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#1 2009-07-20 16:21:41

canudigit
Member
Registered: 2007-09-01
Posts: 71

To read or not read music, that is the question.

I have always wanted to ask that question and this looks like a nice place to start the thread.

I would like to start the thread off by getting some feedback on the following questions.

Do you know how to read standard music notation (G clef)?

Do you read guitar tab?

If you read guitar tab, what are the main reasons why you like guitar tab over standard notation?

If so, how long have you been reading music?

If not, then what has stopped you from learning how to read standard notation?

If you do read music, how long have you been reading and how difficult was it for you?

What is your overall opinion on reading standard music notation? 

Lastly, do you think it is helpfull or, do you think it is a waste of time because it is too hard and takes too long?

As for me, I learned how to read guitar tab first and then learned how to read standard notation. 

I have met people who could play a peice of music in standard notation like they were reading a newspaper and it didn't matter how complex the peice was.

What I did notice is that these types of players play everything "exactly as written" and lose a sense of feeling because they follow the music literally. 

Also many times players who are read music well DEPEND on the sheetmusic and are reluctant to learn songs without sheetmusic.

I will come back to this thread and answer the questions as posted, but figured these comments would to good for now.

I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences.

Thanks

Steve

Last edited by canudigit (2009-07-20 16:22:48)

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#2 2009-07-20 17:18:55

StranSongs
Senior Member
From: Belfast
Registered: 2009-03-31
Posts: 330
Website

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I can read the dots, but it's glacially slow. Same with tab. But tab still needs an indication of time. To date, it's been easier just to use my ears to work out a tune.

For melody, I prefer ABC's ( see http://abcnotation.com/ ).

Many classically trained musos, and those who gave up along the way, do seem to be dependent on the dots,


"Don't play what's there, play what's not there." Miles Davis

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#3 2009-07-20 17:19:30

geoaguiar
Honoured Member
Registered: 2007-03-24
Posts: 1108

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

My 2 cents:
Can read both. Mostly use tab when available but standard conveys so much more information. Using tab is a lazy thing for me. I mostly try to play originals so my use of either is not heavy.


I used to be disgusted; now I try to be amused.
Elvis Costello

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#4 2009-07-20 17:39:27

dfoskey
Senior Member
From: Georgia
Registered: 2007-07-10
Posts: 381

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I can't read either one but would like to learn. I have an idea of how tab works but it looks like it would slow me down . The standard was explained to me once but it really looks to hard to follow for guitar. That being said i will just stick with the simple fake format with the chords since that's mostly what i play anyhow. Anthing else i play is by ear or sight memorization.

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#5 2009-07-20 18:24:09

Guitarpix
Underwater Firefighter
From: North Carolina
Registered: 2007-02-08
Posts: 1905
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Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I read both, but I usually prefer to use tab out of the two. I don't depend on notation or tab much though. I prefer to work them out myself. If I get stuck on a riff I might peak at a tab online for a little direction but that's about it. Most of the songbooks that I order are in notation and that's about the only time I use it. I can read and play tab like a book but notation I tend to spend more time on because in conveys more and I get hung up on getting it just right... Which is the reason I don't like notation personally. It seems to lose some of the feel, if you know what I mean.  If I'm working on something original, I always write it out in tab for future refrence and never use notation.

Last edited by Guitarpix (2009-07-20 18:25:30)


If your brain is part of the process, you're missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something.
         Peace of mind. That's my piece of mind...

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#6 2009-07-20 19:32:03

canudigit
Member
Registered: 2007-09-01
Posts: 71

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

Nice to see this many replies so soon smile.  I like these kinds of threads because we can all speak from our own experiences. 

I have been reading guitar tabs since 1982 and still have troves of guitar tabs from "Guitar for the practicing musician".  This magazine was the "flagship" magazine for guitar tabs.

I can still remember having to wait an entire month for a new issue to come out and hope that the new issue had good tabs. 

The tabs were extremely accurate and I learned to play many tunes note for note with those tabs.  I spent a fortune on purchasing those magazines, but it was worth it.

Things have changed quite a bit since then.  Now everyone can get tabs on the net for FREE. 

