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Can you read music?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by AaronVonRock, Feb 2, 2014.

  1. Yes

    217 vote(s)
  2. No

    58 vote(s)
  1. deeptubes


    Feb 21, 2011
    Virginia Beach
    Yes, but just like many of the responses, not fluently.
  2. Playing by ear is equally important (perhaps even more so), but you'll never regret learning to read, no matter how much you use it. You can never have too much knowledge, in my opinion. Of course you'll never use all of it, but it's surprising how much of of it will come in handy at some point. I learned stuff when I was a teenager that I thought I would never need to know in a million years. I was wrong.

    Even if you have perfect pitch or just a great ear, there's a lot of jobs in music in which you have no chance if you can't read - you won't even get your foot in the door. That in itself is reason enough to learn.
  3. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I played in a local symphony orchestra for several years a while back. I used every drop of reading skills I had at the time (which was substantial) and learned even more as a result of the rehearsals and personal practice time.

    But your point is a good one; it's always better to know more than you need than less than you need.
  4. It's quite something to play with a symphony orchestra - a very different musical experience. I've done it a few times with stage musicals and loved every minute of it. Those conductors don't cut you any slack either, no matter what you play, and they tend to be quite intimidating (at least to me). Perhaps it's because their knowledge of music is so damn good, and of course they're absolute perfectionists, which I guess you'd have to be to conduct an orchestra.
  5. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Another "qualified yes" here. I first learned at about age six with piano lessons, and reinforced it by playing cello in fifth and sixth grades, but I was only fluent at a very basic level and not terribly familiar with bass clef. My reading got a slight boost when I took music theory in college, but, again, I wasn't a fluent reader by any stretch and I never read music when I played bass. I've worked on it sporadically since then, and improved by working with my daughters in their musical endeavors. (When my little one took drum lessons, my rhythmic reading improved enormously.)

    As a rock player in mostly original bands, I've only had to figure out my own parts, so I haven't needed to read for most gigs. I've played in a couple of local musicals, in which I've just been given key signatures and chord charts, and written my own lines. So, again, no reading.

    But my crash course has begun, because I've been asked to play in a graduate school production of Rent, and I got the score yesterday. (I'm long out of school, but I'm an alum and my wife works there.) I can read the easiest numbers without much trouble, but it's very rough going through the others. It takes me a painfully long time to pick through those, but with a mixture of reading and listening to the soundtrack I should be able to get it. I might take a couple of lessons to get through some stuff.

    Luckily my work schedule is minimal, so I'm using this as an opportunity to leave the comfort zone entirely, and hopefully move to the next level.
  6. Good luck with "Rent" - it's challenging, but a lot of fun to do. It's nice to do something other than 3 minute R&R songs for a change.
  7. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Thanks! I've been getting bored of practicing with my regular band, so this is a good change of pace, but it's definitely a huge challenge for me.
  8. cv115505

    cv115505 Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2012
    MJC Ironworks
    I can read, but I haven't gotten to the point where someone can set a sheet of music in front of me and I can play through while I'm reading it. The problem is that most of my playing doesn't involve the use of sheet music, so while I do know how, I never use it. I'm sure if I sat down and practiced it enough I could get to that point, but I work full time (active duty military) and am in 4 bands while going to school full time between deployments so I'm probably not going to practice it to that point unless I have to...
  9. I bet the conductor will whip you into shape in no time. ;) Honestly though, the first time I did a stage musical, I was nervous as hell, but I have no doubt you'll have a ball doing it. It's a lot of fun (and a challenge) just to do something different, and I've always found members of orchestras to be really great company, and interesting people.

  10. madrob


    Aug 22, 2006
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    I can't read music and have no interest or use for it.
  11. No offence, but why not? It's like being able to speak English and not being able to read it. I'm not having a go; just curious.
  12. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Plan to spend a little time with "Santa Fe".
  13. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Santa Fe kicked my butt till I figured out you can cheat! :D
  14. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Yeah, I think cheating might be the way to go there! :D Any tips? I might need to just break out the keyboard. ;) Somewhat seriously though, I hear a slightly simplified part in my head that could make it easier for me, but I have no clue how strict the musical director will be with these things.
  15. HazySurfer


    Jun 10, 2012
    Yes. Bass and Treble Clef
  16. Yes. But I can't read on the fly.

    I will occasionally use tabs to learn a song... But I will transcribe to written music.

    It's a perishable skill. You have to use it or lose it. I'm a hobby musician, so, I have to deliberately use my reading skill during practice.

    I'm OK with not being able to sight read. I only have so much time in a week to practice and I like to focus on music I need to learn, scales, and other things. Sight reading isn't a priority. It is important, but, not a priority for me.

    Flame me if you wish.
  17. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I learned to read music on saxophone, so bass clef is a bit of an adjustment, and most of the music I play doesn't give me a lot of practice playing from sheet music. So I'm not much good as a sight-reader, especially if the part is at all complex. But I can do it at need if I have time to work through the music in advance. I recently started playing with the church worship team a couple of times a month, and some of those songs we get sheet music for, so I'm starting to get more practice with it.
  18. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Not being able to read English is a major hindrance in daily life; you wouldn't be able to read street signs, the internet, school closings announcements on TV, besides books and magazines. But unless you're a full-time professional musician, you just don't run into sheet music on a daily basis. So much popular pop/rock/blues/country music you can learn by ear or off a chord chart without sheet music. A lot of the time sheet music doesn't even exist. unless you really go hunting to see if someone published a transcription somewhere. So while I can read myself and am glad for it, I completely understand why someone could consider it an unnecessary academic enterprise to learn it.
  19. Standard notation? Yes. But I much prefer "lead sheets" ala the Real Book etc. Certainly a valuable skill to keep you in demand and working...
  20. I CAN read Both Bass Clef and Treble clef, but i am really slow with it, i can't just look at the piece of music and play it, i need to sit and work out all the notes :D

    I am doing music theory lessons in college and i am slowly learning, it is A LOT easier than i thought it would be. Very simple, really :bassist:

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