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  #1  
Old 08-08-2008, 07:12 PM
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Default It's official...you don't need to read music

Just read a news story about GCSE in Music, that's the exam you do around 16 years old for those in other parts of the world. Apparently you can get an A grade without writing or reading a note.

Just how much can you dumb down examinations. They'll be giving them away with breakfast cereal next.

Read it here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/lif...cle4481222.ece

I really feel for the young kids doing exams these days because they have no way of measuring their achievements in this world. Everything they do in educational settings tells them they are doing a good job and yet when they meet the real world many cannot cope with the requirements that their employers have.
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Old 08-08-2008, 08:11 PM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

Another classic example of whinging Middle England. They speak of music GCSE as if it's actually relevant. Fact is, some GCSEs are more important than others; depending on schools students usually get a choice in which arts and languages courses they take. I had to choose between art or music, and fearing the fact that i couldn't read melodic staves chose to do art, and i'm talentless at art. Only after did i see that the academic acheivement in arts subjects isn't what's important; they're more about providing a rounded education. Not having to read sheet music doesn't stop a music GCSE providing some basic knowledge on the subject. In perspective, GCSEs are about the testing of the basics in whatever subject. A pupil who has a real desire to study music (and be able to read it) is going to choose to carry on studying at A-level. Then things get tougher.
Music GCSE isn't there to turn children into musicians. That's what extra-curricular music lessons are for.
And it's good to read Damon Albarn is still a tosser.
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Old 08-08-2008, 08:29 PM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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Originally Posted by jonescrusher View Post
Another classic example of whinging Middle England. They speak of music GCSE as if it's actually relevant. Fact is, some GCSEs are more important than others; depending on schools students usually get a choice in which arts and languages courses they take. I had to choose between art or music, and fearing the fact that i couldn't read melodic staves chose to do art, and i'm talentless at art. Only after did i see that the academic acheivement in arts subjects isn't what's important; they're more about providing a rounded education. Not having to read sheet music doesn't stop a music GCSE providing some basic knowledge on the subject. In perspective, GCSEs are about the testing of the basics in whatever subject. A pupil who has a real desire to study music (and be able to read it) is going to choose to carry on studying at A-level. Then things get tougher.
Music GCSE isn't there to turn children into musicians. That's what extra-curricular music lessons are for.
And it's good to read Damon Albarn is still a tosser.
*High five*

That is all.
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Old 08-08-2008, 08:59 PM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

I did Music GCSE, earned an A (my grade got reduced because one guy in my class cheated) without being able to read music fluently. Most musicians can't read music; that doesn't mean that it's not important, but it's not always strictly relevant. I'm going off to University soon to do a BA in Music Technology; I will have to learn theory there and if I want to go into strict music production then it might be necessary, but that doesn't mean that the best musicians necessarily read music.

The syllabus for GCSE Music is actually pretty good. It's a well balanced and most importantly, enjoyable course if taught well. If you can capture a student's imagination; that's the first step towards success in any field.
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Old 08-09-2008, 04:24 PM
Bart Hodge Bart Hodge is offline
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

Most drummers can't and it's possible a lot of "rhythm section instrumentalists" can't, but most good, working musicians can.

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Most musicians can't read music; that doesn't mean that it's not important, but it's not always strictly relevant.
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Old 08-09-2008, 05:41 PM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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Most drummers can't and it's possible a lot of "rhythm section instrumentalists" can't, but most good, working musicians can.
I'm not even talking about drummers.
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Old 08-09-2008, 09:25 PM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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Originally Posted by jonescrusher View Post
Another classic example of whinging Middle England. In perspective, GCSEs are about the testing of the basics in whatever subject. A pupil who has a real desire to study music (and be able to read it) is going to choose to carry on studying at A-level. Then things get tougher.
I'm from up North actually! and I agree with the sentiments of the article. The basics of music have to include basic notation. To compare it would be like doing a French GCSE and saying that writing and reading french wasn't important or doing a maths GCSE and saying that equations were not important. When I did my GCSE I had to perform, sight read and sing intervals...was it important to me..NO, but I can now understand what music is and how it works. Any pupil who has the desire to study music should be studying notation (amongst many other fascinating musical facets) at GCSE so that when they get to A(dvanced) level they can do more advanced stuff.

