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Thread: future of reading: is reading music really worth our time

  1. #1
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    future of reading: is reading music really worth our time

    NOTE: IF THIS DOESNT MAKE SENSE PLEASE ASK ME TO EXPLAIN AGAIN, I AM NOT VERY GOOD AT PUTTING MY THOUGHTS INTO WORDS BUT I'LL TRY BECUAUSE THIS IDEA HAS BEEN SITTING IN MY HEAD FOR A WHILE AND I WOULD LIKE SOME FEEDBACK IF YOU HAVE ANY... =]

    after downloading synthesia i was eager to get better at keyboarding and so i upgraded to the learning pack, i started working on reading music and i was doing some thinking, technology has changed alot of things, thats just the way things are in this world, and i was doing some thinking, (before i continue i would like to make it very clear that i am NOT a some STUPID teenager who wants to become a good musician but doesn't want to learn to read sheet music, i understand that this whole idea of 'whats the point of reading music' makes alot of experienced/proffeshinal musicians angry, but please bear with me im just trying to think outside the box here...) languages evolve, things change, and in my experience of a musician i wonder if we could all 'survive', if you will, as musicians who dont read music...or rely on reading less becuase i feel there are other methods of learning songs...which is what we mainly do as musicians... i mean think about it, there are so many other ways of learning how to play songs, guitar tabs combined with listening to songs (listening to songs to get the rythems right), synthesia for keyboarding (using the falling notes method), and for other instruments just figuring out songs by ear,which is completly possible or use other methods of learning insturments like horn tabs http://www.horntabs.net/h/ i guess the big question im trying to get across to you all is: Do you or do u not think that we could (if you are planning to, and if you aren't just bear with the question please...) get a degree, any kind, phd or bachalor, in music without relying on reading music as much as we do now in music school? and still come across as as good as a musician as one who reads music just like the present musician student...




    NOTE: IF THIS DOESNT MAKE SENSE PLEASE ASK ME TO EXPLAIN AGAIN, I AM NOT VERY GOOD AT PUTTING MY THOUGHTS INTO WORDS BUT I'LL TRY BECUAUSE THIS IDEA HAS BEEN SITTING IN MY HEAD FOR A WHILE AND I WOULD LIKE SOME FEEDBACK IF YOU HAVE ANY... =]
    my music tutorials:
    http://allmusictutorials.com/

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drumdead10000 View Post
    i guess the big question im trying to get across to you all is: Do you or do u not think that we could (if you are planning to, and if you aren't just bear with the question please...) get a degree, any kind, phd or bachalor, in music without relying on reading music as much as we do now in music school? and still come across as as good as a musician as one who reads music just like the present musician student...
    If you are going for a degree in music yes you need to read music. If you are now in music school I'm surprised that you even asked this question.

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    Quote Originally Posted by drumdead10000 View Post
    i guess the big question im trying to get across to you all is: Do you or do u not think that we could get a degree, any kind, phd or bachalor, in music without relying on reading music as much as we do now in music school?
    Well just to answer that specific question - No, I doubt if it will be possible to avoid learning to read music, if you are specifically talking about a formal degree course in music.

    But think about it - why don't you want to learn how to read music?

    The answer is usually that guys think it's too much work and will take too long (years). And they don't want to do that unless they feel sure it will be really useful in the end.

    I remember when I first started playing guitar (decades ago!), I tried to understand sheet music, and it seemed impossible ... it was like trying to read Martian with no clue what it was all supposed to mean.

    I only leaned to read music quite recently (well about 7 years ago) when I started to take my playing more seriously. I still can't "sight read", ie instant reading. But I can read well enough to work out most pieces fairly efficiently.

    Unlike many here, I'm a big fan of TAB. I won't go on about that now. But there are situations where my ears and the TAB simply aren't enough to get a complex piece right. In that case it's a huge help to turn to the sheet music and see where I'm going wrong ... that almost always fixes the problem.

    So if it seems hard learning how to read music, then like most things in life, I'd say it just takes some practice and a bit of dedicated hard work. That's all you need, plus of course a decent guide book.

    Ian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by drumdead10000 View Post
    i guess the big question im trying to get across to you all is: Do you or do u not think that we could (if you are planning to, and if you aren't just bear with the question please...) get a degree, any kind, phd or bachalor, in music without relying on reading music as much as we do now in music school?
    Short answer: no.

    (Which is not to say that a music degree is necessarily a measure of how good a musician is...)

    Remember the purpose of reading music is not only about "learning songs". It's about transmitting your musical ideas in visual form, in a simple language that any trained musician (in the western world) can read.

