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Rllink
03-12-2017, 04:19 AM
I met a fellow a few years back who had been a guitar player since the sixties. He also plays the ukulele and the banjo, and I don't know how long he has played them, but he is quite good. But he does not spend a lot of time on the internet, like I do. He learned everything the old way, whatever the old way was before the internet. He still tunes off a pitch pipe, or off his piano, or sometimes he just tunes off whoever he is playing with. I'm quite sure he is self taught. I think that he is one of those people who has been playing a stringed instrument for so long, it is as natural to him as whistling. But most interesting is that I come up with some very basic stuff off the internet and run it by him, and it is like he has never heard of it before. It seems to me that some how he just went to being really good without any of the basics. Or maybe he is so far beyond basics that they are insignificant to him. Or maybe he does understand the basics, but just doesn't know them as basics. Anyway, I talk to him about things and ask him questions, and he just shrugs his shoulders and says something like, "we don't need to analyze it, let's just play it." It is like no one told him he had to know this or that to be proficient. I find that approach very interesting. Maybe there are some old timers here that might want to tell us a little bit about how it was before we had the internet and youtube videos to explain to us the most intricate details of ukulele playing.

Doc_J
03-12-2017, 04:33 AM
Even Bruce Springsteen has stated ( in his recent autobiography) he can't read music. Taught himself to play by trial and error.

Down Up Dick
03-12-2017, 05:09 AM
I had private trumpet lessons (free) in grammer school, and, later, at a store for 50 cents a week. In high school I had trombone lessons at home, but I don't remember how much I paid him. I sold him my trombone cheap when I graduated HS.

Since then, I'm self taught on many other, different instruments. I think the biggest help was learning to read music. The rest is just "mechanics". That's one of the reasons I dislike tabs so much. I almost think that learning to play by ear would be better than using tabs. I must admit though that I find reading chords is clearer and easier with tabs, but I'm not a fan of them either. I try not to use them unless I hafta.

I guess I'm just a one note at a time player -- ahhh, well . . . :old:

Rllink
03-12-2017, 05:18 AM
Even Bruce Springsteen has stated ( in his recent autobiography) he can't read music. Taught himself to play be trial and error.
How then does he write music, if he can't read music?

DownUpDave
03-12-2017, 05:47 AM
How then does he write music, if he can't read music?

My brother in law , who is over 60 is a fabulous guitar player. Acoustic, electric, lap steel, dobro the whole nine yards. He has played in many bands, writes is own songs and cut albums when there were only albums. He ran away from home at 16, bought a Martin D28 acoustic guitar and hitch hiked around North American for 10 years. He is completely self taught, cannot read music or tab. He survived on the streets busking and eventually playing in bands. He still has that guitar and it is his main player. Paid $1000.00 for it 45 years ago, good investment.

I dont understand how he and others did it either. He plays totally by ear and feel. When I started playing uke he came over with his acoustic and told me to just start singing and playing what I knew and he would follow. Mind blowing really

spookelele
03-12-2017, 06:21 AM
I think there was a time, when music wasn't something you did. It was just something that was. Like.. in the irish culture, music is part of the fabric of life. Many cultures are actually like this, although ours not so much

The way people learn music today, is you play things by wrote. Things already written, things that are on the radio, something at church, etc. Then try to get that music out of an instrument.

But some people go the other way. There's the music inside them, what they feel, and the music that they just think. And "learning" music isn't so much about getting the music out of the instrument, as getting the music out them selves. It's like... speaking. We don't really learn to speak. We learn what we are thinking/feeling, and the "learning" to speak is really learning to get those thoughts and ideas out of ourselves, through an instrument.

For those people, making music, is just letting it out of themselves. Some people play music and some people make music. If you listen closely I think you can hear it. That isn't to say people that learn through practicing are doing it wrong, or else I'd just quit trying because it doesn't come naturally to me. But I think practice can let those of us who come to it less naturally find it all the same.

DownUpDave
03-12-2017, 06:23 AM
I think there was a time, when music wasn't something you did. It was just something that was. Like.. in the irish culture, music is part of the fabric of life. Many cultures are actually like this, although ours not so much

The way people learn music today, is you play things by wrote. Things already written, things that are on the radio, something at church, etc. Then try to get that music out of an instrument.

But some people go the other way. There's the music inside them, what they feel, and the music that they just think. And "learning" music isn't so much about getting the music out of the instrument, as getting the music out them selves. It's like... speaking. We don't really learn to speak. We learn what we are thinking/feeling, and the "learning" to speak is really learning to get those thoughts and ideas out of ourselves, through an instrument.

For those people, making music, is just letting it out of themselves. Some people play music and some people make music. If you listen closely I think you can hear it. That isn't to say people that learn through practicing are doing it wrong, or else I'd just quit trying because it doesn't come naturally to me. But I think practice can let those of us who come to it less naturally find it all the same.

Fabulous explaination. You hit the nail on the head on all points.

kohanmike
03-12-2017, 06:42 AM
I first learned to play guitar in 1965 inspired by rock and roll of that time. I took about 10 lessons but not music, it was strictly about the mechanics of the guitar. I actually got very good at barre chords and stuck to rhythm. From then on I learned by people showing me how to play something, I could never learn by ear, nor tune either, I used a pitch fork or pipe. If I played from a lead sheet with chords I could not memorize it, I just didn't spend the proper time absorbing it. I hated practicing by myself, but I did get good at playing, even with my limitations.

