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Alan Green
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Alan,

Obviously your one of the people that can read music hence your position.

Yep - I got handed a recorder at school when I was six and my headmistress told us where to put our fingers and what it looked like on the staff (we didn't dare forget - she scared the h-e-l-l out of us), so I guess I got a dirty great head start over most people and when I first picked up a guitar all I had to do was learn where the notes were on the neck. It took the best part of a weekend.

Personally, I think Tab's great - you can expand your repertoire very quickly without having the faintest idea what's going on - just put your fingers here and pluck. My favourite argument in favour of reading music is that nobody ever got fired from a band for being able to read music (which is probably a short version of where Noteboat's coming from with his bandleaders handing him standard notation)

Any number of people just aren't suited to learning guitar by learning to read from standard notation, just like any number of jazz musicians in the early 20th century learned trumpet, Bb clarinet or sax the same way. For that reason, I'm with David in that it didn't work for them. Good luck to them - I can't (or at least, don't) learn that way.

Let's not forget, though, that it ain't called standard notation for nothing - it's the same whether you're playing a concert grand, flute, triangle, percussion (that's gotta be hard) or double-neck SG custom.

Best,

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
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Kyle
 Kyle
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couple of comments and questions here

1: I remember yingwie saying something remotely intelligent about voice leading and counterpoint in a guitar magazine where he teaches you his fingerings for Paganinis 5th caprice. I assumed he was a very good reader from the fact that he is overly obsessed with classical music and from that comment, but if it is true he cannot read at all, then that has to be one of the most ironic things I've ever heard. A guitarist who loves classical music and can tell u more about paganini than a music historian that can't read music. I agree with noteboat that if he truly cannot read and likes to play classical music, then he is operating under a huuuuuge handicap as I have yet to see a classical piece written for shredders in TAB by the composer.

2: The berklee series of books by william leavitt(sp?) are great for learning to read. I really like them.

3: Oh lord, I hate it too when someone starts purposely dowsing me in the theory of a song in jazz band just becuase I'm a guitar player and they think I don't get it. Just because I'm not a good reader on the guitar yet doesn't mean I don't know what's going on. In fact I probably have more theory knowledge than most of them. For example, the teacher decides that he will be funny and ask me in a really mocking tone "Do you know what a II-V-I cadence is in the key of G minor Kyle?" and all the kids start snickering. I gave the right answer and they all shut up, but I felt so embarassed it sucked. It's just really hard to be a good reader on guitar for that exact reason noteboat pointed out. How many ways does a saxophonist have to play the same tone in the same octave? 3 at the most, if I'm not mistaken, and that's only for a few notes, guitar there is atleast 3 for any note except a few on the high e string above the 12th fret. Too bad other musicians don't recognize that.

3:Finally, I'm starting to wonder what all this debate is about. It really just comes down to whether you are willing to put the work in or not, becuase whether you like it or not, knowing how to read WILL help you tremendously. Anyone questioning to value of knowing how to read should be a VERY good reader or im really not going to take them seriously becuase they just come off as lazy. Read or don't read, doesnt matter to me. But you absoelutely cannot start to judge reading when you don't even know how. Every one that can read that I know of praises it and uses it, even my shredder teachers from camp. Is that not a pretty good indicator as to the effects it has. Reading is good, don't try to deny it. Uneccesary? Only when you don't know how.

The meaning of life? I've never heard a simpler question! Music.


   
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Ignar Hillström
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Every one that can read that I know of praises it and uses it, even my shredder teachers from camp. Is that not a pretty good indicator as to the effects it has.

No. Every dude who pierced hsi you-know-what says it's te best thing to do, but that alone just won't convince me.
I'm starting to wonder what all this debate is about. It really just comes down to whether you are willing to put the work in or not, becuase whether you like it or not, knowing how to read WILL help you tremendously.

Some people have things to do beside practicing and have an added question of whether or not you should, for example, learn how to do a proper bend or learn how to read a bend. Espescially if my aim is to be the st Jimi Hedrix clone since the curent best Jimi Hendrix Clone. That's a perfectly acceptible goal, as any goal is.

Can't we atlest agree on 'x% of people should best learn how to read' with xxx ranging 1 to 99?


