music, and choral works better than any other instrument can.

Bach, Handel and Mozart all wrote music with the intention of pure intonation, particularly vocal music. Their instrumental music was intended for intonation as pure as the instruments could achieve. Handel, as we know, performed on a split-key instrument, and Bach would often retune the clavichord between pieces. It is clear that musicians of the 17th and 18th centuries adored pure intonation harmony.

(The ubiquitous tuning system used today is called “equal temperament”, meaning that the distance/relationship between each the twelve tones of the chromatic scale the twelfth root of two, the ‘justness’ or ‘pureness’ of intonation - that is - tuning in which the frequencies of notes are related by ratios of small whole numbers - is sacrificed.)

I can certainly see them coming up with material via improvisation, followed by writing it down. I can also easily see them all bypassing the keyboard altogether, and progressing straight to pen and pad. But... I assert that improvisatory facility is a prerequisite for writing down compelling music that can stand the test of time.

Today's teachers foist decoding of what's on the page, fostering codependence on the score. There are a lot of people who are completely useless unless they have a score.

Originally Posted by Carey
Can't they be creative interpreters?

Sure. But they're far more likely to earn a fantastic living if they make great, universally-loved original music.

Originally Posted by Carey
And what's wrong with repeating what's already been written?

The problem is the pervasive ideology which promotes that that's all there is.

Originally Posted by Carey
Many folks (myself included) get great satisfaction from playing those works themselves and don't feel the need to try to create new works on their own.

I would argue that, if you developed the skill of making your own music, that it has the potential to enthrall you far more than playing the music of others does.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 12:26 AM

Originally Posted by David Farley
Farago - you're silently editing your posts and then asking people if they read them.

Yep! I'm editing them for typos and other small mistakes.
Posted By: anamnesis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 12:31 AM

I've only skimmed the thread, but the basic idea behind your point that I think most can eventually agree on is the necessity of the ear to coordinate a performance. It's certainly been noted in the past even by noted "classical" pedagogues (or at least one particularly unconventional one):

Quote

The two fundamental factors in acquiring musical skill are the auditory image (what the pupil actually hears in his mind) and the feeling of rhythm. With beginners a long period of rote learning will enable the ears to register tone more easily. Pantomime may be used to enable the body to feel the exhilarating rhythm of the music. When the physical processes are perfectly coordinated and fused with the emotional expression of the music, the teacher will observe the ease and freedom that one finds in the movement of a fine skater or acrobat. Jazz players are always right if they have not been taught. They have a tune in their ears and a rhythm in their bodies. They embellish the melody, but they never disturb the rhythm. Their amazing facility is based on the coordination of all the factors of producing music. Nearly all of them play by ear, although they can read notes when they wish to. They choose a tune that has an alluring rhythm and evolve a complex musical setting without ever losing the directness of impulse and physical control with which they began. The application of this fact to teaching can be illustrated from personal experience.

A former pupil of mine, a well-known popular composer and conductor, returns every now and then. He wants to check up on his problem of listening to too many tones, thereby allowing the rhythm of form to become insufficiently compelling to create the proper balance between a fully coordinated body and the aural image. At one of these check-ups I asked him to improvise a mazurka and then read a Chopin Mazurka. He understood that the goal was to carry over into playing from the printed page the physical rhythm inherent in improvisation. His improvised mazurka was completely sensitive, rhythmic, and delightful. His Chopin Mazurka did not have these qualities. Twice he failed to make a successful transition from the improvising to reading. The third time he was successful, and the result was a completely delightful performance of the Chopin Mazurka. Then, looking a bit puzzled, he said: "But you know it went so fast I didn't hear it." In other words, the first two times the printed page caused him to listen for the pitch of each note symbol for tone. His body was forced to attend to the playing of each tone, and the rhythm of the musical idea as a whole was not expressed. The result was an unmusical performance. When the form-rhythm was maintained as it was in the improvisation the music almost seemed to play itself. There were no interruptions, time lags, or any of the other snags that beset the performer who is conditioned to notewise listening.

In an improvisation you have an idea to complete, and you play ahead towards the completion of phrases and of combinations of phrases. In reading someone else's music you tend to concentrate on written notes rather than on complete ideas. The pitch of individual notes becomes so important in the mind that the ear seeks for particular tones. Often the tone that is so emphasized is not the proper one to make the phrase in which it occurs sound sensitive and well balanced. The pupil should be helped to play with physical directness, as direct as a glissando. Continuity in the use of the power that is tone producing, that flows through like a rhythmic current underneath the separate movements, is all-important.

Abby Whiteside on Piano Playing: Indispensables of Piano Playing and Mastering the Chopin Etudes and Other Essays



Reading music is certainly important, but it's generally learned "too fast". Faster than students are generally capable of actually getting fluent at audiation or at least elegantly coordinating a performance with it.

However, I believe your error lies in how you don't fully understand the full power of staff notation in allowing us to store and manipulate aural information when it is understood and used to its maximum potential.

Peter Westergaard does a lecture in in 464 lines of rhyming quatrains and sestets defending the aural information that is stored in in staff notation (as opposed theorists who obsess over pitch-space geometries). I've excerpted a brief portion here, and the last two pages are very relevant:

https://imgur.com/a/mGBMg

The very nature of staff notation actually facilitates our ear when it is not abused as "mere instructions". It allows us to to conquer the human limitations of how we experience time forward, bit by bit, as well as our short term memory.

One of the main reasons this is not fully understood is that people tend to have too much of a "concrete" or "literal" relationship with music and the various means of its endcoding. Once we understand that music fundamentally, takes place in the spiritual (or "cognitive") realm of our imagination, it becomes easy to reconcile and unite the various ways it manifests instead of opposing them.

Reading music, active listening (not passive and or the type listening that treats music as "consumptive" sort of activity rather than as "creative"), composing, improvising, arranging, performing, and even analysis* (when done correctly!) all fundamentally become the same "act"!

*An example of the type of analysis I'm talking about that is the same "sort-of-activity" as the other acts of music:

https://komponisto.tumblr.com/post/169347283479/o-holy-night-the-greatest-christmas-carol

Note how much of it takes place in "staff notation". One caveat: There's a prerequisite where it's just understood that you're supposed to "hear" notation in your mind as you read it and even freely "manipulate it". If this isn't easy, then that suggests that something has gone awry in one's training.


Posted By: cmb13

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 12:45 AM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by cmb13
OMG too long.

Leave G*d outta this! wink

Originally Posted by cmb13
For a 'bogus' thread it sure got a lot of responses quickly.

How's it bogus? Numerous people have agreed that it's a valid question.

Originally Posted by cmb13
It seems like the OP is just stirring the pot, or playing devils advocate, but it does raise interesting questions and discussion.

Yay. Thank-you.

Originally Posted by cmb13
I tried to play guitar forever without proper lessons and largely failed.

That's a long time, heh. How did you try?

Originally Posted by cmb13
As an adult beginner in piano I wanted to do it the 'right way' and I'm glad I did.

What's the 'right way'?

Originally Posted by cmb13
My goals though are to develop a new skill and for enhanced cognitive training.

But why? You weren't aiming to express yourself musically?



Wow do you like quotes!!!

Not bogus, poor choice....spam? Intentionally provoking a response amongst a known audience?

My guitar playing was largely without lessons. The right way this time is with lessons and imo with learning to read sheet. Proper scales, arpeggios, cadences, chords, dynamics. No.....I'm no thanks in it for self expression. I'm just not that creative and possibly too reserved, artistically. I don't have that kind of flair or talent but do have intelligence and perseverance. Beginning in my mid 40s and having a way more than full time job and a wife and 2.3 kids will limit my time but as above, I'm in it for the cognitive benefits (I call it 'dementia prevention') and for the love of music.

Anyway I see your point and probably could learn to play jazz without reading much, with the right teacher, but I feel the avenue for me to achieve more at this time is through classical music and sheet reading. In fact it's taking me farther than I expected to go already and I'm only scratching the surface.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 12:59 AM

Originally Posted by anamnesis
one particularly unconventional one

Abby Whiteside was great. She was one of the first Hanon detractors. But that's for the "But: Is training technique *absolutely* necessary?!" thread. wink

Originally Posted by anamnesis
Reading music is certainly important, but it's generally learned "too fast"...

Yes.

Originally Posted by anamnesis
... Faster than students are generally capable of actually getting fluent at audiation or at least elegantly coordinating a performance with it.

I agree, although 'audiation' seems rather loosely defined, but I get what this site is saying. How do you define 'audiation'?

(It ties in with this talk's 6-minute-mark point. Even though the external stimuli coming in through the ears doesn't change, hearing the unedited version fully generates new "perceptive predictions".)

Originally Posted by anamnesis
However, I believe your error lies in how you don't fully understand the full power of staff notation in allowing us to store and manipulate aural information when it is understood and used to its maximum potential.

I think that most teachers don't get this. This is one of the reasons why I stopped teaching years ago; I figured that the best bet is to have people surrounded by great music, great instruments, and freedom to figure the music out by ear. Then, invention naturally comes along, as does the ability to truly read sheet music.

However, there are a lot of people who seem to think that rapid intervention that foists a weird non-creative programmatic skill is the law.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 01:11 AM

Originally Posted by cmb13
spam? Intentionally provoking a response amongst a known audience?

Social gadfly, not "concern troll" (a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the troll claims to hold).

Originally Posted by cmb13
I'm no thanks in it for self expression.

What do you mean?

Originally Posted by cmb13
I don't have that kind of flair or talent

You think. I ask this: how on Earth can you recognize flair and talent then?

Originally Posted by cmb13
I'm in it for the cognitive benefits (I call it 'dementia prevention')

Hah! grin

Originally Posted by cmb13
and for the love of music.

I'd argue that there's something heterodox you can do that'll blow your mind and develop true genius-level musical improvisatory facility. Something far more rewarding than playing "proper scales, arpeggios, cadences, chords" at "proper dynamics".
Posted By: cmb13

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 01:15 AM

Ok social gadfly then. That was a typo - should read 'not in it for self expression' - that's what you get for typing on an iPhone.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 01:31 AM

Originally Posted by cmb13
Ok social gadfly then.

Cheers! wink

Originally Posted by cmb13
I'm not in it for self expression.

No matter, I'd still argue that a heterodox approach capable of developing true genius-level musical improvisatory facility is available, yet it remains widely undiscovered.

It's far more rewarding than mindlessly (or determinedly) playing out-of-context "proper scales, arpeggios, cadences, and chords" at "proper dynamics", which is what the vast majority of music teachers would have (and already have) burdened you with.
Posted By: JohnSprung

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 01:35 AM

Originally Posted by anamnesis
Reading music is certainly important, but it's generally learned "too fast". Faster than students are generally capable of actually getting fluent at audiation or at least elegantly coordinating a performance with it.


Maybe the thing to do is teach by ear until the student complains of the difficulty of remembering all this stuff. Then you can offer notation as a welcome solution to the problem rather than an imposition. Notation introduced later like that would be less likely to be perceived as containing everything you need, more looked on as a tool that's not quite universal. One problem with that is to keep them out of the habit of looking at their hands. Playing without sheet music, there's not much else in the room that might be interesting to look at.


Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 01:40 AM

Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Maybe the thing to do is teach by ear

How exactly would this be done?

Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Playing without sheet music, there's not much else in the room that might be interesting to look at.

Not true.

My father once showed me a television special about an up-and-coming Canadian pianist by the name of Jan Lisiecki. Dubbed “The Reluctant Prodigy” because Jan himself said, “I really dislike being called a prodigy or a genius.”

I thought, “This guy seems cool,” so I decided to catch him at his next concert. He was performing in London, Ontario, and so I took the train to London with just enough money to cover a meal and the return ticket. With no plan on where I’d stay, I convinced myself that it I’d just call aunt and uncle, out of the blue, and ask them if I could crash at their place. They lived in Woodstock, forty minutes outside of London.

After I arrived and took my seat in the audience at the performance center, I struck up a conversation with an elderly couple to my left. They were shocked to hear that I traveled for four hours by myself from north of Toronto to hear Jan play, and stunned to hear that I had just assumed that I’d be able to get in touch with my relatives.

I explained that I was an aspiring pianist, that I was there to ask Jan some questions, and I told them not to worry. After he finished his (fantastic) performance, I waited last in the long lineup to talk to him. In what was a very entertaining conversation, he said that he didn’t care for technical exercises and found them boring, only playing them sparingly. He grew up listening to the music his parents played on their stereo system, and began piano lessons when he was five. When I asked him how much he focused on his hands, wrists, and arms while playing, he said, “Not at all.”

He said, “I just stare out this window that’s next to my piano. Not that there’s anything particularly interesting or compelling to see out there - I just get lost daydreaming while looking at the landscape. It lets my imagination wander freely.”

He thanked me again for traveling so far to hear him play, graciously gave me his personal email address, and told me to keep in touch.

When I tried to call my aunt and uncle on a payphone, I didn’t get an answer. The elderly couple noticed, and they let me stay at their place for the night. My first 'AirFreenB'.
Posted By: David Farley

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 01:42 AM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by David Farley
Farago - you're silently editing your posts and then asking people if they read them.

Yep! I'm editing them for typos and other small mistakes.

You added quite a bit to one of them from the first time I read it to the second time. A great way to bolster your argument, as long as nobody notices. You seem to have some kind of agenda I'm certainly not qualified to understand. Good luck.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 01:46 AM

Originally Posted by David Farley
You added quite a bit to one of them from the first time I read it to the second time.

Which?

Originally Posted by David Farley
You seem to have some kind of agenda I'm certainly not qualified to understand.

Hah! All questions of qualifications aside, it seems like your curiosity is dead.

... Shall I call in a qualified mortician?
Posted By: anamnesis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 01:58 AM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by anamnesis
one particularly unconventional one

Abby Whiteside was great. She was one of the first Hanon detractors. But that's for the "But: Is training technique *absolutely* necessary?!" thread. wink

Originally Posted by anamnesis
Reading music is certainly important, but it's generally learned "too fast"...

Yes.

Originally Posted by anamnesis
... Faster than students are generally capable of actually getting fluent at audiation or at least elegantly coordinating a performance with it.

I agree, although 'audiation' seems rather loosely defined, but I get what this site is saying. How do you define 'audiation'?

(It ties in with this talk's 6-minute-mark point. Even though the external stimuli coming in through the ears doesn't change, hearing the unedited version fully generates new "perceptive predictions".)


I loosely define it as the "thing" that unifies the various activities discussed in my updated post above, making them all fundamentally the "same" sort of creative act. It is very true though that it becomes easy to do some of those activities in a way that is actually different from what I think we are both talking about. I do think it's unfortunate that it's quite common that these activities feel "different" when they really shouldn't.


Quote

I think that most teachers don't get this. This is one of the reasons why I stopped teaching years ago; I figured that the best bet is to have people surrounded by great music, great instruments, and freedom to figure the music out by ear. Then, invention naturally comes along, as does the ability to truly read sheet music.

However, there are a lot of people who seem to think that rapid intervention that foists a weird non-creative programmatic skill is the law.


Even reading and performing a fully composed piece, is itself is a creative act, when done correctly, but I've seen few resources on how to "teach" this to those who don't naturally do this. The blog that I linked in my updated post above helped me make a notable advance by explicitly reformulating or reinterpreting aspects of the Schenkerian (and Westergaardian) approach to music as this same sort of creative activity, making it much more closely aligned to Whiteside's "outlining" approach when learning composed out music.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 02:09 AM

Originally Posted by anamnesis
It is very true though that it becomes easy to do some of those activities in a way that is actually different from what I think we are both talking about. I do think it's unfortunate that it's quite common that these activities feel "different" when they really shouldn't.

It's very interesting that you say this, and I'm inclined to agree with what you're saying. One interpreter, interviewed by David Dubal, said that she felt that when she was playing her very best, it was as though she was improvising the great composers' compositions herself.

(I wish I could recall who that pianist was. Anyone?)

To your earlier post, anamnesis:

Originally Posted by anamnesis
One caveat: There's a prerequisite where it's just understood that you're supposed to "hear" notation in your mind as you read it and even freely "manipulate it". If this isn't easy, then that suggests that something has gone awry in one's training.

I'd agree. I'd also say that most people who've been subjected to typical classical training are subjected to methods that chew up cognitive bandwidth, while simultaneously fostering the pushing-to-the-side of the parts of their brains that would allow them to "hear" the music, described by the notation, in their minds.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 04:42 AM

Quote
"Reasoning from analogy is not particularly useful when a problem requires deep innovation."

- Elon Musk


Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
I'm not entirely clear on why we're having this discussion.

There's something to be said for the fact that the discussion has erupted as it has. Also - this five time Grammy winning artist argues against music teachers' modes of operation.

Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
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.

It's more nuanced than this, TwoSnowflakes. There is a very rational argument to be made. It's about something insidious happening.

Originally Posted by Dr. Eric From here
As a PhD in music education and early childhood music development specialist, I can only deplore most of the techniques we use to teach children to read what’s on the page.


Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
Musical illiteracy is not an asset even if somehow one can dredge up examples of musicians who managed to deal with it

As mentioned, 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.

None read music. Additionally, the wildly successful 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, Tori Amos, Freddy Mercury and Chet Atkins did not read music. These are hardly people who were "dredged up". These are bona fide geniuses.

True musical literacy is great, but it is rare. Far more common is the ability to mechanically regurgitate what's indicated on the page. This second skill is what nearly all piano teachers foist upon students. Next to none of these students end up truly musically literate because of it. 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.


(Side note: In fact, if the 'creativity vs. literacy' battle were a thing, I'd root for the former (just like this guy, who gave the most-watched TED Talk of all time.)

Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
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.

How is it "ALMOST-indispensable"? Many of the replies in this thread cite "accompaniment under the Western classical tradition" as a primary argument for sight-reading. That's a very limited subset of musicians. Also - from my experience - it's not really what kids desire when they go into lessons.

Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
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.

I'd never make the argument that being illiterate is a fine state of affairs for scholarly study either... and I haven't made such an argument. When it comes to devouring Shakespeare (he's great by the way!), it's not about memorizing his work. It's imperative that one has the English language facility to understand his writings, appreciate them, and then able to write one's own captivating plays, novels or other literary works once they're dreamt up.

I presume you watched the whole of the Victor Wooten video. Imagine, for a moment, your middle child (who just got back into piano lessons) wasn't fluent in English whatsoever. Imagine these were English lessons. She got frustrated with English once before, and quit. Her teacher who came to start lessons up again after all these years has her nose back to the grindstone, doing the same old rigamarole. Now read my bit here about the ineffective daily French lessons that myself and my classmates were all subjected to for more than a decade.

Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
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.

For beginners, it means precisely that.

Also - imagine for a moment that improvising at your very best feels as though you're slipping into a deep dreamlike state of mind. You simply cannot be your regular waking self (who can act as a scribe) and your masterful improvisatory self at the same time. The states of mind required (link) are totally different. Imagine too that, when humans improvise, the part of the brain responsible for working memory and for inhibition both shut down. Please see my post about Evgeny Kissin's first piano lesson here.

Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
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 think it's fair to assume that we both have trouble writing Mandarin, and that we both avoid the use of Mandarin text to learn Mandarin writers' works. I deeply apologize if you're fluent in Mandarin.

Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
I guarantee you Chopin did not prefer to learn the whole canon of Beethoven's works by ear.

Chopin had true musical literacy. He began as a child with mimicry of the music he heard around him, then he progressed to full improvisatory facility, and then he proceeded to commit his own works to paper from a young age. It wouldn't have been a problem for him to learn the whole canon of Beethoven's works by ear. However - from what I've read - he was most fond of Bach and Mozart. Perhaps he didn't bother with Ludwig.

Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
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.

But the 'we' you speak of in lessons do not learn that way. The lessons promote precisely the wrong thing.

Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
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?

It certainly isn't. However - you learned to converse fluently in English first. That was the prerequisite for literacy.

If you dare, try to throw on various songs for your middle child, and prompt her to 'jam along'. See if it's a walk in the park for her. I doubt that it will be. Otherwise, why would she ask you to procure the piano teacher again?

Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
Not being able to use music notation among musicians is nothing but musical illiteracy.

Would you march into a room full the aforementioned seven best-selling musicians of all time (and the wildly successful group that I mentioned afterward) and announce, "Not being able to use music notation among musicians is nothing but musical illiteracy!"?

Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
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.

Again - I'm not promoting illiteracy. I'm advocating the cessation of the process that mimics true musical literacy.

If you'd care to indulge me, let me tell you a story.

I was once approached by warm-spirited Korean pastor who, alongside his wife, used the chapel I used to practice in. My friend's father would drive me there at 5am each morning. I was determined to be a concert pianist. This Korean pastor heard me playing early one morning, and asked me if I could give his two sons a few lessons. He said the boys took lessons for a short while, but that they weren’t really liking them.

I was seventeen, and beginning to doubt the MO of the traditional Western classical education system.

I was also obsessed with Carl Sagan and space, and Werner Von Braun’s famous axiom, “One good test is worth a thousand expert opinions,” popped into mind.

So - to the point - I agreed to give them a couple lessons. Then I proceeded to casually asked them, “So - are you from North Korea?”

Laughing like I’d just told the best joke ever, they said, “No, no, no, no - South, South, South!”

Laughing along, I said, “I know, I know!” like I wasn’t actually ignorant the whole while.

Then, a thought hit me, and I said, “Oh - please make sure that there’s a sound system and a computer at the lesson.”

Still giggling slightly at my obliviousness, they composed themselves, saying that this request would be no problem at all.

Their townhouse was about a twenty minute walk from the church. Unlike all of the other lessons I’d taught theretofore, I went to this lesson with my briefcase devoid of the usual slew of beginner music books. It had only one thing: a USB hard drive full of MP3 files.

When I got inside, the boys, six and eight, each showed me what they already knew how to play. At one point, the eight year old, Daniel, forgot, and started again. He finished, and his younger brother asked who would go first.

