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#1
Hi all, i'm new around these parts <(^-^< of the great interweb (>^-^)>
so i'm not sure if this is a ridiculously obvious thread or not,

but i'd just like to pose the question that's been in my mind for a long while now:

What is the point of learning traditional music notation, and how important is it to a composer's practice?


- Nowadays, most aspiring musicians like myself have access to computer programs that have compositional software built in; however, these programs do not use traditional notation, rather they vary from number systems to little red squares you mark into empty boxes in a grid with the note names and rhythm.

I could compose a whole string orchestra on my computer, a symphony, or a pop song for a rock band, but none of it would come out in traditional notation.
This sometimes bothers me.
Would I be able to work with classically trained musicians in a studio?
How does a musical community ( like a band ) evolve when it's reliant upon either describing a sound, or learning everything by ear?
I think of great musicians like Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Sun Ra, classical composers, etc. who knew how to write their musical thoughts out on paper and share them with other people in a very direct way, and i start to think, is that what it takes to be a complete musician?

Perhaps these are unnecessary doubts, but i'd like to hear what the Ultimate Guitarists have to say about learning how to transcribe music, and whether or not you feel like it impacted your musical practice.

ty for reading / replying
#2
If you were to try to compose for an orchestra without using note notation, you would have issues. If you were to try to compose for a metal band with using note notation, you (might) have issues.

It depends what you are doing with music. If you need to give sheet music, you need to know note notation. If you don't need to give sheet music, you don't need to know note notation.

For instance, telling a line of violins to do a "fluttery, scale-following line" would be silly. Giving them notation for a line as described is better. Telling a guitarist (as long as he's good) to do such a line would be comprehensible.

It's more important, to me, to understand the music than to write it down.
Last edited by Will Lane at Oct 16, 2014,
#3
Do you think learning how to read text has helped you become an effective communicator of ideas?

It's the same question.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#4
Very important if you're writing music other than metal/rock or electronic. Okay, it's only really useful if you make orchestral music
Last edited by Elintasokas at Oct 16, 2014,
#5
only important if you're making old school wood and strings stuff

so if you're a modern composer and not just an old hat guitarist who happens to be alive now you'll prob never need it
#6
Quote by Jet Penguin
Do you think learning how to read text has helped you become an effective communicator of ideas?

It's the same question.

no it's not
#7
I also do a lot of sequencing (with the little squares and such) but I always work out my ideas on staff paper, in musical notation. If you're working with classically-trained musicians, you're much better off if you can give them music in standard musical notation. Otherwise, it's going to take A LOT longer to make them understand what you're trying to accomplish. If you're a composer, and especially if you compose for ensembles, being literate with musical notation is pretty important.
#9
Thanks for all of the replies so far, seems to be a consistent theme that different skills are important for different styles.

I like a lot of jazz music and definitely metal, so i'm thinking that eventually I will need to learn how to read and write sheet notation.

How did any of you guys or gals learn how to read it? Did you find a teacher or did you just sit down with some sheet music and grind it out?
Last edited by The Flying Whiz at Oct 16, 2014,
#10
look at it this way...to be able to read and write the basics would take - with work - several months..it not that hard really..then you have to ask yourself your own question is it worth it..my metaphor has been with guitarists reading only "tabs" and they ask "do I HAVE to learn notation when I can read tabs" I answer..its like this..you go into a library but you can only look at the pictures..

now once you have gained some skill at reading/writing and you begin to write away from the guitar..you really begin to see the value of the skill..and it developes over time for the rest of you life..like reading/writing text..again..could you do with out that skill..??
#11
Quote by The Flying Whiz
Hi all, i'm new around these parts <(^-^< of the great interweb (>^-^)>
so i'm not sure if this is a ridiculously obvious thread or not,

but i'd just like to pose the question that's been in my mind for a long while now:

What is the point of learning traditional music notation, and how important is it to a composer's practice?


