So You Think You Can't Read Music!


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Many people think that learning how to read music and play from music notation is too difficult. But it really isn't! In this Slideshare deck I explain what teachers can do to increase the success of their students in becoming confident readers, who can play fluently from notation. I explore the difference between knowing only how to work out the music and instantly being able to recognise patterns and shapes - then being able to play them immediately on your instrument. I use this thinking to help music teachers reframe the way they teach, so they can help their students balance listening and reading, to become more independent as musicians. I hope teachers and students alike enjoy it!

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So You Think You Can't Read Music!

  1. 1. SoYouThink You Can’t Read Music! Monday, 19 August 13
  2. 2. Most instrumental learners do battle with reading traditional music notation (Learners’ flag) (Notation forces’ flag) Monday, 19 August 13
  3. 3. Sadly, for some, the notation wins! Boo!! Monday, 19 August 13
  4. 4. Students may try their best to learn how to work out pitches from the score rhythm values & Monday, 19 August 13
  5. 5. But many give up on notation because they never get past the hesitant stage of playing from a score! Monday, 19 August 13
  6. 6. Here’s what teachers can do about it... Monday, 19 August 13
  7. 7. Make sure students can name & play (only) the notes they need* instantly & without hesitation Monday, 19 August 13
  8. 8. instantly & without hesitation *Don’t try to teach them every note on the instrument before they need them Make sure students can name & play (only) the notes they need* Monday, 19 August 13
  9. 9. Understanding the score is one thing. Knowing immediately what to do about it on your instrument is an additional skill! Monday, 19 August 13
  10. 10. Stopping to work it out is the slowest way to play from a score: Monday, 19 August 13
  11. 11. Instant Very slow RESPONSESPEED READING SKILL TYPES Knowing How* *KNOWING only HOW to work out elements on a score interrupts the performance. By this route, fluency is impossible. The goal must be to be able to respond instantly: by Knowing Stopping to work it out is the slowest way to play from a score: Monday, 19 August 13
  12. 12. This is a much better way to play from a score: Monday, 19 August 13
  13. 13. This is a much better way to play from a score: Instant Very slow RESPONSESPEED READING SKILL TYPES Knowing** Knowing How **KNOWING – ie, instantly recognising melodic patterns, chords & rhythms the performer has seen before. This means that fluency & flow are NOT interrupted. Monday, 19 August 13
  14. 14. I grew up in a very musical family Rather like this one (but with perhaps more stride piano playing!) Monday, 19 August 13
  15. 15. When I began learning piano (aged 5) I really struggled with reading notation Monday, 19 August 13
  16. 16. I had perfect pitch but that meant my aural abilities were way ahead of my music reading Perform ing N otation reading Auralperception Ability High Low Monday, 19 August 13
  17. 17. Playing from a score was frustrating & unpleasant for me (& for anyone unfortunate enough to hear me!) Monday, 19 August 13
  18. 18. When I began piano exams my aural abilities still out-weighed my sight playing Monday, 19 August 13
  19. 19. I didn’t pass the sight-reading until I reached grade 5! Hooray! Monday, 19 August 13
  20. 20. It had dawned on me that I could play more fluently... Monday, 19 August 13
  21. 21. CHUNKS of notation ...if I could recognise (Rhythm) (Pitch) Monday, 19 August 13
  22. 22. CHUNKS of notation ...if I could recognise (rather than individual note events) (Rhythm) (Pitch) Monday, 19 August 13
  23. 23. I also learned that staff notation was not as scary as it seemed!Photo: Creepyhalloween © Monday, 19 August 13
  24. 24. Learning music just from notation is like trying to learn a language just from a book Photo:Headphones&Books©BillCMartin2013 Monday, 19 August 13
