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Reading, writing, documenting and understanding

posted on #1
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I guess it is time for this subject to come up.

When it comes to applying levels of abstraction to musical practice, be it reading, writing, theory or something else many times a chasm opens between those who endorse the concept and those who don't. I have witnessed discussions over this take religious proportions (inquisitors vs heretics). So in a try to help bridge this chasm i try to provide some thoughts. When delving deeper into music and studying other musicians you realise what span exists out there.

On one side we have a musician i respect enormously, Tommy Emmanuel, who simply states that he is unable to read. He has the utmost respect for other musicians but like many other non readers he states that not being able to read forced him to develop his ear.

On the other end of the scale i heard Pat Metheny state that tabs where the stupidest thing he knew, implying that standard notation was the only way to document music the correct way. At first i considered this statement to be an very arrogant one, but nonetheless it got me thinking.

Let me draw some parallels to something related, reading, writing and understanding texts and raising some questions:

1) Why do so few people read the manuals for(expensive) equipment they bought?
2) If you read a book first and watch the movie later, why is the movie always inferior?

I think both questions have a lot to do with how our brains process information. In the first case i would like to classify the text as "functional". That the text has a well defined purpose and no or little qualities beyond that. In the second case a well written text has the ability to absorb the reader totally and make his mind render the narrative with a level of detail that is simply not possible in a movie for a number of reasons.

What if the same is true for reading music, which is much harder than reading text for most of us simply because we have gotten less training. That will mean that most of us see written music on a purely functional level with no other purpose that indicating what notes to play at a given moment. This clearly results in the attitude as for reading manuals, most of us, including TE, simply don't bother.

But on the other hand PM's statement indicates that there are more levels to written music and that given enough training one can learn to understand and even make a mental rendering of the score.
Pure fingerstyle
posted on #2
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Wise analysis... Thanks a lot :)
posted on #3
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most of the manuals I have seen are written so only the writer understands them (look at a Bryston sp3 processor manual)
When you read a book, typically you see the characters based on your own experience or beliefs etc. the movie will almost always not live up to expectation. If you saw the movie first, then read the book the characters as they appear in your mind would probably look like the actors from the movie.
My understanding of how written music works is it is subject to personal interpretation as well, just listen to the multiple takes on almost any classical piece.
Unfortunately I am self taught and can not read music (and to lazy to start learning)
Tabs just bore me to death, and can't be bothered.

just my two cents
posted on #4
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OK, I'm not a great reader anymore due to lack of practice, yet I certainly understand both sides...and it's a bit more complex than reading the manual vs just start using, or book vs movie. Reading music for most is a mechanical exercise: eye sees the note in time reference and plays the note without a lot of thought (if you already have a number of years doing this)..like driving a car...do you think now I have to move my hands 6.5 cm counterclockwise in order to keep in a straight line? No of course not it becomes automatic. However there are music readers who are not only extremely advanced but who make the connection between seeing the dots and hearing the music in their heads before playing it. They will be reading several measures ahead of what they are playing. If you are one of those exceptionally talented and practiced music readers you can give feeling and interpretation to what you are playing...but as said VERY RARE. For most readers it's more a matter of practicing a piece by reading and hearing it enough times so that the dots are a "reminder", but you have enough familiarity to interpret the music and have it come alive. 99.99% of us who can read music, if reading a piece for the first time will play mechanically...without much feeling and certainly little/no personal interpretation.

For the average ear player (not experts) they try to feel what key they are playing in (even if they can't name the key), find the rhythm, figure out the changes, and try to anticipate what's coming. If they can just play notes that fit the chord structure and have some feel for the rhythm that's usually "enough". The advanced ear player doesn't just hear and react, they hear harmonies, melodic lines, counter rhythms etc. and play those spontaneously.

There are similarities between the average reader and average ear player as both are stuck at a level of playing mechanically, which is without hearing the music in their heads that they are going to play. The reader plays "as written" the ear player uses finger memory, riffs and arpeggios that are cut and past to fit the pattern they hear.

Those extremely rare first time readers who can play with feeling/interpretation and advanced ear players are both hearing what they will play. Their instrument is so much a part of them that the mechanics of playing is dictated by what they hear in their heads rather than a well practiced mechanical eye/hand coordination or well practiced patterns.

