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Postby Chris C » August 12th, 2005, 4:19 pm

MaxRumble wrote:Well I am currently learning french and while i don't see it as a chore nor do I see learning to read music as a chore they both definitly require thousands of hours of study to be highly proficient. Which is well within my definition of a huge effort.



I think you've hit the spot with your comments about whether it's a "chore" or not.

Quite a few of today's guitar heroes don't read music. And I doubt if many of the old blues guys even had access to sheet music, let alone read it. Is this an excuse not to learn how to read? Yes, it is - if you want it to be. Is it a reason to dismiss the worth of standard notation? Absolutely not.

I'm not in a rush to become a professional musician, or to be the next Clapton, so I don't see anything to doing with music as a chore. Instead it's all a collection of skills, talents and abilities that I actually enjoy acquiring.

Everybody makes choice about priorities for all aspects of their lives - and we rarely end up as proficient in everything as we'd like to be. We're also all different - so NoteBoats's path won't work for all of us, and neither will Arjen's.

I struggled terribly when I first tried to learn to read - to the point where I seriously thought I must have some form of musical dyslexia - but now I can read. Not yet at playing speed, but well enough for it to be a useful and enjoyable skill to have.

I say learn both - that's where I'm headed. But I'd also say don't get too worried about the precise details of the path you take. Enjoy the journey. :D
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Postby NoteBoat » August 12th, 2005, 6:06 pm

Arjen, you're right... nobody 'needs' to learn tab. Nobody needs to learn alternate picking, standard tuning, music theory - just about any single aspect you can come up with, there's somebody who became a huge success while ignoring that aspect.

But when musicians are 'trained' (i.e. conservatory training, or even the equivalent at GIT or similar schools), there's a core set of skills that are taught regardless of your instrument... the things that music educators, in general, think a musician should lerarn.

I happen to be one of the few guitar teachers in the US who's a member of MENC - the Music Eduators National Conference. It's mostly composed of school band directors, but we're all professional teachers of music. In a school band setting, out of 1000 kids maybe 1 will eventually become a professional musican... and the kids know it. In a guitar setting, out of 1000 students, maybe 1 will become a professional musician - but about 300 truly believe they will be. But I digress.

The Conference has set National Standards for music education in the US, the things that the teachers as a group feel are essential to getting the most from a developing musician. They are:

1. Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
2. Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
3. Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments.
4. Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.
5. Reading and notating music.
6. Listening to, analyzing, and describing music.
7. Evaluating music and music performances.
8. Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.
9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.

Unfortunately, most guitarists ignore 6-8 of those points. And their list is a pretty good starting place for music education - you should be able to sing a melody, even if you'll never do it on stage. You should have at least a passing exposure, even if it's just within your genre, of how musical styles developed. You should know something about the relationship of music to math, and maybe other arts and sciences like physics. You should[u] be able to intelligently describe what you're listening to... and in more than one 'dimension'. And yes, you [u]should be able to pick out a melody from those dots on the page.

Realistically, is it essential to self expression? Of course not. But guitarists who ignore other aspects of musical training aren't doing themselves any favors or making themselves any more 'expressive'.

Realistically, do you need it to make money in music? Probably not. I read more on gigs than most guitarists - but that's because bandleaders know I can read, so they call me if they need a reader. My income would probably be only 5-10% lower if I couldn't read.

But really... I don't understand why any instrumentalist would look down on traditional musical training as unimportant and irrelevant - that's something I only see guitarists do.

I know other instrumentalists, mostly percussionists, who don't read standard notation. They're embarrased by it, and they'll say so. Guitarists seem to wear illiteracy in standard notation like a badge of honor.

I guess I just don't understand that point of view.
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Postby Musenfreund » August 12th, 2005, 6:26 pm

I can read standard notation, but not well. It's a bit of a struggle for me. But I think it's very important. (I certainly check key signatures and that sort of thing easily but that's about it). It's a skill I need to work on.

The funny thing is, I decided to learn some bass this week simply because I wanted to be more versatile (and believe me, I'm never doing vocals because it just wouldn't be kind to the audience!).

At any rate, suddenly I find myself working lots with the bass clef. There aren't many bass tabs out there. So suddenly I find myself digging out P/V/G music so I can read the bass clef and get a better clue as to what's happening on bass guitar. Deciding to pick up some elementary bass skills has underscored the need to read standard notation and learning the bass will probably force me to read standard notation better (it also makes me wish guitar tabs had the bass clef in the standard notation sections).

