#1
I plan on updating this and correcting the language when I have time, so suggestions/commentary are certainly welcome. I'm really just out there to encourage something that guitarists are often made fun of for, and I think it's time for that to come to an end.

I don't intend to put down people who don't read music. I just wish people would recognize the numerous benefits that can be derived from it. So many of you that say "music comes from the heart" have tremendously valid points. But I'm getting at more of "What if you want to read someone else's music?"


Alright, I think I've said this in almost every post I've made to date since I joined UG here, so I'm just gonna go balls to the wall and get everything out.

For those of you that don't like to read long posts, here's the tl;dr (too long;didn't read) version: Reading music can only make you a better guitarist, it will give you immense credibility with other musicians, and you will be more likely to get gigs that don't involve just "lol I'm playing at the local YMCA with my rok band, lol."

Why should I learn to read music?

A reasonable question for the contemporary guitarist. Why do I need to read music when I can just get tabs off the internet, or learn songs by ear? Well there is a fairly simple answer. Reading music will open you up to a whole new world of possibilities in terms of guitar repertoire. If you've never heard/played a Bach solo violin sonata, you're missing out on something. The complex harmonies of the European classical tradition are something to investigate if you’re interested in really spicing up your music. And being able to read will help you learn from these masters even faster!

Also, being able to read music will give you immense credibility with "real" musicians. That is, people who play instruments that must read music. If you meet a piano player in a coffee bar and he says he wants to jam, but wants you to learn a tune to play, he'll expect you to read music.
While there are some prodigies than cannot read music and yet could wipe the floor with all of us, reading music is an excellent way to improve our playing for those of us that are not gifted with such ability! I started my musical life as a Violist (that means viola player for those of you that may live in tents with Bigfoot), and I can tell you from experience that those of us that were raised in the European/western musical education system do have something of an ego about ability, it comes with the territory. If you were to meet a Violin player who can sight read the Paganini Caprices and they were to recommend them to you (they’re great technical exercise) and you were to say “Well....I can’t read music,” you’d get a very odd look, and that other player would likely think something less of you.
When you tell someone "I play (insert instrument)" they expect you know what you're doing, and that includes reading music along with being able to play that sweet Liquid Tension Experiment tune (granted, their stuff is awesome). As was stated in a comment made, there is no definition of good music. But we all can learn something from all music.

Along the same lines, are you wondering where Dream Theater got their inspiration for their complex harmonies? Pick up a Tchaikovsky score, or buy a copy of the score to Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. It's all right there. Also, if you're into it, even many famous jazz musicians (like Miles Davis) talk about how they would read scores from famous classical pieces to get inspiration. Try it some time, go to your library, pick up a score and a recording of a piece, and just follow along, you'll appreciate the complexity that much more (If you’re interested, go to your local library and ask if these materials are available.)

Finally, and most pertinently, learning to read music on your guitar will exponentially improve your playing abilities. You will at the same time learn tone relationships (intervals) and the notes of the fret board. Your dexterity will increase as you learn new ways to traverse the fret board as you encounter new musical patterns as well. And as I said before, you’ll gain new ideas for your own music. All music in the American tradition from blues to jazz to rock and roll has at least some element of “copying the former masters” to it.

But how do I do it?!

Firstly, it's freaking hard. Reading music isn't something that you accomplish in a week, a month, or a year. As my stoner room mate says, like all music, "it's a journey." You can totally nail that Wes Montgomery transcription one day, what you thought was the hardest thing ever, and the next day someone will hand you a Telemann viola concerto put in treble clef and it'll kick your ass. I myself am not even some great master at reading, but in the sort time (probably two or three years) that I've been doing it, I've only gotten better, and so has everything else about my playing, and much of that improvement I can draw some line back to reading.

So treat it like a journey. One you'll never really complete, but will always garner satisfaction from.

Moving on to the practicals:

Books to start with:
For the outright beginner, who knows almost nothing about music, there is one book that has been the bible for reading for years. And even though I used to not be a fan of it myself (before I got into college), I have now recognized its unending value.