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I did Music GCSE, earned an A
Well done you!

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Most musicians can't read music; that doesn't mean that the best musicians necessarily read music.
I'd like to know where you get that fact from.

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Originally Posted by Mediocrefunkybeat View Post
The syllabus for GCSE Music is actually pretty good. It's a well balanced and most importantly, enjoyable course if taught well. If you can capture a student's imagination; that's the first step towards success in any field.
And it still could be even with the inclusion of some music notation. Yes, capturing imagination is one thing, and a very good thing in itself, but the GCSE is an academic test rather than a merit badge given out for becoming interested. IMHO that is the problem with a lot of academic study in the UK. The level has been so dumbed down (no offense meant to my fellow contributers) so as to help prove Government statistics that the original purpose has been forgotten i.e. to educate people.

I don't say that to be a musician you 'have' to read music, clearly there are lots of examples that would disprove my argument but to pass a test in your knowledge of music and music theory without having to read or write a note seems a tad at odds with the objective.

Rant over...normal service resumed.
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Old 08-09-2008, 10:07 PM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

I speak from the simple fact that if you've ever seen a local band play or a band on record - the majority of the members of those bands will not read music. Only one member of Radiohead can read music; none of The Beatles could - this list goes on. Out of a year at college of 40 people, there were maybe three or four of us who could read music at all; and my reading of music is best described as 'underpracticed'.

The point I'm also making is that the GCSE isn't really an academic test. Sure, you get a grade and a certificate out of it - but the GCSE's don't really constitute towards anything at the end of the day. Sorry guys who are sitting them, but that's the simple truth. They don't. They are merely a stepping stone for further qualifications and those are what actually count. GCSE's are not qualifications that stand up in the place of work - yes, they are relatively simple and the step up to A-Level is actually enormous. Work that would earn you top marks at GCSE earn you D's at A-Level. And perhaps the GCSE's are a celebration of mediocrity - but it is simply not necessary for musicians to read music all the time.

Written music as we know it has only been around for 400 years, lest we forget and whilst the staples of 'formal' musicians have required reading abilities, the vast majority of Western Musical Practice is what I would describe as 'informal' and that is to say that performances are not necessarily merited on their technical abilities and audiences are more relaxed. For such music - which can be just as technically demanding - reading music is not a prerequisite to performance.

I come from a Classical background, odd as it may seem. The first instrument I learned the play was the 'Piano and I also did Classical Singing for a few years after that and reading music greatly helps when no recording exists of the music for previous reference - as it would have been hundreds of years ago. Sheet music is actually the older equivalent of 'demo tapes' today and just as a band will audition a new member after giving them a CD of their recordings for reference, orchestras give sheet music to their members for the same reason.
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Old 08-10-2008, 01:58 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

I can't see why the subject is obliged to focus on something like sightreading ; the study of music doesn't need to involve it at all. Sightreading making up 20% of the mark actually seems like a fairly balanced weight, for this level of attainment.
This country really needs to stop dismissing the achievements of exam-takers every Summer.
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Old 08-10-2008, 02:34 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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Originally Posted by jonescrusher View Post
I can't see why the subject is obliged to focus on something like sightreading ; the study of music doesn't need to involve it at all.
How do you study music without being able to read music? What's there to study if you can't read the literature or speak the language?
Can you imagine a guy going to a music school or music teacher and saying, "I want to study music, but I don't need to learn how to read the notes because I don't think that studying music needs to involve that at all?"
Are you just going to wing it all your life, "play by ear?"
It's always, always, the non-readers who put forward this spurious argument.
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Old 08-10-2008, 02:52 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

I'm a reader. A basic reader, but I have the capability and get better when I practice.

