Should young musicians learn to read/write music?

Aloha guys.

Having a conversation with my daughter (who is 24 years old) about
todays young musicians and if they should learn to read/write
music notation, understand theory etc.

She learned all this stuff when she was very young but now days
when she interacts with other musicians of her age, the debate rages.
She tells me; ‘that ability/talent is rarely used’.

I must admit when I played with rock/funk bands on the road, there would be mucho
time passed when I would never even see a piece of manuscript paper.

Jazz groups are a different story. Lot’s o’ reading/writing there.

And I honestly believe that approaching rock or blues from a reading standpoint can be
counter productive. A bottle of beer often times is a much better approach. :slight_smile:

Many of her ilk feel that reading/writing music notation is a ‘thing of the past’
and their time would be better spent learning to make ‘beats’ and work with ‘loops’ etc.
(which is IMHO an art form in itself).

Then if needed they could hire out old guys (like me) do to actual notation
for copy write/sheet music production/stage/video etc etc .

So as you can see I am of two minds about this and can perceive both perspectives.

Any thoughts?

TIA (thanks in advance)

if i could have my time over again i would have learned to read music earlier on in life,its such an eye opener .kids should still try use their ears more and stop relying on tab but when its all available there on the net what can you do .as always everything is best in balance.

Should young musicians learn to read/write music?


And not just young musicians either. I know some “older” ones that would benefit from becoming musically literate.

Though it’s not a bad idea to educate oneself in the art of music, I don’t believe it’s necessary to read & write notation. I actually to read notation, but really have not used it much at all over the years. So what, it allowed me bragging rights at times…though I was never particularly good at it. Sometimes being ignorant of certain aspects of our lives, music being one such area can actually be better. Take playing some of the best lead guitar solo’s for examples, no notation can prepare you to play “Freebird”! “Stairway to heaven!” etc …that stuff comes from ‘within’ …IMO :ugeek:

But if you want to get along with an orchestra etc, maybe reading music would be something you’d be better off knowing.

But…“Throw me in a box, get me on a plane, hurry, hurry, hurry, before I go insane” :smiley:

Yep what others have said, it comes from within, when it comes to scales and modes for example. When you don’t know them, sometimes you just have that feeling when you know what sounds right together. When I made my first pieces of music I didn’t know any of that theory stuff because my background was playing guitar, not playing with synths like I do now. So I really didn’t know what I was doing, but when I look back on those pieces I say hey that actually sounded well together, it was almost sort of a guessing game as to which notes sounded great together.

That also comes with a feeling of “aww, I really should of learned theory when I had first started”, or even remembered from when I was still in school, because sometimes I really wish I had, because I’m still learning theory and to be honest it’s not fun at all. I honestly think that you do much better when you really don’t know what you are doing and just let it come from within, I think that is the key. Let the soul create, not the mind. :smiley:

So true when it comes to playing most ethnic type music (like American rock or blues)
but I learned John Coltrane’s solo in ‘Giant Steps’ buy reading a transcription in Downbeat magazine.

And in my case it got me a great ‘once in a life time’ gig.

When I auditioned for Jimmy Smith (organist) that was the first piece he played.
And it was ‘UP’! Just to see if I could ‘hang’.
(Giant steps is considered by many to be one of the hardest pieces to solo on in jazz)
I nailed it. He was impressed and hired me.

I me thinks I still have that issue hiding on a shelf somewhere.

But when I listen to my daughters music it all sounds so wonderfully ‘dense’;
where in my day we were more concerned about ‘layers’ and everything sitting in a ‘pocket’
of some sort.
And being mixed (if your are lucky) so that you could hear every instrument all the way thru.

With her music I hear something different each time I listen.

Hard to notate that. And probably impossible to notate ‘feelin’.

Yeah, try and notate …
‘pick scrapes’
‘false harmonics’
‘whammy bar’
‘pick switching-tremlo technique’
‘palm mutes’

Guitar playa say “Do wha?” :laughing:

To those who would glibly comment about the deficiencies of written notation– The OP didn’t ask what’s better. Naturally, people who read and write music will say it’s good to learn, and people who don’t will say they do all right without it. Also there are those who discovered late on that is an extremely valuable skill.

Of course, all kinds of things can be notated, and a player who knows the style will read it right. Being literate in music doesn’t have much to do at all with what ‘comes from within’, and simply being able to read won’t stifle your creativity.

In my view, Curteye’s daughters assertion is a case of missing the point due to not understanding the object in question- the music reading skill.

How can anyone evaluate a skill they haven’t acquired?

I would just say I wish I was better at reading music. I can’t sight-read well at all, and it would certainly have been of great use many times in the past. It’s hard for me to imagine that such a skill would take away my creativity and spontaneity. To be honest, I wish I had guitar lessons as well.

i`ve been reading music for two and a half years now ,i have played guitar for many years previous doing all the usual stuff electric guitarists do . i can now play tunes in a classical style i would never have dream t of before hand ,it is hard work but gets easier and is very rewarding. i would recommend it to anybody.

I started out playing the baritone horn at age 10. It was different than your typical “piano lessons” because I was reading bass clef.

I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Between art classes and band / choir classes in junior high and high school, I learned more valuable information than all other classes combined. Mainly how to be an acceptable freak …

Art Fags RULE !!!

Just like a kid we can’t run until we walk and then the world is ours. There are so many things the basics are needed for, why not music? At six years old I had to start learning theory and 70 years later I’m not sorry for it. Now it seems it was a logical must learn.

For the kind of schlock that passes for pop/rock music today?

Nah, all they need is good looks and good connections (being related to “someone” highly preferable. Nepotism in today’s music business is only second to Hollywood’s.)

Lots of money to help convincing the clueless masses that what they do is “great” and “cool” wouldn’t hurt either.

That is the POV of my daughters ‘posse’.
And she is slowly starting to come around to that perspective as well.

I would say to her:
‘The times, They are a Changing’! —Dylan

And she answer back:
No dad! Keep up! The times have already changed!

I don’t read/write in my day to day work–not at all. But had to do it in college. I feel as if I’d learned when I was younger, I’d be a better musician today.


I’m glad I can read/write music. Makes life so much easier! :slight_smile:

You played with Jimmy?!? Cool! :sunglasses:

… makes my curious about your real name… :wink:


No biggie. I was a very lucky one tour nine month footnote.
Never recorded with him. Learned a lot tho’.

Besides at that time being of a younger generation,
I started wanting to learn to play like another other ‘Jimi’. :slight_smile:

I’m of the younger generation (nearly 24 as well). I learned how to read and write music but I was never really good at it and it’s certainly not improved over the last years. Although I can still do it, I need some time to read everything so if you plonk some sheet music in front of me I’ll be helpless if you want me to play it straight away.
Sometimes I wish I was better at it, but not often enough to pick up practicing it :wink:

Knowing theory is something different. I don’t know much at all beyond chords, but for me that’s enough to play and write.
Most problems are solved by becoming a drummer :stuck_out_tongue:


I do want a nice electronic drum set pretty badly …