The biggest advance with guitar tab for me was buying and using Guitar Pro software.  Most of the issues with reading guitar tab and standard notation are gone.  The reason is that Guitar Pro (and other guitar notation programs) play the tab and the tab can be slowed down, looped etc... 

Sure beats the old way of having to wait for a tab, buy the song on cassette (yea Im old) and spend hours matching what was heard with the guitar tab.

In the end the old way takes a lot of time and costs a lot of $$.  The benefit is that I learned to be patient and persistent.

Thanks

Steve

Last edited by canudigit (2009-07-20 20:09:46)

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#7 2009-07-20 19:41:49

Stonebridge
Senior Member
From: Cardiff, Wales, UK
Registered: 2008-08-25
Posts: 182

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I studied piano from age ten and learned to read standard notation. I have no problem with it for keyboard instruments.
I started to learn guitar when I was 20 and started with chord positions. I then learned guitar tab by buying a songbook that had both notations in it so I could compare the two.

I discovered when I was about 12 or 13 that I didn't need the music to play most of the pop songs I heard at the time and started to play them all (on piano) "by ear". My piano teacher regularly got annoyed with me because I spent my whole time playing Beatles by ear rather than Beethoven by the book.

I gave up guitar when I was about 26 and didn't play again until last year when I bought a new acoustic and started playing again.
For some reason I can't explain I can usually hear the chords in a song and know what they are, unless it is a complicated chord progression when I need to listen more than once. This probably goes back to my school days where my music teacher trained me well to listen to music. We had to listen to a melody or chord progression and be able write it down.
I tend to work things out for myself by ear on guitar but will use chords or tabs to save time listening if the song is more complex.
I wouldn't describe myself as a "natural" guitar player. I'm more at home on the keyboard.
By the way, the gap where I didn't play guitar was 30 years. It has taken a year to get back to near where I was when I quit.
Hope this information is useful.

Last edited by Stonebridge (2009-07-20 21:17:56)

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#8 2009-07-20 19:56:03

Doug_Smith
Moderator
From: Western Oregon,US
Registered: 2008-07-22
Posts: 1136

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

Hi Steve,  another "Geezer" here.

  Started out with piano, and self taught keyboards while fairly young, but did not stay with it.  Learned just enough standard notation to play what I wanted to, albeit  s l o w l y.  Still can't "sight read".... but am able to muddle through if needed.  Really did not find much value in TAB when starting guitar (close to 40 years ago), but learned to read and use it, as for a long time it was the easiest alternative to sheet music out there, especially for learning lead riffs.  The other advantage to TAB is that you don't "have to" learn the positions on the fretboard of every note.... although it is really helpful to.  The Nashville Number System.... if it works for you, use it.  For me it is just another thing to learn, and I'm getting too old and lazy to work that hard at it.

  But in the end it is a good thing IMO to learn as many different ways of notation as you can.  Not every tune you would like to learn will be conveniently packaged in the color of your preference. 

  It's still easier for me to go to  the keys when figuring out a tune and once I have it down on keyboards, go to the strings.... Haven't figured out why yet but it is likely a character flaw.

Thanks and Take Care;
Doug


"what is this quintessence of dust?"  - Shakespeare

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#9 2009-07-21 13:42:31

ozmoid
Member
From: WNC
Registered: 2009-07-18
Posts: 49

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

Like many of the "geezers" here tongue I learned to read notation at the piano bench as a youngster. As for tab, it is great if you are trying to figure out exactly the way someone did a certain line, or a certain chord, because it gives you instrument-specific information that standard notation can't. I prefer standard notation for sight reading, or even just "chords-n-words" for jamming.

canudigit wrote:

Also many times players who are read music well DEPEND on the sheetmusic and are reluctant to learn songs without sheetmusic.

Move on to basic theory, and you'll lose that crutch pretty quick. smile

Last edited by ozmoid (2009-07-21 13:42:54)


Don’t let short-term frustration make you feel that your life exists in just this volatile moment.

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#10 2009-07-21 14:57:51

Linusguitar
Senior Member
Registered: 2008-04-14
Posts: 147
Website

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I think reading music is crucial to be able to play with other instruments, and best for solo guitar, but tab can work too. What I don't like about tab is that it's purely geographical, and no sense of timing or rhythm. To only be able to read tab is a handicap when trying to play with others, but it's ok for solo I guess. I can read both, but I hate tab. haha

But this is from the perspective of a grade 7 classical guitar player.... though I play a lot of other stuff. I would die if I couldn't read notes....

to each his own, though, I guess.