I'm not saying for a second that reading music is a bad thing - or that it should be discouraged. But is it entirely necessary? I really don't think it is. Let's take the example of The Beatles again - some great theory going on there, particularly with their use of harmonies and the way that the harmonies underpinned the melody so effectively. Did any of them 'understand' the language of music? No. And I agree, that reading music and understanding theory can make life easier for the jobbing musician - I'd be crazy to suggest otherwise.

But it simply is the case that a lot of artists meeting with great success do NOT read music. Why is that? Is the question we should be asking.
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Old 08-10-2008, 03:03 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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But it simply is the case that a lot of artists meeting with great success do NOT read music. Why is that? Is the question we should be asking.
I guess it just comes down to what you want to do as a drummer/musician, what sort of career you're after, what sort of life you want to live.
To not know how to do something that could at some time figure into or impact upon your musical career is to limit yourself.
For myself, I can't imagine not wanting to know everything there is to know, and I'm still learning because I can't stand not knowing.
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Old 08-10-2008, 03:08 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

Sometimes you have to remember that our limits are what makes define us as artists though. I agree, self-improvement is important, but my inability to do certain things means that my work-arounds are creative. Nowhere is this more true than in the World of production - when something just isn't possible (which isn't a common occurrence today) the manner in which you achieve the desired result can lead you down whole new avenues of discovery. Serendipity and 'happy accidents' have a lot to do with that.

My lack of theoretical knowledge does limit me. And I am rectifying that in the coming months - I won't claim to be a music theorist, but just occasionally my lack of knowledge can produce interesting results. On the other hand, it can be a frustrating limitation and now particularly, I'm getting into harmonies with regards to composition. So I'll be learning theory.
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Old 08-10-2008, 05:18 PM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

Time to backtrack...

When I went to college, one requirement to graduate was passing two fine arts classes. Basic art, theater or music. As a music major, I had to take the basic music class (MUS101 or MUS106) to graduate along with two other fine arts. MUS101 was filled with non music majors. None of them could read music, but all studied music for a semester.

I forget that "studying" music involves the ears as much as the eyes. I guess I take it for granted. As I advanced in my studies, music became as much visual as it was audible. The first step was listening though.

So, you don't need to be able to read music to study music. You DO need to be able to read music to be a musican. Two totally different things.
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Old 08-10-2008, 06:52 PM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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It's always, always, the non-readers who put forward this spurious argument.
Well, I personally read drum music proficiently, and am currently teaching myslef to read melodic scores. My point was that in considering the wider subject of music, understanding of the written 'language' of musical instruments is but one facet. Musicology/history could fairly be included within the subject's wider remit. Is reading necessary there? No, although i'm sure a good number of musicologists are also musicians who can read. Keep in mind Jay that this argument is within the context of the academic attainment required by the exam in question. GCSE music is not intended to turn those who study it into proficient musicians, just as GCSE art does not turn out thousands of 16 year old 'artists'.
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Old 08-10-2008, 06:58 PM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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You DO need to be able to read music to be a musican.

There are too many exceptions to this for it to stand. Dennis Chambers is the best exception I can think of in the world of drums. And what of the great blind musicians - Stevie Wonder, Art Tatum? Bearing in mind that Art Tatum was one of the greatest musical talents the world has ever seen, are we to refuse him the status of 'musician' because he learned by ear?
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Old 08-10-2008, 09:28 PM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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My point was that in considering the wider subject of music, understanding of the written 'language' of musical instruments is but one facet. Musicology/history could fairly be included within the subject's wider remit. Is reading necessary there? No, although i'm sure a good number of musicologists are also musicians who can read.
So at least we have some agreement. I totally agree that music notation shoulod not comprise all the content of a GCSE but it should be included and it should be a significant part of the exam.

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The point I'm also making is that the GCSE isn't really an academic test. Sure, you get a grade and a certificate out of it - but the GCSE's don't really constitute towards anything at the end of the day.
I beg to differ. GCSE's are an academic exercise...nothing else! Not designed to make musicians or the future of music but simply an academic exercise in the Theoretical Knowledge of music.

