Skip to content

Forum

Ears vs Eyes Part I...
 
Notifications
Clear all

Ears vs Eyes Part II

Page 1 / 2

 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4478
Topic starter  

Ok so we had a good discussion on the ear vs eyes (sight reading) so now I'll throw out a more realistic question.

Which do you think is "easier" to learn. I use easier with a grain of salt because neither is really easy but..

Personally at least for me it would seem that learning to sight read would be easier but it's more of a guess than anything else.

I know some people are born with "better" ears and some are born with perfect pitch I'm not sure I have ever heard of a person that was born with the ability to sight read.

Thoughts?

Again for this question assume everyone's hearing is good and their eyesight so no need to discuss blind musicians etc.

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


Quote
(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

I think it's at least partly a function of your age.

When I work with young students (5-8 years of age) they take to reading like ducks to water. I'm guessing it's because they're really learning to read English at the same time, so translating other symbols into sound is no big deal.

On the other hand, adults seem to have a tougher time reading, but tend to have better ears. I'm guessing this is because they've been exposed to vast amounts of music compared to the youngsters. Given two students with similar playing experience but different ages, few students under the age of about 13 put together really good improvised lines; older students don't seem to struggle as much with it (although they may struggle with the techniques to express themselves, I can generally pick out what they're going for)

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


ReplyQuote
(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 8306
 

i find watching someone's hands while they're playing and i'm listening to be easier than either, although my ears by themselves are catching up slowly. my reading is slow.


ReplyQuote
(@fleaaaaaa)
Honorable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 680
 

Well I've always been able to pick out tunes by ear - not as fluently as I can now but I had that gift. However I always struggled with reading music. I guess it depends on the person.

together we stand, divided we fall..........


ReplyQuote
(@s1120)
Prominent Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 849
 

Well I've always been able to pick out tunes by ear - not as fluently as I can now but I had that gift. However I always struggled with reading music. I guess it depends on the person.

I realy think thats it. every person learns in there own way. Not just music.. anything. Some people can take to reading instructions, and some do better if you show them. I realy think its how each person is wired, and how they see the world around them.

Paul B


ReplyQuote
(@notes_norton)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1497
 

For me it depends on the song. I can do either, and I prefer to do a combination of both.

Easy songs with standard changes and scales are usually approached by ear ... but for more complex songs I like to know the correct changes and voicings - even if I don't use them, I want to know where my substitutions are coming from.

Ears and eyes are different tools for learning music, and like a hammer and a crescent wrench, they each work better with different materials.

So I don't think of it as ears vs eyes but instead ears and eyes.

YMMV

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 >^. .^< >^. .^<


ReplyQuote
(@alangreen)
Member Moderator
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5366
 

I started learning to sight read in recorder lessons when I was six, so I've got a bit of a leaning towards the little black dots and they always seemed a bit of a no-brainer. Recognising notes on the 5th and 6th strings wasn't so easy because they're all mixed up in ledger lines below the stave, but you practise and you get good at it. A friend of mine (a concert violinist) has developed a system called "Stave House" and had great results teaching children under three to read music.

I've had students at Music School whose sightreading "ain't so hot". We've messed around with lead sheets for any number of classic songs and come up with passable versions of everything from Metallica's "One" to QOTSA's "No-one knows" and it's all been done by ear. The high point - The Flintstones Theme, from the cartoon series, on a Ukelele in a 30-minute lesson. Yep, you heard me right.

Because I could already read music before I picked up an axe, playing by ear came slowly to me; why go to all that bother when I can look at the sheet music? But again, you work at it and it gets easier - these days I can sit there with a guitar, turn the radio on and have the very basic harmonic structure by the end of the song. That's not all ear-training, some of it's knowing that having got that first chord the rest will follow some sort of predefined set of rules (and that's for another conversation).

"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
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


ReplyQuote
(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 3460
 

Somewhat to my surprise, I found that learning how to read music was really quite simple. The position of the note tells you what the sound is - A, B, C# or whatever - and the shape of the note gives you the relative time (quarter note, half note etc). It should only take a few minutes to grasp the basics of how the system works. There are a few more symbols and marks to learn, but it's really not that hard to understand. I sometimes wonder why it took me so long to tackle it.... :?

The hard part, which can keep you working at improving for the rest of your life, is to learn how to decode it all accurately at speed, and then move your fingers to the correct places at the same time. There's no end point to it - you just get faster and faster with more and more complex scores. There's really no end point to ear skills either. So, as it's not some kind of winnable race, and both skill are so useful, you might as well do some work on developing both.

I'm still very slow at 'sight reading' - which implies being able to play an unfamiliar piece straight off a score at, or at least somewhere near, performance speed. I can currently only do it for extremely simple melody lines. But, as I don't aim to be a jobbing musician who might need faster 'sight reading' skills, I don't necessarily need to be able to read at speed - I just need to be able to understand what the sheet music is telling me to do. I can then use a combination of sight, ear and memory to learn it.

And thanks to modern software, if I'm struggling with a piece (and I've just started piano lessons where the need to read two sets of lines and get two hands going means I struggle a LOT!) I could type it into a notation program like Finale and both watch it being played (at whatever speed I can handle) and hear it as well. It may not sound perfect but, with modern sound libraries, it can be pretty good.

Reading music has definitely been a quicker and easier way for me to find out exactly what to play. Absolutely no contest there. I'm still way off being a good 'sight reader' at useful speeds, but that doesn't stop the general ability to read being extremely useful. And, regardless of whether I'm trying to rely on ear or sight, the biggest part of challenge has always been to get my hands working in unison with what I hear or see.