   
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Musenfreund
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Frankly, I think this discussion has probably rehearsed all the possible arguments. And I don't think normative statements are possible here -- no one can say what percentage of people should or should not. The fundamental question is whether it's useful. From what I can tell, the professional musicians who visit the board and talk about playing sessions with other musicians find it a useful skill. That also echoes the opinion of my teacher. For the other more avocational musicians, it is less certain whether each individual considers it worth the time. As I said, I think it's a tool I should have in my tool kit and I need to put more time into it. And in this I think the professional musicians on the board bring much more experience and insight to this question than I can, so I intend to take their advice. In this instance, their opinion is worth more than mine.

Well we all shine on--like the moon and the stars and the sun.
-- John Lennon


   
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Anonymous
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Poll results are really interesting so far,
http://forums.guitarnoise.com/viewtopic.php?t=17350


   
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kingpatzer
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QUESTION.....I want to read standard notation, where's a good place to start?

Any method book will do fine.

If you already know how to read, then pick up the Berklee Method For Guitar: 1-2-3 Complete if you don't read a note yet pick up the Mel Bay's Complete Method For Modern Guitar.
so let's say I'm determined to learn how to read musical notation, how long is it going to take me to become reasonably fluent? And how much time should I devote per day?

Vic, it really won't take that long at all.

Say you have no knowledge at all, so you pick up the Mel Bay book, it's 300 pages.

To start out with you can do 1st position on one string in the key of C at a rate of 1 string per week. So in 6 weeks you'll have covered about 60 pages of the book. You can do this by spending about 5 minutes of your practice time a day just doing the excercises for that string. It's NOT a lot of time. Some of the bits may take a bit more, maybe some days you'll need to spend upwards of 15 minutes of your practice time on it, but without significantly lengthinging your practice, you'll know quite a bit in just a month and a half.

From there, things will slow down, as you're going to be learning key signatures, new positions, etc. Maybe you'll be doing 4 pages a week on average. Go slow, master the material. THat means you'd finish the book in 90 more weeks -- figuring vacations and such 2 years.

Now that sounds like a VERY long time, but it really isn't. What we're really talking about is spending 5-15 minutes per day working on 4 pages of material per week. And if you do that, before you know it, you'll be very proficient.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


   
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cnev
 cnev
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I don't want to be the poster boy for not learning to read music but none of the reasons that have been given by people who can read apply to me nor have they changed my mind about my decision.

My original post were my reasons why I decided not to learn, this doesn't apply to everyone's situation, just me.

I wll never be in any of the situations that have been listed as requiring the skill so why do I NEED to have it. And I still haven't seen one person that can read answer my guestion of how being able to read music will actually help you physically play music. Please acknowledge that these skills are inndependant of each other.

King, you are saying that in the jazz peice you are playing that you played it better when reading the music...but by your own admission you didn't remember the turnarounds....so you didn't really memorize the peice and you can't make a valid comparison.

I can't see how it could be humanly pssible for this to happen. When reading music your eyes have to pick up the image of the notes on the paper, send them to the brain where it transforms that info and sends to the fingers. If you had the peice memorized the brain would just send the info to the fingers, eliminating the whole first step, thus making it a faster process.

Everyone has different goals to get out of their playing and for me it's just being able to play songs that I know and jam with my buddies, we have no illusions or desires to be professional musicians.

I still really feel subconciously that this has to do somewhat with the analogy's Arjen posted earlier. All the people who can read want to build it up to be this be all and end all for everyone that touches a guitar and can't seem to acknowledge the fact that for probably the majority of people that will ever touch the guitar, it isn't that necessary. You all keep bringing up the fact that if you don't do it your lazy, (read inferior) or something, and I thinkit's because you have done it so anyone else that doesn't is doggy doo. The words may not come out that way, but the implication does.

I still beleive reading is a very good skill to have and for anyone starting early in life or with aspirations of making music a career there's no question that it is necessary.

For some 90% of the people that play guitar, are aspirations will never bring us into situations that require it, to spend time on a skill I probably wouldn't use seems pretty wasteful to me.

And lastly Reading music does not equal playing well.

"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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When reading music your eyes have to pick up the image of the notes on the paper, send them to the brain where it transforms that info and sends to the fingers. If you had the peice memorized the brain would just send the info to the fingers, eliminating the whole first step, thus making it a faster process.

It's just like reading English. You've got a vocabulary - words you've memorized. Ever find yourself searching for a word? You know the word... it's on the tip of your tongue... but for a moment it won't come out. See the same word in print, and there's no pause to recall it... the weakest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.

And just like reading English, in the beginning you have to go through the whole deciphering process with your brain. You recognize the first letter, then the second, then the third... when you've finished all the letters in a word, you put them together and 'sound it out', and at that point you finally know what the word is: "C-A-T... Cat!". The same is true of reading music in the beginning: "that's the second line... second line is D... D is the third fret of the second string... which is here!"