- Nowadays, most aspiring musicians like myself have access to computer programs that have compositional software built in; however, these programs do not use traditional notation, rather they vary from number systems to little red squares you mark into empty boxes in a grid with the note names and rhythm.

I could compose a whole string orchestra on my computer, a symphony, or a pop song for a rock band, but none of it would come out in traditional notation.
This sometimes bothers me.
Would I be able to work with classically trained musicians in a studio?
How does a musical community ( like a band ) evolve when it's reliant upon either describing a sound, or learning everything by ear?
I think of great musicians like Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Sun Ra, classical composers, etc. who knew how to write their musical thoughts out on paper and share them with other people in a very direct way, and i start to think, is that what it takes to be a complete musician?

Perhaps these are unnecessary doubts, but i'd like to hear what the Ultimate Guitarists have to say about learning how to transcribe music, and whether or not you feel like it impacted your musical practice.

ty for reading / replying


well. it depends what you want to do.

If you just want to compose in the Matrix with software instruments, and /or drag and drop samples, you could certainly do so without reading standard notation.

If you want to study music (like from a book or in a class), or play a gig where reading music is required, you might find the ability to read standard notation to be a benefit.

Quote by The Flying Whiz
Thanks for all of the replies so far, seems to be a consistent theme that different skills are important for different styles.

I like a lot of jazz music and definitely metal, so i'm thinking that eventually I will need to learn how to read and write sheet notation.

How did any of you guys or gals learn how to read it? Did you find a teacher or did you just sit down with some sheet music and grind it out?



Pretty much any method book will get you going.
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Oct 16, 2014,
#13
Quote by blackone666
"I want to be a succesful writer, should I learn the letters and shit?"

it's nothing like saying that unless you live in the dark ages and think music is just how you organize pitch
#14
I compose professionally, and I can say, without a doubt, you need to be able to read music.

Yes, you can produce orchestral pieces in the same way a dubstep producer would make his music, and that will get you work when people want a piece of music on an mp3 file ready to go. However, barely any of the jobs I've had asked for that.

There have been many times where I've had to provide sheet music for a singer to hand to a pianist, or I've had to give sheet music to an orchestra using all three clefs while accommodating transposing instruments. With your lack of skill, you could not work with Classical musicians, and even Jazz musicians will be confused. Remember, composing is a hard business. If you can get results, but to get results you have to spend hours in a studio, spending your employer's money talking trained musicians through the music like they're five, then you're useless. I and many others can get the same, if not better results by sending over some PDF files via email to be put in front of musicians capable of reading it, so why employ someone who takes ten times longer to get it done?

As for bands, my band can still be incredibly tight after a month of no rehearsals because everything is notated and set in stone before we get together for a rehearsal. It really helps being able to communicate exactly what you want and is essential for someone wanting to be professional.
#15
Quote by CelestialGuitar
I compose professionally, and I can say, without a doubt, you need to be able to read music.

Yes, you can produce orchestral pieces in the same way a dubstep producer would make his music, and that will get you work when people want a piece of music on an mp3 file ready to go. However, barely any of the jobs I've had asked for that.

There have been many times where I've had to provide sheet music for a singer to hand to a pianist, or I've had to give sheet music to an orchestra using all three clefs while accommodating transposing instruments. With your lack of skill, you could not work with Classical musicians, and even Jazz musicians will be confused. Remember, composing is a hard business. If you can get results, but to get results you have to spend hours in a studio, spending your employer's money talking trained musicians through the music like they're five, then you're useless. I and many others can get the same, if not better results by sending over some PDF files via email to be put in front of musicians capable of reading it, so why employ someone who takes ten times longer to get it done?

As for bands, my band can still be incredibly tight after a month of no rehearsals because everything is notated and set in stone before we get together for a rehearsal. It really helps being able to communicate exactly what you want and is essential for someone wanting to be professional.