    There are some functions that standard notation used to perform that have been partially supplanted by new technology. Audio recording, for example, means we no longer need notation as a way of preserving compositions.

    And computers and digital media have obviously opened up vast new potentials for both making music and listening to it. It's possible the whole idea of a "composer" (as someone separate from a "performer") will become obsolete, as people can put music together themselves in all kinds of ways.

    Notation remains a very simple and direct way of communicating basic musical elements. I can't see anything as simple around at the moment (or in the future) that might make it redundant.

    It really has the same purpose as writing words. It may be that few of us use pen and paper any more. We use computers, text messages, etc. But we are still using letters and words!
    Same with notation: it began as a handwritten medium, quick and simple. We now have software that does it neater and quicker. But it's still not clear that its symbols have become less useful.

    Maybe they will in future - maybe we will develop fully audio-based ways ways of communicating musical ideas. It hasn't happened yet. And it will always take a while for any new technological development to become established enough for it to gain academic acceptance.

    Staff notation has survived for around 1000 years - with minimal evolutionary changes. It has survived very well the advent of audio recording, probably its most serious challenger. It seems to be surviving computer and internet technology too.

    (In comparison, tab is a more primitive system with far narrower application. You can't learn to play a song from tab alone - even if you are a guitarist! You can from notation.)

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    I don't think you can even get into a collegiate music program if you can't read at some level, much less graduate from one...

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    Musical notations, that is reading and writing music, was a means of recording it, into a form so that it could be played again and so that other learned musicians can play it by reading it.

    In todays world we have a lot of methods for recording music that we could listen to afterwards and play by listening only (and or by using methods like tablature and/or softwares like guitar pro etc)

    Musical sheets will, i believe help you playing in something which you havent heard before and replicate it exactly, something which you cannot do with tablatures. But, in our case being in a world of technology where you can always hear before playing (in the case of covering a song) one should rely more on ears rather then musical sheets and/or tabs.

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    But the true reading requires hears.
    The hears inside the mind that allow to hear what is read without an instrument.

    I think you can have a good inside hearing without this, but that's still a way to train it.
    And if already hear well, probably learning to read will not be that hard.
    Last edited by boby; 09-02-2010 at 01:20 PM.

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    There's just no way music would be the same without standard notation. Imagine trying to write an orchestral piece: even if you have every part memorized in your head note for note with timing and dynamic markings, you still have to transmit that information to the actual players. Can you imagine how long it would take to try to explain to each instrument what to do and when, and the strain that would be on them to memorize it the first time so that they don't have to get the lecture again?

    Interesting fact, way back when the catholic church basically ran the entire western world (EU), they created standard notation as a way to make sure all the churches would be playing the same sort of thing. Without the tyranny of the Roman Catholic church from the middle ages, we wouldn't have standard notation today.

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    Amen ?

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    I think that we definitely will always need a formal way to notate music, even if it is just for recording's sake. Reading music *is* way too hard though, and less and less people really want to bother with it, which is a problem.

    I think we just need a new form of music notation (not to mention standard instrumentation) with less unmusical cognitive load associated with it so that it is less of a pain. Then more people would be willing to learn it with greater efficiency, and when learning by ear isn't good enough they will have somewhere to turn to.
    Something like this:
    http://thummer.com/ThumMusic.pdf

    I think it has some serious potential, and JFTR, it's not mine. I just read up on it and really dig the system it proposes.

    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by JlMoriart View Post
    Reading music *is* way too hard though, and less and less people really want to bother with it, which is a problem.
    I tend to disagree with these notions...

    While the "Standard Notation vs. Tab vs. Ear" debates come up frequently on guitar oriented message boards, in the wider (Western) musical world there's not even a question whether most anyone taking up piano, voice, *any* woodwind, *any* brass, *any* orchestral stringed instrument will "bother with it" or not - in those worlds reading is assumed to be a fundamental/prerequisite skill, no?

    Nor is it especially difficult, IMO - I was taught the basics as a child in elementary school 30+ years ago, as countless others have been - though of course fluency takes some work and practice, as it does for anything else.
    Last edited by walternewton; 09-03-2010 at 03:21 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JlMoriart View Post
    Reading music *is* way too hard though,
    I don't understand this. Of course, I find it easy because I can do it, but I found it easy to learn, and so do the kids I teach (beginning age 8).
    I guess some people do find it hard, but I suspect most of those have some kind of mental block, an irrational fear of it.
    Quote Originally Posted by JlMoriart View Post
    I think we just need a new form of music notation (not to mention standard instrumentation) with less unmusical cognitive load associated with it
    It would be hard to imagine anything simpler than standard notation, as a way of communicating pitch and duration. It has evolved over centuries, being stripped down to the bare essentials.