William Leavitt: A Modern Method For Guitar: This 3 Volume method is now printed in one big book, and runs like $20 on Amazon. The first book is great for someone that can handle a guitar but knows nothing about reading. Even if you work on one page a day, you'll be moving forward, and that's what important. If you're working all on your own, the duets may seem worthless (I know I thought they were), but they generally offer you more to learn, and you can often see/hear the relation between the two parts. The book is VERY methodical, and if you were to complete all 3 volumes of this thing, I'm sure you could teach everyone here at UG a thing or two. The method covers everything from single note lines to arpeggios, well for god's sake, it's the textbook at the Berklee College of Music, it covers what you need to know to get rolling.

For those of you a little more comfortable with music already and want to get into somewhat heavier stuff, but things that are still manageable (Remember, it's a journey, take your time and have fun!):

Dr. Charles Colin and Bugs Bower: Rhythms Complete, Keyboard and Guitar Edition "The Bible of Syncopated Rhythms": Here is the description from right inside the book -- "The most widely used primer in the world for teaching rhythm, syncopation and phrasing, employing a very melodic format of 82 exercises in rhythmic structures and combinations of rhythms. It requires time, practice and repetition to master, however once you can read this in 4/4 and cut time correctly, you will be able to read anything. While written especially for beginning/intermediate levels, it is also used by advanced players as a daily practice book to maintain facility." ----- I completed this entire book last semester in one of my classes. If you've got a handle on basic note reading, this book will get you involved in reading slightly more complex rhythms and playing in the standard keys that most gig bands (that are not rock) play in. It presents each rhythm as a unit, and then has two exercises to work on it, then after 2 individual rhythms are learned, they are combined in two "combined rhythm" exercises. This is just great stuff.

William Leavitt: Melodic Rhythms for Guitar. Another Berklee book, and I still think Rhythms Complete is cooler, but another great workout that focuses on types of rhythms and develops them through melodies.

Alright, work with those books, I get it. What next?

Once you have a basic handle on note reading, even if you're just beginning, START READING MUSIC! Go buy a violin etudes book. Steal your sister's piano music and read the treble clef part. Get Guitar Pro and start learning your favorite songs, reading the notes instead of the tabs! You'll find it much more fulfilling, and you'll be able to SEE the relationships. In terms of just straight melodic workouts, I like the book Rhythmical Articulation by Pasquale Bona. It's used at some crazy European conservatory, and it can be very challenging, but if you take your time it's so worth it. I'm still working with this book. The first section is actually for vocalists, but I've yet to see a vocalist that can sing this stuff, it's hard. The book has a series of exercises that are like short pieces of music.

That's basically it once you've got the basics of note reading down, you just hunt down music and learn it. I like reading violin music as it is the most easily transferred. I'd also recommend learning some transcriptions from rock or jazz songs. There are books of these things, and you can find some online. Learning the solo's of others will help you improve your own soloing, and you'll keep working on your reading!

There is no magic bullet when it comes to reading. But over time you will find out how you’ve benefited from it. Each person will take away something different. One person make take new musical ideas, another person make take away an increased technical proficiency. No matter what you take, you can use it to improve your music, which is the music that really matters.

Music is a journey, always strive to get better. Reading music can help you get there in so many ways! And as always, have fun doing it!
Last edited by Guitar_Theory at May 14, 2008,
#2
^
Great post!

here is another point to add.

Standard notation is the language that music theory is taught in. Being fluent in this language is essential for those planning on studying theory.
#3
Quote by Guitar_Theory
If you've never heard/played a Bach solo violin sonata, you're missing out on something. The harmonies alone will convince you that there is music better than that Metallica song you just heard on the radio.


Fail! Personally, I don't need to read this post as I've already spent my fair share of hours with music theory, and I think it's a great tool. But the way you make complexity seem like the definition of good music is simply a terrible way of inspiring. There's no definition of good music! Some people love Metallica, and it's neither worse, nor better than classical music as per definition. It's a totally individual thing, and it's about preference more than anything. "Dead Poet Society" is a good movie for illustrating the point, only using poetry analysis instead of a musical one. Theory and technicality is nowhere close to related to good music. It might be the base for it, but there's no such necessity.

Quote by Guutar_Theory
And if you can't read music, you will instantly be treated like dirt by "real" musicians.


Sorry, but that is complete bull.

