After many years of just working off of lead sheets I joined a band where we use real music. There is a certain discipline as to having to do note-for-note what somebody else wrote. I'm so glad that my sight reading skills have not been lost. I'm just pleasantly surprised.
Notes are so fantastic. A language that posts time and rhythmic sense with the ** same symbol! **
I have some old old hymnbooks that had only words - 600 hymns, not the faintest idea of how they sounded. I have a songbook in the Bible. 150 Psalms, not the faintest idea of how they sounded as music.
Actually, no one reads music truly note-for-note (try to play or sing very, very exactly -- it is almost impossible to do (and I have a Master's in Organ Performance); and it sounds like the dullest pedant who ever crawled on the earth. I recently heard a pianist who played the exact notes from the hymnbook. Why? She should be orchestrating them along with bringing out the important or difficult parts for the altos and tenors, so they can sing more easily.
I'm so glad you can sight read! It's the difference between reading books and having to have them read to you. Sight-reading gives you a launching pad for creativity (you can always refer back to the notes, to make sure you still have something like the song).
I would really like to see an improved system of notes -- something that can make syncopation and cross-rhythm easier to read (I think the horrible quagmire of tied notes that is required to transcribe contemporary syncopated music is responsible for so many people quitting reading music, along with the abandonment of music training in schools). But can you imagine reading straight notes, with the syncopations as little curves and the decoration of a line as swirls, arrows and such? It woulde have to be standardized to be effective; otherwise, you might as well just listen to the CD and copy what you hear.
Something else to remember -- becauswe of the deficiencies of notes in transcribing contemporary music, what you see is not always what you should be getting. In 18th-century French music, the pushes and pulls and turns of the melody line are often written out in tiny notes, with the main-force notes in normal-size font. But it was only an approximation. Metronomes were new in Beethoven's time. He put an indication at the beginning, but someone challenged this, saying that it would make the piece impossible to play at that speed when the 16th notes got going. His reply was, that at the beginning it should be something like he wrote; and after that, it changes. Musical sense, as much at least as obedience, tells you what to do with the notes you see.
I seem to be the first; but I hope you get many responses about sight-reading, notes and notation. Now maybe we are indeed heading for the Star Trek world, where nobody except Kirk seems to read.
However we choose to do it, let us glorify God in every endeavour.
You're right. Sometimes the ties, grace notes, dots, etc. can be hard to read. Especially for those who are sight impaired (which I am slightly). Also I have a good laugh at times when, looking at lead sheets, I see how people put chord changes in the oddest places - being two or three beats after where it should be.
Chord symbols only mark key points in a flow of musical thought. The more sophisticated the arrangement, the less certainty as to where the symbol goes -- musicians are always crossing over and around the chord changes, inserting moving lines and 'false' notes for color, like expert tailors disguising the seams.
Notes made by a quality arranger are practically the only way some of those special lines of music can be described in detail. That's why it's great that bands still exist that use them.
I'm in a jazz band myself, as a pianist. Most of the time, I play from chorded hash marks, with just a few keyh notes dubbed in. So it's fun and a challenge finding the best place to slap a chord here, a note there, a run here. But in critical places, the arranger puts down every note.
Thus privileged, note-players can learn instantly a difficult passage that would require a chord-only band a half-hour to nail down, trying to dupe it from hearing a CD.
Of course, the non-readers DO have an advantage -- they've had to claw through the thing so many times, by the time they've learned it, it's memorized! If sight-readers get self-satisfied after a successful read-through, they can get too lazy to really incorporate it in their memory, which is a key to really good playing. Even when I am playing a Beethoven sonata, say, after several playings, I may have the notes in front of me, but it is through my memory that the depth of the music occurs. It's like a picture of a friend, child or spouse: if some wag photo-shopped even a tiny change to the image, you would know it immediately. You haven't tried to memorize their face, and probably couldn't draw it from memory; but it really exists in your memory. The notes on the page are only an aid to help you recall what you really have memorized.
Yea, that's a nice thing. I've lost some of it, but it takes me little time to pick it back up. However, since my main instrument is guitar, sight reading can become a hindrance if that makes any sense.
God knew what he was doing when He made memories and central nervous systems. Can you imagine a computer that could take any form of data you put into it - typewriter, manuscript, floppy, CD or the new-whacky tiny digital things, and instantly process it and get it right? But that's how He built our Memory and various gearboxes. The wonder of His love!
Yeah, a plus to being able to read music is that if you have good timing (via metronome, etc) you won't even have to hear the song beforehand. A friend once said to me - it's one thing to be able to play by ear and make your own music but it's another thing when you are in studio and someone plops piece of paper in front of you and says "Here, play this".
It's like right now I'm trying to fix my lawn mower and I took it totally apart and put it back together and it ran for twenty minutes, then quit, and the guy at the shop spoke in unknown tongues about it for ten minutes and used the word "magneto."
I have used magnetos unknowingly for forty-four of my sixty-two years, but only yesterday did I actually hold one in my hand - and now I am sitting on a block of wood in front of my mower, sight-reading a "score" by an alien composer.
Life itself is sight-reading, in a sense; but by faith we can live the 99% we don't understand.
Because of my classical training, I started out playing the piano score almost exactly, and so what I had to do was the opposite! But I agree that being able to read the notes is an advantage. I play the organ sometimes, and over there you pretty well have to play what's written!
Yeah. There was a time in a concert when I had a memory lapse and had to make up Bach-sounding runs in the opening of a fantasia. I had, literally, to wring out my shirt at intermission! Terrifying to try to imitate the masters, even with the time to write it down. . I made my own cadenza on Bach's Passacaglia in C, and rewrote it several times; but it always ended up sounding like Liszt. When you hear a person who can improve on anything in music from those masters, you have heard something wonderful and rare.
In fact, that's why, I would say, many people find classical music to be "hard", or even "difficult to listen to." The compelling vision of the author drives them to write so specifically to the idea they have conceived, that to express it maturely requires working it out in a way that requires very specific technique.
If you want a real challenge, try writing something easy -- say a melody and chords to a Scripture -- that, once it's written, no one would really want to alter the melody.