This week I was inspired to write about whether or not it is important to learn to read music. In today’s world, there are millions of YouTube videos and online tutorials that show you exactly how to play your favorite songs. While this is easy and convenient (and not always a negative thing!), it begs the question: do students really understand music when they learn this way?
At Music SO Simple, we stress the importance of learning to read music for a few reasons. I often compare learning music to learning how to read. When you are young, you learn about the alphabet and combining letters to make different sounds. It takes years to expand vocabulary, form sentences, and eventually be able to read a book. Now imagine being taught to read a book by simply repeating a sequence of words without understanding how they create sound together or what the words mean. Which way would YOU rather learn how to read a book? When learning to read music, you learn fundamental symbols and rhythm, gradually learn different notes on the staff, and then you learn longer and more challenging pieces as time goes on. Simply put, the ability to read music provides a deeper understanding.
Now, I am not discrediting the power and importance of good ear training, which also takes years to develop. I am also not saying that learning to play a piece by ear is inferior, but if you know how to do both, then you at least have options based on your learning style. I myself occasionally need to hear someone play a passage that I am working on, so I am thankful that we have resources available like YouTube for help. I truly believe that both skills go hand in hand- if you can recognize intervals and patterns on the page and have solid ear training, then you will know what it is supposed to sound like before you even try to play it.
The ability to read music simply opens doors that ear playing by itself cannot do: if you can only play by ear and there is no recording of a piece you want to learn, then you wouldn’t be able to learn it. Our aim is to create well-rounded musicians with both skills. Feel free to read our blog on the 40 piece challenge to see why reading new music constantly fosters independent learning and how it builds stronger musicians!