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WHY YOU MIGHT WANT TO LEARN TO READ.
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Oliver
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May 26, 2012 - 3:12 pm
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Here is an audio clip of a piece I was messing with today.   It is not a regular song.  It is pat of a second violin arrangement for a small orchestra.  I do not remember the details.

I collect second violin parts for practice.  No friendly melody.  Sometimes brutal to play.  Great practice for me but maybe boring for a listener.

But I also thought that it is sobering to realize that many students will wind up, for a while, in second chair parts and maybe have to struggle to continue their careers.  I never had that opportunity but I bet it is "fun".

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Dee Major
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May 26, 2012 - 4:14 pm
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Good suggestion, Oliver. It always seems more difficult to play the harmony parts in my lesson books. droolingThey are the measure of my true accomplishments.

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Oliver
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May 26, 2012 - 4:29 pm
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My experience has been that playing the harmony parts improves the ability to read melody.  I guess melody just looks easier then  smile

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KindaScratchy
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May 26, 2012 - 6:23 pm
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I always played second flute in my high school band and hated it for that reason. I wanted to play the melody, not harmony nor parts that just came in every now and then. Supposedly the first flutists -- or violinists -- are the better players, but seems to me that it's easier to play the melody, so why wouldn't you have the better players play the second part?

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Oliver
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May 26, 2012 - 7:47 pm
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After bumming around musical events and venues for a long time, I have to say that I think that second violin or flute, or second anything can be, in fact, be as challenging as the first part or, sometimes, even more difficult.  The difference might be more a matter of personalities than music.

I was impressed with one orchestra where one fella, during set up, strolled on stage with a humongous bumper sticker on his case ..... SECOND VIOLIN.  Bravo !

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
May 26, 2012 - 11:20 pm
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KindaScratchy said
I always played second flute in my high school band and hated it for that reason. I wanted to play the melody, not harmony nor parts that just came in every now and then. Supposedly the first flutists -- or violinists -- are the better players, but seems to me that it's easier to play the melody, so why wouldn't you have the better players play the second part?

dunno

Very good point. The second violin part is actually usually easier but not always. First violin parts are usually higher, and more technically difficult and often more music to learn as well.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
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Fiddlestix
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May 27, 2012 - 12:38 am
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My opinion is that playing second "anything" is a bit more difficult, just like trying to harmonize with a person singing lead, ya kinda wanna slip from second part to first part and without realizing it, you're singing the melody rather than the harmony.

It's something you really need to concentrate on.   

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myguitarnow
Laguna Beach
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May 27, 2012 - 4:43 am
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Well I have to add to this post because I always try to remind people about intonation and Oliver you are spot on! Ok, I'm going to bed now ;=__

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DanielB
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May 27, 2012 - 5:36 am
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I had to think a bit about whether or not to chime in on this.  I do not want to give the impression that I disagree with Oliver, because I don't.  If playing in an orchestra or something like that is what you want to do, that is very commendable and you certainly will want to be able to read music for that.  But playing in an orchestra, whether first second or whatever chair, is not a goal for everyone.

That being said, I can say that you still will want to learn to read music at least at some point.  It opens some possibilities that just aren't as easy if you can't read music.  Maybe you find an interesting song in an old book, and there just isn't an audio of it anywhere that you can find.  If you can read music, even just a bit, you can figure it out and learn that bit of music.  It is also good for communicating with other musicians.  Sure, we have recording technology available today that just wasn't around when music notation was invented.  But a lot of times a scrap of paper and a pencil is a whole lot quicker and the batteries don't run down.  You don't have to worry about the pencil having the right file format either.

It is very possible to be a musician, even a "serious" one, without being able to read music.  But it is harder.  You have to be able to hold whole songs in your memory, probably quite a few of them, and it takes a certain amount of the brainpower you could be using to work on your technique and learn new music.  I was a musician who played in bands and got good grades in college music classes for about 20 yrs before I finally bit the bullet and learned how to sight-read at tempo for an instrument when I was in my 30s.  It didn't take near as long as I thought it would, I already had it pretty well down by halfway through one semester.

Sight-reading is a specific skill.  I would say it mostly resembles touch-typing.  Through practice, you develop a set of reactions where your eyes see a note and your hands play it and you don't need to think about what the letter name of that note is or that it is a half-note or whatever and held for so many beats or even what finger and what key or string.  You just see it and play it without having to think about it.  It is nothing magical.  If you practice enough, you eventually get it.  In my experience you also have to learn it over again for every instrument you want to be able to do it for.  It is a little easier after the first time, since you understand better what the symbols mean and have an idea how things should sound.  But it is a skill and the only way to get a skill is through practice and working at it.  Knowledge is something you can get by just reading a book or website and understanding what is there.  Talent, you can be born with.  But if you want a skill, the only way I know of to get there is work, and that means practice.

However, even being able to read a bit, like "that's middle C, and that's a D and that's an F.. so so those 3 notes would go like.." so you can work things out is worth the effort it takes.  I personally got by like that for years, so it can be done.  It is just slower and more awkward, like if reading written language you had to "sound things out" like "C...A...T...... Ka..Aaaa..T... Cat?"  Still useful, and you can learn some music theory and etc that way, its just slower and harder and unless your motivation is very high, you are less likely to stick with music long enough to get as good as you'd like to be.

So while I won't disagree with Oliver as regards his original post in this thread, I would add that there are plenty of reasons to learn to read music to at least some degree even if a particular chair in an orchestra is not on your list of goals or dreams at all.  It is not that hard and FM has put together some very nice resources under the "Learning Tools" section of this site to help people learn. 

"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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May 27, 2012 - 8:46 am
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Incidentally, I have a nook where sight reading is not very important.  That is in the case of improvisation.  Sometimes I want to give the melody a break and just float with the chord structure.  I only would  like to stop sometimes and put a good lick on paper but that never seems to happen !

The main reason I like sight reading is utilitarian ..... instant repertoire !   

One reason I will never occupy any orchestra chair is that I would hit somebody by going in the wrong direction with the bow   dazed

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Fiddlerman
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May 27, 2012 - 9:03 am
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Well, as always it depends mostly on what you plan on doing with your instrument. If you want to learn a lot of repertoire it's a great way to do it. Just buy the fake books, or music books and start reading until you've memorized tons of pieces. If you play in an ensemble or do lot's of gigs there is no question about the importance of reading music. Many times I get to a gig and read the music when no parts were available or necessary. No one can tell. This gets me the gigs that others can't get. I used to get recording gigs because the parts were kind of complicated and it was too expensive to give violinists time to learn their parts. They would never send them out.

To just play and have fun you don't need to read music. You can learn by ear and learn to improvise as well. You can even play and jam in groups and do just fine.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Oliver
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May 27, 2012 - 9:15 am
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Your comments rings a bell about a Broadway NYC musician who complained to me that there was almost no time now allowed for rehearsals/preparation.   Sounds like a lot of pressure to me !

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