I happen to have a brother with perfect pitch. He can play the piano like no other person I have ever seen in my life(not counting the internet or other videos) and he handles various other instruments in an absolutely amazing way. He has no musical education, he can barely read standard notation, and I'll bet my ass that he doesen't know the name of one scale. Now, I'm not saying he won't benifit from learning these things, but with him being 33 years of age, he has been involved with quite a few professional musicians, and there's not a soul that wouldn't respect him for his musicality and ability to work his instruments in a creative and adaptable way. He can hear a song on the radio(or wherever) and he can sit down on a piano, or with the guitar, and play it afterwards. I can choose a complex progression, using patterns he does not know the name of, and he will pretty much always be able to tag along, or lead the way, in a manner that I, with both experience and theory, cannot copy. Technically, I am better than him on the guitar(it being my only instrument along with vocals), but creativity, a brilliant ear, and a general attunement to music and musical ideas simply makes him a better musician than I will probably ever be, even if he never learns theory, or gets professional.

What this article, lesson, whatever you wanna call it, lacks, is a constructive approach to how you can improve, rather than define the base for actually being any good at all. There are old blues-musicians sitting on their front porch in a chair playing what a lot of people would call "real blues", without knowing much theory at all. They can jam, improvise or simply play along with something they hear, but they can't write the notes down for us, or explain what mode they are using over a given progression. Does that make them laughable, or bad musicians? I don't think so, and I'm not a huge fan of blues.

Be very careful when defining good music, and I suggest that you don't ever make it seem like theory is the base for being good at music. A simple "I consider this or that good music" would have changed the attitude this article radiates, but to me, this seems like another technically, and theoretically skilled person trying to give us the recipe of a good musicianship.

You can flame me for this, but not everyone agrees that theory as per such is the heart and core of being good at music.
#5
^ i think your brother is the exception to the rule. i've had my fair share of real musicians kinda look shocked when i told them i could sight read but really poorly and couldn't sight play (i think they were shocked because i could actually play guitar decently and follow odd chord changes which is often associated with being able to sight read and sight play music)

but i've also met some real musicians that when you say "yeah i know some theory and i know some scales but i gotta toss that out the window when i play and just play how i feel" alot of them agree with that too (assuming what you feel sounds good when played with the music)

btw once again, i'm not encouraging the "play what you feel" method until you know HOW to play what you feel. but thats a different post unto itself.
#6
Quote by Cuddrow
Fail! Personally, I don't need to read this post as I've already spent my fair share of hours with music theory, and I think it's a great tool. But the way you make complexity seem like the definition of good music is simply a terrible way of inspiring. There's no definition of good music! Some people love Metallica, and it's neither worse, nor better than classical music as per definition. It's a totally individual thing, and it's about preference more than anything. "Dead Poet Society" is a good movie for illustrating the point, only using poetry analysis instead of a musical one. Theory and technicality is nowhere close to related to good music. It might be the base for it, but there's no such necessity.


Sorry, but that is complete bull.

I happen to have a brother with perfect pitch. He can play the piano like no other person I have ever seen in my life(not counting the internet or other videos) and he handles various other instruments in an absolutely amazing way. He has no musical education, he can barely read standard notation, and I'll bet my ass that he doesen't know the name of one scale. Now, I'm not saying he won't benifit from learning these things, but with him being 33 years of age, he has been involved with quite a few professional musicians, and there's not a soul that wouldn't respect him for his musicality and ability to work his instruments in a creative and adaptable way. He can hear a song on the radio(or wherever) and he can sit down on a piano, or with the guitar, and play it afterwards. I can choose a complex progression, using patterns he does not know the name of, and he will pretty much always be able to tag along, or lead the way, in a manner that I, with both experience and theory, cannot copy. Technically, I am better than him on the guitar(it being my only instrument along with vocals), but creativity, a brilliant ear, and a general attunement to music and musical ideas simply makes him a better musician than I will probably ever be, even if he never learns theory, or gets professional.

What this article, lesson, whatever you wanna call it, lacks, is a constructive approach to how you can improve, rather than define the base for actually being any good at all. There are old blues-musicians sitting on their front porch in a chair playing what a lot of people would call "real blues", without knowing much theory at all. They can jam, improvise or simply play along with something they hear, but they can't write the notes down for us, or explain what mode they are using over a given progression. Does that make them laughable, or bad musicians? I don't think so, and I'm not a huge fan of blues.

