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  #1  
Old 04-16-2015, 10:27 AM
BerendMeijer BerendMeijer is offline
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Default Can you read sheet music?

Hey everyone,

I was wondering, can you guys read sheet music?

If you can't, does it frustrate you or isn't it a problem?

And if you can read notes, do you feel like it accelerates your skill development?


Im doing some research for a project for the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), trying to find problems that frustrate drummers.
I've been playing drums for about 15 years and this is one of the things that frustrates me. I can read simple sheet music, but reading more complex parts are just too hard to read.
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Old 04-16-2015, 11:03 AM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I can slightly. If I don't understand, and I ask, then I feel stupid that I hadn't realised, it's like a Coldplay song, I can't understand a word that Chris Martin says, but once I look up the lyrics, I wonder how I didn't understand.
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Old 04-16-2015, 12:05 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I played piano before I played drums, so yes I can read sheet music, including orchestral scores.

I did an experiment with my drum teacher on this very subject. I wanted to know if I learned faster/better by ear or by eye, so he taught me a piece that was new to both of us, that he'd learned by reading the music but that he taught me by playing it to me.

I found the piece much, much easier than he did - in fact I liked it while he hated it.

I tend to turn to sheet music for the parts that I can't quite get the hang of or get into my head, so that I can play them over and over knowing I'm getting them right, until such time as I have properly assimilated them.

For me, I find drum music more of an aide-memoir than actual music (such as piano music), possibly because drums are less of a stand-alone instrument than the piano, and for that reason I find it much more difficult to turn the dots on the page into real music.
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Old 04-16-2015, 12:33 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BerendMeijer View Post
I was wondering, can you guys read sheet music?
Yes.

Quote:
And if you can read notes, do you feel like it accelerates your skill development?
Yes.

It's easier for me to grok a part reading than it is watching/listening. I mean, there might be a bar or two of a particularly nasty piece with which I seek help from another person. But that's only happened a few times in my career. Usually I'm okay just working through it.

Also, reading music allows me to technically improve because I don't need to be in the same place as an instructor. I can get exercises/etudes from anywhere and practice them.

Quote:
I can read simple sheet music, but reading more complex parts are just too hard to read.
Change a few words in this sentence and the solution to the problem becomes obvious.

Think of it like this: "I can play simple single-pedal bass drum rhythms, but not more complex stuff."

What takes you beyond that? Practice! Practice, practice, practice. :-D
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Old 04-16-2015, 12:37 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BerendMeijer View Post
Hey everyone,

I was wondering, can you guys read sheet music?
I wouldn't have a playing career if I didn't.

Quote:
And if you can read notes, do you feel like it accelerates your skill development?
You still need to practice skill but reading helps in that it opens up access to all the available study material and written repertoire. I find it also helps me when I can take complex coordination conundrums/ideas and write them out so I can visualize them.

Quote:
Im doing some research for a project for the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), trying to find problems that frustrate drummers.
I've been playing drums for about 15 years and this is one of the things that frustrates me. I can read simple sheet music, but reading more complex parts are just too hard to read.
It takes practice and experience, just like other skill development. They aren't "too hard", they're "unfamiliar". :)
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Old 04-16-2015, 12:42 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I can read music, but it's been at least 15 years since I used it actively (playing piano and in marching bands). I'm guessing that I'm nowhere near as fluent as I used to be (especially if I were to try and play a piece I've never seen or heard before), but I can definitely still make sense of a piece of sheet music and work out how to play it or how it would sound.

Playing in your typical rock n'roll band, it's never been a requirement to be able to read music, but in general I find that having knowledge about music theory (subdivisions, time signatures, scales, chords, etc) comes in very handy when communicating with band mates or producers.
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Old 04-16-2015, 02:23 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I play percussion in a large church orchestra and often (usually) have to sight read the parts. With all the time changes in orchestral music, it's critical. We may get to run through it once before having to perform it.

I don't remember the last time I saw a score for a drum set. Very few, if any, of the contemporary music arrangers know anything about playing drums. Sometimes we'll get a rhythm section score to at least know where some of the breaks and dynamic changes are.

I definitely feel reading helps with time signatures and communicating with other musicians.