I replied, saying, “Actually - no piano today. We don’t even need to have it open.”

Looking puzzled, they shut the lid over the tarnished keys of their slightly beat-up upright.

I asked them to power up the computer and plug the USB hard drive’s power adapter into the socket in the wall, and to plug the USB connector cable to one of the ports on the computer. Then, it was time to turn on the stereo system. I played them a few excerpts from my favorite piano concertos, asking them, “Does this sound cool?”

They nodded.

Then, I asked them if they had MP3 players.

They nodded again.

I asked them if they knew how to load up their MP3 players with music.

Third nod.

I instructed them to listen to as much music as they wanted for the next week, but to listen specifically to Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto as much as possible. I told them, “Listen to it while you’re going to bed, listen to it on the bus on the way to school. Listen to it at school if you can. Listen to it in the bathtub, but not underwater!”

They laughed, and I said, “Next week, you should know this melody by heart! I’ve got to go now - so - see you in a week!”

I then promptly left, before their mother had a chance to give me any money.

The following week, I returned. They told me that they had listened to it a whole bunch. I went to the computer, and double clicked the first movement’s file. It started playing. Without me even prompting them to, they began singing along with it.

The pianist played the ominous bell-like opening chords, but as some pianists do when their hands aren’t as big as Rachmaninoff’s were, the chords were played rolled, rather than solid. The boys both imitated this effect by rolling their tongues up to the C above middle C that tops the first seven-note chord, and the subsequent nine-note chords. They even moved their hands along with the sound, and when the lowest F on the piano sounded after each chord, they said, “Bwwwwaaaahhh,” with their chins reaching down as far as they could go, and their eyes dramatically widening. When the orchestra came in, I started sing-humming it along with them.

I said, “Great!” and proceeded to skip ahead to random parts, at which points their faces immediately lit up with recognition, and they sang along. They knew it.

Prepared for their reply, I said, “Okay - let’s play along on the piano now!”, motioning to the instrument.

Immediately, they replied, “Uhhh no - we can’t!”

I asked “Why not?”

They replied, “Well, we don’t know which key makes what sounds.”

I said, “Okay, fair enough - but how do you know how to sing along with it?”

With curious grins cracking on their faces, they said, “I don’t know.”

I went on. “Well, there are muscles inside our necks called vocal cords. When we sing, those muscles inside either get tighter, or they loosen.”

Walking over to the piano, and sitting down on the bench, I said, “When my vocal cords loosen, I can hit lower pitches.”

I played a descending chromatic scale, simultaneously matching the notes with my voice, as far as it could go.

“When my vocal cords tighten, I can hit higher pitches.”

I did the same thing, this time matching an ascending chromatic scale. When I hit the highest note I could, they doubled over laughing at the shrillness.

I went back over to them. “Now look - at my neck - see this pointy thing? It’s my Adam’s apple. You don’t have yours yet, but you will when you get older. Watch how it moves up and down when I sing different notes.”

“Here - try this," I said. "Hold your hands to your necks and feel for your vocal cords. Let’s sing the Rachmaninoff melody. I double-clicked the icon again. Music playing, we all clutched the front of our necks, and began singing in unison. At that point, their mother walked in, saw all of us in the middle of a self-strangulation party.

Before I could even try to explain, the little one went all out, simultaneously exerting max possible grip pressure while getting as loud as he could (eyes were bulging, and spittle was flying furiously). His mother calmly left the room without saying a single word about my highly dubious methodology.

Once I said, “Okay, alright, that’s enough,” I asked them:

How much are you looking at your vocal cords?

“Not at all,” they replied.

“Right - now - how much do you think about moving these muscles when you sing?”

“Not at all!” they replied again.

“Right! We don’t know how much tension generates each note. It just happens.”

They both nodded slowly.

“When you're singing along, you’re absorbed in the wonderful music, right?”

They nodded quickly.

“So, when we try to play it on the piano, let’s try to use the same approach to play along with the soaring melody that the orchestra plays.”

After the concerto’s solo piano introduction, they both rapidly plunked around the keyboard for the first note of orchestra’s melody, which comes in at the eleventh bar. I rewound the file back a few times, and eventually, they got it.

When it came time for the second note, they were hunting and pecking.

Immediately, I paused the recording, and said, “Hang on! You’re thinking of which key to push, aren’t you?”

They answered coyly, “Yeah.”

Given how Rachmaninoff wrote the orchestra’s melody, the first five notes that they were to play consist of an alternation between just two notes: Middle C, then the D above it, then middle C again, then the same D above it, then the middle C for a third time, and then the melody proceeds in its sombre fashion.

They younger brother played first C correctly, then the D correctly, but then looked down at the keyboard, and played the B natural below middle C, which didn't work (middle C was the correct note). I encouraged him to sing along and pretend like he was conducting an orchestra with his left hand while playing with his right hand. He played the alternating Cs and Ds correctly. Then, he quickly looked down to see what he was doing, but rather than moving to the black keys, he took a guess and played the B natural below middle C. It didn't work. He tried another white key beneath that. It didn't work. None of the guesses worked.

I said, “Hold on mister conductor! You forgot to continue your conducting!”

He feigned dramatic frustration, and we switched his brother in.

The result was the same his brother - both of them were thinking to push white keys only.

I let that go on a while longer, before I said, “Whoah, hang on now! I feel like I shouldn't be asking you this, because it’s giving too much away, but I've got to ask - how many different colors of keys are there on the piano?”

The eight year old said, “Oh!”

Then the six year old shouted, “it's a black key!” and proceeded to plunk away at the different black keys, squinting hilariously in concentration as if he were a miner peering into a dusty mine shaft for a hint of golden glimmer.

I said, “Whoah, hang on again! This is not a visual memory game. It's not Simon!”

Neither of them knew what Simon was, so while feeling like an incredibly old seventeen year old, I showed them a YouTube video of it.

I said, “This whole procedure of practicing one section until you master it then move on to the next section is nothing like how you sang along, right?” They shook their heads. “But it is how you're trying to learn to play this melody on the piano, isn't it?”

More sly grins, and they nodded.

I said, “Let’s try not thinking about the keyboard at all! Let’s sing as we go! Even close your eyes!”

They followed my instructions, but I could see that by the way their hands were moving, they were hesitating.

“Are you thinking of where to put your fingers?”

They nodded.

I feigned extreme exasperation, saying, “Ah! Thinking about where to put them while your eyes are closed is just as bad as looking for the right key!”

They laughed.

“You don't think about moving your vocal cords, do you?”

They shook their heads furiously.

“You just get absorbed in the music, right?”

Heads nodded.

I said, “Remember that the physical, visible keyboard itself has absolutely nothing to do with the sound! It gives you no idea of what sound is produced. You make the sound!”

They nodded.

Then, in the corniest faux-sensei voice I could muster, I said, “Become one with the piano,” and they raised their eyebrows a little and laughed.

We tried again and again.

The six year old eventually called it quits, and sauntered dramatically over to the staircase to sit down and spectate.

The eight year old, Daniel, persevered.

“Okay, here goes!” I said, with the volume turned up a little more than before.

Channeling Chopin, I said, “Imagine you're on the greatest stage in the world!”

Grinning a bit, he tried again with his eyes tight shut, as if imagining necessitated that.

He admittedly understood full well that his mind kept wandering back to thinking about which key to play, as he dreaded making a mistake. The dead giveaway was the way his hands moved.

I jump in and said, “Okay, again!” enthusiastically each time a wrong note was hit, or a key was missed.

I increased the volume a little bit more each time.

We tried again.

And again.

And again.

It must have been the eighth or ninth time, and he skipped the second D, but did hit the third middle C. I called his name yet again, but didn't cut the music off quite yet.

In a moment I'll never forget, he turned his head to divert his attention away from the piano and toward me in order to listen to yet another one of my pep talks, but he had a bizarre, dazed look in his eyes; it seemed as though he was gazing a thousand miles into the distance. For the next ten seconds or so, he played along with the majestic orchestral melody for eight bars, note for note, with his hands floating to the right keys.

At that point, his spectating younger brother lost his mind, launched himself off the staircase, not even sure what to say, so he screamed. With a huge smile on my face, I asked him, as his eyes focused on me, “Do you realize what you just did?”

Daniel replied idly with, “What?”

Any hypnotist will tell you that children are suggestible and therefore far more receptive to hypnosis. They have super-vivid imaginations that will run wild when you use visualizations, stories, puppets and role-playing. We all know this though. We were all children once.

I’m no hypnotist though. I - the ‘piano teacher’ - was simply a guy who turned on the stereo, started and restarted and re-restarted the track, and continually and gradually adjusted the volume upward.

I didn’t hypnotize Daniel that day. Sergei Rachmaninoff did.

Now -- interestingly -- what you'll find if you research the great composers and concert pianists, is that all of them started this way. So too did all the famous 'pop' musicians. At a function, I once witnessed a young Chinese girl of three or four improvise a cute little melody along with a Mozart sonata that was playing on the self-playing Steinway Spirio piano. I knelt down gently, told her how great her little melody was. She promptly came back 'down to Earth' (her eyes, just like Daniel's, focused from the thousand-mile stare to my eyes), she let out a squeak, and ran behind her father's leg.

Originally Posted by WomenOfChina.CN
“The dean of the piano department at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music says, ‘As parents increasingly realize they need to expose their children to different instruments and enable them to imbibe a greater understanding of music, they take the children to concerts for immersive learning. Instead of forcing knowledge through traditional methods, parents are now more keen to be seen as their children's learning partners.’”

A 35 year old mother of an 8-year-old boy went on the record saying that she believes that the best way to persuade her son to practice the piano is to take him to concerts, to musicals, and to watch films with nice soundtracks. She said, “My son learned Edelweiss, just two days after he watched the film The Sound of Music. He listened to the melody time and again, and somehow worked out the notes on the piano even before he fully mastered the musical scale.”


Originally Posted by John Jeremiah Sullivan from GQ Magazine
[Michael Jackson's] art will later depend on his ability to stay in touch with that childlike inner instrument, keeping near enough to himself to hear his own melodic promptings. If you've listened to toddlers making up songs, the things they invent are often bafflingly catchy and ingenious. They compose to biorhythms somehow.

So - how to get our musical geniuses out?
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 04:51 AM

Per what I've said, I have little interest or stomach for reading your stuff -- and the slight glances that I take at some of your stuff just confirm my stomach's judgment.

I happened to alight on this thing near the top of that last unconscionably long post of yours, quoting from someone (you call him Dr. Eric; no idea who that is, and it doesn't matter):

"As a PhD in music education and early childhood music development specialist, I can only deplore most of the techniques we use to teach children to read what’s on the page."


You seem to think this supports your notion that there's something disadvantageous about knowing how to read music.

If you think so, you can't read -- can't read English, can't read words. It's a level of thinking that doesn't surprise me for someone who's putting forth the kind of stuff you're putting forth.

I won't take extra space to explain it, because I know that any reasonably intelligent person (or frankly even most reasonably unintelligent people) would realize what your mistake was. I don't care if you don't, or if you won't admit it, which I can't imagine you will.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 04:58 AM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
Per what I've said, I have little interest or stomach for reading your stuff -- and the slight glances that I take at some of your stuff just confirm my stomach's judgment.

What in particular?

Originally Posted by Mark_C
I happened to alight on this thing near the top of that last unconscionably long post of yours, quoting from someone (you call him Dr. Eric; no idea who that is, and it doesn't matter)

Did you bother to click the link?

Originally Posted by Mark_C
You seem to think this supports your notion that there's something disadvantageous about knowing how to read music.

Nope - I deplore the fact that a skill that mimics the ability to truly read music is foisted upon children. I said it before, and I'll say it again: True musical literacy is great, but it is rare. Far more common is the ability to mechanically regurgitate what's indicated on the page. This second skill is what nearly all piano teachers foist upon students. Next to none of these students end up truly musically literate because of it. 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.


Originally Posted by Mark_C
If you think so, you can't read -- can't read English, can't read words.

Then how am I responding to this baseless accusation of yours?

Originally Posted by Mark_C
I won't take extra space to explain it, because I know that any reasonably intelligent person (or frankly even most reasonably unintelligent people) would realize what your mistake was. I don't care if you don't, or if you won't admit it, which I can't imagine you will.

What was my mistake?
Posted By: MikeN

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 05:08 AM

Not touching this thread with a 39 and 1/2 foot poll except to submit this little clip of which the first 30 seconds or so rather comically popped into my head as I attempted and failed to read Farago's incredibly LOOONG post.


Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/20/18 05:24 AM

@ MikeN LOL. Thanks for that.
Posted By: Nahum

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 06:39 AM

Farago, I did not receive an answer to my question in # 2722484Yesterday at 12:22 PM .
It's not enough to declare slogans, you have to prove their sincerity and honesty .

Analyze, please, as many musical elements as possible in this piece:





Structure

Melodic Syntax

Tonal Plan

The Harmonic Plan

Motivic development

Relationship between themes

Thematic development


And all this is done completely without printed notes, ONLY BY HEARING!

Give us a link so we can read it .
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 07:43 AM

*Ahem* -- Nahum!

Check out this video:


Particularly the solo starting at 4:18.

Imagine a hypothetical YouTube video, devoid of any music, where Cory Henry (the keyboard soloist) is simply staring into the camera, saying:

Quote
Okay, I'm going to play a tune, guys. The tune will break down to a rhythmic ostinato, with the bass playing only chord-root tones. I'll start out with some pentatonic phrases, then I imagine that I'll start thinking of a ii-V progression, from Em to A7, based on my note choices. For the C chord in bars 14 and 15, I'll treat it as a dominant seventh with some nice bends and a few colorful tones, like the Db. Notice the symmetry of the phrases across the two bars.

I'll breathe a bit in bar 16 before unleashing a very colorful riff that doesn’t seem tied to any F chord you might be able to think of. You might think of it as playing over an A minor with a major seventh, resolving into an E minor with a major seventh as I enter the next bar. Hard to say, but it’ll be a great phrase. The next chorus starts out with a bluesy bend, which becomes a little motif that I'll reiterate a tone lower, all based on the E whole-step/half-step diminished scale. I'll arpeggiate up through the scale in bar 20 before returning to E minor pentatonic in bar 21 to release the tension that was building.

In the third chorus I'll treat the C as a major seventh, with some Lydian flavor (the F#, which is the sharp fourth, or eleventh). It’s a great melodic line that spills across the A root in bar 25. I'll play F dominant seventh for bar 26, and then anticipates the next bar/chord with a walk up from B.

Here's a fact: This hypothetical YouTube video wouldn't get over 13,000,000 YouTube views.

There are many pieces of music that could fit under the exact description in the quote above. There are also many pieces of music that could fit into any description I might write about the beautiful Mozart sonata in the video you posted.

Now:

Let's imagine that, instead of a music teacher, you're a self-proclaimed poetry teacher.

I'm one of your students.

You regularly implore me to complete tasks with demands such as:

Nahum: "Analyze, please, as many linguistic elements as possible in this poem."

Meanwhile, I'm scratching my head. I thought my parents' hard-earned dollars were sending me to poetry class. I want to write great poetry. Not analyze the subconsciously-learned underpinnings of the English language.

Nahum: "Chop chop! Give us a link so we can read it!"

Eventually, I figured out my own way to write oodles and oodles of great poetry. How? With my English language facility, I ravenously began consuming works by great English language poets, then got on with writing my own works out. No linguistic analysis needed. I knew that what I was writing just worked.

Then, one day:

Farago: Nahum, I've decided to leave your class.

Nahum: No please stay!

Farago: "I'm sorry Nahum. I once thought as you did, but now I know better."

Then, just as I'm leaving the room, I turn around, and I say:

Farago: "Analyze that!"

Nahum: "Oho! Well you just conjugated the past participle of a verb! Haha! You see?!"

Farago: “Hahaaaa, yeahhh... (sarcasm) But - actually - no. I don’t see. It isn’t funny either, so cut the 'haha'. My parents' hard-earned dollars were to be used to send me to poetry class, but all we got was linguistic analysis class.”

Nahum: “But it is funny!”

(the sanctimonious Nahum continues)

Nahum: “... and here’s why…”

Farago will have have none of it though - so he channels his inner E.B. White, and ends the argument once and for all, by saying:

Farago: “Analyzing great poetry is like analyzing humor, and analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog.

Nahum: "...?"

Farago: "Few people are interested, and the frog dies of it."

Should you choose to jump on the "but you wrote the poetry down" train, you're missing the point. The continual mass exodus of students from piano lessons likely has something to do with teachers' misguided beliefs about the need to do all the things that aren't consuming great music and making great music.

Could a six year old version of you have said, "I once thought as you did, but now I know better."?

I'd venture a guess and say "yes".

Would a six year old version of you have known (or cared) that he had "just conjugated the past participle of a verb"?

I'd venture a guess and say "no".

Would you discredit the four year old Cory Henry for not being able to explain, in theoretical terms, the logic underpinning the rather intricate jazz he was playing here?:



No.

He 'got' it, even before he 'got' that counting to 4 was supposed to indicate the upcoming music's tempo.
Posted By: chopin_r_us

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 07:48 AM

Wow, you make a good argument! Can't say life's long enough to read it all. Clara Schuman's dad didn't put her near sheet music for the first 2 or 3 years and she was as good as they get but you can't escape the fact that the whole development of music rocketed with the invention of notation - suddenly 2,3,4 parts could be performed at once without confusion. Complex music can neither be composed nor executed without the skill of reading but that certainly is not the end in itself (though it was for Schenker).
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 07:59 AM

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Wow, you make a good argument!

Thanks! That makes me happy. smile

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Can't say life's long enough to read it all.

That makes me less happy. frown

As the late Ernest Borgnine once said:

Originally Posted by Ernest Borgnine, verbally, in the movie Baseketball
"Kids these days have attention spans that can only be measure in NA-NO--SECONDS!"


Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
but you can't escape the fact that the whole development of music rocketed with the invention of notation

I invite you to check out this document. You might change your mind.

This segment is of great importance:

Originally Posted by Johnny Reinhard
Perhaps the major component of music generally missing from the historical record is improvisation. Dodds points out in his essay “Columbus’s Egg: Andreas Werckmeister’s Teachings on Contrapuntal Improvisation in Harmonologia musica (1702),” that Werckmeister’s Harmonologia musica is a necessary guide to recover something of the lost art of Baroque improvisation. Buxtehude’s Praeambulum in A Minor (BuxWV 158) “exemplifies the technique of generating an entire improvisatory composition from a single melodic idea, in this case a sequential subject of the sort addressed by Werckmeister” (Dodds, p. 12). Additionally, according to Dodds, Buxtehude used Werckmeister’s improvisatory principles regarding sequential subjects in the following compositions: BuxWV 137, BuxWV 150, BuxWV 194, and BuxWV 203. The implication here is that Buxtehude and Werckmeister were in broad agreement as to the essentials of improvising on the organ.

The striking parallels between Werckmeister’s teachings and Buxtehude’s music merit attention because they constitute mutually supporting evidence about contrapuntal improvisation in the Baroque era (Dodds, pp. 2-3).

In Werckmeister’s estimation, Gioseffe Zarlino’s Renaissance rules simply didn’t work for serious improvisers because they were too “complicated and obscure that one cannot easily in a moment recall them. Our rules, however, derive from the chords, where below and above a third is always placed, and thus cannot fail” (Dodds, p. 15).21 Werckmeister promoted the need to “not think” while improvising, so Zarlino’s time worn methods were expendable. The Werckmeister circle of fifths completely shattered the Zarlino paradigm of chromatics as mere ornaments to “adorn the diatonic.”

George Buelow describes Bach’s uncle Johann Christoph Bach’s organ preludes as quintessentially “written-down improvisations” (Buelow, “Johann Sebastian Bach,” New Grove, p. 306). The removal of improvisation constraints effectively liberated the keyboard into full modulation participation. Werckmeister wrote of the superiority of improvisation to much of written music. “Legitimate musicians get more from creating something on the clavier ex tempore than by depending too much on the tablature.”

It sounds like the improvisations paved the way here, not the sheet music!

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Complex music can neither be composed nor executed without the skill of reading

Not so fast!


Start at around 9:30. Their conversation about Art Tatum is great. Tatum wasn't a reader, yet the complexity of his "harmonic thought" blew away the likes of Peterson, Rachmaninoff, and Horowitz.
Posted By: chopin_r_us

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 08:10 AM

I'm talking developments from the 10th/11th century. WF Bach is famously nonfamous (though infamous and few compositions exist) because, it is said, he was the 18th century's supreme improvisor i.e. saw little reason to write anything down - a real hugely neglected composer but thank god he wrote something down.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 08:22 AM

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
WF Bach

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach lived from 1710 – 1784. Haven't ever heard his stuff. Link?

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
the whole development of music rocketed with the invention of notation

Are you absolutely sure it was the notation that was responsible for this? Because something else came in around the same time: the advent of external wind instruments that enabled single brains, via their extremities called fingers, to harmonize with themselves. Extra (figurative) larynxes!
Posted By: chopin_r_us

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 08:29 AM

Extra larynxes!? They come 100's of years later (which is why they used, and we still do use, exclusively vocal clefs).
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 08:34 AM

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Heard!? I play WF Bach.

Oh! Well - do you have a link?

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Extra larynxes!? They come 100's of years later

I mean that keyboard instruments were invented to overcome laryngeal limitations. Rather than one composer singing his own pitch (or pitches) while flailing or gesturing wildly for another human being to move "higher" or "lower" in pitch, keyboards made more sense.
Posted By: Nahum

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 08:38 AM

A lot of words, very zero analysis. What is the value of this discussion?
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 08:41 AM

Originally Posted by Nahum
A lot of words, very zero analysis. What is the value of this discussion?

I can write meaningful words, but I can't make you think.