ReplyQuote
(@notes_norton)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1497
 

When I was Kindergarten, I had a difficult time learning to read and write English, but I learned. Reading music is the same way. If you get frustrated, remember when you had to "sound out" words like "cat" or "dog" and later much more difficult ones (like difficult?).

Reading music is actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Why not devote 15 minutes a day to it?

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 >^. .^< >^. .^<


ReplyQuote
 Crow
(@crow)
Honorable Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 554
 

I think NoteBoat's on target: It's age-related. Glad I learned to read in grade school....

I was so rabid to play when I was a kid, none of it seemed hard -- until high school & my first exposure to music theory. Once I cracked that code, everything fell into place easily. (I'm not bragging, because I'm not sure my aptitude was an advantage. It's possible for things to be TOO easy.) I learned to play guitar by ear by playing along with whatever was on the radio. It wasn't hard, it was fun.

These days I learn songs any way that works, depending on the song. Church band's doing a John Denver Nite fundraiser, and I can cop those chords by ear with no problem, but if I'm trying to figure out his fingerstyle stuff I go to YouTube & try to watch his hands. Todd Rundgren's chords can throw me on guitar, but I can often find them on the keyboard (not always!). Sheet music is always useful. I rarely resort to tablature. But, whatever works. (Stuff came too easily when I was young, & now I'm too old to work too hard. )

"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


ReplyQuote
(@notes_norton)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1497
 

I think also when we are young, we have more time to devote to our music fundamentals. As we get older we have more responsibilities on our time and our brain.

However, most of us watch a lot of television. If you skip one TV show per night, and devote it to learning how to read music, by the end of the year you'll be an ace at it.

Better yet, just turn the TV off. I turned it off in 1985, disconnected the cable, did not re-install the antenna, and never got a digital converter. And my life is better for it.

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 >^. .^< >^. .^<


ReplyQuote
(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Interesting... I'm another non-TV person. For years I didn't even own one - if there was something I really wanted to see, I'd go out to a bar to see it. Do that for a few years and watching the tube becomes a decision rather than a habit, and you'll have LOTS more time to make music or whatever else you set your mind to doing.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


ReplyQuote
 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4478
Topic starter  

OK I shouldn't hijack my own thread but as far as TV goes I watch very little myself but could never see giving it up. The only real "show" I watch is Big Bang Theory" anything else is either the Discovery Channel, Animal Plant or Smithsonian and some PTV, they all offer what I would call educational TV and they are worth watching you can actually learn something.

The other one is Palladia which is a music channel lately I have been watching the Live at Daryl's House series. Various musicians go up to Daryl's house in upstate NY and they do some of his songs and some of the artists. It's usually really good.

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


ReplyQuote
(@notes_norton)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1497
 

It's your thread, so you can hijack it if you like.

I've never been much of a TV person, although I realize that I do miss some educational shows.

Full disclosure: I rent a movie every once in a while and watch it on the cable-less, antenna-less TV. I'm not fond of movie theaters anymore, it seems like too many noisy people are there to party and not watch the movie, and more importantly than that, often the soundtrack is at ear-damaging levels. I monitor the sound levels on stage with a sound level meter and choose the appropriate ear filters so that no more than 85dba hits my ear drums (food for another thread?).

There are some great music educational and entertainment things you can rent. I watched Jeff Beck Live At Ronnie Scott's and was blown away by his mastery of guitar technique. I'm using it as a learning tool and actually bought that one.

Instead of watching TV, I learned to write aftermarket styles for Band-in-a-Box, learned how to write websites, learned how to run the aftermarket business, learned how to play wind synthesizer, learned how to make backing tracks for my own duo, and I've learned to be a decent guitar player (it's my 7th instrument and I'm still climbing the learning curve). The rewards of that are much greater than the rewards for watching TV.

But that's just me and my personality. YMMV

But it seems to me that if a person is serious about playing an instrument, he/she could sit a half hour per day, take it slow, one step at a time, and in a reasonable amount of time will be able to read music.

Now I do know that reading on the guitar is more difficult than reading on the sax or even the piano/synth keyboard. On the sax there are tactile cues and on the keyboard the visual cues are better. But the ability to read music opens up a lot of songs that you couldn't play before, and a lot of understanding on how music works. IMHO it can only make you a better musician.

On the other hand, scales and transposition are more difficult on the sax and keyboard. For example, on the sax and keyboard, the same scale, arpeggio, or chord in each key has an entirely different fingering. So you can't just move up a fret. IMHO, That negates the reading advantage.

I've found the 3 least likely people to be able to read music in the bands I've been in are vocalists, drummers, and guitarists. Perhaps because it's easier to play without reading music, perhaps because many of these musicians don't go through the school music program, or perhaps something else. I don't really know.

But I prefer to work with musicians who can read music and also have a good set of ears.

There, we're back on topic.

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 >^. .^< >^. .^<


ReplyQuote
 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4478
Topic starter  

Notes I was only kidding about hijacking the post and I do beleive in the value of reading and having good ears but just wanted to get a feeling about what other people thought.

In my small musical world good ears would take me alot farther than the ability to read music (which I once could do at a rudimentary level)but I am totally comfortable at where I am with this.

I took up an instrument so late in life that at best it's just a hobby, but I am a competitive person by nature so I at least want to be able to play the songs I learn whether I learn them by ear, sheet music or tab to sound as good as they can. The farthest I will ever get with this is to be in a cover band (which I am) and playing some shows.

If I play my parts correctly and the band sounds good no one is going to care how I learned the songs at that point I am there to provide entertainment.

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


ReplyQuote
Page 1 / 2