Monday, February 24, 2014

Why read music? and a bit about Theory Lessons

"Why should I learn how to read music if I can already play my instrument?"

Whenever I hear a statement similar to that my instinct is to say "because you should" which isn't very profound or helpful.  The truth is that all dedicated musicians read some form of music notation but there is only one form that is clear, allows for intricate details, and translates across all languages. 

Reading tablature, chord charts, arrows going up and down, or single letters written out are all forms of music notation.  Literally they are all ways to write music so this could be confusing but I'm going to refer to the one on the staff as music notation for the purposes of this post.

Music notation is a language.  Each symbol means something different, just like letters.  When you string them together in different ways you create different sounds, just like words.  Just as it takes time to go from sounding out letters to reading novels, it takes time to go from reading notes to reading a score. 

TAB (tablature) is a really fast way to learn melodic lines on a guitar.  There is a line for each string and the number tells you the fret to play but it doesn't tell you the rhythm or the meter.  In order for you to know these things you need to listen to the music.  Plus, it doesn't readily translate to other instruments.  TAB as well as chord charts are readily available online for free.  Great!  Except very few people who make them can make them accurately so generally you learn the song incorrectly by reading them. 

You can always figure out the correct music yourself but that means you are limited to what you can currently hear.  This is called aural dictation which is a skill that takes time to learn and is substantially harder than reading music notation.  Teaching this skill I refer to it as ear training.

You may have noticed that all of these rely on either you or someone else listening to the music.  Aural dictation is an amazing skill and very important to being a good musician but if you rely on it you are constantly being held back from reaching your potential

Taking the time to learn how to read music notation will accelerate your playing.  You will know with certainty what you are playing or singing, will learn what you are hearing and how to notate it better (here's that aural dictation popping up again), will allow you to write it down such that someone else can read it or can play it on a different instrument, and so much more.  You will be a better musician if you can read music. 


Theory and composition lessons with me encompass a wide variety of possibilities.  They are the most flexible forms of lessons you can take and are formulated around your goals.  They are also easy to teach multiple students at the same time (I don't charge extra for the second person).

Theory and composition lessons could be for:
  1. The person who plays an instrument but doesn't know how to read the music.   (Even if I don't know how to play your instrument I can teach you to read music and what the notes are on your instrument).
  2. The person who plays and instrument and reads the music but doesn't understand more complex things like chord structures, cadences, modalities, etc.
  3. The person who needs help with ear training/aural dictation.
  4. The person who wants help learning how to sight read.
  5. The person who doesn't know how to write down their own ideas/compositions.
  6. The person going away to college to study music that wants to pass out of classes.  (In college you can take proficiency tests to show you already know the subject matter.  It allows you to free up time in college and saves a lot of money since college credits can cost over $1000 per credit and theory/ear training classes often are 3-4 credit classes). 
Whatever you are looking for, I will tailor lessons to your needs and since these lessons don't need to be every week to be beneficial you can save money by taking lessons only as often as you see fit. 

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