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There 'IS' hope for those of us that don't read music
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Ferret
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June 25, 2014 - 11:09 pm
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I found something that will bring cheer to the hearts of those of us that are 'written' musically impaired and/or have little or no formal training on our chosen instrument. We seem to be in good company.

I have recently found that Irving Berlin could not read music. Nor could he play the piano well.

It's true. The composer of countless beloved standards and show tunes including "Alexander's Ragtime Band," " White Christmas," and "God Bless America" couldn't read or write music.

He taught himself to play the piano while working as a singing waiter from 1904 to 1907. He played almost entirely in the key of F-sharp, allowing him to stay on the black keys as much as possible. This wasn't unheard-of for a self-taught musician, since it's easier for untrained fingers to play the black keys (which are elevated and widely spaced) without hitting wrong notes. In a 1962 interview, Berlin said, "The black keys are right there, under your fingers. The key of C is for people who study music."

So how did he write music if he couldn't read music? Simple--he got someone else to write it down for him.

Getting tunes down on paper wasn't Berlin's only challenge. Having limited skills as a pianist, he couldn't easily change keys. Not to worry. Around 1910, as his career was starting to take off, he bought an upright "transposing piano" for $100. To one side of the keyboard was a small wheel. Turning the wheel shifted the keyboard right or left relative to the strings, positioning the hammers over higher or lower notes than they would ordinarily strike. Thus while still playing on the (mostly) black keys of F-sharp major, Berlin could hear the music in a variety of other keys.

So it seems that there is hope for me and my non reading brethren banana

Source: straightdope.com

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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DanielB
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June 25, 2014 - 11:55 pm
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Good points, Ferret!

thumbs-up

Reading music *IS* a useful skill to have.  But it is just a way to write down or read what someone else has written down.  Or what you wrote down a year ago and would have forgotten otherwise.

By itself, it is not what makes someone a musician. Or a composer/songwriter, as your example shows.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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MrYikes
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June 26, 2014 - 7:06 am
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Okay, try this:

GF#GAAF#DF#F#

EF#GE B DD

DEF#GABEE

CDEF#

GBDG

then if you want switch to the e string and do it again.

It's a tune from the 40's.  I'll be interested to see if someone can name it.

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DanielB
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June 26, 2014 - 7:36 am
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I don't think I recognize it.  But considering that way of writing out a melody gives no indication of either timing or direction (in the sense of which G note you are indicating, for example), it is less clear than either hearing audio and attempting the piece by ear OR a written score, ABC or tab..

So I'm not entirely sure what your point is yet, but it looks like you may be heading to something interesting with it?

In any case, I didn't recognize it, but my knowledge of pieces of that period is also a long way from comprehensive.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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coolpinkone
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June 26, 2014 - 12:30 pm
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I couldn't figure out the song.  I just played on the piano..I thought it might be

"what are you doing the rest of your life..??"  but naw....

So do tell.. curious minds want to know.  🙂

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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fiddle chick
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June 26, 2014 - 1:12 pm
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Haven't tried to figure out the song yet, but just wanted to say that I can't really music either, so the way I learn a tune is to write down the notes, just like in your example. Of course, I have to hear the tune and have an idea how it goes, but I have to write down the notes for myself.

Let the bow flow.

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Oliver
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June 26, 2014 - 4:55 pm
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Circumstantial Evidence

I once had a chance to e mail with a musician who actually lived in the NYC theatre district.  One of his gripes was sight reading.  The management wanted to reduce($) the number of rehearsals so there was reduced chance for preparation.  Some of the musicians just couldn't hack it and were let go. 

There's a broken heart for every light on  Broadway (so the saying goes :)

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Ferret
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June 27, 2014 - 2:38 am
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Hi @MrYikes

Are you going to tell us what the 'mystery' song is and its relevance to the topic.

I'm sure that there are other that would like to know as well mate :)

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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Ferret
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June 27, 2014 - 3:25 am
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@Oliver

Could you you expand that a bit mate. In what way did he have a gripe with sight reading. Was he pro, con, or something else?

And when he said that some of the players couldn't handle it, in what way where they having trouble?

You have me intrigued :)

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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RosinedUp
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June 27, 2014 - 4:19 am
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In Oliver's story, I think the idea was that the ears-only players required interaction in rehearsals in order to learn the music and to learn how to fit with the other players, whereas the readers were able to learn the music "offline", or even play it on the spot, and so didn't need much group rehearsal.

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Ferret
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June 27, 2014 - 10:13 am
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RosinedUp said
In Oliver's story, I think the idea was that the ears-only players required interaction in rehearsals in order to learn the music and to learn how to fit with the other players, whereas the readers were able to learn the music "offline", or even play it on the spot, and so didn't need much group rehearsal.