I think there are more advanced ear players than advanced readers due to the necessity of playing with more feeling if improvising. It's easiest if you are "one with your instrument" which can open the way for people with talent to spontaneously compose by playing what they can hear in their heads.

The divide comes down to those who play mechanically and those who hear the music they (are about to) play. Technical ability (coordination and practice) are the other ingredients that determine how well the player can express what they hear.
posted on #5
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... i wish
posted on #6
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I wish I had a printable dokumentation of all songs and remixes I put and received on Wikiloops. Nice notations, tabs where necessary, the melodies with exact placed lyrics underneath...the bass-lines and the harpmelodies... Even notated drums! Added with some remarks about the workflows in the recordings.

When I compose a new lick it would be great to see the written notation with closed eyes immediately without trial-and-error in PrintMusic later. Today it is much easier to learn music because you got really mighty tools. Nevertheless it is quite impossible to lay down your own stuff the way it really sounds in the fingers!
Edited by Neronick on Mai 21 2016 09:47
posted on #7
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Most times I only listen what my fingers do. I do not play what I hear in mind. Then I apply musical analysis and theory and develope by "rules". When the piece is ready I memorize and try to hear what I will play a few milliseconds or quarters in advance. But I enjoy to surprise myself. :)
posted on #8
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The thing i found hardest to learn was reading rhythm. The following might be a interesting lesson in adult learning. Adult learning is a little different and my learning model is based on three pillars

1) Accessibility. The knowledge you want to achieve must be accessible. This means that you need explanatory models that fit in with you but also you must fulfil certain prerequisites in order to access and process the information. It would be futile to attempt to learn to read rhythm if you have no knowledge of the underlying concepts of meter and note values. Or another example, it meaningless to start to study calculus if you haven't mastered algebra.

2) Relevance. An adult brain that does not see the relevance of the knowledge presented simply refuses to learn. It can be persuaded to memorize things by using various tricks, but learning is about understanding, not stacking data.

3) Application. Unless something is applied it is never truly learned. Applying knowledge corrects and reinforces the neural structures created by the learning process. There is evidence that a substance called myelin insulates the neurons involved thus making frequently applied neural structures very efficient.

What hindered me from reading rhythms was that every piece of information i tried to access on this subject had an approach that i interpreted as additive. First you have a quarter note, then you have two eights notes and so on. Of course, if i studied a piece of music that i already knew, the information presented was consistent but it made no sense when trying to understand the musical ideas presented if i wasn't able to listen to it as well.

What i needed was a different explanatory model or metaphor. This metaphor was division in stead of addition. You simply divide the beats into equal parts and see where the attacks of the notes fall. I discovered this when trying to transcribe pieces in an attempt to finally crack the code. And it worked! I used a piece of software called [url=http://www.seventhstring.com/xscribe/overview.html] transcribe[/url] that lets you set time marks and helps visualise that process. Soon after i discovered the book [url=https://www.uploady.com/#!/download/tJE1emWa7~T/bmKUfjVnEzWXV7WG] Sight Read Any Rhythm Instantly by Mark Phillips [/url]. He uses the exactly same approach. Once the code was cracked it was just a simple matter of getting to work.

I'm not a sight reader nor have i any intentions to be. Mostly because i believe that performing any piece of music requires practice no matter what. And i realise that to elevate my reading skills above the purely functional level and be able to make a mental rendering would require a tremendous amount of work. But i have achieved my goals, to be able to access musical ideas in written form and to be able to transcribe my own and others work in order to gain deeper understanding and build a solid foundation for my practice routine
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posted on #9
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this is a very interesting topic !
clusters Clusters CLUSTERS !!!!!!
posted on #10
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I like what Wade has to say (And he says it better than I could. When I left Hi School I could sight read anything at about 100%. However to interpret what you are reading..one needs to also be able to read the phrasing elements below the notes. I could not improvise whatsoever.

Reading is good for eye/finger coordination..or perhaps while in a situation performing in a "band" where everyone else is playing off sheet music.

I think being able to do both, or as Wade mentioned..being one with your instrument is where one should be. Whatever that takes..different levels for us all

posted on #11
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This is a long topic and debate! Wade comes very close to my attitude towards it - it's a valuable skill and, perhaps less importantly these days thanks to availability of recording equipment, was for a long time the only way of 'recording' a composer's ideas for someone else to perform. Music notation is surprisingly very flexible and very powerful. But it is the musician's job to put their personality on it.