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I can't see why the subject is obliged to focus on something like sightreading ; the study of music doesn't need to involve it at all. Sightreading making up 20% of the mark actually seems like a fairly balanced weight, for this level of attainment.
This country really needs to stop dismissing the achievements of exam-takers every Summer.
I agree although I would put the level at about 1/3. Sightreading is invaluable if you have to work in a studio and get it right without months to practice.

The reason the focus in this country (UK) is on school leavers each year is because the examining bodies have successively reduced the required level of attainment of our young people. This has led to our youngsters being less equipped in the workplace and especially on a world stage. The attainment of our young is steadily increasing year on year (according to GCSE's and A levels) yet the cognitive ability of our young people is on the decline. I think one of the reasons why people don't get passionate about education in the UK is because it is a free service and because you don't pay people don't mind what the quality is.

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Let's take the example of The Beatles again - some great theory going on there, particularly with their use of harmonies and the way that the harmonies underpinned the melody so effectively. Did any of them 'understand' the language of music? No. And I agree, that reading music and understanding theory can make life easier for the jobbing musician - I'd be crazy to suggest otherwise.

But it simply is the case that a lot of artists meeting with great success do NOT read music. Why is that? Is the question we should be asking.
Let's not take the Beatles let's use a different example. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The Sydney Philharmonic, The Halle, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra and so many other Orchestra's around the world. Not to mention Big Bands, Brass Bands, Concert Bands etc etc etc.

Just because 4/5 lucky lads from Liverpool were in the right place at the right time doesn't make their way gospel....and not a Ringo bash in sight!
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Old 08-10-2008, 09:37 PM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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Let's not take the Beatles let's use a different example. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The Sydney Philharmonic, The Halle, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra and so many other Orchestra's around the world. Not to mention Big Bands, Brass Bands, Concert Bands etc etc etc.
Ok, but who was I actually referencing as working musicians? Obviously these guys have to read music - that is the tradition within their field and will always remain that way. But what is the ratio of 'Classical' musicians to more contemporary styles? I would most likely say that those who perform in 'Informal' environments are most likely in the vast majority - at least in the UK - and amongst those the vast majority probably don't read music. With the demise of the Major labels, there are far fewer 'Session' players travelling around into studios. Live there are still Session players - but the ratio of non-Session to Session players probably biases in the favour of the non-Session players - the majority of which might well not read music.

Unless you're saying that people who don't read can't be musicians - which is just pure snobbery.

When did you sit GCSE's? I would have thought that I sat mine far more recently than you did. They are not worth anything academically and therefore become an exercise that is distinctly NOT academic. At least within the Arts courses. Why do so many Musicians come from Art School? Most of Pink Floyd did for instance, and so did Brian Eno (although he is an exception with regards to his theoretical knowledge). A lot of musicians do not actually study music academically anyway and the GCSE really is not treated like an academic exercise. I sat mine four years ago and I doubt little else has changed.

The most academic exams I've ever sat for music were my Classical Singing and Theory exams. The level of knowledge required there was far higher; but they were Formal examinations the GCSE isn't necessarily a Formal qualification. There's nothing formal about the GCSE teaching theory. There isn't much mention of theory - it's much more about listening skills and interaction with others in the musical environment. Unless that's changed drastically in four years - I'd like to see evidence otherwise.
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Old 08-11-2008, 01:02 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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Ok, but who was I actually referencing as working musicians? Obviously these guys have to read music - that is the tradition within their field and will always remain that way. But what is the ratio of 'Classical' musicians to more contemporary styles? .
Yes, but by putting a huge bias on your comments you were missing out the masses to focus on the minority.

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Unless you're saying that people who don't read can't be musicians - which is just pure snobbery.
Oh no, you can't get me for that. Not a notion I subscribe to or have commented on. My original post was about GCSE's not musicians.