In the rock band I play with, I don't write out the drum parts, but sometimes print out the lyrics and put in notes where breaks, fills, or critical parts are.
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  #8  
Old 04-16-2015, 02:35 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I can. I learned to read sheet music from day one. It greatly helped me through Jr. High and High School. I received many more opportunities in Jazz band because I was one of the few that could read music. Obviously you still have to practice to become better, but it definitely helps if you can read music. I don't use it as much anymore with my current band, but I still use it occasionally on some parts I struggle with.
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Old 04-16-2015, 03:34 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boomka View Post
I wouldn't have a playing career if I didn't.

You still need to practice skill but reading helps in that it opens up access to all the available study material and written repertoire. I find it also helps me when I can take complex coordination conundrums/ideas and write them out so I can visualize them.

It takes practice and experience, just like other skill development. They aren't "too hard", they're "unfamiliar". :)
All of this. It's a way to acquire new ideas quickly, and to have a better understanding of music... and to store ideas, so you don't have to memorize them, or watch/listen to them in real time to recall them, or ask somebody to tell you what they were again. And it's just a basic professional skill.

It also does not have to be difficult. Reading for drums means interpreting a chart-- making figures, stops, and fills, mainly; and interpreting a melody line within a time feel or solo idea. If you're fluent reading all note values up to 16th notes, that's good enough. I don't know what you mean by more complex parts, but drum book style reading, with a complete drum set "part" written out verbatim for all four limbs, is not an actual professional requirement. It doesn't matter if you suck at it, because it's not a real thing.
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  #10  
Old 04-16-2015, 05:16 PM
BerendMeijer BerendMeijer is offline
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

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Originally Posted by STXBob View Post
Yes.



Yes.

It's easier for me to grok a part reading than it is watching/listening. I mean, there might be a bar or two of a particularly nasty piece with which I seek help from another person. But that's only happened a few times in my career. Usually I'm okay just working through it.

Also, reading music allows me to technically improve because I don't need to be in the same place as an instructor. I can get exercises/etudes from anywhere and practice them.


Change a few words in this sentence and the solution to the problem becomes obvious.

Think of it like this: "I can play simple single-pedal bass drum rhythms, but not more complex stuff."

What takes you beyond that? Practice! Practice, practice, practice. :-D
Thank you for your answer! It's great to hear that your also improving technically because of your ability to read.

The reason that I ask this question, is because I wanted to measure how many drummers can read sheet music. I always wonder if there is a way that I could help drummers (and myself) by making some software that analyzes drum tracks and visualizes them while you're playing. What do you think about this?
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  #11  
Old 04-16-2015, 05:21 PM
BerendMeijer BerendMeijer is offline
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boomka View Post
I wouldn't have a playing career if I didn't.

You still need to practice skill but reading helps in that it opens up access to all the available study material and written repertoire. I find it also helps me when I can take complex coordination conundrums/ideas and write them out so I can visualize them.

It takes practice and experience, just like other skill development. They aren't "too hard", they're "unfamiliar". :)
Thanks Boomka, I agree that it opens up access to much more practice material. Do you think that something could help with the visualisation part?
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  #12  
Old 04-16-2015, 05:27 PM
BerendMeijer BerendMeijer is offline
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

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Originally Posted by toddbishop View Post
All of this. It's a way to acquire new ideas quickly, and to have a better understanding of music... and to store ideas, so you don't have to memorize them, or watch/listen to them in real time to recall them, or ask somebody to tell you what they were again. And it's just a basic professional skill.

It also does not have to be difficult. Reading for drums means interpreting a chart-- making figures, stops, and fills, mainly; and interpreting a melody line within a time feel or solo idea. If you're fluent reading all note values up to 16th notes, that's good enough. I don't know what you mean by more complex parts, but drum book style reading, with a complete drum set "part" written out verbatim for all four limbs, is not an actual professional requirement. It doesn't matter if you suck at it, because it's not a real thing.
Hey toddbishop, thanks for your reply. By more complex parts, I meant parts like that of Animals as leaders. Do you think that I would be helpful something existed that visualizes drumsheets?
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  #13  
Old 04-16-2015, 05:29 PM
BerendMeijer BerendMeijer is offline
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Thank you all for your answers so far, it's interesting to see all your opinions about this!
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  #14  
Old 04-16-2015, 05:31 PM
tcspears tcspears is offline
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Reading is crucial, it's how musicians communicate with each other. I've taken many gigs where I've never met any of the players, and get handed a binder of sheet music and hour before the gig. (I've also played some where the piano player writes out the tunes on cocktail napkins 5 minutes before the show, but that a different story)

I think it is extremely important for drummers to not only read drum charts, but read the lead sheets as well so they can play in the context of the song. Too many drummers ignore things like key changes or interesting melodic notes, because they are too concerned with rhythm. When I write out parts, I'll write the melody line and then add drums underneath, so that the drummer can still be aware of the song.