Okay, there may be a moral to this story???

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Postby jewtemplar » August 12th, 2005, 7:18 pm

Arjen wrote:Still kinda weird that the innacuracy of standard notation is a 'feature' and the innacuracy of tab a 'bug'.



This may seem counterintuitive at first, but it reveals a major difference between tab and standard notation that has been hinted at in many of these posts. Tab is designed to duplicate a performance; standard notation is designed to commit music to writing so that others can play it. Have you ever seen a score for Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, as performed by the Berlin Philharmonic under Furtwangler in 1934? What about multiple tabs of a single song by, say, Hendrix, from different live appearances?

Whatever the reason, the "natural" notation system for guitar emphasizes replicating a performance rather than performing a piece of music. I hope we can agree that this is not what music is about. It's organic, and there are a lot of choices left to the performer. Without those choices, music is an exercise, not an art. I don't mean that tab prevents musicians from interpreting music, but that its nature discourages it. Guitarists as a whole, as has been mentioned, are unlike the players of any other instrument. The popularity of rock and roll has made guitar players of many who never would've picked up an instrument otherwise. This is great, because playing an instrument is a wonderful thing, but it also means there are a lot of guitarists, some quite skilled, who have an inferior grasp of the real music that lies beyond reproducing the sound of a recording. I think it's a shame. It's even more of a shame that someone who decides to attempt mastery of the guitar by employing scales and exercises and the like as well as songs should close off such a fruitful learning experience. Everyone who has the time to learn the guitar has the time to learn to read standard notation. It's not a matter of wasting time. People should understand that an effective introduction to the wonder and variety of music really is more important than upping the speed of some scale another few bpm. I know this seems preachy, but I would never recommend skipping standard notation, even for someone whose personal goals at the moment may make it less important. This is music we're talking about. The guitar is just an instrument.
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Postby greybeard » August 12th, 2005, 11:50 pm

The only real difference between modern tabs and standard notation is that numbers are replaced by little dots.

- that glues you to one position - aping the person that tabbed the piece of music. Most tabbers are so slavish in their tabbing that they include every missed/fluffed note in the performance. Standard notation gives you the pitch that is to be played, where you play it is up to you.
- Transcribing standard notation is easier than transcribing tab
- 99% of tab - yes, even "modern" tab - give absolutely NO indication of timing.
- Standard notation allows an easier transition to alternate tunings than tab - you don't have to change the standard notation to play in dropped D or whatever - in tab, you do.
-Tab doesn't allow for 7-string or baritone guitars - standard notation doesn't care.
But since I know in what key I am playing that is rather unneeded.

There are not many tabs that bother to tell you what key you're playing in, particularly not the txt tabs.
Besides, 'first string sixth fret' is atleast simple and basic. Once you finally know where the dots of the sheet are on your fretboard you can start all over again when you tune your guitar to something different then standard tuning whereas a tab is straightforward as long as you tune in the same way as the tabmaker did. Which is because standard notation obviously wasn't invented for the guitar.

- Yes, 'first string sixth fret' is simple and basic - it is also tying you to playing it that way, unless you rewrite the tab - you don't need that with standard notation.
Once you finally know where the dots of the sheet are on your fretboard you can start all over again when you tune your guitar to something different then standard tuning....................

Yes, but standard notation doesn't require that you rewrite your tab when you change to another tuning.
...........whereas a tab is straightforward as long as you tune in the same way as the tabmaker did.

and if not, you rewrite your tab. Now, that is NOT a feature.
Quote:
- because tab doesn't have a clear time element, you need to have heard a song to give a convincing performance from tab
I write my stuff in tab on a computer, and you know why? Because it allows me to indicate dynamics and tempo FAR more detailled then sheet music can ever go.

Can you post some of this "Wondertab", please?
I mean *really*, since when does this allow me to play anything even remotely the way Beethoven intended it to be played? Everyone who knows something about classical music knows people have debated how pieces should be played for hundreds of years and we still have no real clue. Standard notation is not accurate.