Furthermore, a very common misconception among musicians and a the wider world is that reading music makes you somehow a 'better' musician. Utter rubbish - in my opinion, of course - and, in my experience, it's more about a 'them and us' thing. A music reader is deemed to 'look down' on non-reading musicians. Again, anyone who does think like that gets nothing but my contempt. It's a pointless yet so very divisive measure.

Quite why this happens, I don't know - there's no need for it. It is not a requisite and certainly no measure of a musician's ability but, like all skills, reading is a very useful one to have. My sight-reading is awful as I haven't used it since my twenties. The best example I can think of of a non-reading composer who rose to great things is Buddy Rich. Couldn't read a note of music yet arranged all those phenomenal pieces! And, to this day, is still regarded by many as one of the finest drummers to ever live. Including me.

I can no longer really read and, due to a lack of practice, would struggle immensely if you asked me to. But, I'll give the drummer's side of things, if you wouldn't mind indulging me. I'm excluding classical music from my analysis as that's, by its nature, far more traditional in the way it works.

The majority of drum music is in the form of 'charts' - standard music notation but you have to fill in the blanks! Whereas most instruments often (but not always) have what to play written out, drummers often just get a bar of 'guide rhythm' and something like 'moderate swing' to set the scene and the rest is a bunch of percent signs that basically means 'repeat previous bar'. This makes keeping track of where you are in the piece sometimes *really* hard! Especially once repeats, etc., are included. Worse still it'll have something like '%4' written which means 'play four bars of time' using up only one bar on the stave!!! Not easy when a piece strays beyond the usual 4, 8, 12 or 16-bar sequences! Here's a very simple example of some drum notation (although the actual fill is notated it shows this 'play time' business):


On the top line of the stave there will be rhythmic punctuations that the drummer must pick out - brass stabs in a big band piece would be a good example. That means 'play this rhythm but how you play it is up to you'.

And this brings me neatly to what Wade was talking about: as he mentioned, these professional players who can invoke meaning and feel into sight-read music are incredible. But it comes with practice, nothing more, nothing less. In my '20s, I could sight-read pretty well. Now, through a total lack of practice, you might as well give me a shopping list to read :(

But there was one thing an instructor where I was studying drums said to us about sight-reading which, almost overnight, transformed my ability and understanding of how to read music effectively. This fits very neatly in with Nilton's stated difficulties with getting the rhythm of notated music. I was told [something like] the following:

When you read a sentence, do you read every letter of every word or do you just know what the words look like? The same applies in music. All the notes are grouped together (usually by beat in 4/4) and you learn what those groupings look like. You are, quite literally, 'reading music words'. That is the key to reading ahead.

That single piece of information transformed my approach to reading music. Within a few weeks of practice, I could read a couple of bars ahead of what I was playing (these were snare exercises) because I was no longer reading every note, just the groupings - each grouping was a different 'word'. By using 'less processing' time on reading the notes, I could focus on being musical with them. The music became my *guide*, not my master and I was able to play musically and creatively with it. Nevertheless, it takes a *lot* of continuous practice hence I'm virtually useless at it now.

The only music reading I still employ is for the bands I dep (stand-in) for. I just print out the lyrics of the songs I have to play, write guide comments, such as 'build' or 'stop on the '2'' and, if there are specific phrases, I write out the notation for them. It is still a useful skill to me (in small doses!) but, as I said at the start, don't ever get hung up over whether you can read or not - it's not worth it. Give me a 'musical' musician who can improvise out of trouble over a mechanical-sounding reader anyday!

I always remember my father, who was a lecturer in music at Cambridge University, telling me about these classically-trained Grade 8 students who could read practically anything but when given a chord structure and told to improvise just plain couldn't! There wasn't a creative bone in them - just someone who could fire out notes perfectly as written so it goes both ways - take their notes away and they were completely lost!

I'll stop talking now.
Edited by mpointon on Mai 25 2016 11:54
posted on #12
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Martin, I agree to the letter (or shall I say note) to the book you just wrote. I used to be able to play on sight (on a violin :O ) but as I haven't used it, it's gone.