Here's a quick intro that I wrote that shows the piano part and the drum part. As you can see, you typically don't see drum parts written out for all four limbs...
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  #15  
Old 04-16-2015, 05:44 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I read music 55 years ago. I can no longer read music.

It's not like riding a bike or playing the drums.
If you don't do it for a long time you can lose your ability to read music.

.
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Old 04-16-2015, 05:57 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I learned to read as a kid, then didn't utilize it so lost it - have been re-learning to read music for the past 3 years in the context of taking jazz drumming lessons. As with many things we learn as children, it seemed so easy to pick up back then, hasn't been as easy the second time around!
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Old 04-16-2015, 06:04 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I think that there is a difference between being able to "read" sheet music and being able to "Interpret" sheet music. As some have stated here, most people that compose music have little to no understanding of how a drumset works. In my university's jazz band, I always have some sort of sheet music or chart in front of me. However, I rarely play exactly what's written. It's usually a measure of written out swing and then 32 bars of repeat signs, etc... In this case, the sheet music serves as a sort of guide that I can use to keep my place in the music, get all the repeats, and match the big hits with the brass section. I have actually come to favor looking at the first trumpet part for many songs. Now that being said, orchestra music; I read that note for note. It all really depends on what the application is.
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Old 04-16-2015, 06:09 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I was a pretty good sight reader and what adds to ones reading skills is the ability to write and compose.

Reading and writing are complementary.be it the written word or music.

One of the advantages in being able to read ,is if you are playing long scores(classical and such),instead of having to count a hundreds of measures ,it was much easier to follow the scores by reading and following the notes.

If you were hip to the flow of the structure (like sonata form),it was a piece of cake.

I mean do you want to sit there and go 1234 ,2234,3234,4234?
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Old 04-16-2015, 06:16 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tcspears View Post
As you can see, you typically don't see drum parts written out for all four limbs...
Unless you're Zappa:)
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Old 04-16-2015, 06:58 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

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Originally Posted by BerendMeijer View Post
Thanks Boomka, I agree that it opens up access to much more practice material. Do you think that something could help with the visualisation part?
I don't quite follow your question.
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Old 04-16-2015, 08:04 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Hmmm...Sounds like the Vince Colaiuta paradox as pondered by Frank Zappa:

Folks shouldn't be able to sight read like that and still be able to play a shuffle beat.
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Old 04-16-2015, 08:21 PM
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Old 04-16-2015, 09:33 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I can read OK but suck at counting so it takes me a while to go though even simple stuff to get a feel for what's being played.

This guys does an outstanding job with reading and counting (three videos):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhVsbb61CpY

Also, I downloaded Notepad Finale (It's free) and will play around with different parts to see what happens with the changes and trying to play the new bar before I run it on the computer. This has probably helped more than anything but has kind of made me robotic sounding. I guess the swing just comes with time and practice though as I get more comfortable.

Dennis
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Old 04-16-2015, 10:23 PM
tcspears tcspears is offline
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Of course if you're working with drum notation, you end up running into problems where there are three different ways to say the same thing.

Look at this image, it shows 3 very different looking phrases, that are identical when played...
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Old 04-16-2015, 10:33 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I think being able to read music will open you to more orchestrated gigs with jazz, big band, or various entertainers coming to areas using local back up. You can be a fantastic drummer but if you can't come in cold and read the music to follow each brake and change for a particular gig you are screwed-they'd just as soon use a drum machine.
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Old 04-16-2015, 11:41 PM
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Old 04-17-2015, 12:08 AM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Well I had a bad experience coming into a gig for a Sinatra impersonator who had a piano player but using local brass, bass, and drums who he gave a folder full of music and then gave me a folder full of music-which I stated I couldn't read-it went downhill from there. I had done another gig with the same group for a different act that performed WWII songs and memoirs that just had a sheet as you stated which went very well.
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Old 04-17-2015, 12:22 AM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

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Well I had a bad experience coming into a gig for a Sinatra impersonator who had a piano player but using local brass, bass, and drums who he gave a folder full of music and then gave me a folder full of music-which I stated I couldn't read-it went downhill from there. I had done another gig with the same group for a different act that performed WWII songs and memoirs that just had a sheet as you stated which went very well.
Back in the olden days ,most big names would tour the club circuit using only their arrangers as a constant.
The local house bands (union) would play the gigs for folks like Johnny Mathis ,Dean Martin ,etc.

