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Playing instruments by ear or Reading music.
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19 / F / Texas
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Posted 11/3/12
Hello this is a topic I want to discuss with all the musicians on this website. I can't seem to place an opinion over this dilemma that has always segregated musicians since the beginning of sight reading.

Some musicians that can’t read a note of music, but can play on tunes for days using their ears. Conversely, many classical musicians can read for days and days, but ask them to improvise and the room becomes silent. It's difficult to place an opinion over what is more valuable for a musician.

My experience is: (It's a little long so I'll spoil it if you don't want to read it.)



So what are your thoughts and experiences over this dilemma?

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25 / M / in a world where...
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Posted 11/3/12
sounds like a versus thread which the mods don't like due to the lack of discussion that can be generated
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18 / F / in the melancholy...
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Posted 11/3/12
well i play the drums by ear. i can read a little but its not as complex as some music.. any who , my experience is one time i was doing a performance and i went a little of the music but because i am self taught i went into my own grove and styled it out , nobody heard the song before so i got away with it eheh ^_^
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28 / M / Waterloo, Ontario
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Posted 11/3/12
I see no problem people learn in different ways.
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53 / M / Between the devil...
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Posted 11/3/12 , edited 11/3/12
Well,for me, ie you want a classical piece performed, the musician that can read music would be perfect. But try to put that musician in with , say, a jazz quartet, they'd be totally lost due to lack of any sort of improvisational ability. But put a "by ear" musician in with a classical ensenble, and the same would apply, because a classical; piece is written to be played note for note as is. As a fan of several classical pieces, I expect the piece to be as familiar to me as a good pair of shoes. As to who is better, I personally prefer someone who can pick up their instrument of choice and jump right on in, no matter what we were playing at the time, so a "by ear" musician would be my choice.

Reading modern tabs is relatively simple. You just need to know what the symbols represented. Reading standard music staff notation is more difficult. I used to be able read the old style music, but all that drained out of my brain cell many years ago.
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28 / F / Lost
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Posted 11/3/12
I can do both, but when it comes to popular (as opposed to academic) music, I prefer to play by ear. Especially since aural tradition is strill strong in Colombian music.
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27 / M / Louisiana
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Posted 11/3/12
So in response to this I will share my music story...

I play the Bflat Clarinet, Alto/Saprano Saxophone and Trumpet, I have played since 6th grade and even in College/University. I can read music but I will get off beat a lot for some odd reason. I just play to my own beat *shrugs* So I did a jazz band once and I was told to do an improve, from a scale....I looked so scared I am sure...I cannot improvise without music in front of me...( I know that is not improve then, but you get my point) Now I have worked on being able to improve on my own, and I have gotten better but not quite to the level I want to be. As to really answer this which I think if we had a lot of musicians this would be a good thread. I think both are great...if you can play music from your heart and soul whether that is reading it or just playing it by ear, then why should it matter? What does it matter if you have talent and can play your intsrument, or even if you do not have talent, as long as you enjoy it, does not matter. This is solely my opinion on the matter.
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21 / M / Chicago, USA
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Posted 11/3/12
I've been drumming for years and participated in drumcorps and got paid to do jazz performances in high school. Personally, I can play many different instruments by ear, or by music. All improv is, as i've been told by many teachers i've had and my own personal experience, is practice. If you practice reading music you get better, If you practice mimicking a certain sound you will get better at attaining it quicker. That's all in my opinion anyway
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28 / F / Lost
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Posted 11/3/12

Nikolajdrevun wrote:

I've been drumming for years and participated in drumcorps and got paid to do jazz performances in high school. Personally, I can play many different instruments by ear, or by music. All improv is, as i've been told by many teachers i've had and my own personal experience, is practice. If you practice reading music you get better, If you practice mimicking a certain sound you will get better at attaining it quicker. That's all in my opinion anyway


Big chunk of musical truth. You can't expect to be Paganini if you don't practice
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21 / M / Chicago, USA
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Posted 11/3/12
@Frodizzle, I agree with you're point completely, and yea, it's still improv with sheet music in front of you, as long as you only use it to get the gist of the piece. =) sadly, in jazz i never play whats on the paper, it's hard as hell hahaha
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20 / M / UK
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Posted 11/3/12
Anything I have learn't to play on the keyboard I have learn't by ear, I am hopeless at reading sheet music.
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26 / M / Seattle, and ever...
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Posted 11/3/12
Stay away from Suzuki method.
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23 / M / Missouri
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Posted 11/3/12 , edited 11/3/12
Played the trombone for about 6 years, but I was never able to play anything by ear (also absolutely hated improv). I was always exceptional at sight reading, never spent more than a few minutes looking over a piece before I'd be able to play it without trying, but after high school I completely stopped playing altogether and have basically forgotten a lot of it. Someday I'd like to pick it up again though.

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27 / M / Louisiana
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Posted 11/3/12

Nikolajdrevun wrote:

@Frodizzle, I agree with you're point completely, and yea, it's still improv with sheet music in front of you, as long as you only use it to get the gist of the piece. =) sadly, in jazz i never play whats on the paper, it's hard as hell hahaha


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtjzVThkiFs&feature=related

I found this and i think everyone should listen to this and this should make the decision pretty clear...either way is good.
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24 / M / Australia
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Posted 11/3/12
My teacher taught the informal way, of learning by ear. When it came to reading music, or learning scales etc, I can honestly say I have struggled to retain that information. So I still continue to learn by ear.
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