On one hand whenever that topic arises, the majority will say "I did it in one quick jam and uploaded it" - or at least this is what the majority would like to do. It is what this site is about, right? Jamming does not involve much other than "it's a riff in G, One two three four go!! On the other hand there is this wish to upload a track done in 5 minutes but then spend a couple of hours providing the sheet music including instructions for a 20 piece band ;)

Seriously though, I am somewhat embarrassed by it - but other than the very basic chords and maybe the main key I can't provide more. I just don't know. Sorry. I play by ear only.
Edited by TeeGee on Mai 25 2016 12:11
posted on #13
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mpointon wrote:
But there was one thing an instructor where I was studying drums said to us about sight-reading which, almost overnight, transformed my ability and understanding of how to read music effectively. This fits very neatly in with Nilton's stated difficulties with getting the rhythm of notated music. I was told [something like] the following:

When you read a sentence, do you read every letter of every word or do you just know what the words look like? The same applies in music. All the notes are grouped together (usually by beat in 4/4) and you learn what those groupings look like. You are, quite literally, 'reading music words'. That is the key to reading ahead.

That single piece of information transformed my approach to reading music. Within a few weeks of practice, I could read a couple of bars ahead of what I was playing (these were snare exercises) because I was no longer reading every note, just the groupings - each grouping was a different 'word'. By using 'less processing' time on reading the notes, I could focus on being musical with them. The music became my *guide*, not my master and I was able to play musically and creatively with it. Nevertheless, it takes a *lot* of continuous practice hence I'm virtually useless at it now.

This would illustrate an intermediate level of reading between functional and narrative reading. And it should be self evident that unless you continuously apply a skill your brain will stop maintaining the myelin needed and the skill be diminish but not cease completely. That is just the way our brains work.

mpointon wrote:
Furthermore, a very common misconception among musicians and a the wider world is that reading music makes you somehow a 'better' musician. Utter rubbish - in my opinion, of course - and, in my experience, it's more about a 'them and us' thing. A music reader is deemed to 'look down' on non-reading musicians. Again, anyone who does think like that gets nothing but my contempt. It's a pointless yet so very divisive measure.

This is where i get confused, really. First of all, how can a skill make us worse at something? That might be true if reading and listening were mutually exclusive skills, but at least in my world they are not. On the contrary, they complement each other perfectly. And yes, i have experienced players that had their main focus so much on reading that they did not spend enough time practising other skills. The culprit here is not reading but the lack of other skills.

And the other way round. Not being able to read at least at a functional level definitely limits your access to very useful information. This especially true today when there is so much information floating around just for anyone to pick up.
But digital information comes in two separate flavors: vectorized and non vectorized. To exemplify this think of any object, for example a chair. You could take a picture of a chair and build a copy from that picture. But no matter how high the resolution of the picture is the copy you are making will always be different from the chair. But what if you had had access to the same design schematics (with measurements, tolerances and instructions) the original chairmaker had? In this case the only thing hindering you from making identical (or even better) copy would be your own skill. And not only that, having access to vectorized information facilitates analysis and improvement tremendously. A master carpenter would be able to understand the design ideas behind the chair and start working from that but an apprentice will not. But giving the apprentice access to the design plans will definitely make him a better carpenter if he does choose to put in the time and effort to understand the design.

The same is true for music. An audio recording is non-vectorized, meaning it has limited resolution. There are programs for time stretching and pitch shifting but these will leave noticeable artefacts even at moderate levels of invocation. Vectorized music on the other hand has inifinte resolution. if you have a piece of sheet music you can render the musical ideas therein at any tempo or any key without artefacts. A piece of vectorized music (notation, tabs, midi, musical xml, gpx etc) illustrates the musical ideas not the music itself, but with various levels of detail. It is always the performers responsibility that the current rendering is adequate to the situation (response to other musicians, audience, recordings, students etc). If you have the opportunity, attend a concert with [url=http://www.derekgripper.com/]Derek Gripper[/url]. He has both transcribed Toumani Diabate's Kora music and plays Bach in a way you never could imagine.

And for myself there are loads of situations where being able to interpret vectorizing information did help me a lot

1) Learning songs. I'm pretty good at picking a melody or chord progression but there are times where i just cant get it right. That might be because it breaks out of the diatonic scale or i'm too tired or, or. Having access to the ideas behind eliminates this. Not only that, it helps me analyse and recognize it the next time i encounter something similar. Thus reading definitely enhances the learning process.

2) Understanding theory. This would be hard without the level of abstraction that vectorizing is all about.