Be very careful when defining good music, and I suggest that you don't ever make it seem like theory is the base for being good at music. A simple "I consider this or that good music" would have changed the attitude this article radiates, but to me, this seems like another technically, and theoretically skilled person trying to give us the recipe of a good musicianship.

You can flame me for this, but not everyone agrees that theory as per such is the heart and core of being good at music.



wow I should have read that more carefully.. yeah there is some crap in there.


there are some good reasons to read music, and some of them are in that post. The idea that you can't be successful without it though, is ofcourse "complete bull"
#7
^ yeah, but at the same time someone can be good without learning to read music, but imagine how great they could be if they did learn to read music.
#8
Quote by z4twenny
^ yeah, but at the same time someone can be good without learning to read music, but imagine how great they could be if they did learn to read music.



well im promoting reading, not discouraging it.

As far as your question..... depends on the person. maybe alot better, maybe not.
It doesnt really matter, if you find success, no matter how you find it...... you found it.
#9
^ thats true and i realize you're promoting it (i think all of us who visit this forum even if its not often) would promote the idea of reading music.

and to me personally, when i started looking at music objectively (as you do on a sheet of music, i actually started thinking of it like that before then so it helped a little to realize its no just fingers/numbers on strings) it opened up my idea of what could be done SOOOO much more its unreal. i think it would probably have that same effect on anybody. would it turn kurt cobain into bach? naw, prolly not, but maybe cobain into randy rhoades (and i don't care what anybody says, i think any of us would be proud to have that comparison)
#10
learning theory and reading standard notation can only make you better, for anyone starting out i recomend the berklee method books
What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.

Sun Tsu, The Art OF War
#11
Quote by z4twenny
^ thats true and i realize you're promoting it (i think all of us who visit this forum even if its not often) would promote the idea of reading music.

and to me personally, when i started looking at music objectively (as you do on a sheet of music, i actually started thinking of it like that before then so it helped a little to realize its no just fingers/numbers on strings) it opened up my idea of what could be done SOOOO much more its unreal. i think it would probably have that same effect on anybody. would it turn kurt cobain into bach? naw, prolly not, but maybe cobain into randy rhoades (and i don't care what anybody says, i think any of us would be proud to have that comparison)


Well I spent 4 years in college as part of a "guitar ensemble". we would function as a horn section reading single line parts (mostly). We did alot of site reading and I know it helped my playing and general understanding of music immensely.

There are many good reasons to read music.
#13
Quote by mattrsg1
but how is reading gonna make me sweep faster?


It's not. If that is your only concern, that don't worry about reading.
#14
Quote by Guitar_Theory
Along the same lines, are you wondering where Dream Theater got their inspiration for their complex harmonies? Pick up a Tchaikovsky score, or buy a copy of the score to Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. It's all right there. Also, if you're into it, even many famous jazz musicians (like miles davis) talk about how they would read scores from famous classical pieces to get inspiration. Try it some time, go to your library, pick up a score and a recording of a piece, and just follow along, you'll appreciate the complexity that much more.


I didn't know scores were available at libraries. Is this true for all libraries, and what section are they in?
#16
I would love to learn to read music on guitar/bass but I'm a bit too busy with alto sax and possibly bass clarinet.....I'm pretty sure I'll have to learn theory on bass for marching Band. Nice post though....
Quote by Fat Lard
Why would you spend tens of thousands of dollars to learn about a language you already speak? It was over before it even started dude

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brot pls
#17
Many of you have good points, and I plan on going back and amending that when I have time, and feel like putting in the effort.

I don't intend to put down people who don't read music. I just wish people would recognize the numerous benefits that can be derived from it. So many of you that say "music comes from the heart" have tremendously valid points. But I'm getting at more of "What if you want to read someone else's music?"

And Cuddrow, I do think your brother is the exception and not the rule. People that are truly gifted, as it sounds like your brother is, will, and should be praised and admired by everyone. I'm speaking more to the people that don't read music, and think they're some kind of geniuses. And you have some valid points concerning my wording and tone, which I'll get around to correcting.