Similarly, I can bring a horse to water, but I can't make it drink.
Posted By: chopin_r_us

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 08:42 AM

They were never used that way. The early organ was payed with the fists. But still we're talking 14th century (though the Romans had one). Notation goes back to the 9th century - pope Gregory and polyphony to the 10th/11th.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 08:55 AM

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
They were never used that way. The early organ was payed with the fists. But still we're talking 14th century (though the Romans had one). Notation goes back to the 9th century - pope Gregory and polyphony to the 10th/11th.

I know that keyboard instruments used to be played with fingers 2, 3, and 4, which ended when the early Baroque guys came in. However, I wasn't aware of organs being played with fists. Do you have a source supporting your claim?

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
the whole development of music rocketed with the invention of notation

Do you have evidence backing this up? I'm more inclined to believe that the rocketing of the development of music was facilitated by the engineers who crafted the instruments which enabled humans to become cyborgs ("cyborg" here simply means "a person whose physiological functioning is aided by a mechanical device").

Then again, with sufficient evidence presented, I could have my mind changed.
Posted By: Nahum

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 09:06 AM

What exactly do you want to teach me , Farago ? My experience as a jazz pianist and teacher is 46 years , and some of former students have received Grammy, or have become "a pianist of the month" in States. For the last 7 years, I have specialized precisely in the first stage of developing improvisation skills; which became the main content of my work. I did not expect any analysis from you, because the amateurs are not trained to do this.
Posted By: chopin_r_us

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 09:14 AM

One thing notation does is save time. If I have to sing in a choir, play in an orchestra, I'll scan the score for which bars may be a problem otherwise sight-read the rest. I have no need to hear/learn the large majority of it. I believe with your thinking you can only learn a piece in the time it takes to play it? No sooner?

As for evidence for fist here's 'whole arm':

Quote
Large organs such as the one installed in 1361 in Halberstadt, Germany,[22] the first documented permanent organ installation, likely prompted Guillaume de Machaut to describe the organ as "the king of instruments", a characterization still frequently applied.[23] The Halberstadt organ was the first instrument to use a chromatic key layout across its three manuals and pedalboard, although the keys were wider than on modern instruments.[24] It had twenty bellows operated by ten men, and the wind pressure was so high that the player had to use the full strength of his arm to hold down a key.[22]
from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipe_organ#History_and_development

Posted By: chopin_r_us

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/20/18 09:48 AM

Re: notation and counterpoint. Here's a source that supports the importance of improvisation for the history of counterpoint (which I found both surprising and delightful): https://muse.jhu.edu/article/614151/summary So yes, improvisation historically sits in equal importance to notation but neither are replaceable by the other.
Posted By: JohnSprung

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 12:38 AM

Originally Posted by MikeN
Not touching this thread with a 39 and 1/2 foot poll except to submit this little clip of which the first 30 seconds or so rather comically popped into my head as I attempted and failed to read Farago's incredibly LOOONG post.


Too bad -- the last 2/3 or so of that long post #2722825 is well worth reading, and nothing like the abrasive and offputting posts we've read heretofore. It's the story about teaching the two Korean brothers.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 03:59 AM

Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by MikeN
Not touching this thread with a 39 and 1/2 foot poll except to submit this little clip of which the first 30 seconds or so rather comically popped into my head as I attempted and failed to read Farago's incredibly LOOONG post.

Too bad -- the last 2/3 or so of that long post #2722825 is well worth reading, and nothing like the abrasive and offputting posts we've read heretofore. It's the story about teaching the two Korean brothers.

smile
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 08:25 AM

If I were to summarise what I think you are saying it would be 'unleash your inner child'.
Posted By: Fareham

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 09:06 AM

I have just wasted nearly half an hour of my time with this ridiculous Farago (pun intended).

Do we have a facility to block posters ?
Posted By: Nahum

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 10:51 AM

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
One thing notation does is save time.


This is what I wanted to prove, offering to analyze by ear a work containing 158 bars of music text. However, to elevate own weakness to rank of ideology?...
Posted By: dogperson

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 12:57 PM

Originally Posted by Fareham
I have just wasted nearly half an hour of my time with this ridiculous Farago (pun intended).

Do we have a facility to block posters ?


You can block any member: click on their profile and choose the button that says ‘ignore’.
Farago admitted in the ABF that he is writing essays.
Posted By: Carey

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 04:21 PM

Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Fareham
I have just wasted nearly half an hour of my time with this ridiculous Farago (pun intended).
Do we have a facility to block posters ?
You can block any member: click on their profile and choose the button that says ‘ignore’.
You can also ignore them by simply not reading or responding to their posts. smile
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 04:46 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
What was my mistake?

In case you're serious and sincere about this, which I'm not sure of....
You thought that this:

"As a PhD in music education and early childhood music development specialist, I can only deplore most of the techniques we use to teach children to read what’s on the page."

.....supports the notion that there's anything disadvantageous about being able to read music, or that it's not good.

That's not what it says at all. All he's saying is that he disagrees with many of the ways that it's taught.

If you really lack the ability to see something like that -- if you can't tell such a difference -- there isn't much likelihood of being able to grasp what's being offered here on the subject.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 05:01 PM

@Mark C - I agree. Anything which challenges the status quo will always upset some people.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 05:32 PM

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
@Mark C - I agree. Anything which challenges the status quo will always upset some people.

Well actually I think what you're saying sort of supports Farago. grin
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 06:00 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
@Mark C - I agree. Anything which challenges the status quo will always upset some people.

Well actually I think what you're saying sort of supports Farago. grin


Yes
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 06:19 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
In case you're serious and sincere about this, which I'm not sure of....
You thought that this:

Originally Posted by Dr. Eric From here
"As a PhD in music education and early childhood music development specialist, I can only deplore most of the techniques we use to teach children to read what’s on the page."

.....supports the notion that there's anything disadvantageous about being able to read music, or that it's not good.

That's not what it says at all. All he's saying is that he disagrees with many of the ways that it's taught.

If you really lack the ability to see something like that -- if you can't tell such a difference -- there isn't much likelihood of being able to grasp what's being offered here on the subject.

You're missing everything I've been saying that agrees with Dr. Eric, and you've seen nothing from me in this thread that suggests that being able to read music is disadvantageous, or that it's "not good". I argue that teachers' techniques to teach beginners are deplorable, because they offer up-front instant gratification, which goes hand-in-hand with insidious smiting of true fluency. Fluency is the prerequisite for true musical literacy.

Originally Posted by Farago in post #2722825
Again - I'm not promoting illiteracy. I'm advocating the cessation of the process that mimics true musical literacy.

Originally Posted by Farago in post #2722747
Sheet music has its benefits, and I'd be the last person destroy sheet music. It can, as some people have pointed out here, be very useful.

However...

I am asserting that it is misused. Fast-track foisting sheet music upon beginner students may seem to help them initially, but it insidiously works agains them in the long run.

Originally Posted by Farago in post #2722747
It might sound like I’m anti-reading. I’m really pro-reading. Being fully literate is amazing. But nearly all readers nowadays are not truly literate, because they can’t get emotionally affected when looking at an unfamiliar score without decoding and getting their instrument to produce sounds. A lot of them learn to do it really quickly - but - if you can’t take in and comprehend what’s on the page silently, you’re not actually reading.

Mark_C, you also seem to have missed this:

Originally Posted by Farago in post #2722747
I know a man with hundreds of songs in his repertoire, he plays by ear, and performs songs and plays. He remarked, that, “A lot of readers I know don't have any ‘feel’. That’s one of the reasons I'm so in demand... I'm one of those people who can read through sheet music.”

I've encountered many of these players. People who can immediately hammer away when presented with a score, who sound bad.

Here's a relevant analogy: Growing up in Canada, my classmates and I were subjected to one hour per day of French classes throughout elementary and high school. We never conversed in these classes, other than Madame’s “Bonjour class, comment ça va?!”,

(… to which we’d reply, in unison, “Ça va bien, merci, et vous?”)

Then Madame would say “Très bien, merci,” and begin the lesson.

… Which consisted of memorizing a bunch of somewhat-related words, and conjugating verbs like être and avoir:

Je suis, tu es, il est, elle est, nous sommes, vous êtes, ils sont, elles sont.

(Which means, “I am, you are, he is, she is, we are,” and so on.)

I can’t remember a time in my life when, in English, to prove a point, I was required to assert, in such a verbose way, that “everyone is”.

It’d be neurotic.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that my classmates and I never became fluent, let alone conversant. I did, however, stand out, My mom wanted top marks from me in French, and so I’d shamelessly go for top marks in the “sight reading” portion of our French class, doing the best French accent I possibly could muster, when lined up in front of the chalkboard, reading passages from French books.

Madame would exclaim, in English, “Thomas, your accent is beautiful! It’s like a breath of fresh air when I hear it!”

Yet - I had zero idea what I was saying. I could have been dictating instructions to you on when, where, and how shove me off a cliff (as I'm sure Vid & Mark_C want to do wink )... yet I wouldn’t know it.

You could say that I couldn’t read “through” it.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 06:40 PM

OK.
How about you tell us, in 25 words or less (I hope you're capable of expressing a thing simply and directly in 25 words or less) grin what your point is, if it isn't that it might be better not to be able to read music than to be able.

I would guess that most people looking at this thread (and no, I don't think very many have had the patience or stomach to read everything you've written, nor should they) ....I'd guess strongly that most people looking at this thread believe that your main point is that it might be better not to be able to read music.

Your move.
25 words or less, simply and directly: What's your point, if not that?
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 06:47 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
How about you tell us, in 25 words or less

Mark_C,

Two words and a number:

See post 2723217.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 07:00 PM

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
If I were to summarise what I think you are saying it would be 'unleash your inner child'.

That's certainly a part of it.

Originally Posted by Fareham
I have just wasted nearly half an hour of my time with this ridiculous Farago (pun intended).

Oooooh! Did you just make a pun out of my last name? "Far ago"? That's one of my favorites, heheh. Although - it was a little weak, if I may say so.

Originally Posted by Fareham
Do we have a facility to block posters ?

Carey puts it best:

Originally Posted by Carey
You can also ignore them by simply not reading or responding to their posts.

Thanks Carey!

Originally Posted by dogperson
Farago admitted in the ABF that he is writing essays.

Oh nooooo! God forbid someone writes essays!

Originally Posted by Tim Urban in His Blog

Tribes

What most dogmatic thinking tends to boil down to is another good Seth Godin phrase:

People like us do stuff like this.

It’s the rallying cry of tribalism.

There’s an important distinction to make here. Tribalism tends to have a negative connotation, but the concept of a tribe itself isn’t bad. A tribe is just a group of people linked together by something they have in common—a religion, an ethnicity, a nationality, family, a philosophy, a cause. Christianity is a tribe. The US Democratic Party is a tribe. Australians are a tribe. Radiohead fans are a tribe. Arsenal fans are a tribe. The musical theater scene in New York is a tribe. Temple University is a tribe. And within large, loose tribes, there are smaller, tighter, sub-tribes. Your extended family is a tribe, of which your immediate family is a sub-tribe. Americans are a tribe, of which Texans are a sub-tribe, of which Evangelical Christians in Amarillo, Texas is a sub-sub-tribe.

What makes tribalism a good or bad thing depends on the tribe member and their relationship with the tribe. In particular, one simple distinction:

Tribalism is good when the tribe and the tribe member both have an independent identity and they happen to be the same. The tribe member has chosen to be a part of the tribe because it happens to match who he really is. If either the identity of the tribe or the member evolves to the point where the two no longer match, the person will leave the tribe. Let’s call this conscious tribalism.

Tribalism is bad when the tribe and tribe member’s identity are one and the same. The tribe member’s identity is determined by whatever the tribe’s dogma happens to say. If the identity of the tribe changes, the identity of the tribe member changes with it in lockstep. The tribe member’s identity can’t change independent of the tribal identity because the member has no independent identity. Let’s call this blind tribalism.

With conscious tribalism, the tribe member and his identity comes first. The tribe member’s identity is the alpha dog, and who he is determines the tribes he’s in. With blind tribalism, the tribe comes first. The tribe is the alpha dog and it’s the tribe that determines who he is.

This isn’t black and white—it’s a spectrum—but when someone is raised without strong reasoning skills, they may also lack a strong independent identity and end up vulnerable to the blind tribalism side of things—especially with the various tribes they were born into. That’s what Einstein was getting at when he said, “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”

A large tribe like a religion or nation or political party will contain members who fall across the whole range of the blind-to-conscious spectrum. But some tribes themselves will be the type to attract a certain type of follower. It makes logical sense that the more rigid and certain and dogmatic the tribe, the more likely it’ll be to attract blind tribe members. ISIS is going to have a far higher percentage of blind tribe members than the London Philosophy Club.

The allure of dogmatic tribes makes sense—they appeal to very core parts of human nature.

Humans crave connection and camaraderie, and a guiding dogma is a common glue to bond together a group of unique individuals as one.

Humans want internal security, and for someone who grows up feeling shaky about their own distinctive character, a tribe and its guiding dogma is a critical lifeline—a one-stop shop for a full suite of human opinions and values.

Humans also long for the comfort and safety of certainty, and nowhere is conviction more present than in the groupthink of blind tribalism. While a scientist’s data-based opinions are only as strong as the evidence she has and inherently subject to change, tribal dogmatism is an exercise in faith, and with no data to be beholden to, blind tribe members believe what they believe with certainty.

We discussed why math has proofs, science has theories, and in life, we should probably limit ourselves to hypotheses—but blind tribalism proceeds with the confidence of the mathematician:

Given (because the tribe says so): A = B
Given (because the tribe says so): B = C + D
Therefore, with certainty: A = C + D

And since so many others in the tribe feel certain about things, your own certainty is reassured and reinforced.

But there’s a heavy cost to these comforts. Insecurity can be solved the hard way or the easy way—and by giving people the easy option, dogmatic tribes remove the pressure to do the hard work of evolving into a more independent person with a more internally-defined identity. In that way, dogmatic tribes are an enabler of the blind tribe member’s deficiencies.

The sneaky thing about both rigid tribal dogma and blind membership is that they like to masquerade as open-minded thought with conscious membership. I think many of us may be closer to the blind membership side of things with certain tribes we’re a part of than we recognize—and those tribes we’re a part of may not be as open-minded as we tend to think.

A good test for this is the intensity of the us factor. That key word in “People like us do stuff like this” can get you into trouble pretty quickly.

Us feels great. A major part of the appeal of being in a tribe is that you get to be part of an Us, something humans are wired to seek out. And a loose Us is nice—like the Us among conscious, independent tribe members.

But the Us in blind tribalism is creepy. In blind tribalism, the tribe’s guiding dogma doubles as the identity of the tribe members, and the Us factor enforces that concept. Conscious tribe members reach conclusions—blind tribe members are conclusions. With a blind Us, if the way you are as an individual happens to contain opinions, traits, or principles that fall outside the outer edges of the dogma walls, they will need to be shed—or things will get ugly. By challenging the dogma of your tribe, you’re challenging both the sense of certainty the tribe members gain their strength from and the clear lines of identity they rely on.

The best friend of a blind Us is a nemesis Us—Them. Nothing unites Us like a collectively hated anti-Us, and the blind tribe is usually defined almost as much by hating the dogma of Them as it is by abiding by the dogma of Us.

Whatever element of rigid, identity-encompassing blindness is present in your own tribal life will reveal itself when you dare to validate any part of the rival Them dogma.

Give it a try. The next time you’re with a member of a tribe you’re a part of, express a change of heart that aligns you on a certain topic with whoever your tribe considers to be Them. If you’re a religious Christian, tell people at church you’re not sure anymore that there’s a God. If you’re an artist in Boulder, explain at the next dinner party that you think global warming might actually be a liberal hoax. If you’re an Iraqi, tell your family that you’re feeling pro-Israel lately. If you and your husband are staunch Republicans, tell him you’re coming around on Obamacare. If you’re from Boston, tell your friends you’re pulling for the Yankees this year because you like their current group of players.

If you’re in a tribe with a blind mentality of total certainty, you’ll probably see a look of horror. It won’t just seem wrong, it’ll seem like heresy. They might get angry, they might passionately try to convince you otherwise, they might cut off the conversation—but there will be no open-minded conversation. And because identity is so intertwined with beliefs in blind tribalism, the person actually might feel less close to you afterwards. Because for rigidly tribal people, a shared dogma plays a more important role in their close relationships than they might recognize.

Most of the major divides in our world emerge from blind tribalism, and on the extreme end of the spectrum—where people are complete sheep—blind tribalism can lead to terrifying things. Like those times in history when a few charismatic bad guys can build a large army of loyal foot soldiers just by displaying strength and passion. Because blind tribalism is the true villain behind our grandest-scale atrocities.

Also, dogperson, this. Perhaps you'll have a change of heart about policing the forum in order to ensure that it's an echo chamber?

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Anything which challenges the status quo will always upset some people.
Well actually I think what you're saying sort of supports Farago. grin
Yes

Cheers, Colin!
Posted By: keystring

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 07:12 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
I argue that teachers' techniques to teach beginners are deplorable, because they offer up-front instant gratification, which goes hand-in-hand with insidious smiting of true fluency.

I responded in the ABF, but with a mile-high "do not feed the troll" afterward there is little chance of a response there.

I haven't read the whole thread, but enough to see that your title does not express what you later say. You are not against reading; you are concerned about timing or manner of it. I wonder if you can get admin. to change your subject line so that it stops confusing.

In regard to the post above ...... There is no one way that teachers teach. There is no uniform "teachers", no uniform "teaching". What is probably true is that what you have seen in teaching (your own teacher alone? a handful of teachers? or?) has been in the direction that you described. I wouldn't be surprised in fact if it were common. But it is not the only way that reading or music are taught.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 07:25 PM

Hey keystring,

Thanks for joining in.

Originally Posted by keystring
I responded in the ABF, but with a mile-high "do not feed the troll" afterward there is little chance of a response there.

I agree. That was rather disheartening. frown A few people here seem to misunderstand the difference between a social gadfly and a troll.

Originally Posted by Brett Williams, former Quora Admin
Jonathan Swift was a gadfly. Swift took a well used style (the pamphlet), used its moral prose and wrote A Modest Proposal. Unlike most pamphlets published at the time, Swift argued that a rational approach to solving the Irish famine was to have the Irish eat their children. Swift used a well known tool, and changed one thing to make his point.

A troll would send pictures of dead babies in the post, post pictures of dead babies in the town square, yell loudly about dead babies, post baby slaughter diagrams in the pub and then complain loudly about ‘free speech’ when shown the door.

Gadflies are literate and understand boundaries. Trolls are subliterate, cruel and ignore boundaries.

I think it's fair to say that I'm not a troll, though numerous users in this thread have suggested that I am.

Originally Posted by keystring
I haven't read the whole thread, but enough to see that your title does not express what you later say. You are not against reading; you are concerned about timing or manner of it. I wonder if you can get admin. to change your subject line so that it stops confusing.

I see what you're saying. The thread evolved this way, however. Perhaps the title could be changed, but I see it as a good beckoning tool.

Originally Posted by keystring
In regard to the post above ...... There is no one way that teachers teach. There is no uniform "teachers", no uniform "teaching". What is probably true is that what you have seen in teaching (your own teacher alone? a handful of teachers? or?) has been in the direction that you described. I wouldn't be surprised in fact if it were common. But it is not the only way that reading or music are taught.

I used to work at a retail store that sold a very distinguished brand of piano, where I registered over 120 music teachers for the store's discount and referral program. I got to know each of the teachers just enough to know their approaches. The vast majority of them (> 95%) were on the "Let's start with reading!" bandwagon. I also studied piano performance with three teachers, and I've seen more than enough online to see that the commonplace approach is either, "Let's start with reading!" or, "Let's start with top-down videos of keyboards and fingers!"

Both are equally disadvantageous, I believe.
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 07:32 PM

Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Fareham
I have just wasted nearly half an hour of my time with this ridiculous Farago (pun intended).
Do we have a facility to block posters ?
You can block any member: click on their profile and choose the button that says ‘ignore’.
You can also ignore them by simply not reading or responding to their posts. smile



Yes, but if you use the "Ignore" feature, all you see are short little placeholders instead of entire posts. Which, as this thread vividly demonstrates, can make a big difference in the amount of [censored] one needs to scroll through.

Plus, I think that it is likely that, even if you are deliberately avoiding reading somebody's posts, there's still subliminal stuff leaking through as you pass over them if they are displayed. That may not seem to matter much, but why invite the opportunity at all, when the "Ignore" button is such a handy and elegant solution to the issue?
Posted By: Plowboy

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 07:34 PM

Originally Posted by Farago


You wouldn’t get too many. Among the non-readers, we have: ...Danny Elfman...


How does he write those film scores?
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 07:34 PM

Originally Posted by wr
Yes, but if you use the "Ignore" feature, all you see are short little placeholders instead of entire posts. Which, as this thread vividly demonstrates, can make a big difference in the amount of [censored] one needs to scroll through.

Plus, I think that it is likely that, even if you are deliberately avoiding reading somebody's posts, there's still subliminal stuff leaking through as you pass over them if they are displayed. That may not seem to matter much, but why invite the opportunity at all, when the "Ignore" button is such a handy and elegant solution to the issue?

The fact that there's such a prevalent need to curate one's own views to a very small subset of possibilities is...

... well, it's beyond me.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 07:37 PM

Originally Posted by Plowboy
How does [Danny Elfman] write those film scores?

He had a friend who could read music helping him. You can still find articles and interviews on the web about other composers in the industry calling him a "whistler" (slang for a composer who can't read or write music, so (s)he has to whistle his ideas to other musicians or transcribers).

Apparently it's a similar situation with Hans Zimmer too. He has a studio with like 40 other composers working for him, and (apparently) all he does nowadays is come up with a few themes and harmonies and hands them down to a young noob fresh from the academy to orchestrate it for him.

But I couldn't say for certain. I've never worked with Mr. Zimmer.

