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#1148253 - 12/01/05 11:43 PM I'm a composer and I can't read music. Is that weird?
Composean Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/01/05
Posts: 9
Yep. I'm musically illiterate.

I play the songs I've written based purely off of memory. This for me is pretty amazing, considering the fact that my memory is about as reliable as a watchdog in a steakhouse.

. . . Sorry, that analogy was awful. . .

Anyway, I learned an inkling of music reading skills when I was much younger, but alas, those memories faded to oblivion with time.

My "reading" pianist friends of mine have offered numerous times to translate my compositions into sheet music. One practically demanded that she do it for me. (I think she was concerned I'd actually forget what I'd written. If it weren't for the fact that I can't blame her for thinking that, I'd be a little huffy.) Procastination and I are best friends, though, and the translating thing always sounded like tedious work. I think you get the idea.

So, is it weird that I can write but not read?
Do you think I should focus more on learning how to read instead of composing? What're your thoughts?

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#1148254 - 12/02/05 12:04 AM Re: I'm a composer and I can't read music. Is that weird?
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Do you think I should focus more on learning how to read instead of composing? What're your thoughts?
Replace "instead" with "in addition to."

Reading music is actually very easy, once you learn all of the symbols (it's not so difficult that you will have to stop composing in order to learn musical notation). Writing music can be time-consuming, but if you can play it on the piano, then you can just look at the keys that you are playing and then write them down on a staff.

I suppose you don't really need to be able to read/write in order to compose music in your head, but it certainly helps!
_________________________
Sam

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#1148255 - 12/02/05 01:16 PM Re: I'm a composer and I can't read music. Is that weird?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
i think that music reading skill is a necessary tool for you. if you want to write out your compositions, then you just have to devote yourself to learn such a skill, which is not that hard by the way.

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#1148256 - 12/02/05 02:41 PM Re: I'm a composer and I can't read music. Is that weird?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
It's not that hard to learn to read at least enough to be able to write out a melody that you have composed.

I can read music, like to write music for a hobby, but to try to write down what I hear in the music I make up is still difficult for me. I think the key is practice. I know the more I wrote down my music, the easier it would get. I heard it mentioned on other forums here the value of transcribing other composers works. I think it was Mozart that did this a lot. I think one can learn a lot about how to write your music on paper just from looking at or writing out other composer's scores for practice. Of course, learning to read the scores would be the first step. You wouldn't even necessarily have to be able to play the music on the instrument, just know how to read the scores. That would be even easier.

I would definitely take up your friends offer to write it for you in the meantime, maybe you could even take lessons from them on how to write out your music yourself. It doesn't do anyone as much good if the music isn't written down.

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#1148257 - 12/15/05 10:29 AM Re: I'm a composer and I can't read music. Is that weird?
Dsus2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/14/05
Posts: 95
Loc: Sweden
I'm composing quite a bit, but I have never written down anything. I know how to read music, but I never felt the need for writing anything down. I just play, (hope I) remember, and have fun!

I wish I was able to write down what I hear in my head... (Ok not write it down IN my head, that is)

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#1148258 - 12/15/05 10:37 AM Re: I'm a composer and I can't read music. Is that weird?
8ude Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 2050
I think it would be in your best interests to try to learn to read/write music. Knowing how to do this will make you a much more well-rounded musician, and it will give you the tools you need if you want to have other people play your compositions. If you write a piece for, say violin and piano, no violinist is going to learn the piece by you explaining it or humming it or picking it out on the piano - they're going to want sheet music. Being able to write it down will give you so much more flexibility.
_________________________
What you are is an accident of birth. What I am, I am through my own efforts. There have been a thousand princes and there will be a thousand more. There is one Beethoven.

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#1148259 - 12/15/05 11:31 AM Re: I'm a composer and I can't read music. Is that weird?
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2685
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
 Quote:
Originally posted by 8ude:
I think it would be in your best interests to try to learn to read/write music. Knowing how to do this will make you a much more well-rounded musician, and it will give you the tools you need if you want to have other people play your compositions. If you write a piece for, say violin and piano, no violinist is going to learn the piece by you explaining it or humming it or picking it out on the piano - they're going to want sheet music. Being able to write it down will give you so much more flexibility. [/b]
I would add that even pop musicians write things down. It may be just a melody with chord progressions (i.e. a lead sheet), but it's a way of commiting ideas to paper for posterity (or further review).

When this thread first showed up I was tempted to answer simply, Yes, but thought better of it. I've changed my mind about that so in answer to the initial inquiry;

Yes

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#1148260 - 12/15/05 11:48 AM Re: I'm a composer and I can't read music. Is that weird?
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17733
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
You're in good company. Isn't it true that the Beatles didn't read music? At least in the beginning?

One of my favorite new age composers/artists, Vicki Logan, doesn't read music.

So you are not alone and it is possible to become a successful musician and composer without reading music. But why make things harder on yourself than necessary? I agree with the others that (a)it really won't take you long to learn, and (b)it will make things a lot easier and more flexible for you if you learn to read music, so go for it.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1148261 - 12/15/05 01:19 PM Re: I'm a composer and I can't read music. Is that weird?
ncsteff Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 15
Loc: NC
Just to chime in -- I don't really "read" music either but have been composing (as a hobby) for over 20 years. I can *decipher* musical notation, but I simply haven't used the written page for my own compositions (and never could sight read well enough to do anything, even a simple melody line). I guess that happens when you're not classically trained (eek! a barbarian!)...

However, I'm seriously considering taking another approach and working more with notation, especially if I can use software such as Finale/Garritan Personal Orchestra to help me with the transition from a synthesizer-sequencer approach. Call me a cynic, but should I really trust the permanence of magnetic media for all my creative work ;-)?
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ncsteff

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#1148262 - 12/15/05 03:24 PM Re: I'm a composer and I can't read music. Is that weird?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I haven't actually done a lot of composing for quite a while just merely for the fact that it is such a struggle and time consuming to write it out. Now I feel better, like others have some of the same struggles and still compose without worrying about not having it written down. It's given me the incentive to start writing again without worrying about whether I can always write it out verbatum. Of course, as I mentioned, I think in writing music out a person has to start somewhere. Before I knew hardly any theory or notation, I used to just write the letters of the notes out and try to remember the rhythms. Just start somewhere. Learn how to read a basic line of music. Learn the letter names of some basic notes on the staff, some basic note values. Look in music to see how things are written out and go from there.

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#1148263 - 12/15/05 05:56 PM Re: I'm a composer and I can't read music. Is that weird?
Katey Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/22/05
Posts: 108
Loc: London,UK
If you are serious about music, why haven't you learnt to read? Sure, you can enjoy music without, but of course you'll achieve more if you can. The most important reason to learn, is so that you communicate with other musicians. How will others play your music if you can't write it down?
_________________________
The skates' songs are calling me to the sea

Pass by and hear my tunes at:
http://www.myspace.com/elazmomusic

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