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#11 2009-07-21 15:25:07

Russell_Harding
Alien moderator
From: A black hole in deep space
Registered: 2007-10-29
Posts: 6484
Website

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I started out with 3 chords my mom showed me and played by ear for quite a few years professionally (over 40) and learned to read both standard notation and finger picking I compose all my songs some I just make chord charts and others I arrange phrases and use notation to help other musicians on my recording sessions but I find its easier to video tape a practice or jam because creativity is spontaneous and there's no time to notate also the "feeling" and syncopation can be recalled easier by watching and listening,I think notation and reading have there place of importance but any lead sheet is left to the interpretation of the person reading it and is not exact it is only a guide smile


"Growing old is not for sissies"

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#12 2009-07-21 23:23:08

canudigit
Member
Registered: 2007-09-01
Posts: 71

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I forgot about lead sheets yikes.

Russell_Harding wrote:

I think notation and reading have there place of importance but any lead sheet is left to the interpretation of the person reading it and is not exact it is only a guide smile

I couldn't have said it better.  Russell, nice job on the website and your songs sound great! 

Is anyone interested in coming up with a standard lead sheet, say 32 bars, and hearing how many different interpretations we can come up with?

Thanks

Steve

Last edited by canudigit (2009-07-21 23:31:43)

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#13 2009-07-22 00:20:46

Russell_Harding
Alien moderator
From: A black hole in deep space
Registered: 2007-10-29
Posts: 6484
Website

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

Thanks Steve glad you enjoyed the tunes,I think a collaborated composition would be a cool idea but the snag is chopro is not equipped to add notes only chords and lyrics I'm not sure how it could be accomplished, I have seen this idea of lead sheets in another thread but like photos it would have to be uploaded to flickr or another host site so a link to the sheet could be provided interesting idea smile


"Growing old is not for sissies"

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#14 2009-07-22 02:33:53

canudigit
Member
Registered: 2007-09-01
Posts: 71

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I am hosting all my own images here at chordie.  I have no problems putting something together that would work nicely.  Give me one of your favorite chord progressions (no infringement on chord progressions) and I will put up a bare lead sheet so we can have something to read and interpret own way.  This could be fun!

Thanks

Steve

Last edited by canudigit (2009-07-22 02:34:32)

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#15 2009-08-09 03:07:43

Checkmate
Junior Member
Registered: 2009-07-06
Posts: 1

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I read both standard notation and tab.  While I learned standard notation 35 or so years ago I only started using tab a few years ago.  I was quite young when I learned standard notation so I don't remember how difficult it was to learn.  I like tab because I am a visual learner and tab shows be the positions along the neck.  I am constantly altering the positions because the more ways that I can play a piece the better I become.  Also this prepares me for improvisation.  I understand what you meant when you wrote about how those who read standard notation tend to play the score exactly as written.  I have learned that when I practice a piece of music to the point that I can play it without thinking I am able to change the complete voicing of the piece.  When I do not have a score practiced to the point of muscle memory I am not as able to breath life into it.  One reason that I have grown to enjoy learning a piece through tab is that the duration of the note is not defined as precisely and I grow more intuned to the relationships of the notes to each other and the note durations most often seem to naturally fall into place.  While learning through standard score I start off by being locked into the timing of the notes and I find this to be a very left brained experience.

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#16 2009-08-09 03:19:03

selso
Senior Member
From: Amarillo, TX
Registered: 2007-07-18
Posts: 970
Website

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I read tab and my wife started to teach me to read the notes but I'm slow as heck. I play by ear and thats my only saving grace


Everything is bad including me
But being bad is good policy
Reverend Horton Heat

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#17 2009-08-10 05:34:07

MarioG
Member
From: Los Angeles
Registered: 2009-08-05
Posts: 40
Website

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I think reading music (standard notation) is a great tool for any musician to have.
Can you survive without reading a single note on a piece of paper? Yes.
However, with that said, there are a lot of professional situations where they
will simply put a piece of music in front of you and expect you to read it.