Eventually, you see cat and play it. You see octagon, and you're not aware if it has seven letters or eight - if you're asked, you can figure it out, but you're unaware of the background processing going on - you just see it, and say it. In music, you see it, you play it. If you put 16th notes in front of me, I play 'em. If you ask me how many F# notes there are, I can figure it out, but I'm not even thinking about it while I play.

In fact, reading music is a lot like any other kind of reading. Most of it is simply unconscious pattern recognition brought about by repetition. I can read the daily newspaper, or the average tonal music, with ease. Put a medical dictionary in front of me, or an atonal piece in an odd meter, and I can still 'sound it out', but it takes longer.

And I'll give yet one more reason to learn to read: many folks say reading isn't nearly as important as training your ear, that guitarists should focus on that, because it's more important. The fastest way to train your ear is to hear and play lots of different sounds. In my daily practicing, I'll play between 30 and 50 different pieces and exercises, about 7 of which I'll have played for the very first time. If I was trying to do that from tab, it would take me several times longer... so if you can read, you can play more music in the same amount of time - which is more efficient for ear training. You'll end up playing more fingering sequences than if you're playing the same memorized piece several times, so you'll develop fingering independence and control quicker too.

I think it was Vincent Bredice, a noted jazz guitar teacher in the 1960s, who said: "the fastest way to learn to improvise is to read a lot of music"

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Ignar Hillström
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It's just like reading English. You've got a vocabulary - words you've memorized. Ever find yourself searching for a word? You know the word... it's on the tip of your tongue... but for a moment it won't come out. See the same word in print, and there's no pause to recall it... the weakest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.

Let me tell you something about me, for what it's worth. When I got to college, I bring nothing but myself. I don't make notes. I don't got most of the books. I listen to what the prof. says and memorize it. When I have to do a presentation, whether it is five minutes or two hours I don't make notes, powerpoint or a cheat-sheet. When I prepare for exams I just think about what I've heared and what everything means.

Have me read a book and my brain becomes a big mess. Put a summary in front of me when I am giving a presentation and I'll mess it up. I use standard notation for piano pieces I am not familiar with. But when I have heared it a few times I don't want the sheet to be there. When I go to some friends to play some music we agree on a 'setlist' before hand. I'm usually the only one who never brings chord sheets.

The practical value of any kind of notation is limited to allowing me to quicker figure out a song I want to play. All guitarsongs I play are either quiet well known or written myself. As such, I rarely use standard notation (or tab, for that matter).

But yeah. as Musenfreund said, things are becoming repetitive. Reading can be a usefull skill, and will never harm. If it is worth the time is something everyone should decide for him/herself. I will continue to practice it myself with guitar since I estimate the odds I'll end up in the jazz-corner pretty large, but I can see why people like Cnev find little need to do the same. Different people have different goals and need different tools.


   
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kingpatzer
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King, you are saying that in the jazz peice you are playing that you played it better when reading the music...but by your own admission you didn't remember the turnarounds....so you didn't really memorize the peice and you can't make a valid comparison.

I can't see how it could be humanly pssible for this to happen. When reading music your eyes have to pick up the image of the notes on the paper, send them to the brain where it transforms that info and sends to the fingers. If you had the peice memorized the brain would just send the info to the fingers, eliminating the whole first step, thus making it a faster process.

Understand, cnev, I do know the turnarounds. I had the chord progression memorized and I had the melody memorized. Everything I was playing was on the paper. What I was able to see with the score in front of me was that I could use a different chord from what's on the score (actually a different voicing that is technically the same chord but with a different name) and I'd lead to the melody in a much smoother fashion.

The score called for an Ebm, which is what I was playing. But by having the score in front of me, I could see that by playing a Cm voicing in a different position I'd carry the melody better (or maybe it was the other way around .. the song is in F, so it's probably the other way . .but I don't have the music in front of me so I don't know for sure ;) )

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


   
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cnev
 cnev
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OK I guess it's time to put this one to rest. But before I do....

Tom your example of forgetting a word and then seeing on paper and having instant recall is the same as King saying he didn't remember the turnaround( King I know you already replied about this I'm just using it as an example) Plus King in your example the reading part provided you with an oppurtunity to see the whole piece in front of you and gave you an idea of what might sound good as a substitute. I'm not talking about changing anything I'm talking about a std piece of music/song that you can play in your sleep from memory with out foregetting anything or without wanting to change the ending, just the piece they way it was written. I guestion your ability to play it from a piece of sheet music faster than without one.