Standard notation will give you a sporting chance to get near what Beethoven had in mind. Tab will not and cannot came anywhere near. Tab is an interpretation of a performance. It is not a transcription of the way the composer intended it.
How often does tab ever give you dynamics? Many don't even give you tempo. Don't forget that many, if not all, of the symbols, used in tab, have been taken from standard notation.
Standard notation is far more accurate than tab, which is based upon what the tabber hears in a performance (who knows, the musician may have learnt from tab, mistakes and all?).
Difference being that my tab would be slightly more accurate

It is only accurate for your performance, in your tuning. It is not applicable to a sax player or a pianist.
And programming a proper tab takes a lot more time then writing standard notation.

And that is supposed to be a feature?
whereas my tab would contain all bass, guitar, drums, piano, vocal and whatnot lines.

How do you tab drums, piano, vocals and whatnots?
And after being written in tab it can transform it to standard notation for the piano-player to read.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Although I have to admit they could make the transformation a bit less sloppy, no technical reason why it cannot be done 100% accurately, apart from the flaws of standard notation.

It's the weaknesses and strictures in tab that are the problem, not the weaknesses in standard notation.
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Postby Ignar Hillström » August 13th, 2005, 3:43 am

Greybeard, I think you misunderstand me. I am not talking about .txt tabfiles. Converting to standard notation, 7-string, re-tuning and similar issues take about 1 second with proper programs. I think it is pretty obvious that the basic tab is pretty near hopeless. I myself haven't used the standard tab for myself for learning any song the past few months. The two arguments that can be brought against this (copyright Tom):
-It essentially is not the tab but the further ability of the computer that allows it.
-Standard notation programs can do it as well, if not better.

Fact remains that tab has come a long way, and I could learn a song I'never heared just by tab. Then again, I could actually listen to the tab.

Arjen, you're right... nobody 'needs' to learn tab. Nobody needs to learn alternate picking, standard tuning, music theory - just about any single aspect you can come up with, there's somebody who became a huge success while ignoring that aspect.


Difference being that some aspects will limit you more then others, depending on what you're after. I'd say being able to maintain a tight rhythm, picking accurately and having correct posture so you don't fatigue are to most more important skills.

But I guess the main difference is that you teach guitar as an art intended to turn the aspiring guitarist in a artist. That's cool, and from that perspective learning is very, very much required. But, as you've noted, guitarists often don't care. The guitar is a very basic instrument, half the world has one. You can assume that most just want to noodle. They work, go home, noodle a bit and do other stuff. I'd dare to say most don't even have the time to practice for one hour a day, which I think is not really much if you aspire to learn all on your list.

And why guitarists are proud of it? Self-justification. People are instinctively proud of whatever they've done because it is a strong defence against utter madness. People are proud of not having a teacher. People are proud when they stole their first car, won their first barfight, taken drugs for the first time, anything. It simply is very, very hard to say that you've taken the wrong path for the past year(s) and should have learned more disciplined.

I'm getting the impression people here are seeing me as some kind of Holy TabWarrior on a crusade against standard notation. Definitely not true. But if someone asks 'should I learn it' you shouldn;'t blindly say 'yes, it's a must'. We have different tastes, different goals, different gear and different training methods. And anyone who thinks about musicians as superior/inferior depending on being able to read music should be tortured with a broom on general principle.

I guess I just don't understand that point of view.


You are a serious musician, and want to know as much as you can. Others dont. They want to play a C-F-G progression and play a bunch of notes over them, chill out and get some extra beer. Many people cook on a daily basis. Only a few are serious enough to read up on different cooking techniques, ingredients and whatnot. The first group can actually sometimes cook quite well, by instinct. The latter is actually able to instruct others, compare different tastes/ingredients combinations and consciously plan out new meals. I learned reading music and am a trial-and-error cook. Others can cook like a God but can only noodle some tunes on the guitar. As long as it provides the enjoyment you seek, whats the deal? Remember: the question was not 'whats better, tab vs standard notation?' but 'whats the actual use for me of learning to read?'.
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Postby NoteBoat » August 13th, 2005, 6:25 am

Arjen, the barfight/car theft angle makes sense.

There's one more really important reason to learn at least the basics (first position) of standard notation, though, and it's often overlooked:

If you don't learn it in the beginning, you probably never will.

Tab is easy to learn at any stage of ability because it's familiar. We all know what numbers are, and the representation of strings in tab is graphic, and simple to understand. Standard notation uses symbols that people haven't encountered in other contexts - you need to learn the alphabet before you can decipher the words.

And just like learning the alphabet, you don't rush off and start spelling things from the medical dictionary for practice - you start with 'cat' and 'dog'. Students learning standard notation will play 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' or 'Row Row Row Your Boat' or pieces of similiar complexity.

