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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Musicians hear songs when they read music.

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Sam Shazaam - Posted - 09/24/2015:  08:21:36

This is an interesting article about how the brain works.

ChickenMan - Posted - 09/24/2015:  09:43:31

True stuff. I'm not great at playing from the dots, but I can look at them and get a feel for a tune's melody. This is especially true if I've put some recent time into playing from the dots. I like to listen while looking to improve my sight reading/hearing. Conductors can hear the whole orchestra looking at a full score.

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 09/24/2015:  10:16:00

As Yogi Berra might have said, it's just like reading words, only different.

abinigia - Posted - 09/24/2015:  10:47:00

I consider myself a musician, or at least musical. I began to teach myself to read many years ago to expand my abilities since I had learned to play stringed instruments almost completely by ear. So I do sight read now, but not real well. I find the contour of a melody line shows a melodic shape, but a lot of reading music involves learning what certain arbitrary symbols stand for. So, as much as I try to read better all the time, I wouldn't say that the ability to read is the only correlate to musicality. Just like verbalizing sentences doesn't require reading words.

I might change the title to 'Musicians who have been trained to read hear songs when they read'.

Dick Hauser - Posted - 09/24/2015:  10:58:00

Italian violin instructors used to require students to read notation and sing the melody before the student started to learn to play the tune. I feel that this is an excellent technique for people who want to use musical notation. This approach would provide more than one benefit.

I have known professional classical violinists. I consider my notation reading skills as adequate. But, when comparing my notation reading skills to a really good professional, we are from different planets.

Bruce Clausen - Posted - 09/24/2015:  11:41:28


Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler


As Yogi Berra might have said, it's just like reading words, only different.


Exactly.  When we read an English text, we see whole phrases at a glance, not just words, let alone individual letters.  Students learning to read music lurch from one note to the next with no sense of the phrase.  They see, then play, then hear.  Fluent music readers see and hear, then play.  Basically readers are playing by ear, in that they have to hear it in their mind in order to play it.


pete_fiddle - Posted - 09/24/2015:  12:34:51

i sometimes meet a guy at sessions who is fantastic at sight reading and a great mando player,but i have to go round the tune about 3 times while he finds the music,then 3 more times to play it together and if the tune changes well....

that said though,he can play any tune put in front of him at quick tempo's and with a goodish feel as well,if the tunes stuck with him he would have a huge repertoire but they don't seem to stick even if he has played them before, i dont know what would be the best route for a fiddler who is expected to play from memory,it seems like its the sight reading road,or the memory road

i think a sight reader would have to put just as much work into committing a tune to memory as a non sight reader maybe, i would love to be able to do both but i can only read enough to get the tune,then if it sticks it's mine.

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 09/24/2015 12:42:04

fiddlepogo - Posted - 09/24/2015:  13:50:38

I think that's far from a a universal ability among sight readers.   Very likely more common among singers who are good readers, since they have nothing else to tie a melody to.

Like Pete Fiddle, I've also noticed that difference in the ability to pick up a tune by ear, vs. picking it up by playing it from sheet music, only within my own tune-learning brain circuitry.

If by ear, SOMETIMES a tune will stick quickly, but it never takes all that long, then it's "mine".

When I try to learn tunes by playing them from sheet music, it can take a very long time indeed, and there is usually this leap of faith point where I try to play the thing by memory, and it's painful.... and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

fujers - Posted - 09/24/2015:  14:02:27

I can read just enough to get by...but I don't read fluently. To me learning by ear is good for that's what we all had to do in my time.

So I play most by ear...sometimes when I want to learn a jazz lick or something I'll get the music paper. But I still have to hunt and peck.

I think it would be a great thing if you could do both....playing by ear and reading music. I just wished that I could do that but I can't

Age is showing it's ugly head and I don't like it. But what am I going to do about it. Nothing. Jerry

alaskafiddler - Posted - 09/24/2015:  14:38:10


Originally posted by Sam Shazaam


This is an interesting article about how the brain works.

I didn't quite get much of what or how of this article. Maybe in reading the actual study it will make sense.

A few things that strike me though, in some of these studies, is the assumptions of what "musicians" are; and often only include classical  formal trained, sight readers.

The article indicates they are scanning the brain of musicians while reading, but trying to compare it to non-musicians doing what in comparison? Non-musicians looking at notation would be meaningless comparison. (and of course their brain functioning processing would be different, as in anything you didn't know how to do compared to someone who does)


fujers - Posted - 09/24/2015:  18:34:11

Well if they were to scan my brain they would automatically see there's nothing in there. So I guess I'm not a good subject for this.

What do they think ther're going to learn...that we are not monkeys....we are people.

Is this study to include the non classical players there's more of us than classical. I think I see what the study is about they are just focusing on those that read.

It would be interesting to find out the outcome. Besides there studies are probably going to be wrong. Jerry

Lee M - Posted - 09/29/2015:  14:17:47

Not always, but often, I can look at sheet music and Hear the tune before I ever try to play it on the fiddle.. It give me a 'warm' feeling inside.. Wish I could do it more often.

boxbow - Posted - 09/29/2015:  16:41:25

I learned to sight read as a kid.  Church choirs and school classical orchestras, along with piano lessons.  I brushed up about a dozen years ago so that I could learn more tunes.  Nothing fancy.

I memorize a tune much more slowly learning from the dots.  I'm a fair sight reader, but it tends not to stick.  My best bet is to learn by ear and reinforce as needed by looking at the dots.  I've also transposed some tunes to paper by ear as a learning aid.  I don't care, because all tunes sound pretty bad when I start, and stay that way for a really long time.  By the time I can play it, it's in my head, regardless of how I learned it. 

In all honesty, tunes I learn by ear tend not to stick, either.  I'm forever doomed to ask for the first few bars.



Dick Hauser - Posted - 09/29/2015:  17:40:57

Nothing will substitute for playing tunes often.  In addition, focusing on a specific repertoire of tunes has you playing these tunes more often.  Playing with a small group of musicians helps in lots of ways.  You play certain tunes a lot, you get to play backup, and can play around with improvisations.  I know I am playing too many tunes, and this will probably continue until I find people to play fiddle tunes with.  I can find musicians, but none who play fiddle tunes.  When that happens, I will most likely start playing fewer tunes, working harder on these tunes, and playing the tunes a lot more.  

bsed - Posted - 09/29/2015:  19:27:11

I don't really read music.  I play by ear. So I have always described what I do as singing the melody in my head at the same time I'm playing it. (Make sense?) If that process weren't going on, nothing would come out of my bow or fingers.

boxbow - Posted - 09/30/2015:  18:54:19


Originally posted by Dick Hauser


Nothing will substitute for playing tunes often.  In addition, focusing on a specific repertoire of tunes has you playing these tunes more often.  Playing with a small group of musicians helps in lots of ways.  You play certain tunes a lot, you get to play backup, and can play around with improvisations.

I've found this to be true.  With somebody else to carry the freight now and then, you can get pretty brave with your improvisation.  You need to play with people who will tell you to back off, though.

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