The New Language
Reading music is, in a sense, like learning another language. Not the way of learning French or Spanish, where you have a lot of tedious verb conjugation, etc. As taught in private piano lessons, reading music is a language that allows for a wide variety of expression. It opens the doors to so many avenues and allows you to play what you see. Playing what you hear is invaluable, too, but playing what you see allows an open door of opportunity.
Reading music and Math
I had a conversation with a UCLA grad who was explaining the link between math and reading music. At a fairly young age, well, like middle school, he started to realize the link between math and his music. By the time he graduated high school, he again saw the link between his high achieving fellow students and the fact that they were all musicians. He was saying that in math class, as the teacher was talking about fractions, that was like a quarter note, and then an eighth note. He said he was “hearing” the math. He had the link to his musical side, and reading music helped him understand math. There are many studies on the help that music is to mathematics. It helps many other areas of the brain as well, but I’m focusing on the math component here. Reading music helps with the relational side of problems. Notes put on a staff can be similar to notes put on a graph. Placement DOES matter. Seeing these dots, and relating them to a specific key on the piano, helps the brain do a lot of relating dots on a graph and other mathematical equations.
Sight Reading Music
When you start decoding the notes on the staff, you have just opened up a whole world of music that so many never achieve. When you can take a piece of music in hand and sight read it because of your background, probably from your early piano or guitar teacher, you have just helped someone else express their creativity and therefore helped pass that creative outlet to the rest of the world-or whoever is in the room to hear or record it! Being able to play something you see on paper is a gift. It allows the composer to entrust his work to you, and perpetuate what he is doing and help the creative process he is trying to get across.
Reading Music for Accompaniment
Being able to read music is a vital part of vocal and other ensemble accompaniment. There is nothing more appreciated by a vocalist than a pianist or guitarist who can read the piece of music you bring to them and ask them to accompany you so you can do this amazing performance. I have been overwhelmed with gratitude at the accompanist I’ve had who were able to read the music through music lessons in your home, maybe even transpose it-so amazing-and allow me to focus only on my vocal performance and doing my best with that. There are a lot of jobs out there for the musician who can read music and deliver what is written in an expressive, competent way.
Reading music doesn’t have to be hard. Starting with a good note speller book, or flashcards can be a great way to start during your music lessons in your home. When you start with middle C and build from there, it is amazing how much you learn. The grand staff covers the vitals of the piano, and allows you to play most of the music written out there. Notes and timing come along as well and really work together to make you an awesome well rounded musician. Reading music is fun, and it frees you up to not worry about remembering everything you’ve ever played. Memory is great, but if you can dust off those books, or walk into a music store and pick up a piece of music and read it-you’ve opened up the world to yourself and your fingers!
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