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(@notes_norton)
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Notes nice post so tell me is Itzhak Perlman a "true" musician?<...>

Most definitely. I didn't list the ability to improvise as one of the requirements, and I also stated "as far as I'm concerned" making these requirements my opinion, which is just that.

I consider myself an excellent saxophonist (and so did the Florida Bandmaster's Association by awarding me first sax in the state every year I was eligible to compete), but only a mediocre guitarist. I've only been playing guitar for a couple of years, and my reading isn't good yet (improving), and I am still exploring what my instrument can and cannot do. There is a lot to learn on the guitar, and although I amaze my friends on how much I do know (it is my 7th instrument so I didn't start from scratch) I don't even know how much I do not know yet.

But that's the good part about it. Every day I pick up the guitar I get better (well except for those "off" days that we all have). I can hear my progress, I can feel greater control over the instrument, my speed is improving, my accuracy is improving, and I'm learning new things all the time. It's exciting!

I wish I picked up the guitar when I was a youth (but then I'd probably be learning saxophone now).

Yes, Mr. Perlman has a great deal of all 6 of my personal requirements.

I used the improvisation illustration to show that we all have something we can improve, even if you are considered one of the world's best at your instrument. The learning never stops!

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Crow/Notes,

I'm just soaking all this in I am not contradicting or real feel any differently about it than what you wrote I was just curious as to your line of thinking.

Maybe part of my response is that if we ask ten people what constitutes a "real" musician we'd get ten slightly different answers.

To me it's really all about what comes out of the instrument everything else is just fluff and I mean that in a loose way.

If you had told me Itzhak couldn't read music but could play the exact same why as he plays now would you say he's not a real musician I think everyone would say he was a musician. What if he couldn't transpose on the fly? Or didn't have a great ear? Maybe this is uncommon but it potentially could happen and it those cases none of that stuff would even matter if what came out of the instrument was pure magic.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


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(@noteboat)
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If Itzhak played just like he does, but couldn't read music, no one would have heard of him.

There are always exceptional players lacking in some skill or another. In fact, I think you find that in any field - great baseball hitters with mediocre gloves or throwing arms, brilliant doctors with no bedside manner, whatever.

But in certain fields there's a credential issue, entirely separate from ability. Symphonic music is one of those - a symphony will know you already read - because if you have no formal study (typically a college performance degree - Perlman's is from Julliard), you don't get an audition.

But they'll test your sight reading skills at the audition anyway. And you'd better have decent reading chops, no matter how "good" you are.

It's a matter of economics. Symphonic musicians make a good buck - with an organization like the CSO, there are tiers of wages depending on whether or not you have a solo, and if so, how many measures it is. But let's say Itzhak was just a run-of-the mill player... a simple sectional rehearsal for just the violins in the CSO costs thousands of dollars in performer's wages. Poor readers mean longer rehearsals, and that's a waste of money.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@notes_norton)
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Joined: 14 years ago
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In addition, there are exceptions to every "rule", including my own. But those exceptions are not normal people, are few and far between, and IMO would be even better if they had mastered all the skills.

Guitarists and drummers are notorious for not reading music and as a sax player, I've been in bands with a lot of guitarists and drummers. By far the best of these were the ones that knew how to read and knew music theory.

We would work up new songs faster, communicate better, and the level of musicianship was higher. The result of all that was the bands with these players were the best bands I've played in.

But I don't mean to insult anyone who cannot read music, just encourage them to start learning. It's a pretty steep learning curve, and I admit, it's more difficult to read music on the guitar than it is the sax or piano, but once you put the time in, you will find it as easy or easier than reading a good novel.

Get a Mel Bay or Alfred book and spend 15 minutes to a half hour per day on it. Just skip one mindless TV show, your least favorite one, and put the time in for yourself. You'll be surprised how much better you will play, how much more you will understand, how much more confidence you will have in yourself and how comfortable and competent you will be in the company of other musicians when learning new songs.

Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


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 Crow
(@crow)
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...in certain fields there's a credential issue, entirely separate from ability. Symphonic music is one of those - a symphony will know you already read - because if you have no formal study (typically a college performance degree - Perlman's is from Julliard), you don't get an audition.

You can't get through Julliard without reading ability. Itzy was never a section violinist, however. And Andrea Bocelli never had to audition for a chorus gig at the Met. Huge difference between a successful solo career & an entry-level ensemble position.

And, Noteboat -- a huge difference between talent and training, no?

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


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 Crow
(@crow)
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...I don't mean to insult anyone who cannot read music...

I guess this is my main concern -- that skilled players avoid discouraging less-skilled players by making any given musical skill a "requirement."

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


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(@noteboat)
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Absolutely, Crow. "Talent" is potential - and "training" is developing that potential.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Well it's interesting reading either way. Noteboat your example of Itzhak makes sense in an orchestral situation where reading is a requirement but that is a fairly small subset of musicians in the world that do that or even aspire to do that and although I haven't listened to alot of Itzhak's music my guess would be that even if he couldn't read music someone, somewhere along the way would have heard him play and offered him a job if he's that good of a player.