3) Practising. As stated before having vectorized information lets me change tempo and key effortless and without artefacts. But not only that, i can also edit the information to focus on the hot spots, try variations, write out voicings etc etc.

4) Saving time and frustration. Some of the worst things i know are video lessons (except maybe for abslute beginners). Since video is not interactive the lecturer must make an assumption of the student, one that is almost certainly incorrect because of the lack of instant feedback from student to teacher. This means that almost certainly there will be details missing and there will be focus on things that you already know very well. As a result you will spend time getting frustrated working out the missing details yourself (was this what you paid for??) and also spend time fast forwarding the parts of little interest for you (and missing the next cue point, so you have to rewin). Vectorized information overcomes this.

Now for the uggly part: Notation on paper or as a pdf is vectorized information for humans, not for computers. Midi, Musical xml, gpx etc are machine readable which means they can be rendered in any format that suits you, audio, notation, tabs, color codes etc.

But computers are even worse than humans when it comes to reading music. I have tested several musical ocr programs, none of them worked satisfactory. It was much quicker to enter the information directly in some kind of notation-, tab- or midi-editor. The situation is much worse than when i started using normal ocr programs some decades ago. Hopefully the situation will improve but my hopes are slim for the next years
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posted on #14
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I'm a bit uncomfortable with attempts to render/classify and pidgin-hole what (for me) are creative/artistic processes. No argument about the benefits of reading when you are in a situation that requires it or trying to understand the component parts which may help with future recognition. As a young teenager I liked to read miniature scores of classical pieces so that I could see and understand how composers notated those wonderful complex sounds. Stravinsky's Rites of Spring was a favorite as it was unbelievably complex. I could see the nuts and bolts and after a while hear all the parts singularly and together by reading it. I was very proud of this achievement, yet knew that this didn't make me a composer. Likewise the apprentice who has the drawings of a chair may come to understand exactly what goes into making that design chair...but does that in any way make him a furniture designer? There is a leap that's being made where an enormous divide exists. It's the difference between artists and technicians.

I'm not trying to take anything away from the great technical players, classical or popular. However I don't think they are the same as creators who strive for new or different designs, sounds and feelings, or tell unique stories that are both personal and yet have resonance with their audience.

An improvisor can be a composer or just a technician stringing together cut and paste riffs, arpeggios and finger memory fillers serving a purpose... like a fast food meal. The improvisor who creates is a chef...he knows his ingredients and imagines something not tasted before so cooks it up. If confident he serves it to his customers for them to taste/judge. The same sort of parallel can be made for all of the creative arts vs technical skills.

There may be an underlying devil in all of this. For reasons one might imagine there is an "Industry" built around music that promotes the idea that everyone can be a "star". Education, practice, more education, lots of expensive gear, practice more education, etc. will get you there. While it's true that a talented artist/person will need to learn and practice it's a lie to tell the average person they can become creative or talented with more education, practice, and the right gear. They learn to copy, not create. Why do intelligent people allow themselves to be sold this fantasy? Does everyone think they could be a rocket scientist? How about an Olympic athlete? These things take special minds or bodies.

Stravinsky studied with Rimsky-Korsakov which shows in his orchestrations. But his music was not a copy of his teacher's. Stravinsky was a unique musical genius who could charm and challenge. He was comfortable with references to music's past and created much of its future.

When you check around Wikiloops you can hear some of those unique people who are creative. You can also hear players who are very well practiced, good contributors, yet have little or nothing original to say. Just the way it is. Each contributes what they can in their own way. There's no belittling of anyone. Can most of us tell the difference between these players? I think so. Will improving your technical knowledge, practice, gear, or reading skills shift you from a copier to a creative? I think not, and it shouldn't matter as all of us here can play and add to whatever tracks we wish without being criticized for our lack of ability or creativity.

OK, that's a long way around to saying that there is a cringe factor when I hear anyone intimating that technical knowledge, practice or gear will make you creative. It will possibly improve your skills as a technician, or open niches for you to explore, but this does not = creativity.

I'm (unfortunately) very familiar with the current teaching trends for saxophone (popular as compared to classical). Students are taught that they must learn "standards" and develop the "language" of mainstream jazz. This is reinforced all the way thorough graduate school until they pop out the other side and find that there is no call/use for their skills. So they become teachers of the same failed paradigm and start another cycle of failure. I know that there is/was talent in many of those students, yet 15+ years of focusing their attention on trying to emulate a style from 50+ years ago has crippled them. How do they start unlearning and reinventing themselves? There is a lesson in this: I think you can KILL creativity in some people through education that is misdirection. The saxophone is today a cliche that people think only sounds like 1950s jazz (Sesame Street, the Simpson, etc.). It's digging it's grave in the past in the same way that the clarinet didn't move beyond Dixieland and big band music.