If you've already progressed in your playing ability, doing these pieces is boring. If they're taught from the beginning, so that they match your playing ability, they may not be exactly what you want to learn at the moment... but you'll develop the ability to read while the practice pieces make sense supporting your other musical goals. The ability to fret notes cleanly can be just as easily learned from 'Row Row Your Boat' as it can from 'Freebird'.

I don't listen to the same music I did when I was 13 (at least not very often), and my students probably won't either. The kid who wants to learn only metal today might be listening to jazz or classical by the time he's 30, and the tools of standard notation may help then. That's a big reason why I teach standard notation to ALL my younger beginning students - because they haven't got a broad enough understanding of music - or themselves - to rationally say reading isn't ever going to be important to them.

If you learn to read and don't need it again, you simply don't use it. If you don't learn to read and you need it... well, your only options is spending a few years playing stuff 'beneath' your ability.

I'm not a zealot on reading, though. When I get adult beginners who want to learn only one style - blues, celtic, whatever - and they're not interested in reading, I don't teach it unless it's essential to the style they want. If I get a younger student who's already intermediate/advanced in playing ability, I'll encourage reading, but I don't require it.

Most teachers I've known take the approach of 'give the customer what they want', and if a kid just wants to learn Metallica solos, that's what they show. I prefer giving the customer what they need - so I'll do the Metallica AND standard notation. They're not incompatible.
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Postby MaxRumble » August 13th, 2005, 6:50 am

Well I have to say you guys have given me some food for thought. I am very impressed with the intelligent articulate arguments.

I regularly spend time learning theory. I think some of David's lessons have shown me some of the value of understanding stadard notation. There were times when I was following along one of his lesson using tab and the quick glance to his standard notation gave me the timing. I currently understand all of the timing symbols and most other symbols. I have not practiced the note positions. I work out scales rather than finding them on the net and I am working towards memorizing all of the notes in all positions on the guitar.

How serious a musician am I? Not quite sure. It would be highly unlikely that I will ever be interested in perfroming other that in my or my friend's back yards. It just don't find it appealing. I constantly strive to add new teqniques and more difficult songs to my repitroir. I know I will always have a strong yearning to improve my playing and knowledge.

A few of my friends who have played for many years, have no understanding of theory, which I find amazing. Yet they are very good players. One in particular told me the other day that he didn't know the notes of all the open strings and he has been playing for at least 20 years. I must ask him how he can possibly have been stringing his guitar for so long and not have learned. He is a skillfull player who I have learned much from. I have seen some great improvisation from people who have almost no theoretical knowledge.

All that being said I believe knowleged can only help, and since site reading is quite a way off for me, Ill keep plugging away learing theory until I get to the point of decideing.

Right now my inclination would be that site reading may not be that benificial to me, because I don't envision myself with written music playing with my friends in the backyard. Add to that the shear volume of tab that is out there at the beacon of my keystrokes, for free.

For those of you who choose to read standard notation, where do you get all of your music? I assume you buy books?
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Postby Musenfreund » August 13th, 2005, 11:35 am

I buy a fair amount of sheet music (but typically with tablature as well).
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Postby Kyle » August 16th, 2005, 2:09 pm

It will help you tremendously in any style, but really the only 3 vast genres I can think of where it is absoelutely required in order to play in that style are jazz, classical, and pop(mainly becuase pop is written by proffesional composers for other crappy vocalists, and they all use standard notation). So if you are hoping to touch any of those styles, start working. If you don't, you can probably cheese your way through like the rest of the pack, but realize that you are missing out on alot. I'm not gonna lie, learning to read to the point where you are merely profecient in all positions and keys is going to take many years for many people (I'm on my 1st year, and I can already tell it's gonna be a long haul), and learning to read well on guitar is a lifelong pursuit. If you choose to climb the mountain that is sight reading, rest assured that conquering it will bring benifits in bulk to your playing. Listing all the great things it will bring to you will take way to long to write, too much space, and too much thought. But, the one I consider to be most important is that it simply allows you to do so much more. You cannot study counterpoint without learning how to read, thus you can never be a composer. See how one reading opens up the floodgates? Your options are severely limited when you can't read. Also, if you expect to be a hired gun for a recording studio, you better know how to read, becuase they all use standard notation(there is a reason for that btw, pound for pound, it's way better than even the most accurate tab).