This is where knowing how to sight read and compose using notation would be important. Think of it this way. How versatile would you like to ultimately be as a musician? Answer that, and that will set your course.

Best,

Sean
#16
If you're writing traditional music then traditional notation can be a useful way of describing it to performers who understand traditional notation.

It's just that traditional music is boring so I don't.

Quote by Will Lane
For instance, telling a line of violins to do a "fluttery, scale-following line" would be silly.

Tell that to Morton Feldman m8
Last edited by captainsnazz at Oct 16, 2014,
#17
Many of the greatest musicians know how to read music. Many of the greatest musicians don't know how to read music.

Depends what you want. If you are in an evironment where it is a requirement, learn it. Otherwise, don't - if you want.
#18
It can't hurt.
"He's a walkin' contradiction partly truth and partly fiction. Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home"
#19
depends, who will be reading what you write? if your music should be understood through traditional notation, learn it. it's not hard to figure out, might as well do it.

Quote by Jet Penguin
Do you think learning how to read text has helped you become an effective communicator of ideas?

It's the same question.


μὴ δὲ φλυάρει, ὦ Έτπεγγυένᾱ
i don't know why i feel so dry
#20
Quote by The Flying Whiz
Hi all, i'm new around these parts <(^-^< of the great interweb (>^-^)>
so i'm not sure if this is a ridiculously obvious thread or not,

but i'd just like to pose the question that's been in my mind for a long while now:

What is the point of learning traditional music notation, and how important is it to a composer's practice?


- Nowadays, most aspiring musicians like myself have access to computer programs that have compositional software built in; however, these programs do not use traditional notation, rather they vary from number systems to little red squares you mark into empty boxes in a grid with the note names and rhythm.

I could compose a whole string orchestra on my computer, a symphony, or a pop song for a rock band, but none of it would come out in traditional notation.
This sometimes bothers me.
Would I be able to work with classically trained musicians in a studio?
How does a musical community ( like a band ) evolve when it's reliant upon either describing a sound, or learning everything by ear?
I think of great musicians like Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Sun Ra, classical composers, etc. who knew how to write their musical thoughts out on paper and share them with other people in a very direct way, and i start to think, is that what it takes to be a complete musician?

Perhaps these are unnecessary doubts, but i'd like to hear what the Ultimate Guitarists have to say about learning how to transcribe music, and whether or not you feel like it impacted your musical practice.

ty for reading / replying



It depends on who you are, what your strengths are, and what your goals are. Standard notation isn't that complicated. It's just spending enough time with it where it becomes natural and easy,and second nature that gets tough. With a computer, you can quickly and easily compose in standard notation. I don't sight read, but I could compose you something in sibelius without too much trouble. With a pen and paper though, you need to be more advanced. There is no way to hear if you made a mistake, no audio feedback. You just need to be right.

If your aim is to be an orchestra composer, then I would say it's a requirement.

If your aim is to be a guitarist/songwriter, then I would say it's probably not worth the effort. Pianist songwriter though, to me, that's a bit different, but still not at all necessary.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Oct 16, 2014,
#22
Quote by The Rules
NO posting in languages other than English
- Posts in foreign languages must be accompanied by an English translation.
Punishment: The thread may be closed or you may receive a warning for excessive use of other languages without a translation.


I'm not suggesting Eastwin's use of another language warrants any kind of censure as he was making point. I point this rule out because I feel it negates the point he was making. If we have an agreed text (or language) for exchanging ideas then your objection to JetPenguin's post is invalid.
==========

Quote by deadsmileyface
[meaningless post of internet meme]


Quote by The RULES
NO SPAM
- This means no meaningless posts, overdone threads or random gibberish. It is not ok to post in an obvious spam thread other than to report it.
- What is deemed appropriate or not is decided by the moderators. Use your common sense or ask a mod before posting if you are unsure.
Punishment: Decided by the moderator. Your thread may be closed, and you may receive a warning or ban.