And Noteboat your analogy about great hitters with not so great gloves is right on but I'm sure there are a bunch of them in the Hall of Fame, but yet neither the doctor with bad bedside manner of the guy that didn't have a great glove would be called less of a baseball player or doctor because of it yet someone in the music world puts a stamp on what "credentials" are needed to be called a true musician.

Maybe these rules need to be qualified, like to play in a symphony you need to be able to read music ...to play in your local cover band...no.

Standard notation is just a written representation of the music you are playing and when you are sight reading your eyes are gathering the information for the brain processing it and sending signals to your hands etc to execute the moves necessary. If you already knew the song you could cut out the reading part and send those exact same signals to your hands from your memory not from a piece of paper. There should be no difference in how the music sounds.

But I realize that in an orchestra situation that's probably not even possible and I would imagine that maybe in something like a Wedding band where you need to have hundreds of songs at your disposal trying to remember them all would be tough.

But let's look at reality here. I would bet more than 98% of anyone picking up an instrument are never going to be playing in a symphony or sitting in as a session musician or anywhere else where reading is a requirement to get in the door. I think most would be playing in local bands of some kind or another or for their own enjoymant and I have never seen anyone reading standard notation while playing in those situations. As a matter of fact if I saw a rock band that was reading the music as they played I think I'd walk out.

I would put sight reading as a nice to have but not must have skill. If I had stayed with music when I was younger I would be reading standard notation now and probably never would have written this, back in Jr high I played trumpet for a few years and it was all standard notation and I was the #1 trumpet player in our band...I only think there were like 4-5 of us, but I could read music. Having gone almost thirty years without doing obviously I would have to start over and being such an old man now I just can't really find the time to do that I'd rather spend all of it with a guitar in my hands I think the time is better spent that way.

But it's kind of funny that musicians put these real or perceived rules on what it takes to make the "club" and be considered as a musician. I never hear anyone say man he's not a baseball player he doesn't understnd the theory behind throwing a split finger fastball or he's no golfer he doesn't know anything about swing mechanics.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


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(@noteboat)
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It's not a matter of being in a club, or considering non-readers less musical than readers. For me, it's simple economics.

Jon Finn (who teaches guitar at Berklee) said he didn't used to read. But he got tired of getting calls from contractors saying "Hey Jon - got a great gig for you that pays $1500 this Saturday. You read music, right? Oh you don't? Well... there's another gig this weekend that pays $75 - you want that one?"

There are roughly 12 million guitar players in the US. At least 90% don't read standard notation. So it's obviously no barrier. But there are only about 30,000 guitar players in the US who make a full time living with their guitars. And at least 90% of them read.

Not every job calls for reading. But if a job does, the pool of talent is much smaller. So if you aspire to doing more with music than playing for recreation, it pays to do the math:

27,000 full time reading guitarists out of 1.2 million readers = 1 in about 445 making a living

3,000 full time non-reading guitarists out of 10.8 million = 1 in 3600

What I conclude from that is that if you can read, you are about 8 times more likely to be working.

And when you are working, unless it's with a standards band, doing jingle work, musical theater shows, or a few other types of work, 95% of what you play won't require any reading at all. But if you don't read, and they throw that reading piece in front of you... well, that's your last gig with them. You've wasted their time (and money), and they'll never give you another chance. I've seen that happen. I've even heard a pianist talk trash about a local guitar player who couldn't handle a chart on a gig - a gig that happened 40 years ago. If you make the band leader look bad, it can follow you forever.

So in a way, sight reading for me is like buying insurance - it's there if I need it. I invest time keeping up my reading chops not because I'm in love with reading, but because playing guitar pays my mortgage.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@notes_norton)
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Climbing on my soap box again.....

The best rock band I ever played in was comprised of musicians who all read music, even the drummer (he was a percussion major and played vibes, marimba and even piano - a percussion instrument).

We didn't read music on stage though, we memorized everything. We didn't learn everything by reading music, some things were learned by ear. Other things were learned with music because it is much, much quicker if the music is available. While it might take a day or more to figure out a song by ear, especially important background parts and the correct chords, it can be done in 5 minutes reading the music.

We also wrote and then memorized arrangements of songs to be played on stage. The parts were all laid out for us. They keyboard player played trumpet (with one hand on the keys), the drummer also played valve trombone (with one hand and two feet on the drums), and the lead singer also played trumpet. Playing our adaption of "Beginnings" by Chicago was thrilling to do on stage. It would have taken us days longer to work that out if we didn't have our parts written out on paper, and then memorized.

Plus I strongly feel that if you know how to read music, and you know at least basic music theory (of which reading is part of) you understand music much better and therefore become a more valuable member of the band and a better musician.

I played in another band in the 70s with a guitarist who got a lot of studio gigs because of 2 things (1) he could read music and (2) he had a strobe tuner so he could play in tune (this was before digital tuners were available to us mortals).

You can go through life not knowing how to read or write English, but if you learn to read and write English and learn the rules of grammar (theory) you will be a much better speaker for it.

In the same way, if you learn to read and write music and learn music theory (in a way the grammar of music), you will be a better musician for it.

