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When learning to play piano there are those who believe that the importance of reading notes is nothing. They may be someone who can “play by ear”, and yet they wish that they could read the notes so that they know they are playing the music correctly. Should they play with other musicians who know the piece of music they are playing, then the importance of being able to read music is an obvious advantage.
It is a gift to be able to play the piano by ear and when playing solo this is not a problem. Interaction with other musicians is difficult, especially if the other musicians know musical theory and the pianist who doesn’t tends not to “fit in”. It is a myth that music is hard to learn to read/ This is frankly an excuse and it’s more likely the person who says this is happy with the way they play and “can’t be bothered” to take the time to learn.
As with any other subject there is a structure and learning the basic structure of how the notes fit into the language is about as difficult as it gets to learn to read music. After learning the initial notes, that are the first seven letters of the alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, G.
Thinking of the main “clefs”, being Bass and Treble, learning how the notes fit is reasonlably simple. Take the treble clef as an example:
The notes that fit on the lines are as follows: E, G, B, D, F and we can learn this by means of a phrase such as Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. The notes in the spaces Spell out the word FACE – How difficult is that?
From this point, the music notation moves as a simple progression.
Learning time signatures, which is how the “beat” is determined, for example 1, 2, 3, 4 – 1, 2, 3, 4 and also the different clefs is not hard to understand and will advance your musical knowledge quickly. All this new found knowledge will enhance your experience and you will be able to expand this knowledge to whatever level you desire.
Having learned this new skill, the rewards you can gain from this are endless. The most significant benefit is that you will learn much faster.
Unlike other “languages”, the language of music is universal and this means that no matter who you play music with, if you don’t understand their spoken language, you will understand the musical one because they do too. Whatever type of music it is, the theory is a constant. So if you play Jazz, Rock, Classical or whatever genre of music you prefer, the basics of how each type is written is the same and can be shared across the world.
So for those who can Play piano by ear, great if that’s all you want from your music. But think of the benefits and the fulfilment you can experience if you can learn to read music as well as just play.
Think of it like reading or writing a book – if you can’t write, but can tell a great story, the benefits of writing are apparent – you can write it down so it’s not forgotten. If you can’t read, it doesn’t matter whether something is written down or not – you won’t understand it. That’s why we are prompted through education to read and write.
The thing is, we don’t have a choice to learn to read or write. Music is different. The rewards and benefits of learning to read music offer much the same as learning to read and write, with one far superior reason – Every musician who can read music all over the world understands it like you do (How cool is that?), but could they all understand you when you talk to them?
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