Tom the fact that you forget it means that either you didn't really memorize (know)it or there was some brain malfunction(I have those daily). Tom I just noticed your first line "It's just like reading English". Well I don't know about you but I can speak faster than I can read.

In a situation like that of course reading music would seem faster, but you need to compare apples to apples. Whether you are reading words or music there is no way you can read from a book looking at the words faster than if everything was memorized. I just see that as a physically impossible event. If I had to look at your name tag and then say Hi Tom, are you telling me that I could do that faster than just saying Hi Tom without having to read your name? I don't believe it. We may be talking milliseconds here but I still can't see how it can be faster.

To the original poster Max Rumble, sorry I hijacked your post and took it down a different path, but I am not a believer in the one size fits all model.

And Kids, don't try this at home. Please be responsible and get your daily dose of std notation instruction daily.

Since none of the readers will ever admit that you can play faster without reading the music, how come no oner than some jazz groups and orchestras use sheet music when playing...I can't remember the last time I went to a rock concert and saw Zack Wylde or Kirk Hammett or any other musician (unless they are stand ins) using a piece of sheet music. And if there was a guy playing off sheet music at a rock concert, they'd probably hide him behind the amps. (It's OK to be able to read music, it just ain't cool to do it in public)

I just rechecked all the pro's for being able to read music and other than the one about not finding a song in tab, not a one of those reasons has any value to me and would never even be a requirement, hence I choose not to read. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

King and Tom I hope you haven't taken anything the wrong way. I enjoy a good debate once in awhile.

"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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dsparling
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For me, utlimately in comes down to this - can I play what I hear in my head? (as opposed to playing only what my fingers know how to do)...Reading has nothing to do with that, though to get to that point is difficult (I'm not there yet), and by not reading, you certainly limit yourself, if nothing else, at least in terms of learning material.

Many styles of music are more aural in nature - say traditional Irish, or involve a good deal of improvistation - jazz for instance, where reading music is useful, but ultimately won't prevent you from playing the style (though I'm sure most jazz players can read).

I'll never say learning to read music was a bad thing, but I do have to admit...I once sat in on a traditional Irish session, and a lot of the players could pick up and play tunes after one listen...granted, the melodies aren't that difficult, but I could never really do that. Most of the guys either didn't read music, or learned using the Suzuki method.

I'm not going to argue either way on this issue...it's whatever works best for you. What I try to pass on when I teach is, develop the ear first, then learn to read. It's way too easy to depend on written music. BTW - you asked king what the difference between playing from music and memory. Some players use visual memory to help remember a piece - I can't say I've developed this skill, but it's a technique classical players use to memorize a piece - by visually picturing the sheet music in their head. And another advantage would that it would be easier to analyze the music, which may help you play it better.

All my 2 cents...and yeah, I'm going to put it to rest, but it has been an interesting disccussion. :)

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Ignar Hillström
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I once sat in on a traditional Irish session, and a lot of the players could pick up and play tunes after one listen...granted, the melodies aren't that difficult, but I could never really do that. Most of the guys either didn't read music, or learned using the Suzuki method.

You'll learn that skill. I can pick up melodies as long as they ain't too fast and keep mostly within basic major/minor scales. I bet all my guitars all the dudes here who've played for a long time (Tom, King) can pick out stuff that seems impossible to me. As long as you keep on playing your mind will just keep on learning it, whether you want to or not. I guess.


   
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NoteBoat
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how come no oner than some jazz groups and orchestras use sheet music when playing

Because of Franz Liszt.

Seriously.

Prior to Liszt, it was usual for a soloist to have music on a stand. Even the acclaimed virtuosi like Paganini always performed from music.

When Liszt started performing concerts from memory, other performers were horrified. Memorizing a piece is a lot more work, and not having the safety net of sheet music introduces anxiety - ask anyone who's ever done a piano recital.

The consensus among piano teachers I've talked to is that their students play better with music than without, even if the piece truly is memorized 'cold'.

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kingpatzer
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There's also the point that most Jazz guys will, on any given night, pick from a repertoire of a thousand or so songs, of which maybe 200 or so get played regularly.

Most rock groups have a total repertoire of at most 150-200 songs, of which only 20 or so really get played regularly.

Why such a huge disparity? One of the big reasons is that the rock guys either can't read, or choose not too while on stage.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


   
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