***WARNING***

Any memes that the moderators deem offensive, annoying or just plain stupid are against the rules, regardless of whether they are specifically mentioned here or not. This includes images such as the 'LOL WUT' pear, and the practices of 'Rick Rolling', 'inb4' and 'c-c-c-combo breaking'. We suggest you do not spread memes like this across UG as if we feel the meme is sufficiently annoying, is being overused, or is a form of spam, you may receive warnings or bans at the mods discretion.


That meme falls into this category, it's overdone, annoying, and stupid.
Si
#23
my comment to him read "don't talk nonsense, jet penguin." he implied that traditional notation was as universal as written word but truly it is only as universal as a single writing system. there are other ways to talk about music then dots and lines. traditional notation is not imperative across the board, just among those that prefer to read it.

this seems picky but i think it matters. people often see staffs and notes as some sort of monolith behind which lies all the answers. it's the secret code of musicians or something. they get discouraged when their attempts to learn it prove boring. i think we should be honest. it's a boring bit of formality that you ought to be familiar with at the least. whether you go on to sight read and write it fluently is up to you. we shouldn't teach people to throw away their intuition about music by bombarding them with symbols. the need for notation will arrive naturally, if it arises at all.
i don't know why i feel so dry
#24
Anyone who has studied composing for an extended period of time knows that standard notation, like langauge, is flawed in many ways. But it is still a pretty good way of communicating ideas.
#25
Quote by Eastwinn
my comment to him read "don't talk nonsense, jet penguin." he implied that traditional notation was as universal as written word but truly it is only as universal as a single writing system. there are other ways to talk about music then dots and lines. traditional notation is not imperative across the board, just among those that prefer to read it.

this seems picky but i think it matters. people often see staffs and notes as some sort of monolith behind which lies all the answers. it's the secret code of musicians or something. they get discouraged when their attempts to learn it prove boring. i think we should be honest. it's a boring bit of formality that you ought to be familiar with at the least. whether you go on to sight read and write it fluently is up to you. we shouldn't teach people to throw away their intuition about music by bombarding them with symbols. the need for notation will arrive naturally, if it arises at all.

Not so much picky as a strawman argument - particularly the implication that learning standard notation somehow "teaches people to throw away their intuition about music".

I don't sight read, my reading skills are rudimentary at best. I don't think it's essential and do agree with some of your sentiments though.
Si
#26
Quote by Eastwinn
my comment to him read "don't talk nonsense, jet penguin." he implied that traditional notation was as universal as written word but truly it is only as universal as a single writing system. there are other ways to talk about music then dots and lines. traditional notation is not imperative across the board, just among those that prefer to read it.

this seems picky but i think it matters. people often see staffs and notes as some sort of monolith behind which lies all the answers. it's the secret code of musicians or something. they get discouraged when their attempts to learn it prove boring. i think we should be honest. it's a boring bit of formality that you ought to be familiar with at the least. whether you go on to sight read and write it fluently is up to you. we shouldn't teach people to throw away their intuition about music by bombarding them with symbols. the need for notation will arrive naturally, if it arises at all.


I agree. To me from a cognitive standpoint, it is very much like learning an instrument. Meaning, an instrument is itself a language like that. So, I don't think it can help anyone think about music, or organize musical thoughts any better than learning an instrument very well. Although if you play guitar, and don't play piano, it might help you make sense of some stuff.

It is however, sort of cross platform, which is nice, and can let you sort of play and record in silence with nothing but a pen and paper, which is cool. To some degree anyway, it's a bit more rigid than truly recording something you play.

What is also powerful about it, is that someone can take the time to transcribe some nice solos on your instrument, and you can sit down and play it, and learn a lot that way, without trying to ear out difficult passages. You can just have someone show you a piece of music you've never heard before, play it right away, learn a few things about it, and never play it again. It's very powerful for that.

that's probably its biggest strength for me, and also being able to just write music with a pen and paper could be cool also.
#27
Quote by 20Tigers
Not so much picky as a strawman argument - particularly the implication that learning standard notation somehow "teaches people to throw away their intuition about music".

