Reading music is a relatively new skill for me. I only picked it up in the past 5 years so I could stay a step ahead of my students. All my life I’ve played by
ear so why bother to learn to read? Is it not arcane, the domain of hide-bound, old school music teachers, who don’t have the wit to play by ear? Actually, sight-reading helps us all understand and communicate about music more effectively.
How Reading Music Helps
In reading music, we see our dum-de-dums and diddley-dees broken down into eighth notes, dotted quarters, and rests, our tra-la-las unequivocally identified on lines and spaces. Then we can communicate about music in these quantifiable terms, instead of “you know, kinda faster than that” or “can’t you make it higher?” or “I can’t explain it, but we aren’t playing this right.” It’s like the difference between telling some one how to get there, versus showing them on a map. And we come up understand the whole musical lay out better ourselves, just as a map gives us context for our location.
Reading & Recording Music
The joy of reading music really came home to me yesterday. Most pieces in any student book will be ignored, as most students just want to get through the assignments and explore no further. As a teacher, I’ve been delving deep into books to see what might be most interesting to my students. Man, there’s some good stuff in those books! Pieces that were once closed to me are now open and quite compelling! To wit,I found “Easy Trio for Three Guitars”. Easy, hey? That got my attention!
Nowadays almost any easy piece has me slavering to read it and play it, but a trio is kind of pointless unless you hear all three parts. So i got my iPad and launched Garage Band. (If you don’t have an Apple product, look for a good multi-track recording app here).
I plugged my combo mic/headphone input
into the jack. I set my metronome to 73 bpm so I could handle the 16th notes. Playing only to the metronome, I laid down Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, all the time wondering how the three parts were going to work together to make music. When I had laid all three parts down reasonably well (remember, this piece has the word “easy” in the title!) I unmuted all three tracks, and voila! To my delight and amazement, there I was, for all the world, playing a charming italian guitar trio, utterly out of my style and habit, but true enough to make me laugh out loud! Here it is: Adagio 1 by L. Von Call
I can scarcely explain how very satisfying this whole process is to me. Truly, there is unbounded joy in reading music, and we can discover a lot more with the cool toys at our fingertips these days!