So as a closing thought, consider this. If music itself is a language, and like most languages has 2 mediums, written and audible, NOT BEING ABLE TO READ MUSIC MAKES YOU AN ILLITERATE MUSICIAN! Now how does that make you feel? Not very good, huh? Start practicing and you will be grateful years later when you realize how much of what your doing then would have been impossible if you had not developed your reading skills earlier on. GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO!
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Postby Kyle » August 16th, 2005, 3:39 pm

After reading arjen's arguements I realized i should adress another point.

Arjen, you are right that musical notation is not always accurate. If I write 4 quarter notes even with very specific instructions as to how they are to be played on the page, there are a million different ways they can be articulated. Just like if I write the word "dog", you can say it a million ways, but atleast I give you the word. The point is that of course there are hundreds of ways to play the same piece of music, but it is way better than nothing, and saying it's futile just becuase it's impossible to dictate exactly how someone else played it is beside the point. So what if I can't play St. Thomas just like Sonny Rollins? It makes it even more fun for the player becuase the ability to change parts of the song is built in! One great thing about music is that it is totally up to the players and the conducter as to how they want to play the notes inside the parameters of the written piece. Why do you think you never get tired of going and seeing your favorite jazz standards played over and over by different groups? It's becuase every time it's the same, but in a way, very different. Personally, I love that diversity and chaosity of how the same note can never be heard or played the same way twice. People are different, but if the majority of people felt the same as the first time as they heard the song every time they heard it, there would need to be way more songs in the world, purely for the fact that they would have no replay value. Thank goodness that is not the case.
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Postby Ignar Hillström » August 16th, 2005, 4:11 pm

Kyle, I am not saying that music notation is futile or worthless. I am saying it is untrue to say that music notation allows you to play something the way the composer intended it to be played. As such, music notation is an indication of how it should be played, just as tab is. Which, do note, doesn't mean they are similar in accuracy, style or intention.

NOT BEING ABLE TO READ MUSIC MAKES YOU AN ILLITERATE MUSICIAN


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Postby kingpatzer » August 16th, 2005, 5:52 pm

Arjen wrote:Kyle, I am not saying that music notation is futile or worthless.


While you keep saying that, it's hard to find that message when reading your responses in their entirety. It seems to me that you're saying since tab + the right computer programs can get the job done that reading notation is in fact a waste of time and energy. If you're not saying that, what are you saying?

I am saying it is untrue to say that music notation allows you to play something the way the composer intended it to be played.


Then I'd say you have little experience as either a composer or as an ensemble musician. While all performances are interprative by their very nature, standard notation does a far superior job to even the most advanced tab systems in conveying composer's intent.

As such, music notation is an indication of how it should be played, just as tab is. Which, do note, doesn't mean they are similar in accuracy, style or intention.


No, they're not similar in those regards. Standard notation is superior in every aspect. There is nothing tab can do that standard notation can not, and much that standard notation can do that tab can not.

Aside from the fact that for you to use your tab software you have to have your computer next to you . . . making it nearly worthless for things like camping trips, bar outings, or really any venue that doesn't include your software program; you also have the very real issue of copyright. When you take a tab from the internet, unless you're going through one of a few pay sites, you're probably violating the copyright of the composer. While for most of us, the few pennies we'd ever earn from our art is a mere pitance, it's still something that we're rightfully owed.

NOT BEING ABLE TO READ MUSIC MAKES YOU AN ILLITERATE MUSICIAN


Couldn't care less. Just like I don't mind my favourite author being deaf.


False analogy. It has nothing to do with the performer or composer, but with you. Consider instead if you loved the Harry Potter movies and wanted to read the book, but you are sadly, unable to as you've never learned how to read.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to this. Everyone's tastes change. Someday you might decide that you'd really like to play classical or jazz or some other genre that more or less requires reading ability . . . but you've spent all your years of playing refusing to learn to be proficient at reading. You'll find that you can't do what you want without spending some serious time learning something you could easily have mastered years before with little or no real effort just by incorporating a little reading into your daily practices.

And that will be sad.

There are plenty of people who get through their lives being functionally illiterate. That doesn't in any way make it something to aim for.

All you may want to do today is to noodle around and play a few tunes. That's great. But why limit yourself to only ever being able to do that?
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Postby Ignar Hillström » August 16th, 2005, 10:42 pm

I have to say I'm getting rather annoyed here, so this will be my final post in this topic. I've given a few billion summaries of what I'm saying and it is real amazingly easy to read that so I feel I am wasting my time here.