I have seen snippets of his online masterclass though, and based on what I've seen, I say: think about the all the sophisticated software available to our great composers today!
Posted By: bSharp(C)yclist

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 07:44 PM

In the time it took to write all of this, and for everyone to read through and respond, you can have taught yourself to read music laugh
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 07:47 PM

Nahum,

Originally Posted by Nahum
This is what I wanted to prove, offering to analyze by ear a work containing 158 bars of music text.

Your ploy failed however. An analysis of a piece is not the same as a score. If you re-read the "hypothetical YouTube video" script, you'll realize that it doesn't accurately describe the actual music being performed. It offers a generalization. Particularly - a generalization that wouldn't interest the > 13M people who love that piece of music.

Originally Posted by Nahum
However, to elevate own weakness to rank of ideology?...

Very interesting sentence. I'd argue that teachers' widespread inabilities to actually improvise and compose worthwhile pieces is a weakness.

What do they do to compensate?

Why, they raise immediate foisting of sheet music to the rank of ideology, of course!
Posted By: keystring

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 07:48 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
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!


I read the article. Then I read the comment. Then I watched the video by the person who commented. Later in this thread that person is quoted more directly. This is the video by that commentator:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEDqWx-mzqk&feature=youtu.be

I stopped the video at the point where the boy answers that Do is G - with a queezy feeling in the pit of my stomach from deja vu - starting here: https://youtu.be/UEDqWx-mzqk?t=17
- then the teacher "starts off" the boy by giving him "Do", except he sings D. The child then sings the notation. His Do So Do is in fact Do La Do. That's what the PhD in pedagogy does. This was my world. When I was about 8, a classroom teacher drilled us in movable Do solfege. That became my world for decades. Except at least I sang in tune.

Between the article written by someone with a degree in social work, and the commenter at the end, it's like out of the frying pan into the fire.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 07:54 PM

Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
In the time it took to write all of this, and for everyone to read through and respond, you can have taught yourself to read music laugh

I think you're missing the point of this thread! wink
Posted By: keystring

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 07:57 PM

I just watched the rest of the video. The next is G minor, and again the teacher gives the starting note, this time as La - i.e. the Tonic being given as La (also what I got in that public school, putting me into a modal world, and eventually creating problems decades later). Since he gave Do as the pitch D for the piece that was in G major, our pedagogy PhD now gives B for G minor.

So what is being taught in addition to what he intends to teach? He has just finished giving the child the pitch of D for one G, and B for the other G. Neither of them is G. He is also having the child hear that if you have G major and then G minor, the tonic will be different pitches. He is possibly setting up future confusion. Some of what the child is doing may also be rote. He recognized this as G minor way too fast.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 08:00 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
That became my world for decades.

Heh! I'm interested in hearing more.

Originally Posted by keystring
Except at least I sang in tune.

Aww come on now! The little guy was shy! wink

Originally Posted by keystring
Between the article written by someone with a degree in social work, and the commenter at the end, it's like out of the frying pan into the fire.

I'm doubled over laughing right now, hahahaha.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 08:02 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by Mark_C
How about you tell us, in 25 words or less

Mark_C,

Two words and a number:

See post 2723217.

OK -- So, all you mean to say, regarding a basic point, is:

"you've seen nothing from me in this thread that suggests that being able to read music is disadvantageous, or that it's "not good". I argue that teachers' techniques to teach beginners are deplorable, because they offer up-front instant gratification, which goes hand-in-hand with insidious smiting of true fluency...."

That's entirely different than the impression that I think you've given. What you're saying here -- that there's nothing disadvantageous about being able to read music, but that most ways of teaching it are bad -- well, that's also controversial (and, I think, clearly exaggerated at best), but far less controversial (and nutty) grin than what you appear to be saying with most of your thousands of words.

So, let me take you at your word, and put this out for all our folks:

He doesn't really mean there's anything negative about knowing how to read music. Presumably he agrees it's good, and worthwhile.
He just thinks the usual ways of teaching it are misguided.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 08:04 PM

keystring,

I must admit that I didn't get into his video, as you have.

I simply agreed wholeheartedly with what he wrote in these four quotes:

Originally Posted by Dr. Eric
As a PhD in music education and early childhood music development specialist, I can only deplore most of the techniques we use to teach children to read what’s on the page.

and:

Originally Posted by Dr. Eric
Go to YouTube and search for Erroll Garner, and then tell me that it is important that he cannot read music and why that’s a problem for anyone listening to him. He’s one of many.

and:

Originally Posted by Dr. Eric
Many music educators will argue that teaching notation is indispensable and they are correct if you want to play in school band or the symphony orchestra, but I’ll tell you that I’d trade a jazz musician any day, or a composer, or any style improviser, for a musician who can only decipher the code of music notation.

and:

Originally Posted by Dr. Eric
Just as you are not reading letters, but rather hearing meaning, and understanding the implications of what I’m saying, will you begin to have some comprehension of the problem.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 08:12 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
That's entirely different than the impression that I think you've given.

Oh? I don't think so. A few others seemed to easily grasp what I was saying. Those who grasped it didn't seem to have a problem with my posts, or their length.

Originally Posted by Mark_C
What you're saying here -- that there's nothing disadvantageous about being able to read music, but that most ways of teaching it are bad -- well, that's also controversial (and, I think, clearly exaggerated at best)...

Why don't you take the time to explain your thinking on that?

Originally Posted by Mark_C
... but far less controversial (and nutty) grin than what you appear to be saying with most of your thousands of words.

I'm under the distinct impression that you haven't taken the time to read most of my thousands of words.

Reading is good, you know!

Originally Posted by Mark_C
So, let me take you at your word, and put this out for all our folks

You don't give "all our folks" enough credit. They're plenty capable of deduction on their own. There's no need to reiterate my words.
Posted By: Qazsedcft

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 08:25 PM

Why are people still replying to this obvious troll? He tried trolling ABF too but lost interest.
http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2722797/your-nagging-doubts.html#Post2722797

If you still don't believe me have a look at his profile

Occupation Writer.
Hobbies Sharpening iron with iron.
What brand of piano do you own? I own a mixture of seven Steinway & Sons Model Ds & Bs.
How did you hear about the Piano World Piano Forums? Are you kidding? With well-attuned ears, the bickering is audible from just about anywhere! Kidding ;-)
What other instruments do you play? Your mind.

That should be enough for anyone to decide whether to take Farago's posts seriously.

Just stop feeding the troll.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 08:28 PM

Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Why are people still replying to this obvious troll? He tried trolling ABF too but lost interest.

yawn ... No, subsequent prospective posters lost interest, because you hijacked the thread.

Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Just stop feeding the troll.

Qazsedcft, see here:

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by keystring
I responded in the ABF, but with a mile-high "do not feed the troll" [posted by Qazsedcft] afterward there is little chance of a response there.

I agree. That was rather disheartening. frown A few people here seem to misunderstand the difference between a social gadfly and a troll.

Originally Posted by Brett Williams, former Quora Admin
Jonathan Swift was a gadfly. Swift took a well used style (the pamphlet), used its moral prose and wrote A Modest Proposal. Unlike most pamphlets published at the time, Swift argued that a rational approach to solving the Irish famine was to have the Irish eat their children. Swift used a well known tool, and changed one thing to make his point.

A troll would send pictures of dead babies in the post, post pictures of dead babies in the town square, yell loudly about dead babies, post baby slaughter diagrams in the pub and then complain loudly about ‘free speech’ when shown the door.

Gadflies are literate and understand boundaries. Trolls are subliterate, cruel and ignore boundaries.

I think it's fair to say that I'm not a troll, though numerous users in this thread have suggested that I am.

If you've got nothing good to contribute, why are you here? There are a few people in this thread who have said that I've brought up very valid questions, and that I've told very worthwhile stories.

I PMed Zaphod from the other thread, saying:

Originally Posted by Farago in Private Messages
dogperson seems to have a vendetta against me. Sigh.

To which Zaphod said:

Originally Posted by Farago in Private Messages
Ah no worries mate, I'll take you as I find you. I'm new here as well, so I'm not familiar with all the goings on.
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 08:41 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by wr
Yes, but if you use the "Ignore" feature, all you see are short little placeholders instead of entire posts. Which, as this thread vividly demonstrates, can make a big difference in the amount of [censored] one needs to scroll through.

Plus, I think that it is likely that, even if you are deliberately avoiding reading somebody's posts, there's still subliminal stuff leaking through as you pass over them if they are displayed. That may not seem to matter much, but why invite the opportunity at all, when the "Ignore" button is such a handy and elegant solution to the issue?

The fact that there's such a prevalent need to curate one's own views to a very small subset of possibilities is...

... well, it's beyond me.



Frame it in whatever disparaging manner you want, it's still a standard feature in online communities, even in many news site comment sections. I like it.

IMO, life is too short to become mired in every time suck that available online. If you want to think of that as limiting one's own views, fine. I think most adults do give their attention some guidance in this way, even adults who are curious about views other than their own.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 08:49 PM

Originally Posted by wr
[Blocking people] is still a standard feature in online communities, even in many news site comment sections. I like it.

Me too. Would you believe that I use such a tool? I use it for trolls, not for social gadflies.

Originally Posted by wr
I think most adults do give their attention some guidance in this way, even adults who are curious about views other than their own.

They indeed do. But some people cannot handle arguments that go after their cherished beliefs. See this link.

More to the point here... it would be nice if you contributed to the topic of the thread! I'm genuinely curious about hearing all arguments.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 09:02 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
.... There's no need to reiterate my words.

....except to lay bare what you've been obfuscating and sensationalizing with your thousands of other words.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 09:08 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
obfuscating and sensationalizing

*Sigh*

Am I really doing that though, Mark_C? I haven't had anyone else complain about obfuscation or sensationalization.

Why don't you lay out your thinking behind:

Originally Posted by Mark_C
What you're saying here -- that there's nothing disadvantageous about being able to read music, but that most ways of teaching it are bad -- well, that's also controversial (and, I think, clearly exaggerated at best)...

Why don't you take the time to explain your thinking on that?
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 09:21 PM

Originally Posted by Farago

More to the point here... it would be nice if you contributed to the topic of the thread! I'm genuinely curious about hearing all arguments.


I might contribute if I had any idea of what the topic actually is. The subject line mentions "classical" but the first post is all about other genres, which which introduces an insurmountable level of cognitive dissonance for me, right off the bat.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 09:22 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
Why don't you take the time to explain your thinking on that?

Because:
-- You're not worth engaging with -- at least not till you clean up your act.
(And getting rid of that taunting face wouldn't hurt any either.)

-- And, what I said is clear enough to everybody else. If you don't get that what you're saying is exaggerated and controversial at best, I can't help it, and it doesn't matter.
Posted By: dogperson

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 09:25 PM

No, I do not have a vendetta about you. But I quite frankly resent when you start a long discussion, and then admit you were not a student, you’re not a teacher and your’e writing an article or a series of articles. I found your lack of sincerity to warrant forcing you to announce your intent publically. In fact I made the statement only once and then no future.comment if you want to go back and read the adult beginner forum. Nor have I participated in this thread to cross-reference the two threads. Vendetta is an emotionally charged term that is not warranted
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 09:27 PM

Originally Posted by wr
I might contribute if I had any idea of what the topic actually is. The subject line mentions "classical" but the first post is all about other genres, which which introduces an insurmountable level of cognitive dissonance for me, right off the bat.

That's by design. Please see my second post on page 1 of this thread! Post #2722374. Here!
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 09:31 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
You're not worth engaging with -- at least not till you clean up your act.

Oh no. Could you point out where it's particularly dirty?

Originally Posted by Mark_C
(And getting rid of that taunting face wouldn't hurt any either.)

No. I rather like the genuine smile in the photograph from the music festival that I helped organize that day.

Originally Posted by Mark_C
If you don't get that what you're saying is exaggerated and controversial at best, I can't help it, and it doesn't matter.

Have more faith in yourself. An incredibly well-structured argument would be capable of changing my mind. Until I see it, however, I'll sit and wait.

Actually, I'm going to fetch a cuppa joe right about now.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 09:41 PM

Originally Posted by dogperson
No, I do not have a vendetta about you.

Why did you bother to chase me around Piano World, into different forums?

Originally Posted by dogperson
Vendetta is an emotionally charged term that is not warranted

Vendetta can mean: "a prolonged bitter quarrel with or campaign against someone."

I'd file your chasing me around under 'V' for 'vendetta'.

Originally Posted by dogperson
I quite frankly resent when you start a long discussion, and then admit you were not a student,

But I was a student, and I've said that.

Originally Posted by dogperson
you’re not a teacher

But I was a teacher, and I've said that.

Originally Posted by dogperson
and your’e writing an article or a series of articles.

So?

Originally Posted by dogperson
I found your lack of sincerity to warrant forcing you to announce your intent publically.

My intent was announced publicly:

Originally Posted by Farago in Pianist Corner
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.


Originally Posted by Farago in Adult Beginners Forum
Wondering what sort of nagging doubts you have when it comes to the training you're receiving in your piano lessons. For my part, I wonder about whether any piano teacher could ever indicate, in clear terms, what I would need to do in order to create my own powerful and compelling music.
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 10:17 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by wr
I might contribute if I had any idea of what the topic actually is. The subject line mentions "classical" but the first post is all about other genres, which which introduces an insurmountable level of cognitive dissonance for me, right off the bat.

That's by design. Please see my second post on page 1 of this thread! Post #2722374. Here!



Oh, so it's basically another thread about pop vs. classical. I've been through too many of those here already, I think.
Posted By: chopin_r_us

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 10:18 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
An incredibly well-structured argument would be capable of changing my mind. Until I see it, however, I'll sit and wait.
I can't say I'm convinced of your sincerity there. You give the impression of sticking to your guns no matter what.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 10:37 PM

From the ages of 7 to 11 I was force-fed exams, not to mention all the festivals and eisteddfords until I only had one more exam to pass before becoming a qualified teacher! Ridiculous, but the better I did the more students my teacher got. I can't remember any music from that period that excited me. I then swopped one useless teacher for another for the next 6 years. So I fully appreciate the Farago approach.

The teaching process in classical music strikes me as being a bit like in religion. First came the spirit of religion, then it got codified and ossified. We need to break out and rethink how we learn, whether beginning as a child or adult.

Rather ironic that I have just looked at a newspaper headline which says -
'Justin Welby: I have learned to be ashamed of the Church of England'

Which reminds me that my first organ teacher didn't last too long as he was too fond of choir boys. Sorry - a bit off topic.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 11:09 PM

Originally Posted by wr
Oh, so it's basically another thread about pop vs. classical. I've been through too many of those here already, I think.

No, it's not. If you took the time, you'd see that it's a (much needed) thread about:

The Super-Rare Proper Approach:
1) Surround beginners with inspiring performances of amazing music.
2) Allow those beginners to mimic said amazing music.
3) Allow for the assimilation of the piano as an 'external organ'. This progresses to improvisatory facility, which:
4) Enables true musical literacy; unless one can silently look at an unfamiliar score, comprehend what’s on the page, and (thus) get emotionally affected by it, they're not truly musically literate.

vs.

The Super-Common Improper Approach:
1) Don't subject beginners to inspiring performances of amazing music.
2) Foist method books upon the beginners.
3) Bypass the assimilation of the piano as an 'external organ'.
4) Foster codependence on the sheet music, and produce students who are capable of naught but pushing keys (with varying levels of understanding and nuance) once they're presented with a score. In other words: false literacy.

This is not a new idea. It's been around for a long time. Yet, people ignore it, and the current group of 'Western classical tradition' teachers churn out quitters, and more teachers.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 11:13 PM

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Originally Posted by Farago
An incredibly well-structured argument would be capable of changing my mind. Until I see it, however, I'll sit and wait.
I can't say I'm convinced of your sincerity there. You give the impression of sticking to your guns no matter what.

I've spent the better part of the last decade (aged 16 - 26) ruminating about this, among other things.

There's definitely something broken about the modus operandi of the vast majority of piano teachers' methodologies.

However - if you'd like to post an incredibly well-structured argument countering this, then I'll put in an order for an inordinate amount of Q-Tips, because...

... I'm all ears.
Posted By: Andamento

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 11:14 PM

Quote
An incredibly well-structured argument would be capable of changing my mind.


Some humility and a teachable heart in yourself would be needed to change your mind, but, unfortunately, you've exhibited little to none of that in this thread.

An argumentative spirit, however? Yes. That is clearly on display.

There is nothing wrong with challenging the status quo. I do it myself at times, and am willing to think outside the box. But your rapid-fire responses to those who challenge you give the impression you're less interested in seeking to understand than you are in seeking to be understood.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/21/18 11:14 PM

I just returned from work, so I haven't read the last, er, 10000 posts (or should I say the posts with 10000 words?) in this excellently well-informed & researched (not) thread.

But I just realized that I never did answer the OP's question, so I'll answer it now, before I go off to bed (or do something almost as useful, like playing Gaspard de la nuit).

The answer is: "Yes". thumb

Incidentally, my first teacher started teaching me to read music from day 1 (from the first minute of day 1, in fact), using John Thompson's Easiest Piano Course. Soon after, I started playing pop tunes by ear, and writing them down. I didn't know that one of the tunes I wrote down was actually by M.Camille Saint-Saëns (from his Organ Symphony), because the pop song that 'borrowed' it soon became extinct and forgotten - until I came upon my ancient manuscript book into which I jotted down those tunes as a kid, and realized, for the first time, that it was actually a piece of classical music. grin

Such is the power of being able to read & write music, as well as play by ear. thumb thumb thumb

So, in case I forgot to mention it, the answer is: "Yes". thumb
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 11:15 PM

Originally Posted by Andamento
your rapid-fire responses to those who challenge you give the impression you're less interested in seeking to understand than you are in seeking to be understood.

I'm not seeing many people who are presenting well-structured arguments for the status quo.
Posted By: Andamento

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 11:17 PM

Quote
If you took the time, you'd see that it's a (much needed) thread about...


You seem to have a lot of time on your hands--much more than most of us. Please respect our time by being concise in your thoughts, rather than posting these long responses, numerous links, questions about whether we've read those links, etc.

Thank you.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 11:21 PM

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
From the ages of 7 to 11 I was force-fed exams, not to mention all the festivals and eisteddfords until I only had one more exam to pass before becoming a qualified teacher! Ridiculous, but the better I did the more students my teacher got.

Right?!

(By the way: "eisteddfod' is a word I didn't know until now! Thanks! My, er, 'teachable heart' appreciates your willingness to take the time to post your thoughts. wink )

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
I can't remember any music from that period that excited me. I then swopped one useless teacher for another for the next 6 years.

Right?!

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
So I fully appreciate the Farago approach.

Cheers!

(Although - nobody here has bothered to ask me what "the Farago approach" would entail! wink )

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
The teaching process in classical music strikes me as being a bit like in religion. First came the spirit of religion, then it got codified and ossified. We need to break out and rethink how we learn, whether beginning as a child or adult.

Amen to that!

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Rather ironic that I have just looked at a newspaper headline which says - 'Justin Welby: I have learned to be ashamed of the Church of England'. Which reminds me that my first organ teacher didn't last too long as he was too fond of choir boys. Sorry - a bit off topic.

I was reading this on my iPhone while walking by some unsuspecting people on a sidewalk. My sudden snorting laugh startled all of them, hahahahahaha.

Thanks for sharing!
Posted By: Andamento

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 11:23 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by Andamento
your rapid-fire responses to those who challenge you give the impression you're less interested in seeking to understand than you are in seeking to be understood.

I'm not seeing many people who are presenting well-structured arguments for the status quo.


A "well-structured argument," whatever that means to you, Farago, takes time to write, and may very well be a waste of time--writing it to you, that is--given your apparent deficit in exhibiting qualities of a teachable spirit.

That is your loss.
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 11:31 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by Andamento
your rapid-fire responses to those who challenge you give the impression you're less interested in seeking to understand than you are in seeking to be understood.

I'm not seeing many people who are presenting well-structured arguments for the status quo.



That's because it's the status quo, and since it has apparently worked quite well for many people, an argument in favor of it isn't necessary. And that's not even going into what the "status quo" might be - I think pianists here have had a wide diversity of learning experiences.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 11:33 PM

Originally Posted by Andamento
You seem to have a lot of time on your hands--much more than most of us. Please respect our time by being concise in your thoughts, rather than posting these long responses, numerous links, questions about whether we've read those links, etc.

Thank you.

You could always choose to take a few days to absorb the information, you know. Why must everything these days be so condensed? Do you eat condensed soup, exclusively?

As I said before:

Originally Posted by Farago
As the late Ernest Borgnine once said:
Originally Posted by Ernest Borgnine, verbally, in the movie Baseketball
"Kids these days have attention spans that can only be measure in NA-NO--SECONDS!"

Also, to your post:

Originally Posted by Andamento
A "well-structured argument," whatever that means to you, Farago, takes time to write, and may very well be a waste of time--writing it to you, that is--given your apparent deficit in exhibiting qualities of a teachable spirit.

It goes both ways! I could argue that many people here don't have teachable spirits. But I don't do that, because that would isolate them. Rather - I engage them. In rapid-fire fashion, I also ask "Why?" a lot. Seems to be the hallmark of a teachable spirit, wouldn't you agree?

Originally Posted by Andamento
Some humility and a teachable heart in yourself would be needed to change your mind.

Speaking of hearts (and soups):

Originally Posted by Ludwig Van Beethoven himself
Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 11:38 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by wr
Oh, so it's basically another thread about pop vs. classical. I've been through too many of those here already, I think.

No, it's not. If you took the time, you'd see that it's a (much needed) thread about:

The Super-Rare Proper Approach:
1) Surround beginners with inspiring performances of amazing music.
2) Allow those beginners to mimic said amazing music.
3) Allow for the assimilation of the piano as an 'external organ'. This progresses to improvisatory facility, which:
4) Enables true musical literacy; unless one can silently look at an unfamiliar score, comprehend what’s on the page, and (thus) get emotionally affected by it, they're not truly musically literate.

vs.