  25. 25. Photo:MontmartrePubCrawl©ThomasSauzeddiviaFlickrCreativeCommons To improve your accent & understand culture & customs... Monday, 19 August 13
  26. 26. you need conversations with genuine native speakers! Photo:MontmartrePubCrawl©ThomasSauzeddiviaFlickrCreativeCommons Monday, 19 August 13
  27. 27. Playing with musicians who are better than you gives insights into how to play, not just what to play Cajun Jam Session © JC Winkler via Flickr Creative Commons Monday, 19 August 13
  28. 28. It will help you develop an understanding of the music way beyond the note & rhythm information that the score provides Monday, 19 August 13
  29. 29. It may also help you clarify what you might express that could make the music, well, more musical! Monday, 19 August 13
  30. 30. The good news: staff notation is concerned mainly with 1. Pitch 2. Rhythm Monday, 19 August 13
  31. 31. So I came to realise my notation‘dragon’ wasn’t scary at all! Monday, 19 August 13
  32. 32. To become fluent when playing from a score, I needed to develop... Monday, 19 August 13
  33. 33. An ability to recognise instantly shapes, patterns & phrases on the page Monday, 19 August 13
  34. 34. As music teachers we can learn a lot from literacy teachers Children's Books © katerha via Flickr Creative Commons Monday, 19 August 13
  35. 35. They know that children will read aloud, fluently, only when... Photo: Child Reading via MorgueFile Monday, 19 August 13
  36. 36. shapes, patterns & words on the page ...they can recognise instantly Monday, 19 August 13
  37. 37. And when they can understand the MEANING of what they’re reading Child Reading at Brookline Booksmith © Tim Pierce via Flickr Creative Commons Monday, 19 August 13
  38. 38. So why do so many music teachers go no further than teaching students how to work out individual notation elements? Monday, 19 August 13
  39. 39. In language, understanding phonics (or individual letter sounds) will only enable students to work out the words r + ea + d + ing Monday, 19 August 13
  40. 40. It won’t drive reading fluency because 1. It’s not an instant process Monday, 19 August 13
  41. 41. It won’t drive reading fluency because 1. It’s not an instant process 2. It isn’t built on comprehension Monday, 19 August 13
  42. 42. Learning only how to work out individual note values & pitches... Monday, 19 August 13
  43. 43. is like learning to read but only ever learning to recognise individual letters! “Wh o’ s b ee n ea t ing m y p o rr i dge? The result lacks fluency Monday, 19 August 13
  44. 44. Almost ANY OTHER STRATEGY is quicker! Monday, 19 August 13
  45. 45. So teachers, PLEASE be kind to your poor students! Don’t leave them armed with only... Monday, 19 August 13
  46. 46. The ability to work out individual note values or pitches! Monday, 19 August 13
  47. 47. It’s not enough & some learners will give up! Monday, 19 August 13
  48. 48. Remember: Knowing only How to work it out won’t aid fluency Instant Very slow RESPONSESPEED READING SKILL TYPES Knowing How Monday, 19 August 13
  49. 49. So help them achieve fluency through instant recognition Instant Very slow Knowing Knowing How Via regular routines & practice!RESPONSESPEED READING SKILL TYPES Monday, 19 August 13
  50. 50. The first step? Teachers must set instant recognition as a goal Monday, 19 August 13
  51. 51. To extend teachers’ skills I run workshops on how to do this in your teaching Monday, 19 August 13
  52. 52. Choose either the 1-day workshop on improving notation reading Photo:Musicteachersattendingaworkshop©BillCMartin Monday, 19 August 13
  53. 53. Or choose the Ears & Eyes workshop improving aural & reading skills teaching, in a single day Photo: Jazzwise Summer School 2008 © Bill C Martin Monday, 19 August 13
  54. 54. It will extend your teaching skill set & greatly enhance your students’ reading, their playing capability & confidence Monday, 19 August 13
  55. 55. Contact me for details Phone: +44 (0)7718 122146 More Info: LinkedIn: billcmartin Twitter: @billcmartin Monday, 19 August 13