    There are alternatives. Piano-roll (as used on computer sequencers) is a more graphic system - certainly shows timing and duration in a much more obvious way than SN - but is harder to read pitch from. It contains too much information.
    Quote Originally Posted by JlMoriart View Post
    I've seen that before, and it's certainly interesting. They've put a lot of rational thought into it,and their solution has some appeal. Visually, once you get the patterns, it's quite elegant (and there's some pretty geometry around the thumfield).

    But the problem is that no such system is ever going to replace the way things are. Like it or not, too much is invested in the current system. It's simply not possible for everyone to make a total break with the past at the same time.
    Who is going to establish such a system anyhow? Where is the authority that could dictate it, promote it and deliver it? Who is going to wipe the slate clean, and how?

    Moreover, where is the general discontent with SN (or CWMN as thummusic calls it)? There has to be some kind of groundswell of resentment or irritation with the status quo for any new system to catch on - and there is no evidence of this.
    There are basically three constituencies when it comes to notation:

    1. Those who can read SN fine, and see no point in any new system. (They know SN has drawbacks, limits, but they know how to work around them. Some things that appear to the unitiated to be flaws are in fact useful limitations.) I'm in this camp. ThumMusic is cute in many ways, but I don't feel the need for a change.

    2. Those that can't read SN because they think it's too difficult. There is no guarantee these people will find any alternative system any easier -maybe they just have some kind of hangup or dyslexic problem with graphic or symbolic representation of sound? (The issues with SN that thummusic addresses are not the issues that cause problems for these people. If people find SN difficult, it's not because of its idiosyncracies around clefs and keys; it's more the whole idea of interpreting blobs on a page as musical information. Thummusic still uses blobs and lines. As far as SN-haters are concerned, Thummusic is just re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic...)

    3. Those who can't be bothered to learn SN because they don't need notation. These include guitarists who prefer tab, and any musician who prefers to work by ear (and maybe a few sketched chord charts). These people will obviously not be interested in alternative notation, any more than someone who prefers to ride a horse will be interested in a new design of car.

    So where is the constituency demanding SN be replaced with something better? I don't doubt such people exist, but they are in a tiny minority.
    For a revolution to succeed, the revolutionaries have to get the population behind them - they have to find a common dissatisfaction to exploit. It doesn't matter how great the ideas are, if most people are satisfied with their lot it ain't gonna work. (You may get a few converts along the way, but that's about it.)

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    > But the problem is that no such system is ever going to replace the way things are. Like it or not, too much is invested in the current system. It's simply not possible for everyone to make a total break with the past at the same time.

    That is certainly something I wouldn't expect. If a change were to occur, it would be through the slow acquisition of the alternative system by seekers of an alternative to TN. This process would speed up as the system becomes more and more available. Not much could happen today, but if there were to be a supply of perhaps open source "Thummusic notation software" and a "Traditional music notation to Thummusic converter", then both of which could continue to improve over time and, in doing so, would become more and more accessible. Then Thummusic could overtake traditional notation over time.

    >Who is going to establish such a system anyhow? Where is the authority that could dictate it, promote it and deliver it? Who is going to wipe the slate clean, and how?

    Since it would be a process among the public, there would be little need for an immediate slate cleaning. Only after its benefits are highlighted by a large user base would there be any movement to introduce the system to academia.

    > Moreover, where is the general discontent with SN (or CWMN as thummusic calls it)? There has to be some kind of groundswell of resentment or irritation with the status quo for any new system to catch on - and there is no evidence of this.

    I think the discontent is larger than it seems. I've met a few guitarists who first learned to play by ear (were exposed to music before music notation), then tried to take up reading music. They did not continue because of how little sense it made to them. One, after just a few minutes of explanation, said "You mean intervals that look the same on paper can actually be different? That's ridiculous." And he refused to continue learning a system that was so non-intuitive.

    > There are basically three constituencies when it comes to notation:
    > 1. Those who can read SN fine, and see no point in any new system. (They know SN has drawbacks, limits, but they know how to work around them. Some things that appear to the unitiated to be flaws are in fact useful limitations.) I'm in this camp. ThumMusic is cute in many ways, but I don't feel the need for a change.