The Super-Common Improper Approach:
1) Don't subject beginners to inspiring performances of amazing music.
2) Foist method books upon the beginners.
3) Bypass the assimilation of the piano as an 'external organ'.
4) Foster codependence on the sheet music, and produce students who are capable of naught but pushing keys (with varying levels of understanding and nuance) once they're presented with a score. In other words: false literacy.

This is not a new idea. It's been around for a long time. Yet, people ignore it, and the current group of 'Western classical tradition' teachers churn out quitters, and more teachers.


Well, why didn't you say so at the beginning?

At any rate, since you already know what is proper and what is not, there's little point in talking about it.

Also, there's a Piano Teachers Forum at this site - I'd think it would be a more appropriate place for this thread.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 11:44 PM

Originally Posted by wr
the status quo... has apparently worked quite well for many people... [therefore] an argument in favor of it isn't necessary.

Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Everything in the universe orbits the Earth!"?

Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Radio is point to point, not point to mass!"?

Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Keyboard instruments are to be played with fingers 2, 3, and 4!"? (i.e. no pinkies or thumbs)

Did you know that status quo used to be, "Let's feed mercury to sick people!"?

Franz Liszt was subjected to that last one. Such was the reason for these boils on his face:

[Linked Image]
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/21/18 11:51 PM

Originally Posted by wr
Well, why didn't you say so at the beginning?

To foster healthy debate.

Originally Posted by wr
At any rate, since you already know what is proper and what is not, there's little point in talking about it.

I'd like the strongest counterarguments to my argument.

Originally Posted by wr
Also, there's a Piano Teachers Forum at this site - I'd think it would be a more appropriate place for this thread.

This is also a perfectly valid place. Most of the pianists here were taught by piano teachers, and became piano teachers. Also - over 4x as many people view this forum compared to the Piano Teachers Forum. Better chance for better counterarguments!
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/22/18 12:08 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
this excellently well-informed & researched (not) thread

Oh dear! What's "not" researched?

Originally Posted by bennevis
But I just realized that I never did answer the OP's question, so I'll answer it now, before I go off to bed (or do something almost as useful, like playing Gaspard de la nuit).

Hah. Showoff. wink

(By the way - have you recorded yourself playing Scarbo?)

Also, I must say... speaking of Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit... It's super-weird that, in post #2722701, you said:

Originally Posted by bennevis
I have absolutely no musical talent, not even of any sort.

Hopefully it was sarcasm? If it wasn't... then... I won't get too much into that.

Originally Posted by bennevis
The answer [to the question of whether reading is absolutely necessary (for classical or otherwise)] is: "Yes". thumb

Okay, and you back this up by asserting that...? What?

Originally Posted by bennevis
Incidentally, my first teacher started teaching me to read music from day 1 (from the first minute of day 1, in fact), using John Thompson's Easiest Piano Course. Soon after, I started playing pop tunes by ear, and writing them down.

Unlike the many beginners subjected to teachers' ubiquitous teaching methods these days, it sounds like you were surrounded by music, and given freedom of exploration - i.e. - you were allowed to play by ear!

Originally Posted by bennevis
I didn't know that one of the tunes I wrote down was actually by M.Camille Saint-Saëns (from his Organ Symphony), because the pop song that 'borrowed' it soon became extinct and forgotten - until I came upon my ancient manuscript book into which I jotted down those tunes as a kid, and realized, for the first time, that it was actually a piece of classical music. grin

Such is the power of being able to read & write music, as well as play by ear. thumb thumb thumb

I'd argue that the skill of playing by ear was absolutely critical for the true reading aptitude that you seem to have! It seems like you're able to pick up an unfamiliar score, look at it, and get emotionally affected by comprehending its contents, without having to play it on an instrument first).

Would you not agree?
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/22/18 12:36 AM

Originally Posted by Farago

Originally Posted by bennevis
Incidentally, my first teacher started teaching me to read music from day 1 (from the first minute of day 1, in fact), using John Thompson's Easiest Piano Course. Soon after, I started playing pop tunes by ear, and writing them down.

Unlike the many beginners subjected to teachers' ubiquitous teaching methods these days, it sounds like you were surrounded by music, and given freedom of exploration - i.e. - you were allowed to play by ear!

I definitely wasn't surrounded by music - my parents were totally uninterested in music, and only bought the piano and started us kids on lessons just to keep up with the Joneses. There was never any music at home - except what I made myself (played on the piano). I heard pop songs only when I visited my cousins and other older relatives who played the guitar (who also taught me the chords) and sang from songbooks, and had a few cassette tapes of pop songs.

Nobody told me I couldn't play by ear, least of all my teacher.....and anyway, how else would I play pop songs on the piano, as I had no means to obtain the sheet music? Necessity is the mother of playing by ear (or by whatever means possible).

Quote
I'd argue that the skill of playing by ear was absolutely critical for the reading aptitude that you seem to have!

Would you not agree?

No, in fact, I developed decent reading skills because I read through a lot of classical music scores - in fact, anything I could get my hands on. Not so much when I was still living at home, because all I had was what my teacher gave me (Denes Agay's Easy Classics to Moderns), but when I went to boarding school in the UK, I had access to the school music library - see my post in the sight-reading thread.

In other words, my skill of playing by ear developed completely separately from my sight-reading/reading skills, the former based mostly on pop, the latter based totally on classical. Though of course, at the time, I never thought of it that way - I just played music I enjoyed in any way I was able. If I had the score, I'd use it. If not, I made it up by ear.
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 12:44 AM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by wr
the status quo... has apparently worked quite well for many people... [therefore] an argument in favor of it isn't necessary.

Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Everything in the universe orbits the Earth!"?

Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Radio is point to point, not point to mass!"?

Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Keyboard instruments are to be played with fingers 2, 3, and 4!"? (i..e no pinkies or thumbs)

Did you know that status quo used to be, "Let's feed mercury to sick people!"?



And? Obviously, the list of things that were once status quo and no longer are is very very long, but all that tells me is that nothing is permanent, rather than anything about the validity of those things during their time of existence.
Posted By: Carey

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 01:04 AM

Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by wr
the status quo... has apparently worked quite well for many people... [therefore] an argument in favor of it isn't necessary.

Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Everything in the universe orbits the Earth!"?
Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Radio is point to point, not point to mass!"?
Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Keyboard instruments are to be played with fingers 2, 3, and 4!"? (i..e no pinkies or thumbs)
Did you know that status quo used to be, "Let's feed mercury to sick people!"?

And? Obviously, the list of things that were once status quo and no longer are is very very long, but all that tells me is that nothing is permanent, rather than anything about the validity of those things during their time of existence.
Well - the mercury thing was a tad ill advised. grin
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 01:08 AM

Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by wr
the status quo... has apparently worked quite well for many people... [therefore] an argument in favor of it isn't necessary.

Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Everything in the universe orbits the Earth!"?
Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Radio is point to point, not point to mass!"?
Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Keyboard instruments are to be played with fingers 2, 3, and 4!"? (i..e no pinkies or thumbs)
Did you know that status quo used to be, "Let's feed mercury to sick people!"?

And? Obviously, the list of things that were once status quo and no longer are is very very long, but all that tells me is that nothing is permanent, rather than anything about the validity of those things during their time of existence.
Well - the mercury thing was a tad ill advised. grin



The ill used to be bled. To make them even more anaemic. grin

These days, we use leeches (specially bred to be sterile, not plucked from tropical rainforests). To, er, bleed people more humanely than by using a rusty knife as of yore.

We also use maggots (also specially bred) these days, to feed on dead human tissue. Strange that those ancient quacks never thought of that...... wink
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 03:00 AM

Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by wr
the status quo... has apparently worked quite well for many people... [therefore] an argument in favor of it isn't necessary.

Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Everything in the universe orbits the Earth!"?
Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Radio is point to point, not point to mass!"?
Did you know that the status quo used to be, "Keyboard instruments are to be played with fingers 2, 3, and 4!"? (i..e no pinkies or thumbs)
Did you know that status quo used to be, "Let's feed mercury to sick people!"?

And? Obviously, the list of things that were once status quo and no longer are is very very long, but all that tells me is that nothing is permanent, rather than anything about the validity of those things during their time of existence.
Well - the mercury thing was a tad ill advised. grin


Well, yes, but somebody must have thought it was a good idea, at least for a while. Looking a little at Wikipedia, it seems to have had a lot of use in medicines. They still sell the mercury-tainted Mercurochrome I knew as a kid in some countries. And I think I've got some in tooth fillings, too (the safety of which I've wondered about).
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 03:07 AM

Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by Carey
Well - the mercury thing was a tad ill advised. grin
Well, yes, but somebody must have thought it was a good idea, at least for a while. Looking a little at Wikipedia, it seems to have had a lot of use in medicines. They still sell the mercury-tainted Mercurochrome I knew as a kid in some countries. And I think I've got some in tooth fillings, too (the safety of which I've wondered about).

When my dad was a little kid (in the late 50s / early 60s), he wrote to a mining company, requesting a sample of uranium.

... They him sent one.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 03:07 AM

(In before someone writes a post saying, "Well, THAT explains Farago's clearly-mutated brain!")
Posted By: outo

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 03:51 AM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by wr
Oh, so it's basically another thread about pop vs. classical. I've been through too many of those here already, I think.

No, it's not. If you took the time, you'd see that it's a (much needed) thread about:

The Super-Rare Proper Approach:
1) Surround beginners with inspiring performances of amazing music.
2) Allow those beginners to mimic said amazing music.
3) Allow for the assimilation of the piano as an 'external organ'. This progresses to improvisatory facility, which:
4) Enables true musical literacy; unless one can silently look at an unfamiliar score, comprehend what’s on the page, and (thus) get emotionally affected by it, they're not truly musically literate.

vs.

The Super-Common Improper Approach:
1) Don't subject beginners to inspiring performances of amazing music.
2) Foist method books upon the beginners.
3) Bypass the assimilation of the piano as an 'external organ'.
4) Foster codependence on the sheet music, and produce students who are capable of naught but pushing keys (with varying levels of understanding and nuance) once they're presented with a score. In other words: false literacy.

This is not a new idea. It's been around for a long time. Yet, people ignore it, and the current group of 'Western classical tradition' teachers churn out quitters, and more teachers.


I am pretty certain I would have benefited from a different approach to learning piano when I was a child. Being "note dyslexic" all the time spent reading notes kept me from developing my actual musical skills with the piano at the time it would have been easier. Seems to be a little late now. So you do have a point. It seems many people can survive the common methods, but only a few actually become what I would call musicians, and it's not necessarily because but despite ow they were originally taught.

In contrast I developed my ability to sing in a different way as most people do and it became a natural way to create music for me.

For me it is quite obvious what you are saying. But I read words fast and effortlessly so the amount is not an issue for me as it may be for some.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 03:55 AM

Originally Posted by outo
I am pretty certain I would have benefited from a different approach to learning piano when I was a child. Being "note dyslexic" all the time spent reading notes kept me from developing my actual musical skills with the piano at the time it would have been easier. Seems to be a little late now. So you do have a point. It seems many people can survive the common methods, but only a few actually become what I would call musicians, and it's not necessarily because but despite how they were originally taught.

In contrast I developed my ability to sing in a different way as most people do and it became a natural way to create music for me.

For me it is quite obvious what you are saying. But I read words fast and effortlessly so the amount is not an issue for me as it may be for some.

Yay! Another person who gets it, and who isn't resorting to calling me a "troll".
Posted By: anamnesis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/22/18 04:05 AM

More food for thought:

Nadia Boulanger: One can never train a child carefully enough. If you take general education, one learns to recognize color, to recognize words, but not to recognize sound. So the eyes are trained, but the ears very little. This is not because someone taught me that red is not blue that I pretended to become a painter. But most people hear nothing because their ears have never been trained and many musicians hear very badly and very little.

Heinrich Schenker: Performers disregard the fact that notational symbols really hide more than they make explicit, and that, strictly speaking, even today they are hardly more than neumes behind which another world opens wide and deep- a true beyond, like the very soul of art. They always play, to express it more clearly, only on a single surface, so to speak--merely a planimetric way--where they should really play in several dimensions,as though in a stereometric way. They play away as if only to get to know the work, where they ought to get to know the work first in order to be able to play it at all. What it means to know a piece thoroughly--this unfortunately, they do not know.

Milton Babbitt: I can't believe that people really prefer to go to the concert hall under intellectually trying, socially trying, physically trying conditions, unable to repeat something they have missed, when they can sit at home under the most comfortable and stimulating circumstances and hear it as they want to hear it. I can't imagine what would happen to literature today if one were obliged to congregate in an unpleasant hall and read novels projected on a screen.

Babbitt's quote is interesting because for him, the process of skilled audiation from the score would actually turn the title of this thread around: But are physical instruments and concrete sound production *absolutely* necessary?
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/22/18 05:48 AM

Originally Posted by anamnesis
More food for thought:

Nadia Boulanger: One can never train a child carefully enough. If you take general education, one learns to recognize color, to recognize words, but not to recognize sound. So the eyes are trained, but the ears very little. This is not because someone taught me that red is not blue that I pretended to become a painter. But most people hear nothing because their ears have never been trained and many musicians hear very badly and very little.



But our vision and hearing are not analogous in the way Boulanger implies. Which isn't to say that better and more thorough auditory training of kids would be a bad thing, of course.

Quote


Heinrich Schenker: Performers disregard the fact that notational symbols really hide more than they make explicit, and that, strictly speaking, even today they are hardly more than neumes behind which another world opens wide and deep- a true beyond, like the very soul of art. They always play, to express it more clearly, only on a single surface, so to speak--merely a planimetric way--where they should really play in several dimensions,as though in a stereometric way. They play away as if only to get to know the work, where they ought to get to know the work first in order to be able to play it at all. What it means to know a piece thoroughly--this unfortunately, they do not know.



Good thing he died when he did - I'm guessing he'd be even more aghast at many of today's "planimetric" players.

Quote


Milton Babbitt: I can't believe that people really prefer to go to the concert hall under intellectually trying, socially trying, physically trying conditions, unable to repeat something they have missed, when they can sit at home under the most comfortable and stimulating circumstances and hear it as they want to hear it. I can't imagine what would happen to literature today if one were obliged to congregate in an unpleasant hall and read novels projected on a screen.

Babbitt's quote is interesting because for him, the process of skilled audiation from the score would actually turn the title of this thread around: But are physical instruments and concrete sound production *absolutely* necessary?


I don't even know how Babbitt's literature example is supposed to relate to the rest of what he is saying. It makes no sense to me.

Anyway, I've rarely heard instrumentalists talk about the ability to audiate while reading a score as being something essential to what they do. The closest thing to it that I've heard mentioned with any frequency would be imagining what sound they want to make before they make it, or mentally practicing music they know, music that is already at least partly "in the ear". Being skilled at accurate audiation from a score, without any instrumental aid, seems to be much more of a composerly thing, and indeed, in my experience, it is almost always composers who talk about it as being something useful in what they do. But not all composers, even the best, rely on it. Many still compose at the piano (or, these days, at a MIDI controller).
Posted By: chopin_r_us

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/22/18 06:38 AM

Audiation is the skill! (even if you are unaware it's happening)
Posted By: Polyphonist

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 08:18 AM

I shudder to think of the number of collective man-hours which have been wasted in creating several hundred responses, most of them quite lengthy, to this thread.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 08:55 AM

Originally Posted by Polyphonist
I shudder to think of the number of collective man-hours which have been wasted in creating several hundred responses, most of them quite lengthy, to this thread.

But perhaps an infinitesimal amount compared to that of music teachers using tired, out-of-date methods?

I seem to detect that the greater the number the posts that a person has made to the forum, the more 'opposition' there is to what Farago says. Or is it my vivid imagination?

Fargo - have you seen this?
Classical Music Improvisation - why it died.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 09:19 AM

Originally Posted by Polyphonist
I shudder to think of the number of collective man-hours which have been wasted in creating several hundred responses, most of them quite lengthy, to this thread.

It's a pretty worthwhile debate, if I may say so myself.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 09:37 AM

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
But perhaps an infinitesimal amount compared to that of music teachers using tired, out-of-date methods?

I agree with this.

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
I seem to detect that the greater the number the posts that a person has made to the forum, the more 'opposition' there is to what Farago says. Or is it my vivid imagination?

This too.

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
have you seen this?

Not yet. Watching now. Thanks!
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 10:01 AM

Originally Posted by Farago
Yay! Another person who gets it, and who isn't resorting to calling me a "troll".


With the greatest respect, I think the "troll" attitude arises because you make flat, uncompromising claims in a style that suggests you believe you are the only person ever to have thought about such things.

I really don't think you're the first person ever to question the dominant role of music-reading in music education. Many methods have been proposed for teaching musicianship with limited exposure to notation -- probably the Suzuki method is the most well-known, but it's certainly not the only one. There's at least one piano teacher in my neighbourhood who has a thriving business teaching kids to play rock and blues, entirely without notation.

Of course there's a debate to be had about the role of music notation and how it integrates with other facets of musicianship. There are all sorts of reasons why things are as they are, some creditable, some less so.

However, this isn't a new discussion, and your comments aren't really all that controversial. Competent teachers think about this kind of stuff all the time.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 10:43 AM

Originally Posted by kevinb
I think the "troll" attitude arises because you make flat, uncompromising claims in a style that suggests you believe you are the only person ever to have thought about such things.

I really don't think you're the first person ever to question the dominant role of music-reading in music education.

I've written in this thread that my question isn't a new one.

Originally Posted by kevinb
There's at least one piano teacher in my neighbourhood who has a thriving business teaching kids to play rock and blues, entirely without notation.

That is gnarly. I dig it.

Originally Posted by kevinb
However, this isn't a new discussion, and your comments aren't really all that controversial.

I know it's not new, and I wish they were less controversial than some people in here make them out to be.

Originally Posted by kevinb
Competent teachers think about this kind of stuff all the time.

Yet they're in the nearly-invisible minority.

I used to organize a recital hall for 120+ piano teachers. This hall was also used for (much-dreaded) piano exams. Thousands of kids would come in and out.

I sat in on these recitals. An insane number of heartbreaking, nervous, dull, memory lapse-filled performances took place.

I talked at length with the vast majority of these teachers.

Same books. Same pieces. It was like watching a production line of dejection.

Anyone who is capable of recognizing brilliance in a piece of music can work toward achieving it. Toward producing original brilliance.

However, teachers jump in and their beliefs get in the way. Their dogmatic ways obstruct. They make profit by doing so.

I saw:

Lack of anything other than the notion that it's all about the decoding (i.e. not true reading) of others' written works,
Lack of exposure to inspiring music,
Lack of access to great, well-tuned acoustic instruments,
Lack of respect for much-adored 'pop' music,
Lack of any improvisatory facility whatsoever,
Lack of knowledge that the great composers of the past adored improvisation,
Lack of the belief that natural, untutored virtuosic technique is a real thing that happens,
Lack of first principles understanding about perfect pitch, which is seen by some as panacea, yet doesn't aid with much at all,
Lack of, "Hmmm... Is it my teachings that are slowing these kids down?"

... heck - just a general lack of confidence in their students.

Lack of these teachers' abilities to open their minds to the fact that their pupils could be put on paths to improvising (into microphones or other performance capture devices) some of the greatest works of music ever conceived of.

As I said earlier in the thread - this is why I quit working as a piano teacher back when I was in my late teens / early twenties.

Convincing the powers that be to do something big to change this whole scene involves presenting really well-structured arguments. Well-structured arguments still elicit tricky counterarguments. Such is the reason for this thread. From the first post, I stated that I'm interested in hearing the "State of Debate" in 2018.

I now have a good collection tricky counterarguments. However - they're not insurmountable by any means.

Last thought:

Human beings aren't machined like Model T Fords were. They need four things: inspiration from access to great music, access to great instruments, freedom, and they need great guidance. People who aspire to become great musicians don't yet know what the amalgamation of these four things looks like.

Yet.

Read about Friedrich Wilhelm Michael Kalkbrenner. The young Chopin himself was sure that this guy was going to be his saving grace. Thankfully, every one of young Chopin's friends (and his former teacher) steered him clear of the actually-highly-contemptuous Kalkbrenner, who wanted to operate a "factory for virtuosos", and use Chopin as his number one marketing vehicle. People aspiring to become great musicians are like the young Chopin. So poetic, yet so sure that someone else can tell them, in concrete terms, how to maximally express what they have.

The status quo in classical education is so tragically similar to Kalkbrenner's "factory for virtuosos". It's not working.

Mark my words: I will ensure that an explosion of modern-day Chopins, Beethovens, Bachs, Mozarts, Debussys, Rachmaninoffs, Prokofievs, Ravels, and Tchaikovskys (and so on) occurs.

They'll sound way different, but they'll sound just as good.

No - scratch that - better.

Goodnight for now.
Posted By: keystring

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 11:00 AM

I haven't had a chance to read the whole of the thread and just got to the beginning. So my response:
Originally Posted by Farago
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. ....

My response to your response, and the later suggestion to: surround students with "inspiring" music, have students try to mimic that music:

I would avoid a teacher who does what you suggest. As a beginning student I would also insist on being taught to read, and the other skills which I see as tools. However, they should be well taught, wisely taught, intelligently taught - because I understand they can be "taught" in ways that are not. To make this a proper dialogue, we'd have to get into what reading piano music (specifically) is; how we might work with and perceive a score, and other things. That is, if this is a serious discussion.

I'll deal with the "inspiring music" etc. ideas in a separate post.

What I think I'm seeing portrayed is a kind of "Noble Savage" idea as it existed during one historical period. The pure musical being unsullied by the tainting of formal musical education. Imagine going to a person who can't read, waxing idealistic to him about the purity of such a condition. The dyslexic would soon set you straight on how limiting that is. Musically that would have been me and I can tell you that it is limiting. There is nothing ideal about lack of education. However, I would agree that poor quality education or ill conceived education may be worse than none.

It is not a cliche that "reading opens doors", and "technique" (for a discussion on what that might be, see the ABF) gives wings. As a student, I want both.

