Worth it? Learning to Read Music

“This is SO HARD,” Scott exclaimed as he tried to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He played out his frustration with a complicated riff.

Yes, my boyfriend is learning to read music.

via guitaralliance.com

Scott has played guitar for 10 years. A long-time member of the punk rock scene, he started playing to learn the music he loved. Garage bands have come and gone, but he still picks up one of his guitars several times a month to mess around on a writing a new song or practicing an old favorite. I’m always astonished at how talented he is. His fingers fly through the chords with such ease.

Yet, he never learned to read music.

“C… C… B… B… ummm Fuck.”

“Man! I’m only on chapter two!” He flips forward through the pages, “I’m looking at these scales and rhythmes… I’m gonna die.”

As a former flautist, I live both in envy and non-understanding. He pulls riffs from a guitar so easily. Each song is full of interest and excitement. I struggled through the end of my 9 years playing flute. As fun as it had been, it was always work. Always focused on perfection and exactitude. The music itself was rarely fun. It was just another arrangement for band. I can read music quite well even though I haven’t really spent time with a piece since 2003. It’s hard to watch him struggle through. He’s committed to learning how to read music to become a better musician. I bite my tongue trying to hold in “What’s the point? You’re already so good.” I know he is right.

Learning to read music is important in the long run. It will make trying out new songs easier and communicating with bandmates faster. This challenge will make him an even more talented musician.

From my own experience, reading music usually meant playing boring stuff that was required. Granted, music for flutes tends to be less exciting than that for guitars. However, by time it took to read through the mess of notes and Allegro, Fortissimo suggestions, I was already bored. There was no room for improvement. No place to change it up and challenge your own abilities. Just plodding through the complicated notes. Music was  supposed to be about the expression of art. Yet it felt like math. The boring, I already know this shit kind. Is that simply my own experience, or did reading music instead of trying to work it out for myself by ear play a part in making music not fun?

Which, I wonder, is harder: Learning to read music and play music for the first time. Or Learning to read music after you already know how to play.

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