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When did you sit GCSE's? I would have thought that I sat mine far more recently than you did. They are not worth anything academically and therefore become an exercise that is distinctly NOT academic. At least within the Arts courses. Why do so many Musicians come from Art School? Most of Pink Floyd did for instance, and so did Brian Eno (although he is an exception with regards to his theoretical knowledge). A lot of musicians do not actually study music academically anyway and the GCSE really is not treated like an academic exercise. I sat mine four years ago and I doubt little else has changed. .
Yep, you win. I did mine in 1985 ish. Their worth is not in question these days. But as an exam that is taken in academic establishments they have to be classed as an academic exercise. The fact that we have reduced their difficulty to the point where they are no longer credible (Oh yes, we agree here!) does not change their intention which is as an academic exercise.

There you go again, because Pink Floyd and Brian Eno came from an Art School background every contemporary musician did! That is just not true. A lot of the Punk 'musicians' came from the dole.

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The most academic exams I've ever sat for music were my Classical Singing and Theory exams. The level of knowledge required there was far higher; but they were Formal examinations the GCSE isn't necessarily a Formal qualification. There's nothing formal about the GCSE teaching theory. There isn't much mention of theory - it's much more about listening skills and interaction with others in the musical environment. Unless that's changed drastically in four years - I'd like to see evidence otherwise.
Your experience with your Classical Singing and Theory exams seems to have impacted on you because you found them more difficult. The GCSE is a formal examination/qualification. The teaching and content, I will wholeheartedly agree, leaves a lot to be desired but it is still a formal qualification assessed by countrywide educational bodies.

My Daughter (nearly 12) did listening skills and interraction in a musical environment when she was 3 in a musical kindergarten ;o) She's shown some talent for drums but has gone onto the dark side and started singing lessons.....she does have the temperament for a lead singer!!!
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Old 08-11-2008, 01:38 AM
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If anything, you're putting the bias onto the minority - that's my point. Like it or not, Classical Musicians are in the minority - particularly when it comes to those working professionally. Do you think any Punk musicians learned music theory? The chances are probably not, right? And they had a serious impact on modern culture and are still making a relevant artistic statement that actually seriously affects the way people live their lives.

My other point is that the GCSE really isn't academic - sure it's got the semblance of academia, but the course isn't and really the academic merit is irrelevant at GCSE level. If you want an academic education, you subscribe to A-Levels - which do in turn teach serious music theory and notation and in doing so are heavily biased towards classical musicians. Clearly evident in the various classes I've observed is the distinct lack of any 'Popular' musicians actually studying music academically; and that doesn't necessarily detract from their playing abilities. There are some really great bass players that I've met who work entirely by ear and have great results. And there's a surprisingly few people I know (and remember my last two years of education have been as part of a theatre faculty where we have some serious players) can actually read music efficiently. Incidentally I never said that the course itself is poor or that the teaching is - quite the opposite. It encourages active participation rather than dull didactic.

Classical Singing was very easy for me - after a couple of weeks I was learning Handel and Purcell and that wasn't because I could read the music; it was because i) I had a great teacher who encouraged ear training and ii) I was brought up with Classical music (and yes, I appreciate the Handel and Purcell are Baroque) and therefore knew where the cadences were going particularly; without being able to read the score. Raw theory I've always found difficult in itself, and that's partly due to my brother (who is a theory GOD and in being so consciously put me off learning theory for years and years) and secondly because I'm not able to relate it well to what I'm hearing. That doesn't mean though, that I can't predict where a song is going to go, what the structure is like and where the changes are. I can - and those are ear-trained skills.

But that's not to take away from those who can and do learn theory and use it effectively. I certainly wouldn't discourage anybody from learning theory and learning to read music - sure, it's helpful and it can definitely give you a working knowledge of the cogs underneath music, but a lot of people don't appear to need the skills. To use an analogy it's like learning a language by ear as opposed to formal study. Music is a language - like it or not - and the best way of learning a language supported by years of empirical evidence is to simply immerse yourself in it rather than reading it in textbooks. I prefer to immerse myself first and then later study it formally so that in retrospect, it makes sense as to why it works.

Take another analogy - driving theory. Reading the Highway Code is all well and good and certainly shouldn't be discouraged, but surely it makes more sense after you've been driving for a while and you have some idea of the context?