What were the characteristics of your experiences in learning to play music? What worked and what didn't work? Such answers would make this much less abstract.
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 11:10 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
There is nothing ideal about lack of education. However, I would agree that poor quality education or ill conceived education may be worse than none.

Yes times a billion.
Posted By: keystring

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 11:17 AM

2nd topic - the "surround students with inspiring music" followed by having them mimic that music - suggested as an ideal model.

Let's start with "inspiring", to "be inspired". We are by nature creative beings, until or unless that is drummed out of us in life. Children play with what is in their reach and build with it. Musical instruments, the "things of music", are toys --- sand on the beach to turn into castles; buckets into which to fill your building blocks and dump them --- to explore, rearrange, build, discover. It comes from within, and it interacts with "things of music". "Inspire",otoh, this carries the idea of being blown away by what somebody else does, admiring that person and wanting to do what he does --- admiring somebody else's creation. This leaves me cold. It is the antithesis of what I described.

Mimicking music --- well, likewise. This is also the antithesis of exploration and building. And here you've got this finished product idea.

Now in fact, having learned to read music (in a proper sense) late in life, I can tell you that it is an exploration and discovery. If you learn as simple a thing as intervals of m2 and P5, you'll discover them all over the place, discover what you can do with them, discover what they do in music. These are delightful. In the music that you propose mimicking, if instead one discovers elements in that music, that is enjoyable and gratifying. And then eventually, using the tools you are given (if you are given them), you will make that music your own. Not imitate anyone else.
Posted By: keystring

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 11:18 AM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by keystring
There is nothing ideal about lack of education. However, I would agree that poor quality education or ill conceived education may be worse than none.

Yes times a billion.

Please take more than a moment to respond to the gist of my post, and not just the part that expresses a negative. When people take time to write, there should also be time taken in the response. That is actually what makes a person not be perceived as a troll. wink
Posted By: keystring

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 11:33 AM

Originally Posted by Farago
I used to organize a recital hall for 120+ piano teachers. This hall was also used for (much-dreaded) piano exams. Thousands of kids would come in and out.

I sat in on these recitals. An insane number of heartbreaking, nervous, dull, memory lapse-filled performances took place.

I talked at length with the vast majority of these teachers.

Same books. Same pieces. It was like watching a production line of dejection....

I think that the surroundings will also gather together one same mentality. The other-thinking teachers will not be bringing their students to these recitals or participating in such things. Otoh, I don't know how you would end up finding other-thinkers, because private teachers are each in their own corners, except for those who are visible at such recitals.

Quote
As I said earlier in the thread - this is why I quit working as a piano teacher back when I was in my late teens / early twenties.

You were awfully young. Did you have a chance, even, to fully form your own ideas for teaching?
Quote
Convincing the powers that be to do something big to change this whole scene involves presenting really well-structured arguments.

I am lost on the "powers that be", because, if you were a private teacher, then you are not under anyone. You have your own studio, own students, own course of study. Unless of course you are part of an organization or music school or similar. (?)
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 11:42 AM

keystring,

Please forgive my short post with the "Yes times a billion" comment. It was a point that jumped out at me, and I rushed to agree. I still agree with it, but I should have refrained from commenting on anything until tomorrow.

Must go to bed right now, lest I exacerbate a medical issue I'm dealing with.

Your input has been amazing thus far. Very thoughtful. It's given me lots to mull over, and please rest assured that I'll be jumping on it.
Posted By: ClsscLib

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 11:55 AM

Ninety minutes of my life that I’ll never get back...
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 12:26 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
I am lost on the "powers that be", because, if you were a private teacher, then you are not under anyone. You have your own studio, own students, own course of study. Unless of course you are part of an organization or music school or similar. (?)


I'm guessing that the "powers that be" are largely the examination boards, like RCM. In the UK, at least, the ABRSM exercises almost total authority over the content of private music lessons. As a private teacher you decide how to teach, but the Board has control over what you teach. Even teachers who exist only to satisfy the isn't-little-Jemima-clever market have to toe the line to some extent.

In the big cities you can certainly find teachers who are not beholden to the ABRSM hegemony, but elsewhere, not so much.

If you teach anything except the skill of turning notation into hand movements, you're teaching it in addition to the official syllabus.

I've said before that, in one sense, I regret not having this kind of teaching; but, on the other hand, I doubt I would have been able to tolerate it as a child.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 01:27 PM

Originally Posted by kevinb

I'm guessing that the "powers that be" are largely the examination boards, like RCM. In the UK, at least, the ABRSM exercises almost total authority over the content of private music lessons. As a private teacher you decide how to teach, but the Board has control over what you teach. Even teachers who exist only to satisfy the isn't-little-Jemima-clever market have to toe the line to some extent.

In the big cities you can certainly find teachers who are not beholden to the ABRSM hegemony, but elsewhere, not so much.

If you teach anything except the skill of turning notation into hand movements, you're teaching it in addition to the official syllabus.

I don't agree that teachers are obliged to teach the ABRSM syllabus in any way, certainly not to adult learners. For instance, my adult (ex-)beginner friend almost had to beg his teacher (who has many adult students) to teach him according to the ABRSM syllabus, when he started piano from scratch several years ago. He's now playing at something like Grade 6/7 standard, and has all the skills anyone who's passed Grade 6 (Practical & Theory) would have. He composes music, he can improvise, he can play by ear - and he can read music fluently.

For kids, probably yes, but that's mostly because parents expect their kids to do ABRSM exams.

After all, the first question they (parents & kids) would be asked by any acquaintance, on learning that their kids are learning a musical instrument (any musical instrument except maybe ukulele and zither and sheng - actually, including ukulele and zither and sheng..... wink ) is "What grade is he/she at?", such is the ubiquity of the ABRSM system in the UK and many other countries (including the insignificant one I came from). And if the kid shows aptitude and advances quickly, and wants to enter the BBC Young Musician Competition or join the National Youth Orchestra, the first requirement is a Grade 8 Distinction, before you can even get an audition.

There are pros & cons to such a nationwide standardised approach to instrumental & voice teaching. Of course, I knew nothing else as a student (- every music student I knew in both countries did ABRSM exams), but having been in PW for eight years and read posts by students in ABF and teachers in Piano Teachers forum, I can safely say that I feel immensely lucky to have been taught through that system......

Quote
I've said before that, in one sense, I regret not having this kind of teaching; but, on the other hand, I doubt I would have been able to tolerate it as a child.

I've met many people who gave up lessons as kids after having reached Grade so-and-so (most commonly Grade 5, I found), and regretted not continuing, or thinking seriously of re-starting and eventually picking up where they left off. Or are now doing something connected with music, and making use of the skills they learnt as kids, even if they never returned to their instruments. Many, many adults who are now singing in amateur choirs are in the last category.

The ABRSM never claims to be what it's not. As its website says: "ABRSM’s mission is to inspire achievement in music. In partnership with the Royal Schools of Music, we support high-quality music-making and learning around the world. We offer pathways and resources for learners and teachers that help build musical skills, provide goals and encourage progress." (My emphasis).

IMO, "musical skills" are so important - not the ability to rattle off Bumblebee (or any other insect) at supersonic speed and dazzle an audience - because they are what set you up for life in the amazing world of music. In my job, I often have to visit elderly folk in their homes. Some of them have pianos (often as old as they are) and still play. If I have time and they're willing, I might ask them to play something for me. They select a piece from their pile of ancient music scores (some as old as my scores wink ), and play the slow movement of a Mozart sonata, or a Lyric Piece or Song without Words, or a ragtime piece, or a hymn tune. And they play with great feeling and evident pleasure, reading from the score. A few even sing for me while playing the accompaniment (to a Schubert song, or a ballad). The skills they learnt as kids never left them.
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 03:31 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
They select a piece from their pile of ancient music scores (some as old as my scores wink ), and play the slow movement of a Mozart sonata, or a Lyric Piece or Song without Words, or a ragtime piece, or a hymn tune. And they play with great feeling and evident pleasure, reading from the score.


I would be the last person to denigrate the pleasure of playing music from a score. After all, it's what most of my musical effort in the last five years or so has been directed towards.

At the same time, there are other ways to have fun with music. When I was young most of my musical activities involved amateur bands playing in a variety of styles, and a bit of accompanying. I decided in my youth that I didn't want to learn to read music, and that I would never be one of those dull squares who played from music. A traditional ABRSM training would have been of almost no use for the kind of musical activity I took part in. Would it have been useful to be able to read music? Sure it would. But improvising, ear playing, and a huge repertoire of songs and standards was much more useful at that time.

It's only since I've gotten old that I've really become interested in playing from formal scores, and I suspect that's because I have become less social. Playing Mozart sonatas is a private pleasure -- nobody's ever going to hear me do it except my unfortunate family. Playing pop and rock-and-roll is a social thing -- you're almost compelled to do it with other people.

I don't agree with the OP that learning to play from notation is a pointless waste of time; I could hardly disagree more strongly. And, yet, I kind of worry whether forcing it on children, to the exclusion of other musical activities, is really such a great idea.
Posted By: Nahum

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 03:46 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
[
I'm not seeing many people who are presenting well-structured arguments for the status quo.
I don't see that topic starter is competent in this matter. He has not proved this yet ...
Posted By: Farago

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 05:26 PM

Originally Posted by kevinb
I don't agree with the OP that learning to play from notation is a pointless waste of time; I could hardly disagree more strongly.

I haven't said this anywhere, kevinb.

Originally Posted by kevinb
I kind of worry whether forcing it on children, to the exclusion of other musical activities, is really such a great idea.

This is exactly what this thread is about.
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 07:24 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
I haven't had a chance to read the whole of the thread and just got to the beginning. So my response:
Originally Posted by Farago
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. ....

My response to your response, and the later suggestion to: surround students with "inspiring" music, have students try to mimic that music:

I would avoid a teacher who does what you suggest. As a beginning student I would also insist on being taught to read, and the other skills which I see as tools. However, they should be well taught, wisely taught, intelligently taught - because I understand they can be "taught" in ways that are not. To make this a proper dialogue, we'd have to get into what reading piano music (specifically) is; how we might work with and perceive a score, and other things. That is, if this is a serious discussion.



When I was a beginner at playing the piano, I insisted on being taught how to read music. I was five years old. And the "teacher" was a sibling who was around nine years old who, having had lessons, knew enough about it to impart the basics to me. And once I learned that, I was a voracious reader. I LOVED reading music, right from the start, contrary to what seems to be a basic assumption of the OP. And now, over half a century later, I still love it, and it is a big source of musical pleasure for me.

So, from my point of view, this thread is has very little connection to my own experience. Where it does is mostly from observing and hearing about the experiences of others, such as that older sibling who first taught me how to read music. She hated taking lessons, hated classical music, and was only doing it because of social expectations. And, naturally enough, she quit at the very first opportunity. But I don't really think it the fault of the teaching method - she simply didn't like anything about the whole thing. And why should she? It just wasn't her thing. The musical expression she actually liked was singing non-classical music, mostly of the folk and C&W sort, and didn't really seem to want or need training for it. In a way, I think she wanted to emulate the "Noble Savage" you talk about below, and, for her purposes, being innocent of training would probably have been fine.

Quote

I'll deal with the "inspiring music" etc. ideas in a separate post.

What I think I'm seeing portrayed is a kind of "Noble Savage" idea as it existed during one historical period. The pure musical being unsullied by the tainting of formal musical education. Imagine going to a person who can't read, waxing idealistic to him about the purity of such a condition. The dyslexic would soon set you straight on how limiting that is. Musically that would have been me and I can tell you that it is limiting. There is nothing ideal about lack of education. However, I would agree that poor quality education or ill conceived education may be worse than none.

It is not a cliche that "reading opens doors", and "technique" (for a discussion on what that might be, see the ABF) gives wings. As a student, I want both.

What were the characteristics of your experiences in learning to play music? What worked and what didn't work? Such answers would make this much less abstract.

Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 07:45 PM

Originally Posted by Farago
Originally Posted by kevinb
I don't agree with the OP that learning to play from notation is a pointless waste of time; I could hardly disagree more strongly.

I haven't said this anywhere, kevinb.


OK, not in so many words, perhaps. But you've made many comments like this:

Originally Posted by Farago
Foisting sheet music upon beginners is foisting a detrimental crutch upon them [...]Fast-tracking students into codependence on scores stymies the ability to truly play by ear, which is a requisite skill to segue into musical creativity.


Sheet music is a "detrimental crutch"? I don't think that's a million miles away from "pointless waste of time".

You're saying, I think, that an early emphasis on notation stifles the development of other musical skills. Maybe so; but is there really evidence for how likely this is, or how significant? Traditional notation-based training may be dispiriting and frustrating to some young people, but how do we know they would have maintained an interest in musicianship had they been taught differently? That many fine musicians learned to play by ear before learning to read notation does nothing to answer that question.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 10:07 PM

Originally Posted by kevinb

At the same time, there are other ways to have fun with music. When I was young most of my musical activities involved amateur bands playing in a variety of styles, and a bit of accompanying. I decided in my youth that I didn't want to learn to read music, and that I would never be one of those dull squares who played from music. A traditional ABRSM training would have been of almost no use for the kind of musical activity I took part in.

Of course, if you're playing pop & rock you don't need to read music.

I was 'playing' pop music (accompanying myself and others singing) on the guitar long before I learnt piano and read music. But what was I doing? I was memorising the finger patterns of guitar chords, and learnt - by trial and error - what chords fit each song, with no idea why Am with C and F and G sounds so good. I was playing (and of course singing) by ear with no understanding of what I was doing, only that a chord fits when it fits.

Whereas when I started piano and learnt to read music and understand what notes make up what chords and the subsequent harmonies, and the theory that went with it, I no longer had to find chords by trial and error. I knew what chords to use when playing pop songs on the piano.

Incidentally, there were brass bands and jazz bands at my boarding school - all the players could read music, having learnt their instruments following ABRSM syllabi. They also all sang in the school choir, as well as play in the school orchestra.
Quote
Playing pop and rock-and-roll is a social thing -- you're almost compelled to do it with other people.

I don't agree with the OP that learning to play from notation is a pointless waste of time; I could hardly disagree more strongly. And, yet, I kind of worry whether forcing it on children, to the exclusion of other musical activities, is really such a great idea.


I never saw any 'forcing' among my fellow music students, nor did the ability to read music excluded them from doing other musical activities.

As I've said in previous posts on various threads more than a few times, I formed a duo with a violinist and we played pop songs and improvised on them entirely by ear - as well as play Mozart and Beethoven violin sonatas, reading from the scores. The same with a pianist friend. We'd play Fauré's Dolly Suite, then follow with a mash-up of pop tunes played as crazily as we pleased, often trying to outdo each other. grin

Then we'd all go for our choir rehearsal, sight-singing Handel from the score.........

Our musical world would be much, much poorer if all we could do was play and sing by ear. No Bach motets, no Zadok the Priest, no Hear My Prayer, only simple pop songs........

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OvuUecDDE4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=389leQkiGgk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z3VothICf8
Posted By: Andamento

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/22/18 10:42 PM

Quote
As I've said in previous posts on various threads more than a few times, I formed a duo with a violinist and we played pop songs and improvised on them entirely by ear - as well as play Mozart and Beethoven violin sonatas, reading from the scores. The same with a pianist friend. We'd play Fauré's Dolly Suite, then follow with a mash-up of pop tunes played as crazily as we pleased, often trying to outdo each other.


Speaking of mash-ups, this rendering on the staff is half the fun. smile
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/23/18 09:46 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
I never saw any 'forcing' among my fellow music students, nor did the ability to read music excluded them from doing other musical activities.


Perhaps "forcing" is too strong; and perhaps my views are influenced by the fact that I live in middle-class-land, where almost every child is expected to learn to play an instrument.

If you aren't a musician yourself, and you sign up your kids for music lessons, you will almost certain get a teacher who at least claims to follow the ABRSM method. For the piano, almost the first thing a child will be shown is a musical staff, and how the marks on it correspond to physical actions on the instrument. This will form the dominant part of the teaching until the child's active or passive resistance wears down the parents' enthusiasm and lessons stop.

Unless, of course, the child has a real passion for music, and understands the subtleties of the relationship between notation and performance. But if you do have a passion for music, you will find a way to play it, one way or another, as I did. It won't really matter what goes on in music lessons -- you'll still do your own thing(s) outside of lessons.

Nobody's actually forbidding kids from developing their own music interests and outlets, but traditional teaching is dominated by notation. The ABRSM so-called "theory" syllabus contains nothing but reading notation until Grade 6, and not very much else beyond that. The exams have a nugatory "aural" section but, frankly, it's irrelevant -- you can still get a good passing grade and score zero on that section.

If a child has no interest in music, then I suspect it won't make a huge difference how it is taught -- it will still be a horrible chore. Nevertheless, I fear that we might actively be stifling interest by teaching in a way that takes such a long time to get satisfying results.

Originally Posted by bennevis
Our musical world would be much, much poorer if all we could do was play and sing by ear. No Bach motets, no Zadok the Priest, no Hear My Prayer, only simple pop songs........


I don't deny that our musical world would be much poorer, but I think that claiming we would be limited to "simple pop songs" is an exaggeration. There are cultures in the world with rich musical traditions that were entirely oral until quite recently. Many of these could not really be described as "simple", and many could not -- and still can not -- be captured using standard Western notation schemes.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/23/18 12:14 PM

Originally Posted by kevinb

Nobody's actually forbidding kids from developing their own music interests and outlets, but traditional teaching is dominated by notation. The ABRSM so-called "theory" syllabus contains nothing but reading notation until Grade 6, and not very much else beyond that. The exams have a nugatory "aural" section but, frankly, it's irrelevant -- you can still get a good passing grade and score zero on that section.

If a child has no interest in music, then I suspect it won't make a huge difference how it is taught -- it will still be a horrible chore. Nevertheless, I fear that we might actively be stifling interest by teaching in a way that takes such a long time to get satisfying results.

You seem to have an idealistic view of the 'noble savage', one untainted by education so that he can be free to express his creativity without having to conform.

For me - and for quite a number of my fellow students - the opposite is the case. Once I could read and write music, I started writing down tunes I'd heard on manuscript paper - initially pop tunes, then classical ones I heard on the radio, to play later. The next logical step was to write down tunes that 'came into my mind', and then try to turn them into recognisable music. In other words, I started composing. Interesting improvisations also got written down - e.g. I improvised some cadenzas to Mozart concertos, and eventually wrote them down so that I could play them again.

Just like a child who starts writing his own stories down when he is able to read & write. How did Homer's Odyssey come down to us? Certainly not from oral tradition. Cultures that have no written language don't have this kind of literature from the past, and we know very little about what they were really like. For instance, what do we know about the Incas? An amazing empire which disappeared (BTW, I'd trekked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and been astonished by what I saw), and all we know about them is second-hand (and probably inaccurate), from their conquerors - who did have a written language.

I have a small stack of manuscript books of my own compositions, most of them from my teenage student years, over 100 pieces, and not all for solo piano either. How could I have used my creativity to compose, if I couldn't read & write music? Hand them down orally to.....who?

To put it another way, my music education, far from 'stifling interest', allowed me to express myself.

As for "teaching in a way that takes such a long time to get satisfying results" my first teacher taught me in as traditional a manner as is possible - using a beginner's primer (John Thompson's Easiest Piano Course - the one with funny creatures giving advice via speech balloons) and teaching me to associate what is on the page to the keys on the piano to the sound they produce when pressed.

After three months, she started me on Mozart's kiddie pieces (from Agay's Easy Classics to Moderns). Simple music, but I felt like I was a real pianist for the first time, no longer a 'beginner', and I told her I only wanted to play real music by great composers and never wanted to play simplified arrangements of anything ever again. (She had told me the amazing story of Wolfie's childhood). She was happy to oblige. grin
Quote
Originally Posted by bennevis
Our musical world would be much, much poorer if all we could do was play and sing by ear. No Bach motets, no Zadok the Priest, no Hear My Prayer, only simple pop songs........


I don't deny that our musical world would be much poorer, but I think that claiming we would be limited to "simple pop songs" is an exaggeration. There are cultures in the world with rich musical traditions that were entirely oral until quite recently. Many of these could not really be described as "simple", and many could not -- and still can not -- be captured using standard Western notation schemes.


Guess what? - I came from such a country and a culture 'with rich musical traditions that are entirely aural' as you (somewhat idealistically) put it. I grew up listening to that kind of music.

To a Westerner exposed to it for the first time, he'd be intrigued by the exotic instruments and their sounds, the use of microtones (no equal temperament or Western scales here), the strangeness of it all. After a while, you realise the 'same-ness', the repetitiveness, the lack of variation in texture and rhythm (there's a constant regular pulse and notes once the music starts), the monotony.....

When I was exposed to notated Western classical music for the first time (initially by my first teacher, who played me a classical piece at the end of every lesson), I found a whole new world of emotional complexity, endless riches that often defy any attempt to describe in words (as Felix once put it), and intriguing melodies, harmonies and rhythms. The sort of stuff that cannot be handed down orally, unlike folk songs through the centuries. Just like the great Greek literature of millennia past.
Posted By: Fareham

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/23/18 01:31 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis

You seem to have an idealistic view of the 'noble savage', one untainted by education so that he can be free to express his creativity without having to conform.

I remember our local TV station interviewing a completely amateur composer who had had absolutely no musical training whatsoever. He had produced a very presentable anthem he was trying to persuade the local cathedral choir to take on board. The cathedral choir did a very professional job and the composer was as pleased as punch and said that it was even better than he thought he had composed, and asked if there had been any changes. The choir master admitted that he had re-arranged the parts slightly to take out the parallel fifths, and hoped that he didn't mind.

Far from it, and the amateur composer vowed never to let a parallel fourth or fifth ever sully his works again!
Posted By: keystring

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/23/18 02:16 PM

What is being missed in the latest turn of conversation, is the quality and nature of the teaching and the learning. No system or lack of system or set of materials will address this. A textbook in the hands of a fool becomes a foolish thing, while a teacher can create a lesson from a handful of pebbles lying around.