If you couldn't read ,you didn't get the gig.

We were lucky in our area at that point in time of having many local musicians that taught on the side, one of the drummers lived close by (Bill Crockett)taught Vince Colaiuta a lot of what he knows about chart reading and set playing.

Air Force band guy ,just like Steve Gadd.
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Old 04-17-2015, 02:20 AM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

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Air Force band guy ,just like Steve Gadd.

The Air Force didn't teach Gadd to read music. He's got a Bachelor's degree in percussion from a famous conservatory with the most historic percussion department in the history of percussion. He studied with one of the most renowned and loved teachers of all time. That was before he even joined the military.
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Old 04-17-2015, 02:47 AM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

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Originally Posted by BerendMeijer View Post
Hey everyone,

I was wondering, can you guys read sheet music?
Yes.

Quote:
And if you can read notes, do you feel like it accelerates your skill development?
Not complex parts. If you want to learn parts, sure, but it's not going to make you a savant. However, doing some transcriptions/reading some transcriptions might help you think about rhythms and parts easier.
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Old 04-17-2015, 04:08 AM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

In my musical life, reading just makes things easier. This year, I've been subbing pretty regularly for a band (covers and originals) and I've created or found charts online (drumscore.com has been useful) for the tunes I don't know. No rehearsal necessary, just show up and play.

I've known cats who can't read a note but hear something once and remember it forever. I wish I could do that.
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Old 04-17-2015, 04:34 AM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I can read proficiently, as a I need to for my a big Band gig and Jazz Sextet gigs. The Big Band has over 145 charts and some are quite involved. My Jazz Sextet uses lead sheets so I read these to follow along with the chord progressions and time changes and form of the song. Reading definitely helps your development as a drummer.
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Old 04-17-2015, 04:53 AM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

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Originally Posted by Jhostetler View Post
In my university's jazz band, I always have some sort of sheet music or chart in front of me. However, I rarely play exactly what's written. It's usually a measure of written out swing and then 32 bars of repeat signs, etc... In this case, the sheet music serves as a sort of guide that I can use to keep my place in the music, get all the repeats, and match the big hits with the brass section.
I play in a 17 piece Glenn Miller style big band. We haves several thousand charts and travel with at least 1000 (yes that is 4 places). Takes a small suitcase to carry mine. As jhostetler said, the sheet music is usually more of a guide than an absolute notation. We frequently call a number at a gig that I have never seen before. The chart gives me some idea of what to play where.

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Originally Posted by WhoIsTony? View Post
you will never in a million years sit down at a gig and have someone put drum notation in front of you
Depends on the style of music.

I also play in a community orchestra (timpani) and I play the notation as written (unless I screw up :-)).

I always tell my students that reading and playing music is like reading and speaking a foreign language. You can take a piece of sheet music and give it to another musician on the other side of the world and he/she will know exactly how to play it.
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Old 04-17-2015, 10:52 AM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

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In my musical life, reading just makes things easier. This year, I've been subbing pretty regularly for a band (covers and originals) and I've created or found charts online (drumscore.com has been useful) for the tunes I don't know. No rehearsal necessary, just show up and play.

I've known cats who can't read a note but hear something once and remember it forever. I wish I could do that.
I'm the same. My aural memory isn't great. Or at least that's my perception of it. Perhaps I learned to rely on notation too early and didn't develop it or maybe I'm not wired that way. I don't know, but I know that it's something I have to compensate for with reading. What I find is that when I come up on a passage I can *see* it in my mind notated as I did on the page and that helps me along.

I had a great example of the usefulness of "musical literacy" happen last night. I got a call from the bandleader on a wedding gig I'm depping on this weekend. He informs me that the set list he sent me weeks ago is incorrect and that there are 3 or 4 more songs, including a medley, that I'll have to have together for Saturday.