As I said, I plan on updating this and correcting the language when I have time, so suggestions/commentary are certainly welcome. I'm really just out there to encourage something that guitarists are often made fun of for, and I think it's time for that to come to an end.
Last edited by Guitar_Theory at May 14, 2008,
#18
What melodic rhythms tells you to do, tap your foot and pick in synch with where your foot is at (ie: upstroke when you foot is of the ground for an off beat and down stroke for a down beat with your foot), has helped me tremendously. I am a lot more confident when reading harder rhythms then ever before on multiple instruments because of this technique.
12 fret fury
#19
Quote by Punk Poser
What melodic rhythms tells you to do, tap your foot and pick in synch with where your foot is at (ie: upstroke when you foot is of the ground for an off beat and down stroke for a down beat with your foot), has helped me tremendously. I am a lot more confident when reading harder rhythms then ever before on multiple instruments because of this technique.


Yeah I do the same thing. Personally I'm not a big fan of metronomes....that or I just always forget it when I go to the practice rooms.
#20
music comes from the heart, yes. but knowledge of music is sure as hell gonna help.
#21
Quote by z4twenny
^ yeah, but at the same time someone can be good without learning to read music, but imagine how great they could be if they did learn to read music.


I completely agree with that. If someone has been playing for awhile and is good without reading music and then decides to learn, they will without a doubt improve as a musician. I also think the beginning guitar player will progress faster if they put the time into learning it.
radiantmoon is the toughest person I know. He inflects a sense of impending doom upon any who look upon his stone-chiseled face. The children run out of fear, while the men run for they know that the stories are true.
#23
i've always wanted to read music, actually i have started learning, but the way you put it forward TS, reading music is the mist important thing about playing your instrument.
Quote by coolstoryangus
Pffffffft schematics


Although i guess the OP will have to get used to reading them if he's going to buy a bugera..
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along with fire escape routes...

#24
thanks for that post, i kinda ditched reading sheet music for a while and kinda lost my ability at it.

gonna start again just now haha
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#25
Quote by the_poison125
You seem very up yourself...

Unless i can read music i am not a musician?

Other than that i will read/use this thread alot. Thanks for that.


Ofcourse you can be a great musician without reading music, but if you do learn it you will open up many doors in your playing and in my opinion grow as a musician.
radiantmoon is the toughest person I know. He inflects a sense of impending doom upon any who look upon his stone-chiseled face. The children run out of fear, while the men run for they know that the stories are true.
#26
I'm glad to see that you are going to rephrase some of the things you wrote. What mattered especially to me is the fact that you made less advanced music seem worse, and that's what killed my respect for the article as a whole. Rephrasing that would certainly help. However, if you mean that through theory music should be judged, then the essence of the article remain what I described before. Naturally, everyone has unfortunate formulations now and then, myself included, so I am willing to look again once it has had its retouch.

As for my brother as an example, what I wanted to illustrate is that when he plays well along with others, they respect him for it, and they don't ask questions. A good musician is a good musician, no matter how you got there. Theory can, and in almost 100% of the cases WILL help, but it's not a prerequisite to be good. I don't wanna be without it, as it makes my job writing music a lot easier when it comes to actually putting it down on paper(or the computer screen). But if you are not motivated to learn it, then I don't recommend that you try. It's not all that much fun learning all of it, although there are parts that will really make big differences or even musical epiphanies(if the term is worthy), and if you don't really feel inspired to, you will have a hard time learning.

As for metronomes, I'd say they are almost as important as theory itself. Practicing with a metronome teaches you so much about yourself, and it will really help you build speed, as well as root out minor instabilities in your playing. Good technique can never be achieved if you are not capable of playing in time, and the more complexity and training, the more versatility you are likely to achieve. There's no real excuse for not using a metronome in practicing, although you might wanna play without it as well, it's a simple and extremely useful tool for any musician that wants to play in a context.
#27
Quote by Cuddrow

As for metronomes, I'd say they are almost as important as theory itself. Practicing with a metronome teaches you so much about yourself, and it will really help you build speed, as well as root out minor instabilities in your playing.