If you're not saying that, what are you saying?


Learning to read music is a waste of time and energy for some, and not for others. That's a very, very basic and simple fact of live, and I don't even remotely care how proud you are of what you've learned. People have different goals and as such different needs. If that is too hard to accept then any discussion is absolutely pointless.

Then I'd say you have little experience as either a composer or as an ensemble musician. While all performances are interprative by their very nature, standard notation does a far superior job to even the most advanced tab systems in conveying composer's intent.


Unless the English language works in a unique way, you are not reading what I'm saying. I'm not talking about relative accuracy. Both tab and notation does not explicitly allow you to play anything the way anyone intended it to be played. If it did allow you that it had to be 100% explicit in the way every single note should be played, and that isn't the case. If it doesn't tell you 100% how to play it, then it doesn't completely tell you how to play it. Maybe music notation allows for 90%. Or even 99,9%. Still doesn't allow you to play it exactly the way Beethoven had it in his head. And if it doesn't allow you to play it exactly the way the composer intended it, then you can, at best, only get close to his intentions. Which is exactly what I stated. I'm not saying blue looks more like orange then yellow does. I'm saying neither is exactly yellow, and neither should claim to be yellow. Most sounds cannot be written down you can only give estimates.

People here keep comparing tab vs music notation. That is not the point. Noone cares which one is better, that is not what this topic is about. The one question is 'should I learn it'. The one answer is 'maybe, depends on what you want to do'. End of discussion. Now you may believe that your way is the only way, and anyone who choses not to learn to read is a uneducated lesser lifeform who should bask in the glory of those True Musicians but I find that a truly lame opinion.

Some need it, some don't. Some use it, some don't. In pretty much every post I've said that people can have good reasons for either learning it or not learning it.

You can read and happily use that skill? Cool. I use it with piano, not with guitar. Some don't use it at all, if they possess the skill to some degree. Accept it. Respect it. Feel free to inform people of the uses of being able to read. Feel free to educate those who request an education. But at the very least try to respect those who decide as rational human beings that learning to read is simply not something they would like to spend their time on.

But whatever. Feel free to disagree, feel free to call my response arrogant and insulting. I've tried to see the point in the arguments of those who read and those who don't. If you are unwilling or unable to do so. not my problem.

I have a great deal of respect for you as a person and musician from what I've read from you on these forums, I honestly do. But I find it absolutely stunning that it is apparantly a huge task to accept that some just don't give a remote crap and can live a happy and prosperous live as a good human being, while playing the guitar and not ever read a single note.

Read what Tom said. Only a few actually desire the skill at this moment, many could desire it later, others never desire it. He teaches it to most as a 'better safe then sorry' thing, but he knows that some just don't ever need it. If uncle John goes to GC at the age of 65 to finally learn the tunes of his hero, Bob Dylan then he might be best served by learning chords, basic things like rhythm and finally a whole lot of songs. Reading music just sin't the Holy Grail for everyone.
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Postby NoteBoat » August 17th, 2005, 3:36 am

Arjen's right about my approach - I teach it because it may be useful in the future for those folks now interested in Alkaline Trio or whatever... the music they want to play right now is largely not available in standard notation.

I teach other skills that probably don't fit their 'needs' too. I'll teach them to count rhythmic figures that combine different note values... if what they listen to and play is all straight eighths, that's also 'useless' in the sense of immediate application.

I teach them to play in different time signatures. If everything they do is in 4/4, the drills we do in 3/4 or 6/8 are useless.

I teach them to hear the differences between chord qualities. If all you're going to do is bang out I-IV-Vs, you don't 'need' to know this chord is a minor seventh, and that one a dominant ninth by ear.

I teach different scales. Maybe you only 'need' the pentatonic, but you're probably going to get the major and harmonic minor from me too.

If Uncle John came to me for lessons, yes, I'd teach chords and strumming right off. Next I'd teach first position standard notation. Why? Because there are a lot of Dylan tunes, and a lot of Dylan books that have the vocal melody line in standard notation... being able to at least fumble through it and figure out what that obscure song might sound like is appropriate for Uncle John. Teaching him how to read at sight in the key of F# in fourth position is not apporpriate, so reading wouldn't be a major focus - but I wouldn't ignore it.
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