Personally, I feel that as a musician, I want to be the best musician that my personal talents will let me become. Although I know I will never be the best musician the world has ever known, I want to be better than as many other musicians as I can. That way I'll get the better gigs.

And yes, I know the never ending quest to be better is not easy. And I'm glad it's not easy. If it was instant gratification, everyone could do it, and if everyone could do it, people wouldn't pay me to have so much fun!!!

If anyone else doesn't want to be as good as he/she can be, that's OK with me. I know we all have different priorities and there is more than one way to live one's life. But for me, I'd rather learn something and become a better competitor in the musical marketplace than watch TV.

In fact, I haven't watched TV since the mid 1980s (other than rented movies). I don't have cable, I don't have an antenna, and I don't have a digital converter. Instead of watching TV I learned to write styles for Band-in-a-Box, learned how to be a businessman, learned HTML and wrote my own web pages, taught myself to play wind synthesizer, learned to play guitar, read a number of books, had quality time with my wife, learned over 500 songs for my duo, and a number of other things.

I would rather live my life by doing things than live my life vicariously by watching actors pretend to do things.

If you gave up one mindless TV show, in a year you could be very fluent at reading music, know basic music theory, be a better musician, make better music, and please your ears better too because you will be able to play a lot of things you cannot play today.

If not, that's OK. But at least think about it.

I'm getting off the soap box now....

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


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 Ande
(@ande)
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Wow- A lot of really interesting stuff on this thread. I really enjoyed Noteboat's stuff on when tab is NOT useful.

I think one thing to remember is that it's great to be able to read. (Tab, standard notation, everything.) But it's essential to be able to listen. When the written page tells you one thing, and your ear tells you another...you've got decisions to make. I know some tremendous players who don't read. I agree, they oughta learn, but they are great already.

I don't know any great players who don't listen well, and HEAR music well. Somehow, I doubt there are any.

It's a funny thing, though- I'm probably one of the worst players on this board. (Nothing modest in this- Been playing seriously about 3 years, but my "real" job, which I also love, means that practice is irregular and hard to maintain. It's taken me three years to get to being not all that annoying at parties.) I'm pretty decent at reading, though. Can read most things no problem, whether or not I can play them.

Blame 10 years of piano lessons as a kid, and a LOT of vocal training and musical theatre work. Musical theatre is a another place you have this conversation about reading vs not reading music. I know some killer singers who don't read. But I can learn a 2 hour show's worth of vocals in an afternoon, because I do read music. This helped me get work when I was working in theater. If you're gonna pay for rehearsal time, you want to make the most of it.

Personally, I appreciate the fact that some great players can't read- makes them more willing to jam with me! (Cause I'll read the score, show them how it goes, and then they blow me away and leave me in the dust.)

Best,
Ande


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 Nuno
(@nuno)
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First, thank you very much for starting and writing on this topic. I think this kind of threads makes GN different.

What would you recommend for learning? Just read music in standard notation or specific instruction books for sight reading?


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(@noteboat)
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There are lots of them. I learned from the Mel Bay Modern Guitar series, and I still use that with most of my students. Faster paced are William Leavitt's books - the Berklee series; I use those with students who already know the basics of standard notation.

Perhaps the best book I've seen is Leon White's "Sight to Sound". The only problem with it is not enough material - for each chapter, you'll probably need to supplement with lots of other music... but in a single volume it takes you through position reading, key signatures, syncopation, counting divisions (including syncopated division of subdivided triplets!), chord reading, and some stuff you'll rarely run into, like reading concert pitch - where you've got to handle bass clef. I can count on one hand (with fingers to spare) the number of times I've had to read a guitar part in concert pitch, but it's there if you ever need it - and the only other book I've seen that covers this is Tommy Tedesco's "For Guitar Players Only" (another excellent book that has some reading exercises that are HARD!!!)

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@notes_norton)
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<...> Musical theatre is a another place you have this conversation about reading vs not reading music. I know some killer singers who don't read. But I can learn a 2 hour show's worth of vocals in an afternoon, because I do read music. This helped me get work when I was working in theater. If you're gonna pay for rehearsal time, you want to make the most of it. <...>

IMHO every professional vocalist should know at least basic music theory (that includes being able to understand musical notation). Not only do rehearsals go faster, but the communications between the vocal musician and the instrumental musician are much more understandable.

I've been in bands where the vocalist did not know the language of music and the mis-communications are common, time wasting, and can flare tempers. When I audition a vocalist, I quiz them on music theory. If two vocalists with skills that fit the bill audition for the job and one knows theory, the theory person will get the gig.
<...>What would you recommend for learning? Just read music in standard notation or specific instruction books for sight reading?

I use Mel Bay. I don't know if there are better ones out there or not. Mel has been around for years, and still sells, so I figured it must be OK.

A friend of mine told me Alfred's are good too.

Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


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 Ande
(@ande)
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I'd add that as a recommendation for anyone learning to sight-read, as well. Sight singing is awesome practice for learning standard notation.

So SING as well as play.

Best,
Ande


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