And I appreciate I may seem cantankerous. That's not my intention at all; I just get rather passionate and involved, particularly when I know I'm right ;-)
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Old 08-11-2008, 03:31 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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I'm not saying for a second that reading music is a bad thing - or that it should be discouraged. But is it entirely necessary? I really don't think it is.
I never taught a student without teaching them how to read what they were playing - Whether they used those skills later on or not.

You can get by in life without knowing how to read words (barely), but do you think being able to read would help? Absolutely! Reading music is just one way to absorb, learn from and develop your musical skills, but when its a choice between ignoring it or demanding it in institutions, youve gotta go with the latter, even just out of respect for the art!

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I really feel for the young kids doing exams these days because they have no way of measuring their achievements in this world. Everything they do in educational settings tells them they are doing a good job and yet when they meet the real world many cannot cope with the requirements that their employers have.
There's the measurement they were looking for :)
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Old 08-11-2008, 06:53 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

GCSE ? Does that stand for Guitar Center Snare Excitement ?
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Old 08-11-2008, 08:41 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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GCSE ? Does that stand for Guitar Center Snare Excitement ?
What the heck DOES GCSE stand for????
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Old 08-11-2008, 09:37 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

General Certificate of Secondary Education. It's the standard school leaving test people in the UK take at 16.

But the point of it is not to prepare people for life outside school; it's more to set you up academically for the optional two year 'Advanced Level' (A-Level) course - of which there are two years. Advanced Subsidiary (A/S) and Advanced 2 (A2). Universities only really accept A2 and the A/S is there now for people to be able to gain a qualification after a single year. However - the A/S in itself doesn't really count for anything either.
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Old 03-15-2010, 04:26 AM
tim167246 tim167246 is offline
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

Well, the whole thing about not having to read music in order to [b]play[b] it, is true, most people just improvise or know it by heart if you know what I mean.

Here's a quote from Drumline: Some people can't read the word toilet, but doesn't mean they don't know how to use one.
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Old 03-15-2010, 04:55 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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Originally Posted by tim167246 View Post
Here's a quote from Drumline: Some people can't read the word toilet, but doesn't mean they don't know how to use one.
Well if all you aim to do in life is use the toilet then have a happy!
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Old 03-22-2010, 02:26 AM
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Funky CrÍpe Funky CrÍpe is offline
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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Originally Posted by DestinationDrumming View Post
Just read a news story about GCSE in Music, that's the exam you do around 16 years old for those in other parts of the world. Apparently you can get an A grade without writing or reading a note.

Just how much can you dumb down examinations. They'll be giving them away with breakfast cereal next.

Read it here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/lif...cle4481222.ece

I really feel for the young kids doing exams these days because they have no way of measuring their achievements in this world. Everything they do in educational settings tells them they are doing a good job and yet when they meet the real world many cannot cope with the requirements that their employers have.
well for my exam i have to compose a piece of music, not so easy........if your a drummer that is. I can tell that if you are any bit decent at piano, 100% is'nt too hard
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Old 03-22-2010, 03:14 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

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Originally Posted by DestinationDrumming View Post
I really feel for the young kids doing exams these days because they have no way of measuring their achievements in this world. Everything they do in educational settings tells them they are doing a good job and yet when they meet the real world many cannot cope with the requirements that their employers have.
That means we old farts look pretty good and will have jobs until we die!
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Old 03-22-2010, 05:32 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

i'm not sure about GCSE music, but at music college (BTEC instead of A-levels) we had to read music regularly. i really wouldn't expect much from state schools, budget cuts all over the place.
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Old 03-22-2010, 05:50 AM
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Default Re: It's official...you don't need to read music

The best thing that I ever did as far as music goes was to learn how to read music.
Im not the best reader in the world or anything like that. I hold my own.
Knowing how to read gives me a much better understanding of any musical piece that I play.
I play with musicians that can't read and they are limited in their playing because of it.
Feeling and being able to play by ear is important but true understanding comes from being able to read.
I wouldn't want to attend a school music program that didn't require reading.
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