One of the tunes I've never heard before, something called "Star Girl" by McFly. Ugh. But, my opinions aside I've got to learn it. So, I sat down, listened to the tune and quickly wrote out a lead sheet so I can practice it today and potentially take the sheet on the gig tomorrow. The sheet isn't perfect for someone else to read, but I know my shorthand and it took about 20 minutes whereas I would've spent a lot longer listening to the tune over and over trying to work out the bitty bits.
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Old 04-17-2015, 02:01 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Cant read music or drum notation, never wanted to. If a piece of music or a drummer inspires me its the flavour and texture of what they play that gets me. So, I try and get that flavour and texture and work with it, and add a little of it to my playing. I am not interested in playing what someone else has, note for note. For session players it must be crucial, they cant wing it. Even the thought of being a session drummer frightens the life out of me.
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Old 04-17-2015, 03:30 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Boomka, I can read your chart easily. I'm sure if we both played it mine would be a little different from yours but the gist is there. I would be able to get through it without a rehearsal.
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Old 04-17-2015, 03:33 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

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Originally Posted by Boomka View Post
One of the tunes I've never heard before, something called "Star Girl" by McFly. Ugh. But, my opinions aside I've got to learn it. So, I sat down, listened to the tune and quickly wrote out a lead sheet so I can practice it today and potentially take the sheet on the gig tomorrow. The sheet isn't perfect for someone else to read, but I know my shorthand and it took about 20 minutes whereas I would've spent a lot longer listening to the tune over and over trying to work out the bitty bits.
Looks a lot like one of my charts. Hope things go well for you on the gig!
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Old 04-17-2015, 03:39 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Can I read sheet music? Yes...

Am I fluent enough to Read/play at a reasonable tempo? No, I can't... I admire guys that can sit down throw up a chart and play -- I can't see myself ever being that adept at it!

Though for my purposes, I don't really need to (or haven't thus far anyway) -- I can read enough to chart something out if I'm learning something new... I can read well enough to play through study material (Syncopation, stick control etc...).
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Old 04-17-2015, 07:13 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

IMHO I don't consider myself a "real drummer" cause I can't read music. It's like you can still speak English (and function) but if you are illiterate where you can't read and write-it limits you. I may be wrong-I usually am. I've always memorized drum kit music for an orchestra (I can read music well enough to play cymbals and bass drum and count but when I play kit I rarely count) and jazz group-but now I'm turning 60 my memory just isn't what it use to be-I'd chart stuff out in my own code to help me out the last few years.

Last edited by GetAgrippa; 04-17-2015 at 07:25 PM.
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Old 04-17-2015, 07:45 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I can read and write rhythms/"drum notation". To me "sheet music" implies melodic notation too, which I never learned.

I want to, though. I'm going to go back to get some guitar lessons and insist that I learn the basics of how that kind of music is written/read. I think I already have half the battle since I can get by with the rhythms.
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Old 04-17-2015, 08:01 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boomka View Post
I'm the same. My aural memory isn't great. Or at least that's my perception of it. Perhaps I learned to rely on notation too early and didn't develop it or maybe I'm not wired that way. I don't know, but I know that it's something I have to compensate for with reading. What I find is that when I come up on a passage I can *see* it in my mind notated as I did on the page and that helps me along.

I had a great example of the usefulness of "musical literacy" happen last night. I got a call from the bandleader on a wedding gig I'm depping on this weekend. He informs me that the set list he sent me weeks ago is incorrect and that there are 3 or 4 more songs, including a medley, that I'll have to have together for Saturday.
That's quite interesting.

Learning aurally and learning sheet music (in drumming) are both important skills. I'm really impressed with this thread because in the past we've had the sheet music 'deniers' saying that it'll somehow cramp your creativity - it doesn't, only you cramp your own creativity.

In the Classical World, the emphasis is very much on reading and I would argue to the detriment of aural training quite often. In the Popular World, it's the other way around - especially with the drums and the electric guitar. Each will sometimes say that the other is 'wrong'. The truth is that if you can do both well, you're there. You can always practice one if it's particularly important at a particular time but both are valuable skills.

With that said, my reading is terrible. I used to be able to sightread Piano music to a reasonable level and I could read complex scores for analysis at University but only just (and I really struggled). I regret not learning to read more consistently and I know that in the future if I ever need to, I could learn it. Right now, it's not a priority but one day I will have to!
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Old 04-17-2015, 08:13 PM
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Default Re: Can you read sheet music?

I read rhythm pretty well but don't read melody. It's a weakness of mine that someday I'll fix.
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