Celebrate our creative types. Encourage them, and please don't tell them (or anyone else?) they must follow any prescribed way of learning/dogma. Teach basic skills and encourage creativity and the love of what they are doing.

I'm a grower of forestry trees. When I plant one I try to nurture it to live up to it's potential. If it throws a double leader (ramicorn) that's going to limit that potential I'll prune it to help the tree achieve it's potential. I don't do topiary (pruning to shapes that are symmetrical or figurative). That would mean that I've controlled that tree's growth to a point where it can no longer achieve it's natural height or configuration. A tree that's a dwarf or has poor genetics may become a thing of beauty if well pruned (like bonsai), but will only reflect and achieve the form of those who have controlled it.
Edited by Wade on Mai 25 2016 23:35
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I completely agree, Wade (and Nilton). I get the feeling I've been misunderstood somewhere down the line with what I said. So I'll keep it uncharacteristically brief.

I wasn't comparing knowing how to read is somehow better than not knowing how to - I was hoping to highlight the remarkable snobbery I've encountered regarding it. That being 'properly trained' is in some way better. It's not - it's an aid, just as reading is and it's still up to the individual musician to make of that what they will. I also hoped to highlight what helped me read for those who are learning to.

It's not a shortcut and some of the best musicians I've played with have been completely self-taught - they play and create what they imagine without boundaries and rules. Often the best kind of music. I was saying that the formal skills I did learn can complement and help. I in no way believe one is better than the other and I'm sorry if it came across that way. I'm guessing that's the price of a multi-language site!

Now I will shut up.
Edited by mpointon on Mai 25 2016 23:51
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Ok, hoping to get us all on the same page, or at least in the same book i try an other way to express this:

Q: Do i need to be able to read in order to play (well)?
A: Certainly not. Only 3% of the worlds music is notated anyway. But...

Q: Do i need to be able to read in order to be a professional?
A: In most cases yes. Older generations of jazz and pop musicians could get along but today it would be a lot harder. Keep in mind that the music industry is changing. There are less records released but more film, tv, commercial scores recorded. all these would almost certainly require some reading skills.

Q: Should i rely on reading during performance?
A: That should be avoided since it probably hinder you from focusing from the more important aspects of music: how to play a note instead of what note to play. Of course if you are a professional recording radio jingles you be relying on a greater extent, but then again you wouldn't be reading this post anyway

Q: Im not a professional nor have i plans to be one. Why should i learn to read?
A1: It gives you access to a tremendous amount of information. All printed documentation requires some kind of vectorisation of the musical ideas (notation, tabs etc). Without that you have to learn from peers and teachers (a good way but not always accessible), learn entirely by ear (also good but cumbersome and therefore somewhat limited) or learn from videos (bad, except for absolute basics)

A2: You will need some level of abstraction and vectorisation in order to understand theory. There is just no way around it.

A3: Being able to read will make your practice routine way more efficient

A4: Being able to read saves you time and frustration.

Q: I have invested lots of time and effort in learning how to read. Sure this must be a more valuable skill than just playing along.
A: No, absolutely not. Reading is just just one tool in your toolbox. How to use it is up to you to decide. You can achieve a good result with many different tools depending on how well you use them. It's the result that counts, nothing else

Q: But reading is so versatile, cant i use it instead of other tools and keep on focusing on just that skill in order to perfect it?
Y: You can use an just axe to build a whole house. But for most people that would not be the most efficient way of building it, nor will it render you the best house given the resources spent on it. If you spend so much time just reading that your listening, timing skills etc suffer you should reconsider

feel free to complement this list
Edited by nilton on Mai 26 2016 09:20
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Wade wrote:
Will improving your technical knowledge, practice, gear, or reading skills shift you from a copier to a creative? I think not [...]

This is where i think you are very wrong. First of all, being a renderer or creator is not a black and white sort of thing, its more of a greyscale. Everybody, including mozart, has started by playing others stuff. And please do observe, when mozart did his first compositions (which were not very good) at a very young age he had received at least 3500 hours of intensive tutoring from the undoubtedly best music teacher at that time, his father.