    There are certainly many who pick up music notation very quickly and, because they do not struggle with it, do not have any problems with it. I do suggest, however, that reading music is not a musically related skill. This is no detriment to those who are good at it; it is very impressive and respectable to be able to decode the language of music notation into its relevant symbolism. Still, the skill is musically unrelated, and is merely a cognitive load imposed on a musician that some are adept at handling and some are not.

    2. Those that can't read SN because they think it's too difficult. There is no guarantee these people will find any alternative system any easier -maybe they just have some kind of hangup or dyslexic problem with graphic or symbolic representation of sound? (The issues with SN that thummusic addresses are not the issues that cause problems for these people. If people find SN difficult, it's not because of its idiosyncracies around clefs and keys; it's more the whole idea of interpreting blobs on a page as musical information. Thummusic still uses blobs and lines. As far as SN-haters are concerned, Thummusic is just re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic...)

    You are right that if the problem is visual nothing would not be solved. But I think the most problems people have with traditional notation are with keys, key signatures, and accidentals. At any given moment, a location on a staff could represent, traditionally, 5 possible pitches (natural, sharp, flat, double sharp, double flat). It is the real time recognition of the deviation away from naturals to to sharps and flats, and vice versa, that completely messes so many people up. Also the inconsistencies of intervals on the staff throw many people for a loop. From here, two lines up is up four half steps, but from here, two lines up is three half steps. Got it? Good.

    > 3. Those who can't be bothered to learn SN because they don't need notation. These include guitarists who prefer tab, and any musician who prefers to work by ear (and maybe a few sketched chord charts). These people will obviously not be interested in alternative notation, any more than someone who prefers to ride a horse will be interested in a new design of car.

    I might suggest that some of this group would be more willing to learn notation were it easier, just for the sake of communication with other musicians and the recording of their own music, but I couldn't tell you what percentage of this group that is.

    > So where is the constituency demanding SN be replaced with something better? I don't doubt such people exist, but they are in a tiny minority.
    For a revolution to succeed, the revolutionaries have to get the population behind them - they have to find a common dissatisfaction to exploit. It doesn't matter how great the ideas are, if most people are satisfied with their lot it ain't gonna work.

    I'd suggest that, given the knowledge of the two musical notations' structures and patterns, many people would choose it over standard notation. The music community is however EXTREMELY grounded in it's current paradigm, so any unsatisfied group is likely a silent majority because they are expected to accept what they think is the only option.
    "If I am not good at reading music, then I am not a good musician, because standard music notation is the only way to represent music. Therefor I will either put in the extra time to become proficient at reading music and become a good musician, or accept that I am not a good musician."
    The moment, however, an alternative is made available and highly accessible, I imagine a large group would turn to it instead.

    Of course some of this is speculation, but I'm pretty confident in my speculations ;-D

    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    I don't understand this. Of course, I find it easy because I can do it, but I found it easy to learn, and so do the kids I teach (beginning age 8).
    I guess some people do find it hard, but I suspect most of those have some kind of mental block, an irrational fear of it.
    Perhaps you found it easy because your school teachers started with very simple looking pieces - just a few similar looking notes with few if any extra symbolic complications?

    I expect you do the same now with 8 year old students - start with some very simple looking notation?

    But I doubt if most teenage kids and adults do that when they first try to play from sheet music. Instead they get the notation for their favourite famous guitar track, and try to begin from that.

    Perhaps that's one reason why people say they find it hard.

    Of course that still leaves the issue of how much longer those people take ever to read notation to a level they find useful ... as well as the question of whether they ever do go back to basics and try practicing from simple pieces, before slowly working up to the sort of music they actually want to read/play.

    Ian.

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    I feel it's more about teaching and hearing.
    If you know what is a tonal center, know how to hear it, you will know where to search it in the notation system.

    If someone can't understand how this notation below is related to what you hear then I don't think he will be able with SN or Thumb, and even less with tabs.
    5 5 5 1 1 2 2 5 3 1 1 3 1 6 4 2 7 1
    1 1 5 5 6 6 5 4 4 3 3 2 2 1
    1 1 1 6b 3b 1 6b 3b 1 5 5 5 6b 3b 1 6b 3b 1

    Thumb system makes more clearer the concept of tonal center, however when tonal center shifts or is ambiguous I don't see how it makes things easier. The notation doesn't let you as much choice and liberty than with SN.
    The SN is a bit more abstract.
    You know the dominant is at 3 lines above if tonal center is on a line, or 3 inter line if it's on an interline, and you mentaly shift it when you need.
    Last edited by boby; 09-03-2010 at 10:13 AM.

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