Bennevis, in your history there is a wise and astute teacher who turned you around, as I recall, and she also used the ABRSM system which gave you a map. These same things: ABRSM, or RCM, or AMEB can be empty shells to be gone through. I have seen regrets by an excellent private teacher who could not get his student to let go of her focus on passing the next exam long enough to actually be able to teach her where it counted; another whose compositions are used in the exams, who wrote about the limitations of these systems and their actual nature. The difference is in the teaching and the teacher.

The OP's writing style is rather off-putting; he's young and reacting - it's still half baked and not anywhere - more of a reaction. The picture of the rented hall with unimaginative teachers having their students go through the hoops of recital pieces, all tending to use the same books and pieces, I can see that, and in fact did see it in one location once. Hunting for the polar opposite, an ideal where folks first learn by exploring on their own by ear, that is an idealized vision and not a solution embedded in reality. But the hunt that there should be something better than what the OP has seen, that part is real.

It's too bad that the title of the thread and the opening post are as they are. We get told "out there" that to make people read one's posts they should have a click-bait-ish character, sound outrageous, and that is altogether the wrong thing for serious forums. The subject line suggests a rejection of reading; the contents suggest a different view to reading (being hunted for).
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/23/18 03:34 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
You seem to have an idealistic view of the 'noble savage', one untainted by education so that he can be free to express his creativity without having to conform.

For me - and for quite a number of my fellow students - the opposite is the case....


In my locality, the majority of young music students are not like you. Or like me, for that matter. For me, learning to read notation opened a door into a whole new world. As it happens, I was in my forties when I started learning; but I imagine it would have been the same when I was four, had I but know what to expect, and had I the patience to put it into effect. But my parents had no interest in music, and weren't going to fight me for the privilege of paying for my lessons.

The kids I see trudging in and out of the music teachers' houses in my neighbourhood are neither noble nor savage -- they are ordinary middle-class kids ticking another check-box in the parental obligation list. I don't doubt that a few of them will have their eyes opened to the joys of the musical independence, but most won't touch their instruments between lessons except to the extent that their parents are prepared to bully them into it.

Given that this is the situation -- and it assuredly is, where I live -- should we be putting so much emphasis on a skill that most kids will have no use for, and that creates work with no immediate prospect of reward?

I'm aware that the real problem here is social expectation, rather than education. However, I doubt that the social expectation will change any time soon.
Posted By: pianopi

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/23/18 03:47 PM

Education is often a social expectation as much as it is, arguably, a practical necessity. If I hadn't trudged into piano lessons at the forceful suggestion of parents and teachers, I wouldn't have this thing of beauty (music, that is (not so much my playing ability)) at my fingertips. It is wonderful to listen to music, but it is ever so much more rewarding to actually create it yourself. I know so many adults who wished they were forced to do more than just one or two years (or even any years) of music as children.
Posted By: JohnSprung

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/23/18 06:09 PM

Originally Posted by wr
When I was a beginner at playing the piano, I insisted on being taught how to read music. I was five years old.


And that's how it should be done. Introduce notation when it comes as a useful tool and a solution to the problem of remembering all this stuff. Introduce it when it comes as a welcome relief rather than drudgery. Introduce it when the student is ready and wants it, not at the beginning of the first lesson.
Posted By: anamnesis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/23/18 07:33 PM

Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by wr
When I was a beginner at playing the piano, I insisted on being taught how to read music. I was five years old.


And that's how it should be done. Introduce notation when it comes as a useful tool and a solution to the problem of remembering all this stuff. Introduce it when it comes as a welcome relief rather than drudgery. Introduce it when the student is ready and wants it, not at the beginning of the first lesson.




I think it's important to note that population that would take the time to post on this board would be a narrow selection of those who survived attrition of those who attempted to learn piano.

Whiteside's pupils in the preface her book mentioned her rather high standards of the profession that would have most of us balk:

"Her standards for the teaching profession were uncompromisingly high and at times surprising. For instance, stance, while discussing the teaching of children she once said: "If a child of average intelligence, average musical equipment, and an average coordination does not have, after studying for a while, a sense of accomplishment and an interest in music and the piano, it is always the fault of the teacher and never the fault of the child."

I had one quotation earlier in this thread but these others that I post in following are also relevant, as they hint at the rationale behind her strong standards. I probably had a much more pleasant conversation with the OP than most others here because at least some of the core ideas behind it are hardly controversial among those who faced the problem of teaching students that only experience music in a passive, consumptive way, rather than an active, generative/creative way.

"The first trial with music at the keyboard should be a happy experience and, by all rules and regulations of modern education, should deal with music itself and not an approach to it. That can happen if the only reason for touching the keyboard is to bring to life a familiar melody. How can it happen if there are notes to be learned and keys to be named and fingering to be attended to? That process is too difficult to be enjoyed. Doubtless a large part of the reason it endures is that we live in a world in which the eye is accustomed to taking responsibility and it learns more readily than the ear with a large percentage of people. Therefore playing a short piece from the music is a possible tangible result at an early stage, and both teachers and parents want something to show for the time and money spent."

(Bold my emphasis.)

"The player is told often enough that listening to oneself is the important thing in practice and performance. But he should be told more often that the physical action of the performer conditions his listening. Unless these two processes, physical activity and listening, are fully coordinated, the pupil will never achieve ease, enduring technical facility, and complete enjoyment of the piano. The music student should begin by playing by ear. He must learn to read, quite obviously, but he should be an aural learner rather than a visual learner. Observe the ease and accuracy of pupils who have learned to play by ear. Their skill is never attained by those who learned the notes first and then built up a coordination that is dependent on the eye. Notes, after all, are merely symbols for sounds. The pupil who has learned music by the way it sounds hears the tone when he looks at the symbol. The movements that make this imagined tone audible are directed by his ear. They are as fluid, as efficient, as coordinated as his movements when playing without notes."

As with the composer playing a Chopin Marzurka example from earlier, she notes that even talented musicians can fall into bad habits when the eyes direct the coordination:

"The talented person who loves to improvise and does it expertly does not necessarily play the classics with the same kind of delightful rhythmic flow. The improvising uses ears and rhythm as a fused unit. The eye, reading, or habits of practice can and frequently do interfere with this fusion of ear and rhythm, and the result in playing is a lack of rhythmic progression which distorts dynamics and creates a performance without any of the charm which was a part of the improvising. For these same talented people, a conscious use of the sensation of the rhythmic follow-through in their improvising can be productive, for all their other playing, of startlingly better results."

"Having excellent critical ears and having learning ears is not necessarily the same thing. But learning ears are necessary if the individual is to have a satisfying musical experience with an instrument. Necessary, perhaps I should say, if there is to be ultimate security and joy with the instrument. The ears are not always able, at the beginning, to retain the sound image. The student with high scholastic attainments may not use his ears in acquiring knowledge, and may consequently have a difficult time with a musical skill. Yet, as a vital part of his education, no one would deprive him of the experience of making music for himself."

Posted By: Greener

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/23/18 07:53 PM

Talk about disrespect for Pop, bennevis. You do it all the time. Bacharach was no dunce. Nor Gershwin or John Williams and 100's more. Far more then your 3 chord camp songs. Please score me the chords for firth of fifth by genesis if you think all pop and rock is so simplistic.

My dad was rcm grade 10 and went on to be 25 year piano player for Jonny Downs orchestra in same circuit as stan kenton orchestra. He rebelled against RCM for many of same reasons discussed here.

Not saying he was right but understand more now why that may have been.

Contrary to other observers, i have quite enjoyed this thread. Challenging knowledge and status quo is healthy.
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/23/18 07:55 PM

Originally Posted by kevinb


Perhaps "forcing" is too strong; and perhaps my views are influenced by the fact that I live in middle-class-land, where almost every child is expected to learn to play an instrument.



Really? That's amazing!

Where I live, in the US, my sense is that there's no longer much general expectation that every child (or, for that matter, any child) will learn to play an instrument, regardless of class. There is some cultural variation, of course, but I think that is generally true. The days in which it was typical to see a piano in every home that could afford one are long gone.

The quality of discussion in this thread might have been improved if we had known more specifically the locale of the education being bemoaned. The sort of thing you are describing may not even be familiar to many of the members of this forum, it seems to me. I did understand pretty quickly that what was under discussion was not remotely close to my experience, nor to the experience of many people I know. What I didn't realize was there were still places in the West where many in the middle class still push the kiddies into learning an instrument, regardless of the child's desire.

Now I am curious about how many other countries there are where this is typical. I know that Finland's music education system is famous for reaching practically everybody (and producing a staggering number of fine musicians per capita as a result), but other than that enlightened country, where else?
Posted By: Medved1

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/24/18 04:51 AM

I don't find an either-or answer anywhere in the thread, at least for me.

What I do find is a prompt to ask myself "how would I learn music most easily, or most effectively ".

I liked the analogy with language. If I want to learn a language, I can learn it by immersion, as we learn our first language, or by rules, as many, though perhaps not all,.of us were forced to do with our second language. I wouldn't say I learned my second language completely by immersion, but I was lucky enough to be in the classroom with several gifted teachers who tried to get us as much of that approach as they could.

For a first language - when we are beginners, we get so many different ways to try it. Talking to our parents. Asking about pictures - what is this, it's a dog, what does a dog say. Drawing a picture of a dog. Making up a story and having a parent or teacher write it down for us. Writing it ourselves......and so on.

What would immersion in music look like (spoiler alert, much of the following describes some great music programs in existence).

It could start with using it - folk songs, children's songs. Then an invitation to try to make the melody on a keyboard or a recorder (the weapon of choice in many of the music programs that remain in schools). The desire and ability to read the notes might come naturally as an consequence of wanting to learn and remember more music. The desire to understand harmony might happen if the student is shown that it's easier to remember a piece of music if you can remember the chords or structure.

Physical ability to go with the desire - how do we learn to walk - by repetition - but we don't just walk on a treadmill, we walk to places we want to go, we try new steps - hopping or skipping - which feel awkward at first and then feel normal. A new student of any age won't be ripping off 3 and 4 octave arpeggios, but given enough running room, they may get interested in doodling exercises to strengthen fingers.

Pop music - I wish I could play it more fluently - I sound like that scene in the beginning of "Victor/Victoria" where Julie Andrews attempts a show tune with an operatic soprano style. (my technique is no where near hers, but you get the picture). But I don't think that's a consequence of being able to read music, I think it's a consequence of not being able to figure out how to play chords that assume you can reach a 10th when I can't, and not being totally comfortable with syncopation between the hands. I picked up a simplifed ragtime book to see if it would help me to get more familiar with something other than classical - it did make a difference, I think. My teacher has given me a few hints - keep the base, leave out this note or that note. In fact, which note to leave out is not by chance - it's got a theoretical background - and it's also the practice of "what sounds good" - and that practice is something like "keep the 3rds, leave out the fifths in the LH" I probably got that reversed, but the point is - if you know how to use every tool in the toolbox, you've got a better chance of making what you want. You don't have to use every tool every time - but you don't want to not be able to use it if you need it.
Posted By: keystring

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/25/18 12:28 PM

Originally Posted by Medved1
I don't find an either-or answer anywhere in the thread, at least for me.

What I do find is a prompt to ask myself "how would I learn music most easily, or most effectively ".

I liked the analogy with language. If I want to learn a language, I can learn it by immersion, as we learn our first language, or by rules, as many, though perhaps not all,.of us were forced to do with our second language. I wouldn't say I learned my second language completely by immersion, but I was lucky enough to be in the classroom with several gifted teachers who tried to get us as much of that approach as they could.

For a first language - when we are beginners, we get so many different ways to try it. Talking to our parents. Asking about pictures - what is this, it's a dog, what does a dog say. Drawing a picture of a dog. Making up a story and having a parent or teacher write it down for us. Writing it ourselves......and so on.

What would immersion in music look like (spoiler alert, much of the following describes some great music programs in existence). ...

An interesting analogy, and one I can relate to. I learned English as my 2nd language at age 5, my 3rd in high school, followed by two others later on. I also got a teaching degree specializing in language teaching, and interned in a French immersion school at the grade 1 level.

These kids had kindergarten behind them. Reading and writing was introduced through the "Lesablier" method. In French, numerous letter combinations can represent one sound, but consistently (English is inconsistent), i.e. "o" could be "o, os, ot, au, ault, eau, eaux...." The sounds were movie stars, and the letters representing them were their clothes kept in their wardrobes. Each week, one "son vedette" sound was discovered, starting with a nursery rhyme or song. When I observed, it was the nasal "on" with "Sur le pont d'Avignon", with the children singing and marching over a makeshift bridge. The words "pont" and "Avignon" were first written like this: "p___ Avign____", after which "ont" and "on" were inserted, and "discovered" and put into the "star of the week's" "wardrobe". The kids were very engaged, in fact excited. For the rest of the week they would do things with this "on" sound, so that it was deeply ingrained by week's end.

The abstract elements of writing were coupled with concrete experience, imagination, and pleasant emotions. (If someone hands you "hot chocolate" on a cold wintry day, you are likely to remember the words "hot chocolate", especially if it happens repeatedly. If you are given a list of words to remember, and get tested on that list, even if you do remember the two words, they may be meaningless and later forgotten.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/25/18 07:26 PM

Originally Posted by Medved1


What I do find is a prompt to ask myself "how would I learn music most easily, or most effectively ".

I liked the analogy with language.

When the question is asked, 'what languages do you speak?', I always think to myself, 'well, I am fluent in music'.

Babies are born with the ability to learn any language and usually retain this ability up to the age of about 7, though this obviously varies from person to person. If naturally gifted some people never lose the ability to easily learn a new language. For the rest of us, as adults it is a struggle. Total immersion can work, if you have the time.

I started on Welsh at the age of 63. Not an easy language(!) and I have written about my trials and tribulations at some length on the Institute of Welsh Affairs website. But after 6 years I gave up from a combination of not being able to speak or hear it properly, though I wasn't too bad at the reading part.

To what extent music can be regarded as a language? I don't know of any research, but if it can be regarded as a language then the same criteria and problems will be encountered.
Posted By: Groove On

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary?! - 03/25/18 08:19 PM

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
To what extent music can be regarded as a language?

As a student - I think it is important to make a clear distinction between literacy (reading/writing) and fluency (listening/speaking). On the teaching/industry side it's a distinction that is communicated very poorly to students and could be done much better.

Many students start lessons with Fluency as the motivation and goal, but then get sold on Literacy as "The Way" (which I think was the point of this thread). The approach is well-meant but it can also be an insidious bait & switch. If students better understood from the beginning I think many, many people would be asking/looking for a more balanced approach to lessons.
Posted By: WhoDwaldi

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 01:35 AM

Talent changes everything. laugh
Posted By: Nahum

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 05:51 AM

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
[
To what extent music can be regarded as a language? I don't know of any research, but if it can be regarded as a language then the same criteria and problems will be encountered.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00123/full

https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1842/2039/david+houston.pdf?sequence=1


https://www.ted.com/talks/charles_limb_your_brain_on_improv
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 07:49 AM

Originally Posted by wr
What I didn't realize was there were still places in the West where many in the middle class still push the kiddies into learning an instrument, regardless of the child's desire.


I have to say that, while some folks in my locality have discreditable motives for encouraging their kids to play instruments, in most cases we see it as an essential part of the educational process.

We "push" our kids to learn history, geography, algebra, the plays of Shakespeare, etc., etc, in school, regardless of what the child is interested in, and nobody thinks that is at all unusual. Most people have little occasion to plot a cumulative frequency diagram in their post-school lives, and yet nearly every adult in the UK has been taught how to do so.

We don't teach kids to plot cumulative frequency charts because we think they will ever do so after school -- we do it because it (hopefully) teaches problem solving and analytical thinking. The same, I think, is true for playing musical instruments, even for those of us who never achieve any great competence.

The problem with playing music, that is not shared by mathematics, etc., is that failure and boredom are strongly externalized. My inability to learn the principle exports of Ghana is known only to me and the guy who stamped an "F" on my exam paper. But if the sound I make with my violin is like a cat being mistreated, everybody within a hundred yards knows about it.

In short, I don't think that talent and interest should necessarily be pre-requisites for kids learning to play an instrument, any more than it should be for learning speling. However, if we are going to teach kids with no talent or interest, we have to find ways to do it that are not going to make the process even more demoralizing than it will likely be.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 10:37 AM

@Naheem - thank you for the links. The second one is more adult orientated and I was thinking more of the early or very early language and music development which is mentioned more in the first link. And to what extent that determines how it should be taught. There is such a wide variation in exposure to music, not to mention different types of music. Which comes down to the sort of questions that Farago has raised. A need to rethink how children and adults are taught and to modify the teaching accordingly.
Posted By: keystring

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 12:07 PM

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
@Naheem - thank you for the links. The second one is more adult orientated and I was thinking more of the early or very early language and music development which is mentioned more in the first link.


I could not relate to the second one at all, for any age, including the preamble about children, because of what things were chosen to look at. I am a linguist. I have looked specifically at how language is acquired, and related it to music, and applied it both directions. It has little to do with recognition of phonemes and all that.

In case there is any interest.
The small child experiments in using his body to produce sounds, and experiments in things like rising and falling pitch as he says his first "dadadada - he seems to be conversing but if you try to listen, it's all babble. There are musical elements to this. The rise and fall of the voice, the experimentation with pitch, the rhythms and "phrasing".

I was asked by an adult to teach him a new language in a way that he would sound native and fluent. His "foreign accent" was actually a wrong kind of rhythm, rise and fall - I had him "hum the melody" of the phrase without saying words, and then say the words to that "melody", sort of duplicating a baby's babble. His pronunciation sounded more native.

The other element was listening and actually hearing, instead of filtering what you think you hear based on what you are used to. He had to observe that he was in fact filtering and "translating" the new sounds he was exposed to. The dual task was to actually hear those sounds, and then get his vocal apparatus to duplicate them: not unlike the baby who first can't pronounce everything.

Conversely, in learning music, as adults we can be too abstract, insert the meaning we expect, not hear what is there, be disconnected from our bodies and the sounds we produce, not free to experiment. The above interaction happened at a time when I was learning to play a new instrument. Meanwhile, when I learned to play piano, I was a child without instruction, and I was regularly exploring all kinds of things. Later they got names such as "intervals".
Posted By: JayWalkingBlues

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 01:35 PM

After reading through 8 pages of seriously passionate discussion, I've reached an understanding:
-on the subject of learning (music or whatever), there is no "one-answer-fits-all" It's very clear we all have unique circumstances that have led us to where we are. Our paths are all different, our reasons for playing unique to ourselves. What we take from music, what we give through music, completely individual. Anyone on here that is a teacher can attest, even the most "scientifically efficient" system for teaching needs to be tailored and adjusted to the strengths and weaknesses of the individual student. So I declare the following:

You all win.....everyone is right thumb :P
Posted By: Nahum

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 04:23 PM

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues
After reading through 8 pages of seriously passionate discussion, I've reached an understanding:
-on the subject of learning (music or whatever), ...:

You all will.....everyone is right thumb :P
And again:

Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical


Is it necessary to conduct a discussion about the exact meaning of each of these 6 words:
Is ,
reading,
*absolutely*,
necessary,
for,
classical


, or do we understand these words unequivocally? If yes, then we have the equivalent: " Is it necessary   the equation "2 + 2" must end with "= 4"?

What do you think?

Only one word creates some uncertainty: classical. Classical what? - Classical Arabic music, or classical Indian music, classical jazz, classical pop or classical European music? I suspect that everyone else (like me) had the last meaning; i.e. 2 + 2 will necessarily be = 4 if the calculus is in a decimal system.

Now a few words about what is not in OP title . The following questions are missing:


Is reading *absolutely* necessary from the very beginning of classical music training?

Is reading *absolutely* necessary to learn to improvise?

Is reading *absolutely* necessary to learn jazz?

Is reading *absolutely* necessary to learn pop?

Is reading *absolutely* necessary to learn Arabic music?

Is it necessary to read music to learn Indian music?


That's exactly where the answers can be varied, but corpus delicti is in the title, and it can not be hidden.
If this is not trolling clean water, then what is it- trolling ?
Posted By: ClsscLib

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 06:10 PM

Nahum, I agree with you almost entirely.

My only reluctance stems from the fact that a few visually impaired individuals have learned to play European classical music on piano pretty well. I don't know their whole stories, but I would guess that, even for them, some form of "reading" was central to their development.

As to semantic parsing of the original question, we all seem to infer that it applies (exclusively or primarily) to playing the piano.

I can imagine a case that reading is less "absolutely essential" for playing European classical music on "single-line" instruments (string and wind instruments) than it is on the piano, where we're playing chords and polyphonic constructions from early in our musical developent.
Posted By: keystring

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 06:36 PM

Originally Posted by Nahum
then what is it- trolling ?

absolutely nothing
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 08:50 PM

Originally Posted by ClsscLib

My only reluctance stems from the fact that a few visually impaired individuals have learned to play European classical music on piano pretty well. I don't know their whole stories, but I would guess that, even for them, some form of "reading" was central to their development.


I think that some of them rely on the reading of others. There has to be some point at which the pitches and time values found in a score is transmitted to them, even if they aren't the ones doing the reading.

For the most part, the performance of Western classical music is simply not an aurally transmitted form of art, not in the way that some other musical traditions are, regardless whether it is possible for some folks to learn a piece "by ear".
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 09:03 PM

Originally Posted by ClsscLib


My only reluctance stems from the fact that a few visually impaired individuals have learned to play European classical music on piano pretty well. I don't know their whole stories, but I would guess that, even for them, some form of "reading" was central to their development.