Guitarists for the most part don't like to read sheet music. And in fact, it is
a little bit harder for guitar than other instruments because there are many
positions on the guitar where you can play the same note. But I do believe
reading music is important for any musician.

I can read. I'm not the best or the fastest at reading music, but I'm constantly
working on it. Trying to be able to read music without completely depending
on sheet music and losing any feel.

Regardless, with all that said. I think reading music is important, but the most
important tool for any musician is his/her ear.

-Mario

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#18 2009-08-14 16:56:56

Ganzalles
Junior Member
Registered: 2009-08-08
Posts: 1

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I learned how to read music on the guitar. Since I had no teacher, I figured out what note each fret was by looking at a chord book which showed the fret and staff diagrams. Then I scotch taped paper strips with the written notes in each fret-string. Then I would get any G clef music ( for voice , sax, piano, whatever ) and start figuring out the melody. After a while I did not need to look anymore where to put my fingers.  It took me a while to get the right note time values. Actually I found the rythym the hardest to master and I am still trying. Tab , I can do but I prefer the staff, it is more universal. You start thinking out of the guitar box. The advantage of tab? I guess , if you can read it and not the G clef, then that is the advantage. Also, as long as the instrument is tuned in the same way you can play it an octave higher or lower. If the instrument is tuned differently, then you have to change your tab and not the staff notes.

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#19 2010-02-08 22:23:36

mja155
Junior Member
Registered: 2010-02-08
Posts: 4

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I can read both, however I used regular notation when I was playing the piano and now I use tab since I discovered the guitar. Tab is so much easier then regular music notation simply because it shows you exactly where the note is played on the guitar. I've never attempted regular music notation on the guitar simply because it only gives you the musical pitch, which can be played in a number of places. Plus whenever I want to learn a song I just jump on the net and the tab is usually just a click away.

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#20 2010-02-13 22:41:35

TheOnlyTaylor
Member
From: Bellevue, Idaho
Registered: 2009-10-31
Posts: 57
Website

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I've just started reading on the guitar. I'm learning to read it partly because prier to learning guitar I played the trumpet and I also sing. Because I sing and play trumpet reading was already familiar. I really like it. Especially over tab. With tab I have to actually look up the song I'm playing and listen to it several times. If I'm reading I don't need anything except that's in front of me

In any case I would recommend any musician learning both. The more you know.....the more you know : P


no audience required.

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#21 2010-07-17 10:48:38

budda0000
Junior Member
Registered: 2007-11-24
Posts: 4

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I have not read all the posts, but reading (and writing) music notation is a real asset if you want to work in a band with other (musical) instruments.  TAB is fine for guitarists, but a trumpet player or a piano player cannot be expected to read it!!!

Simply put: Don't be musically lazy!  Learn the LANGUAGE of music.  If you can at least speak the language of music ... you are in.  If you cant .............. :-(

As a guitar teacher, I hear this all the time: "Why do I have to learn music (theory/read)"?  The answer should be obvious!

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#22 2010-08-05 03:18:07

tjstevens2
Junior Member
Registered: 2010-08-05
Posts: 1

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

I just joined the group and would like to learn a few songs. I played when I was in school but played by ear only. I would like to read music but I'm afraid that if I learn by tabs and strumming chords, I'll never learn to read the music and be able to play anything quickly. Does anyone have a thought on the subject?

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#23 2010-08-05 10:35:47

mekidsmom
The Chick Moderator
From: NY
Registered: 2009-08-26
Posts: 2987
Website

Re: To read or not read music, that is the question.

tjstevens2, welcome to Chordie!  My opinion is to go ahead and start out with some chords, with chord diagrams for strumming.  You'll find that they are centered around letters, which are notes.  Learn some scales, which includes picking individual notes up and down the fretboard (and the music notation that goes with learning those scales)... and you'll be beginning to read music.  Sadly, tab doesn't really teach you anything but to pluck said string on said fret... but once you know some scales you will know what each of those said strings on said frets are!  I have to admit, I can read music and plunk it out on a piano however, I haven't learned my scales on the guitar yet.  I'm going quite slow with putting the two together.  My son on the other hand has already started learning some scales and while he can't read music as well as I can, he can already "plunk" some music out on the guitar!


Art and beauty are in the eyes of the beholder.
What constitutes excellent music is in the ears of the listener.

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