I don't sight read, my reading skills are rudimentary at best. I don't think it's essential and do agree with some of your sentiments though.


well to be fair, he didn't actually put forward an argument, just a quip, and i responded with a quip funny thing about this forum, and really this section, is that irrelevant quips tend to start discussions where both parties are arguing a strawman or an analogy that was only good enough for a cheeky remark.

i don't think learning traditional notation compromises intuition necessarily. just dots and lines after all. but i think it's a common instrument of soul crushing formal music education so we ought to emphasize that it is optional and limited. as a tab site we firmly express this view but with variety of musicians here i think it's worth reiterating.

i think the need for notation arises naturally. no need to force it
i don't know why i feel so dry
#28
LOL, inb4ing is banned here.

I can't sight read. It's easy enough to write music in notation using software, so I don't need to learn where the dots go myself, at least not properly.
#29
Quote by fingrpikingood

that's probably its biggest strength for me, and also being able to just write music with a pen and paper could be cool also.

Cool, sure, but how useful? Not very As long as I can use a notation program I don't see a single reason to use pen and paper. Maybe I will do that after a nuclear apocalypse in a bunker.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Oct 17, 2014,
#30
Well you're playing it with wood and strings I don't see how you can get uppity about writing it with a pen lol
#32
Quote by Elintasokas
Cool, sure, but how useful? Not very As long as I can use a notation program I don't see a single reason to use pen and paper. Maybe I will do that after a nuclear apocalypse in a bunker.


I guess that depends on the person. I would find it useful in a number of occasions. I don't always have a computer with me, and if I get a computer device to program whatever it is, it will affect my imagination. Things like timber would affect my ideas, and stuff like that. In my mind, I control all of those things effortlessly, and in unison.

A pen and piece of paper is fast, easy, and silent. It's a good advantage I find. Do I find it enough reason to learn to sight read? No. That's partially why I don't sightread.

Being able to read any piece of music and play it right away is strong though. If I kept a focus on piano, I may have learned for that reason, even though my main interests in music are songwriting and freestyle.

I don't aspire to be a composer. If I did, I would learn. I would be writing pieces for musicians to play, and I couldn't talk to them about the document they are reading, or anything like that, if I didn't understand it myself. All of my peers would be able to read it, I don't think I could get far if I couldn't. That's like if I wanted to write scores like John Williams typed stuff. If I just wanted to make video game music I might not mind so much. Just make it in my DAW, and if they want to record real strings or whatever, someone else could help me out I guess.

I don't think it's such a big deal though. If you understand the concept of keys and how they work, and understand timing on a grid in your DAW, it's relatively easy I think. It's just spending the time enough with it so that it is very easy and automatic that is tough. Being precise like in a DAW can be tough though also. It can look all sloppy and complicated if you try to be too precise, because you have to notated the rests, and also the notes with their durations. That's my experience with it anyway. Like I said, I don't sight read, I just have an understanding of how it works to some degree.

It all depends on exactly what you want to do, and what kind of person you are.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Oct 17, 2014,
#34
I think you really have to be a good sight reader/singer in order to be able to write orchestral pieces with just pen and paper. You have to know the instrument timbres inside and out. If you're not very good, what you write might actually differ from the sounds you hear in your head (while writing) a lot.

But seriously though, what are the chances that an orchestra would play my piece? 1%? 0.1%? 0.001%? Yeah. I'll just stick with samples.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Oct 17, 2014,
#35
Quote by Elintasokas

But seriously though, what are the chances that an orchestra would play my piece? 1%? 0.1%? 0.001%? Yeah. I'll just stick with samples.


Well, I wouldn't limit yourself to 0.1% chance.. I mean, plenty of musicians from across many genres have orchestra pieces played: for instance, Trey Anastasio from Phish just had an orchestral piece put together where he included his own musicianship as a guitarist...
and I highly doubt that Trey Anastasio was using musical notation, probably just hired a copyist.