Secondly, we must take into account the way our brains work i.e its amazing ability to adapt to almost anything given enough stimulus, resources and time. Improving the things you mention will not instantly by some magic transform you into a super creative person, that is obvious. But improving these skills will certainly help to create a foundation to build your creativity on. This is a process that will take time, up to several years, which makes it hard to measure. But i can certainly vouch for that it is possible. And the other way round, i have encountered lots of self-appointed creative persons that did not bother to learn the basics (musicians, artists, poets, designers etc). The things they produce may seem novel at a first glance but given a closer scrutiny most of them are utter crap. This is probably because most creative processes are of lateral nature i.e. a exsiting solution is applied to a novel subject. Very seldom a creative process is entirely emergent i.e. creating something completely novel. And a good solution requires a thorough understanding of the field of application and its limitations.

In addition to that, learning and development is very non-linear in its nature. I believe everybody has had the experience of struggling with something without getting anywhere or even getting worse at it. But almost certainly continuing to struggle will get you results. And when that happens they will often be perceived as almost instantly. This is what is called crossing a learning threshold.

But my final and most severe objection to your point is that it effectively discourages others from trying to improve or extending their creativity. Lets say i want to improve my ability to create melodies that go outside the diatonic scales or modes. According to you using any of the improvements mentioned will be futile. I really beg to differ
Edited by nilton on Mai 26 2016 12:02
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posted on #18
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OK, maybe I'm wasting my time in this "discussion" as we seem to be talking about different things. On one had we have the examples of building a chair, a house, recording a jingle, etc. These can be done following a plan, with crude tools or the best tools. It's an exercise in carrying out a predetermined technical task. The person who imagined those things is creative. The creator could also be the one who caries out the task and makes it "real". In music we have readers and non-readers. Either can be creative. If you are composing then it's a good idea to have the tools with witch to communicate (if you want others to play your music). If you are improvising then the fact that you can read music may mean nothing. The best improvisers are composers "in the moment".

Pedagogues and people who are not necessarily creative often talk of theory, which can give the player a set of chords and patterns to make it seem they are in the game. It can fill a space but it's usually not creative. It's paint by the numbers pretending to be art. I wouldn't tell anyone not to learn to read or learn theory. However if you have talent why would you improvise using theory which usually means cut and paste instead of your creativity and inner voice? IMHO that would be a disservice to anyone who has a talent that could be developed. Dogma does not nurture talent.
Edited by Wade on Mai 26 2016 12:09
posted on #19
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I definitely think you are overemphasising the concept of "talent" whatever that is. And where does it come from? Are you born with it? In that case the rest of us just can stop playing or doing anything creative since we are, according to you, doomed to fail or at least unable to improve. In case it can be acquired then there must be some means by which it can be done more or less effectively.

Everyone i know and know of has started by copying and pasting, that is just human nature. What becomes of that is the result of a combination of factors: determination, ambition, the ability to accept challenges and also challenge yourself, and unfortunately a large amount of chance in form of being exposed to certain impulses at the right moment, meeting the right people, getting the support needed without being spoiled etc. But there is a very good way of affecting that element of chance and that is being as prepared as one can be. If that is interpreted as talent so be it, but it is certainly nothing genetic and nothing that cannot be influenced by choices made.
Edited by nilton on Mai 26 2016 13:59
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Excellent post! Funny thing is... You're right, Nilton, and Wade, and the responses have become almost laughable in a way (Not trying to be disrespectful). It's like one saying, "the sky is blue", and the other saying, "well yes, but no, it's light blue", and one saying "well yes, but I must disagree because sometimes it's more of a grey", and so on... Music is subject to interpretation by the composer, creator, copy & paste r, player... the ear. I'm almost 50-years-old. I started out playing piano (mom was accomplished musician), and guitar (lessons at a local school). I can read and write, and I understand the benefits of being able to do so. That being said, I also know incredibly talented musicians that couldn't name a note to save their lives; and yet they are able to play complex structures by ear, and know when and where to emphasize. This is a debate that I've seen over and over, and (in my opinion), the only real answer to this never ending question is: It only matters to those it matters. If what you do as a musician doesn't require you to read and write, then it won't matter, and the opposite can be said in reverse. Sometimes the sky is simply blue.
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