Yes, there's really no substitute for a metronome if you're interested in zooming
in precisely on your timing. I used to think a drum track was good enough, but
it's not (although it's a lot better than nothing). The main idea is to give your
ear an uncluttered backdrop in order to get better feedback on your timing and I
don't think people realize that minor imprecisions DO affect your speed quite a bit.
But, a lot of people really don't seem to understand this. From comments, it
seems a many just use it to increase the tempo and try to "beat it". I don't
think you get very much out of it that way.
#28
Quote by edg
Yes, there's really no substitute for a metronome if you're interested in zooming
in precisely on your timing. I used to think a drum track was good enough, but
it's not (although it's a lot better than nothing). The main idea is to give your
ear an uncluttered backdrop
in order to get better feedback on your timing and I
don't think people realize that minor imprecisions DO affect your speed quite a bit.
But, a lot of people really don't seem to understand this. From comments, it
seems a many just use it to increase the tempo and try to "beat it". I don't
think you get very much out of it that way.



+1
#29
Practicing with a metronome is essential. Sure, it seems like a pain in the ass at first, but after awhile it becomes a part of your practice session. I know when I went into the studio to record a new album last week, I was way behind where I should have been because I didn't practice with a metronome. Then when I tried to play the songs with a certain B.P.M., I couldn't do it. It's just better to practice with a metronome. And it makes you that much closer to perfection. And who doesn't want to have perfect time?
#30
The other thing I like about music notation is that you are forced to read the timing of the notes which gets you into a good habit of counting, and in my opinion improves your timing tremendously.
radiantmoon is the toughest person I know. He inflects a sense of impending doom upon any who look upon his stone-chiseled face. The children run out of fear, while the men run for they know that the stories are true.
#31
Quote by radiantmoon
The other thing I like about music notation is that you are forced to read the timing of the notes which gets you into a good habit of counting, and in my opinion improves your timing tremendously.


+1
It definitely helps your understanding of rhythms.
#33
i can read music, but i cant sight read at all, i can look at a score and after about five minutes i can say it goes G,D,G,E,G,F or whatever but it takes too long...i cant afford a book so any ways to improve this?

"The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n"

- John Milton, Paradise Lost
#34
http://pianominds.com/2008/01/26/practice-reading-notes-on-sheet-music-quickly/

I've been using that and it really seems to help a lot. I'm also finding classical sheet musing and transcribing it to tab (and occasionally back the other way). If it's simple enough I'll just sit there with my acoustic learning it bit by bit and then input it to GP to see how well I did.
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#35
Well what I plan to do this summer to work on my sight reading (by next fall I have to walk into an audition where a piece of music is placed in front of me, and I have one minute to look at it, then I have to play it), is take a bunch of random pieces of music and a metronome, and just read without stopping. You set the tempo REALLLLLLLY slow to start just so you can keep going without having to stop, you keep playing in time. Also, working with a metronome makes it easier to keep going even if you screw up, which is a major thing in sight reading, you never stop cause of mistakes.

Hokiecmo, why do you transfer sheet music to tab? Doesn't that defeat the purpose? I think it's better to take the sheet music and, either above or below the staff write finger markings using the standard guitar music markings of roman numerals to indicate position (what fret your first finger would fall on), then arabic numbers to indicate what finger to put down (this is why you need to know your position), and then circled arabic numbers to denote what string you're on (normally you only write the string number when it changes, not with each and every note.) I think doing this keeps you reading music, which is the goal, but also you've got those more tab-like aids. If you do this a lot, soon you won't even need to take notes about it anymore.
#36
Quote by Guitar_Theory
Alright, I think I've said this in almost every post I've made to date since I joined UG here, so I'm just gonna go balls to the wall and get everything out.

All 32 posts you've made in the 8 days you've been here ...

There's a whole load of bullshit in there, but the general sentiment, I do agree with.
#37
It's just because it helps me to recognize the notes faster. Putting them into tab helps me with learning the fretboard as well as I'm just really in the beginning stages of both. I don't use the tab to play afterward; I just use it for practice reading the notes when I don't have a guitar handy.
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#38
I know how to read music, and I used to be quite good at sight reading/playing back when I played piano. I lost alot of my vision in an accident, meaning that it takes my eyes longer to focus, and I shift between seeing two and one image of objects when I look at them. This makes reading music (sight reading particularly) almost impossible for me.

I still feel that there can be nothing but benefits to being able to read music.
My name is Tom, feel free to use it.