Also, there's Richard D. James who worked with an orchestra on a few occasions, one being the orchestral performance of Girl/Boy song,

and of course, Frank Zappa, who most certainly would've written out his own sheet music, playing many orchestral pieces

.. I bring all of this up to say that if your music really gets out there and you have the means, there's no doubt that you could produce an orchestral or symphonic performance.
#36
Quote by Elintasokas
I think you really have to be a good sight reader/singer in order to be able to write orchestral pieces with just pen and paper. You have to know the instrument timbres inside and out. If you're not very good, what you write might actually differ from the sounds you hear in your head (while writing) a lot.

But seriously though, what are the chances that an orchestra would play my piece? 1%? 0.1%? 0.001%? Yeah. I'll just stick with samples.


yes you have to be very good. You have to be that good on your instrument as well. If I think of a sound I want on my guitar, i have to immediately play it, before I even acknowledge that I've had the thought, and it must be correct. You need to know it very well. I'm sure you know most of your orchestra instruments, how they sound, and most or all of their articulations, if you are using something like EWQL.

I think this is the caliber we are taking about here. If you just want to be a for fun amateur, then who cares what you do? If you want to be a strong professional, you will have to be very good at difficult things.

Your chances will not be very good if you decide not to exercise a skill you would need because you don't believe in your own success.

I find it is a better philosophy to decide what you want, put all of your effort into that, and see where it takes you. If what you want is for an orchestra to play the pieces you compose, then I think it would serve you well to learn standard notation.

There are a few DAWs out there, which let you compose in standard notation and convert to midi. It depends what you want to do. If what you want to do doesn't require any skill in standard notation, but skill in midi programming, then sure, just do that. There is no right or wrong. There is just where you want to go, and how to get there. And even at that, there are many routes.

Quote by The Flying Whiz


.. I bring all of this up to say that if your music really gets out there and you have the means, there's no doubt that you could produce an orchestral or symphonic performance.


Exactly. Michael Jackson couldn't read music, he wasn't a virtuoso on any instrument, he would often just sing out what he wanted someone else to make happen, or record things by layering his voice, and producers would help him out. Like this.

There are lots of ways to get things done. There are midi/sheet music conversion tools, which you'd have to touch up. And you could always hire people to help you out. But that person you hired, had to know sheet music. It all depends on you, what your skills are, and where you want to go.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Oct 17, 2014,
#37
Personally, if I couldn't read music, I'd view that as a huge loss of an extremely valuable skill
#38
Yeah. I compose all my music in standard notation. I was saying that writing with pen and paper wouldn't be much use for me, not software. I'm pro-notation 100% I hate MIDI piano roll programming.

Nowadays I first compose my shit in notation and then export it to a DAW to do all the little tweaks to it.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Oct 17, 2014,
#39
Quote by Elintasokas
Yeah. I compose all my music in standard notation. I was saying that writing with pen and paper wouldn't be much use for me, not software. I'm pro-notation 100% I hate MIDI piano roll programming.

Nowadays I first compose my shit in notation and then export it to a DAW to do all the little tweaks to it.


That seems a sensible way to do it.

I'm sure you could do quite well writing on paper, if you've been writing standard notation a while. For me, I think it could be cool in situations like in public, on the bus, waiting for someone somewhere. Or just some idea I like pops in my head, I can write it down real quick without singing it onto a recording device or whatever, something like that. Not so much to help me a better composer, or improving my compositional process when I'm really working. Plus, it could maybe come in handy if I ever went deaf.
#40
Actually many modern composers still handwrite. The current score I'm writing is also handwritten, simply because I can't put it into Sibelius how I want to (too many extended techniques and unconventional notation). There are alternatives, like using vector based graphic software, and manually recreating the score on it, but these take hours.
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