@RosinedUp 

You may well be right in your interpretation of Oliver's responsive, however, I'd still like to hear his reply :)

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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Oliver
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June 27, 2014 - 10:50 am
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Well, the answer is 🙂  :)

The musician I spoke with was concerned about sight reading because just the reduced rehearsal time was a limitation.  In this situation, sight reading was a must because no one is going to play a broadway show by ear without a lot of rehearsal.  And would a conductor want to risk someone who may have learned the show from a CD?  I would imagine that the conductor might have his own version?

A good sight reader stands a chance even with reduced practice hours but that's not very comfortable.

Come to think of it, I would guess that a broadway pro comes up through the usual music academic ranks/schooling.

My personal opinion is that sight reading or not involves two very different approaches more dependent on genre than anything else.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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DanielB
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June 27, 2014 - 11:21 am
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Well, reducing the number of rehearsals isn't exactly a move that will usually improve the quality of any performance. 

There is "can't hack it" and then there is "walk because management isn't committed to what it will take to put on a quality production".  They could look similar from the outside.  Professionals or even dedicated amateurs have reputation to consider. Being in a slap-dash public production of any sort of show can be bad for that. If rehearsals were being paid, it also could result in being involved no longer being worth showing up in the "pay the rent" sense of the word for the performers.  Cut any worker's hours/pay badly enough, and you leave them no choice but to seek other employment.

In any case though, how does the cutting of rehearsals for musicians in theatre productions relate to the point that a well known American composer didn't read music?  It's interesting and all, but I'm not sure as I'm following the connection. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Oliver
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June 27, 2014 - 11:23 am
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sight_reading

Hear,hear!

(Beware your eye-hand span !!!!!!!!! }

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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MrYikes
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June 27, 2014 - 11:51 am
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The music is from a movie "It would be wrong".  I chose it because I didn't think anyone would know it.  I believe that if a person worked on those notes that they would end up playing at 80 beats per minute and would "have" the song.

I'm of course not trying to be a jerk, I just thought this would be half way between sight reading and playing be ear.  Secondly, it's a pretty tune.  And thirdly, it took me three times at editing to get the c and the b underlined to indicate the low notes,,so I was at least trying to help.  Lastly, I think this might help with improvising.

Now back to work laying a new floor....my being retired is giving my wife too many ideas for my time.

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Oliver
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June 27, 2014 - 12:03 pm
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Did you post a song or URL?   I think I'm missing something.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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MrYikes
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Whoops.  I posted the name wrong.  Freudian slip.  The name is "It can't be wrong". Max Steiner wrote the music.  You can google it.  Bette Davis is the star.

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Oliver
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June 27, 2014 - 4:54 pm
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I found Sinatra singing the song but what about reading music ??

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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RosinedUp
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DanielB said

In any case though, how does the cutting of rehearsals for musicians in theatre productions relate to the point that a well known American composer didn't read music?  It's interesting and all, but I'm not sure as I'm following the connection. 

It seems pretty simple. 

The title of the original post reveals its point---and a question.  It wasn't some random fact about some composer.

Irving Berlin was a case of success without reading music.

The other was a case of no success without reading music, the need to read being created by the need to cut rehearsal costs.

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DanielB
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June 28, 2014 - 12:01 pm
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Maybe a little off the topic, but I'll mention it since the original post's example was about a composer..

To register copyright of an original new piece of music you have written (at least in the US, laws elsewhere may differ somewhat), you can submit either "a notated copy" (like sheet music, tab sheets, lead sheets, etc) OR a "phonorecording" (an audio recording done as a record, tape, CD or these days some types of digital files can be uploaded) of the song/piece.  (Along with the appropriate forms and fees, obviously)

So there isn't any preferential treatment given to works that might have been composed by someone who can read/write notation over works that may have been composed by someone who plays/writes by ear.  

In fairness, though, there is one case where you have to submit copies of the piece in written notation.  That is if you intend to publish it as sheet music (or tab or whatever).  Now, if Irving Berlin had skipped that, his market for songs like "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "White Christmas" would have been much smaller.  Most of his works sold lots of copies as sheet music.  If he hadn't hired someone to write it out for him, he might have missed that boat, and fewer people might have been exposed to his works.

But the basic ability to register copyright to prove ownership of a piece of music you wrote is not dependent on being able to read music any more than it is dependent on being able to play by ear.   You're pretty much good to go whichever way you work.

 

@RosinedUp: Thanks RU, but I already had noticed those, obviously.  Wasn't what I was asking.

However, I am curious.. what question do you see in the title of the original post?  I thought it looked like a simple statement.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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