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Thoughts on music


Reading music

posted Oct 28, 2013, 7:32 AM by Randy Dary   [ updated Dec 4, 2018, 1:50 PM ]

    Since I began playing ukulele, the subject of "reading music" has been given some thought.
    Ukulele and guitar --- perhaps notably the fretted string instruments --- can be played without reading music. For that matter, most instruments could be played without the necessity of reading music.
   It would be "playing by ear".  The closest I have ever had to that experience is probably the harmonica.  Even then, I related what I was doing somewhat to notation in my head.
    Two things bother me about the argument of non-readers.
    One is simply their refusal to do it and their consequential arguments to support their position.  They may say, "All I need is chords".  This is fine until they are confronted by a melody, written in notes, which they've never heard.  It also precludes doing anything but strumming and singing.  Doing any sort of ensemble instrumentals is impossible, unless you can get them to learn to read tablature*.
    The other is the burden it puts on those of us who try to communicate with them.  We will learn their language, convoluted and inexact though it often is, but they will not learn ours (which also happens to be the language of the great majority of the musical Western world).  
    *Tablature --- I did not think much of tablature before the ukulele, but in playing the traditionally-tuned instrument, with what is called "re-entrant" tuning, I did finally see how tablature does make sense in that special case.  Writing for that weirdly-placed high G string is sometimes easier with tablature.
    Still, one needs music-reading skills to decode any rhythm indications shown in tablature.  If you are learning to read note values, why not go all the way and learn the ABCs of it, too?
    Another observation prompted by thoughts of tablature:  there seem to be a lot of people out there who don't know their terminology.  On the internet, it is possible to get "TABs" for many songs.  But what is meant by "TABs"?
    I had always thought it meant tablature.  Wouldn't that seem to be logical?  But there are people who put lyrics with chords inserted (often bad chords) on their sites,a nd they call those "TABs".  They are NOT TABs; they are simply song sheets, or more precisely, lyrics with chords.  "Song sheets" would seem to me to indicate that musical notes were also present, but of course that does no good to people who can't read them.
    The final word in all of this, to me, is: LEARN TO READ MUSIC.  LIFT UP YOUR SIGHTS ABOVE JUST STRUMMING AND SINGING.  LEARN YOUR ENTIRE INSTRUMENT.  STRETCH YOURSELF.
    Thanks for listening.

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