I believe that the Van Cliburn winner Nobuyuki Tsujii learns his pieces entirely by ear (by listening to recordings made for him), not by Braille. But he's very unique among blind pianists in not just having got to the top, but also having enough rep to sustain it. His accuracy is pretty uncanny too - I heard him play Tchaik 1 and Rach 2 with no wrong notes on more than a few occasions, which is more than most sighted pianists can manage.
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 09:34 PM

Originally Posted by kevinb
Originally Posted by wr
What I didn't realize was there were still places in the West where many in the middle class still push the kiddies into learning an instrument, regardless of the child's desire.


I have to say that, while some folks in my locality have discreditable motives for encouraging their kids to play instruments, in most cases we see it as an essential part of the educational process.

We "push" our kids to learn history, geography, algebra, the plays of Shakespeare, etc., etc, in school, regardless of what the child is interested in, and nobody thinks that is at all unusual. Most people have little occasion to plot a cumulative frequency diagram in their post-school lives, and yet nearly every adult in the UK has been taught how to do so.

We don't teach kids to plot cumulative frequency charts because we think they will ever do so after school -- we do it because it (hopefully) teaches problem solving and analytical thinking. The same, I think, is true for playing musical instruments, even for those of us who never achieve any great competence.

The problem with playing music, that is not shared by mathematics, etc., is that failure and boredom are strongly externalized. My inability to learn the principle exports of Ghana is known only to me and the guy who stamped an "F" on my exam paper. But if the sound I make with my violin is like a cat being mistreated, everybody within a hundred yards knows about it.

In short, I don't think that talent and interest should necessarily be pre-requisites for kids learning to play an instrument, any more than it should be for learning speling. However, if we are going to teach kids with no talent or interest, we have to find ways to do it that are not going to make the process even more demoralizing than it will likely be.


To me, it seems that making a kid learn something that is apparently useless, which also doesn't interest them, is inherently going to be a demoralizing learning experience, no matter what sort of sugar coating it gets. That's certainly my memory of how my school years went, anyhow. My schooling (such as it was) took place back in the middle of the last century. There were all sorts of interesting educational experiments going on during that time, but unfortunately for me, they were always elsewhere.

But, on the other hand, in light of the information in this thread, I guess I should thank my lucky stars that I was raised as a rustic, a rednecked American peasant, with parents who had few educational expectations of me. Paradoxically, this situation gave me a bit of freedom, within the constraints of my environment, in how I pursued my early interest in classical piano playing, without going through anything like the pain and horror of the English system. Of course, it would have been nice to have had some music theory before my teenage years, but one puts up with what is available.
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/26/18 09:48 PM

Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
[
To what extent music can be regarded as a language? I don't know of any research, but if it can be regarded as a language then the same criteria and problems will be encountered.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00123/full

https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1842/2039/david+houston.pdf?sequence=1


https://www.ted.com/talks/charles_limb_your_brain_on_improv


Just for fun, I went up one notch in the hierarchy at the first link, and then clicked to list the articles in that section, which is "Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience". Judging from the resulting list, there's a great deal of scientific interest in music. Perusing the article titles is interesting in itself.

https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychology/sections/auditory-cognitive-neuroscience#articles
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/27/18 12:45 AM

Originally Posted by kevinb


I have to say that, while some folks in my locality have discreditable motives for encouraging their kids to play instruments, in most cases we see it as an essential part of the educational process.

We "push" our kids to learn history, geography, algebra, the plays of Shakespeare, etc., etc, in school, regardless of what the child is interested in, and nobody thinks that is at all unusual.

I can safely say that the history I learnt at school (back in my home country) is totally irrelevant to my life, and has been so since I was a kid. It was also somewhat one-sided, and much of it was relevant - if at all - only to people of that country. Luckily, I escaped having to do history when I moved to a boarding school in the UK. What relevance do Henry so-and-so's 100 (or so) wives - or the manner of their demise - have on my life? Or the year of the Battle of Hastings?

At least Willie Shakespeare had the grace to leave us with some choice quotes which I trot out occasionally (to show that I'm not quite as unlearned as my posts might indicate wink ), and his MSND inspired Felix, and his R & J inspired everyone from Tchaik to Prok to Lenny, and so on.
Quote
In short, I don't think that talent and interest should necessarily be pre-requisites for kids learning to play an instrument, any more than it should be for learning speling. However, if we are going to teach kids with no talent or interest, we have to find ways to do it that are not going to make the process even more demoralizing than it will likely be.

As for learning music, I'd say that it really is superfluous to requirements for the vast majority for people. But then, so is art. Is the ability to differentiate Rembrandt from Munch an indication of a cultured person? Or Leonardo from Michelangelo? What about if he cannot differentiate Aboriginal art from pre-historic caveman drawings? Since when is a pickled animal in a large glass case "art"?

All one can say is that for those immersed in it, music - and art - is life-enriching and life-enhancing........
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/27/18 08:23 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
All one can say is that for those immersed in it, music - and art - is life-enriching and life-enhancing........


I'm sure that's true of history, math, latin, etc... for those with interests in those areas.

My point is that we regard certain things as providing a proper intellectual and cultural foundation, and we teach those things to our kids, knowing perfectly well that little of the information will ever be of direct relevance to them. Because kids on the whole don't find the subjects particularly engaging, or the material easy to internalize, we seek for find ways to make the teaching more accessible.

But with musicianship we seem to be saying : "You won't ever be a concert pianist unless you master notation. So let's start with notation on day one." I can't imagine anybody saying of math lessons : "You'll never be a engineer unless you learn calculus, so let's start with that."

It's easy to mock the middle classes for treating musicianship as a kind of social accomplishment, but I contend that teaching kids to play a musical instrument is no less worthwhile an intellectual pursuit than teaching them about the Battle of Agincourt or how glacial erosion works.

The kind of teaching we use -- for music and anything else -- might in principle be different for kids who have a real passion for the subject, compared to those who are just studying it as a matter of routine. However, if we don't have ways to make learning an instrument manageable for kids who have no natural gift for it, then we will limit such training to that section of the population who does have such a gift. Maybe that's for the best, but I don't hear anybody arguing that we should take such an approach with math, or literacy, or languages, etc., etc.

I wonder why?
Posted By: wr

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/27/18 09:44 AM

Originally Posted by kevinb

The kind of teaching we use -- for music and anything else -- might in principle be different for kids who have a real passion for the subject, compared to those who are just studying it as a matter of routine. However, if we don't have ways to make learning an instrument manageable for kids who have no natural gift for it, then we will limit such training to that section of the population who does have such a gift. Maybe that's for the best, but I don't hear anybody arguing that we should take such an approach with math, or literacy, or languages, etc., etc.

I wonder why?



To me, the answer is obvious: unlike math or literacy, music has no overt and direct usefulness in society, and it is often categorized as disposible "entertainment". Even learning useless history makes a kind of pragmatic sense in acquiring a shared background for the life of a citizen, in a way that learning to play a musical instrument just doesn't.

But I completely agree, by the way, that teaching children some form of music making does contribute to their development (research bears that out). Since this is a piano forum, the discussion centers on learning to play the piano, but I think that for most kids, that is a very poor choice of how to go about it.

Just as most children already know how to speak language before learning to read and write it, most children can sing simple songs and recognize musical tunes and rhythms without know how they can be notated. Teaching them the basics of notation based on what they already know isn't some hugely difficult task. To me, it's the keyboard that is the problem, not the notation.

I already knew notation and how to play the piano when I took up a band instrument in my sixth year of school. It was taught in a small group setting. The other kids didn't know notation, so I got to watch from the sidelines and see first hand how it was done in a school. I don't remember that it posed any great problem. The concepts really aren't very complicated, and there isn't a lot to remember. I will say that learning the time values of notes as fractions of a whole note, as we did, seems much simpler than the arcane specialized language used in the British way of naming note lengths. The physical act of mastering the instrument was what was hard for kids, not learning the notation (particularly the single-line notation used for each band instrument).
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/27/18 10:41 AM

Originally Posted by wr
But I completely agree, by the way, that teaching children some form of music making does contribute to their development (research bears that out). Since this is a piano forum, the discussion centers on learning to play the piano, but I think that for most kids, that is a very poor choice of how to go about it.


I agree. At the school my kids attended, every child learns to play an instrument from about age 5, but piano is discouraged until they are older. Kids are encouraged to play instruments where the main challenges to be overcome are in tone production and body mechanics, rather than notation. There needs, apparently, to be more immediate feedback between the mechanical action and the quality of sound.

For better or worse, however, many of them are taught notation by private music teachers, probably before they learn to read (text).
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/27/18 12:21 PM

I don't know what happens these days, but in kindergarten in my home country, we sang simple songs (in a language we couldn't understand - English grin). To this day, I still remember the lyrics to This Old Man and Twinkle, Twinkle and Baa, Baa, Black Sheep. At least I know what the words mean now, decades from when I sang them (very approximately) in class. And we had clapping games which were presumably meant to teach us simple rhythm.

And in high school in the UK, we sang hymns every school day at morning assembly, accompanied by the pipe organ. We had Music Appreciation classes which were compulsory (unlike other subjects like History, Geography.......and Music). Records were played to us, and we discussed them. The classes were also used to teach all students a piece of music that everyone would sing in an end-of-term concert (O Fortuna from Orff's Carmina Burana and the Kyrie from Haydn's Nelson Mass were two pieces I remember) with the school orchestra. Imagine a 1000-strong choir of teenagers singing in four-part harmony, the vast majority of whom couldn't read music....... thumb

Because we were all given copies of the music scores to sing from, students eventually do pick up the gist of musical notation. After all, they were following the Latin text printed below the full choral and reduced orchestral parts. I don't know how many students in my year appreciated having 'classical music' foisted upon them like that, but I'm sure that many who never learnt music formally would benefit from it in their adult lives, if they decide to join an amateur choir or participate in a carol concert. Most people enjoy communal singing, as long as their mistakes (or singing out of tune) aren't audible.

Personally, I think that's the right way for the vast majority of students to gain a little knowledge of classical music and its language, without having to formally study it for instrumental learning.
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/27/18 01:19 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Personally, I think that's the right way for the vast majority of students to gain a little knowledge of classical music and its language, without having to formally study it for instrumental learning.


You're probably right, but learning to play an instrument is an intellectual challenge in its own right, distinct from the study of music. Of course, the appreciate of music (with or without notation) and the production of music should be related activities; but I don't know if that's essential in primary education.

My local schools justify their insistence on mandatory instrumental playing on the basis of its (presumed) ability to contribute to intellectual development. Kids are learning to close a psycho-acoustic feedback loop that involves listening, interpretation, and fine motor control.

I do wonder, however, how effective such practice is for kids who have absolutely no grasp of western tonal music at all. If you have no idea what something is supposed to sound like, how can you be sure you are implementing the correct responses to stimuli? But I guess that's even further off-topic.
Posted By: JayWalkingBlues

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/27/18 01:21 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis

As for learning music, I'd say that it really is superfluous to requirements for the vast majority for people. But then, so is art. Is the ability to differentiate Rembrandt from Munch an indication of a cultured person? Or Leonardo from Michelangelo? What about if he cannot differentiate Aboriginal art from pre-historic caveman drawings? Since when is a pickled animal in a large glass case "art"?

All one can say is that for those immersed in it, music - and art - is life-enriching and life-enhancing........


There is some scientific evidence that learning music at a young age has significant benefits....at least according to THIS

Superfluous by definition would me it has no benefit.
Posted By: JohnSprung

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/27/18 01:54 PM

Originally Posted by kevinb
[. Kids are learning to close a psycho-acoustic feedback loop that involves listening, interpretation, and fine motor control.


That kinda sounds like video games....?
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/27/18 02:03 PM

Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues

There is some scientific evidence that learning music at a young age has significant benefits....at least according to THIS

Aha!

Here is a paragraph from that article:

Music training can also affect long-term memory, especially in the visual realm. Scientists at the University of Texas at Arlington reported last year that classically trained musicians who have been playing more than 15 years score higher on pictorial long-term memory tests. This heightened visual sensitivity likely comes from parsing complex musical scores. The study makes no claims for musicians who learn to play without reading music.

Looks like there's a good reason to learn to read music after all......... thumb
Posted By: outo

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/27/18 02:36 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by JayWalkingBlues

There is some scientific evidence that learning music at a young age has significant benefits....at least according to THIS

Aha!

Here is a paragraph from that article:

Music training can also affect long-term memory, especially in the visual realm. Scientists at the University of Texas at Arlington reported last year that classically trained musicians who have been playing more than 15 years score higher on pictorial long-term memory tests. This heightened visual sensitivity likely comes from parsing complex musical scores. The study makes no claims for musicians who learn to play without reading music.

Looks like there's a good reason to learn to read music after all......... thumb


Well...The people studied here would have gone through a heavy selection progress already to continue that long. So how much of their memory abilities were from practicing reading music and how much is not remains unknown. To get more reliable results we should get a large enough random sample and make them train to be musicians for 15 years without an opportunity to quit and then compare with another random sample who were not allowed to read any music. Or at least study the same group before and after the 15 years of training. This same problem is unfortunately faced in most of such studies of advanced musicians...

Besides here's a quote from the university's own website about the study:
"The study has not explored why the advantages might develop. " So it's still on the speculation level and it's a bit early to expect too much from your reading practice wink
Posted By: Nahum

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/27/18 03:10 PM

Originally Posted by outo

Besides here's a quote from the university's own website about the study:
"The study has not explored why the advantages might develop. " So it's still on the speculation level and it's a bit early to expect too much from your reading practice wink
For me, this is a perfect truth: as I was born with a poor visual memory, so this has not changed until now; although many years ago once I was a good reader prima Vista - on viola and on piano. I don't think that something will change in this incarnation . Maybe in the next ...
Posted By: Carey

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 03/27/18 03:55 PM

Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by outo

Besides here's a quote from the university's own website about the study:
"The study has not explored why the advantages might develop. " So it's still on the speculation level and it's a bit early to expect too much from your reading practice wink
For me, this is a perfect truth: as I was born with a poor visual memory, so this has not changed until now; although many years ago once I was a good reader prima Vista - on viola and on piano. I don't think that something will change in this incarnation . Maybe in the next ...
Ever hopeful !! smile
Posted By: Tubbie0075

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/02/18 12:48 PM

Here's a concert pianist that's never read a single note. That said, I would imagine he would need to rely on his teacher(s) to read for him and translate them to his fingers and ears. Or perhaps there are sheet music for the blinds? I cannot imagine he could learn all these pieces purely from listening.

IMO, one doesn't need to read music to play the piano. But to be a professional classical musician, it is essential. One may argue that Mozart could recite an entire piece immediately after listening to it, therefore proving that one doesn't need to read in order to play. But he was a genius, and he already could read and write music. Who is to say that being able to read and write music didn't help him from playing by ear?

Pop musicians improvise a great deal, and missing a note here or adding another there is not a big deal. Most of the time, this is actually considered as "talent". Classical music demands musicians to stay true to the composers' works, meaning playing every single note as written. Unless you're a genius, I cannot see how one can recite, say a Chopin sonata or Rachmaninov concerto by ear.

Accomplished classical musicians sometimes have to premier newly composed music. If the classical musician cannot read music, how is he/she going to perform it since it's never been played or recorded before?



If you're talking about just learning some classical pieces as a amateur, then reading isn't necessary. But it will take a long time to learn them and with the help of someone that can read (say a teacher), especially for more difficult and complex pieces.

Posted By: chopin_r_us

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/03/18 05:34 PM

There are braille scores.
Posted By: Nahum

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/03/18 06:07 PM

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
There are braille scores.
From personal experience I know that far not every blind pianist uses the scores of Braille. And in general, f.e. in the field of jazz, the repertoire of such notes is very meager.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/03/18 07:09 PM

Nobu doesn't learn his pieces by Braille, as I posted earlier. Here's that post again:



Originally Posted by Clssclib
My only reluctance stems from the fact that a few visually impaired individuals have learned to play European classical music on piano pretty well. I don't know their whole stories, but I would guess that, even for them, some form of "reading" was central to their development.



I believe that the Van Cliburn winner Nobuyuki Tsujii learns his pieces entirely by ear (by listening to recordings made for him), not by Braille. But he's very unique among blind pianists in not just having got to the top, but also having enough rep to sustain it. His accuracy is pretty uncanny too - I heard him play Tchaik 1 and Rach 2 with no wrong notes on more than a few occasions, which is more than most sighted pianists can manage.
Posted By: Nahum

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/04/18 04:54 AM

There is a huge group of music performers, which is always under the radar of academic musicians - folk musicians of East, including the blind. According to their tradition, blindly born children with a musical ear have a considerable chance of becoming musicians. Blind or not, almost none of them read the notes; but, of course, there are those who are interested in classical music and play it by ear. I have repeatedly worked with such an orchestra of oriental music ( half of them were blind. ), and got acquainted with the tradition of studying long works without notes: the principal player plays a fragment, everyone repeats. In this way they can learn a work of length in a symphony.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrNLKV2oMFQ
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/04/18 10:02 AM

Whilst at Canons Ashby I bought a book from their second hand bookshop - only a £1, 'The Oxford School Harmony Course', part 1. Over 200 pages which I partly read and partly browsed through, relearning things I had forgotten as well as things I never knew. But the overriding impression I had was that, this is the opposite approach to the way to really learn music and composition. A perfect spec for anyone wanting to write a computer program but not for actually playing any instrument with heart and soul! The musical ear has to come first.
Posted By: chopin_r_us

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/04/18 10:11 AM

The point of harmony books is to stop you making the same mistakes as earlier composers. It saves much reinventing the wheel.
Posted By: kevinb

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/04/18 10:55 AM

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
The point of harmony books is to stop you making the same mistakes as earlier composers. It saves much reinventing the wheel.


Quite so. The alternative to reading books like this is to repeat three hundred years of compositional discovery from scratch. That's a pretty tall order for any musician.

If you only play western classical music from a full score, a case can be made that you don't need to know much about the principles of harmony -- after all, that's the composer's job. But even if you don't compose, if you play anything by ear, or improvise anything, a firm foundation in the principles of harmony is a huge advantage. Even if what you play is completely outside the scope of common-practice era harmony (certain forms of jazz, for example) knowing the principles still provides a language for communicating with other musicians and composers.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/04/18 11:45 AM

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Whilst at Canons Ashby I bought a book from their second hand bookshop - only a £1, 'The Oxford School Harmony Course', part 1. Over 200 pages which I partly read and partly browsed through, relearning things I had forgotten as well as things I never knew. But the overriding impression I had was that, this is the opposite approach to the way to really learn music and composition. A perfect spec for anyone wanting to write a computer program but not for actually playing any instrument with heart and soul! The musical ear has to come first.

I would hope that no fool would learn from a book like that without knowing how the notes sound, singly and in combination.

When I was learning harmony and composition in the Music class at my high school, our teacher (who was also our choirmaster) demonstrated everything on the upright piano beside him. It made sense to me as a chorister (singing from SATB scores) to understand and see the logic of why the inner parts (alto & tenor) like to move in small steps and why the bass part likes to leap fifths and octaves. And why Felix was so fond of Ic-V-I, and why 'Amen' sounds like IV-I. And so on......
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/04/18 04:11 PM

I should have mentioned that the book was published in 1960, so maybe the emphasis has changed since then. But the overriding impression was from the inside out, rather than outside in, if you see what I mean. Such that one might lose sight of the actual music. And it reminded a bit of how this thread started off, namely where the emphasis should lie particularly for beginners. As I mentioned before a cousin of mine started off the oral way and became a successful musician, whilst I was always a reader because that is the way I was taught. Only now, many years later, am I beginning to try to do it all somewhat differently.
Posted By: JohnSprung

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/05/18 07:14 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
. And why Felix was so fond of Ic-V-I, ......


I may have known this at one time, but I don't remember/know what the lower case "c" means. I do recognize the Roman numerals as meaning tonic and dominant.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/05/18 08:04 PM

Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by bennevis
. And why Felix was so fond of Ic-V-I, ......


I may have known this at one time, but I don't remember/know what the lower case "c" means. I do recognize the Roman numerals as meaning tonic and dominant.

I've never seen anything like "Ic." I wonder if it was just a typo.
Posted By: Vid

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/05/18 08:49 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by bennevis
. And why Felix was so fond of Ic-V-I, ......

I may have known this at one time, but I don't remember/know what the lower case "c" means. I do recognize the Roman numerals as meaning tonic and dominant.

I've never seen anything like "Ic." I wonder if it was just a typo.


Lower case "c" designates second version. Its just another way of writing it using 'b', 'c', and 'd' after Roman numerals.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/05/18 09:14 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by bennevis
. And why Felix was so fond of Ic-V-I, ......


I may have known this at one time, but I don't remember/know what the lower case "c" means. I do recognize the Roman numerals as meaning tonic and dominant.

I've never seen anything like "Ic." I wonder if it was just a typo.

I learnt my harmony in the Dark Ages from when books were scrolls (as in Dead Sea Scrolls wink ).

In those ancient scrolls (not from the Dead Sea), a=root position, b=first inversion, c=second inversion, d=third inversion. (Normally, root position chords aren't usually appended with 'a').

Actually, it's also in Wiki:

Lower-case letters may be placed after a chord symbol to indicate root position or inversion.[5] Hence, in the key of C major, the C major chord below in first inversion may be notated as Ib, indicating chord I, first inversion.

Thus, the first three chords of this hymn/carol are I - II7d - Vb:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRq8eywc57I
Posted By: chopin_r_us

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/06/18 12:00 PM

Originally Posted by JohnSprung
And why Felix was so fond of Ic-V-I, ......

Another name for c is 6/4 as in a 6/4 5/3 cadence (as above) - very, very common.
Posted By: keystring

Re: ... But: Is reading *absolutely* necessary for classical?! - 04/07/18 04:09 AM

Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
The point of harmony books is to stop you making the same mistakes as earlier composers. It saves much reinventing the wheel.

One of my harmony books gave examples from Bach, but warned students not to break the rules that Bach broke. (Wondering if the above comment was tongue in cheek).
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