Then in mid 2013 I took up the ukulele on a whim. I quickly joined a couple of groups, which helped keep me focussed. The leader handed out sheets every meeting, and instead of being concerned that I couldn't memorize from a sheet, I decided to just use them all the time. My guitar experience certainly made a difference so I got comfortable quickly. I heard of tabs with guitar, but never bothered because they related more to lead playing and I almost exclusively did rhythm. Then a song came up with one of the groups that was all picking, no strum, so I had to learn. They gave us a sheet with both music staff and tab staff. When I saw that tab is actually a visual presentation of the fretboard, I embraced it.

Then about 2 years later the leader asked if anyone would take up the bass, I volunteered when I saw all the small basses available. All through the time I played guitar I would be told I should take up the bass because I had good rhythm and feel, but I didn't want to be encumbered by a big electric bass, forget a stand up. I looked up how to play on the internet, but quickly realized I need to take lessons. This time I learned some theory that really helps when I create the bass lines for the songs we play.

One of the best things for me is the digital tuner, I absolutely love and am totally reliant on them. I also now only use a tablet and customize each sheet for it. So even though I'm 67, I embraced the modern digital world readily (actually in 1986). By-the-way, I haven't touched my guitars since taking up the uke, and I've applied myself more to it and bass in the last 4 years than I did the previous 20 years playing guitar.

UkerDanno
03-12-2017, 06:50 AM
I'm not putting myself in the same category as the OP's friend, but I don't read music either and when someone tries telling me all about music theory, it just goes over my head. I kind of know what it's about, I was in band in grade school and played Tuba one year and Cornet one year, that was 50+ years ago. Since then I've toyed around with guitar and bass, but never really learned to play anything until getting an ukulele 5 years ago.

So, I learned a few chords and started playing with a club. I'd just strum along the best I could picking up new chords and methods as we went along. Now, I'm purely a strummer for the most part, but people comment on my technique, which I can't really explain, it's just my style...

Barrytone
03-12-2017, 06:52 AM
I've played uke and 5 string banjo for some 30 years. (on reflection, it was 1970, so that's 40 plus years ago) Time flies. I was taught Ain't she sweet on a battered banjo-uke by a guy who showed me where to put my fingers but not the chord names. He said, learn this and you can play anything. He wasn't far wrong. Learning by ear, trial and error, may take time but it helps to develop a "sense of sound" and to this day I still stumble onto tunes by noodling around.

Rllink
03-12-2017, 07:53 AM
I'm not going to get myself into the reading music argument. I don't doubt that there are some musicians who just flat don't know a thing about written music or music theory, but I think that the definition of "reading music" is sometimes fuzzy. I know another fellow who can't read music, but whenever we play together he wants to see my lead sheets or my sheet music, so he's reading something. But he also knows hundreds of songs by heart, and is one of those people who can just jump in and play something. So I don't know what he is looking at. But I'm sure not going to tell someone that they do if they want to say that they don't.

But mostly I am interested in how people learned. I took a few unsuccessful stabs at playing guitar over the years before the information age. I had a guitar and a beginner's book. And the beginner's books that I would get had some hokey songs that I didn't want to play anyway, just like beginner's ukulele books do now. But there was no ultimateguitar.com where you could find all the songs that you really wanted to play. There was no typing them into google and pulling up a half dozen sites with them, and another half dozen youtube videos to watch. As I remember, it was a chore just to get my guitar tuned, let alone play something on it. I just find it interesting that this guy that I'm talking about is just from a different world than I am on my journey. I wonder what his journey was like and what roads he took to get where he is.

janeray1940
03-12-2017, 08:53 AM
I know a few of those - musicians who play and/or compose by ear but are unable to read standard notation. There's a local Hawaiian uke group leader who teaches workshops sometimes and he likes to start out by asking for a show of hands of those who can read music, which he follows with "Who cares?! We don't do none of that in Hawaii." Which I personally find a bit off-putting, but I get his point: he's from an oral/aural tradition where music was learned communally and passed down rather than via a more formal course of study.

There are a lot of persistent myths/rumors/stories about famous musicians who can't read music (https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=musicians+who+can't+read+music&*) - the main ones being the Beatles, and a miles-long list of jazz greats. I think it makes for a good story, and is probably true in many cases, but in the end I'm not sure it matters. Playing by ear, and sight reading/notation writing, and which approach any individual is more comfortable with probably comes down to learning style (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles)more than anything - there are a few theories about this and you might find these interesting. When I was in grad school I took a few learning-style tests and they were all pretty spot-on regardless of the theory behind them - my greatest strengths are visual/kinetic and my greatest weakness is aural, and this translates pretty well to music: I can read music, I memorize pieces more via muscle memory than sound, and I'm a godawful by-ear player.

SoloRule
03-12-2017, 09:04 AM
My brother in law , who is over 60 is a fabulous guitar player. Acoustic, electric, lap steel, dobro the whole nine yards. He has played in many bands, writes is own songs and cut albums when there were only albums. He ran away from home at 16, bought a Martin D28 acoustic guitar and hitch hiked around North American for 10 years. He is completely self taught, cannot read music or tab. He survived on the streets busking and eventually playing in bands. He still has that guitar and it is his main player. Paid $1000.00 for it 45 years ago, good investment.

I dont understand how he and others did it either. He plays totally by ear and feel. When I started playing uke he came over with his acoustic and told me to just start singing and playing what I knew and he would follow. Mind blowing really


I don't like people like that. 😂 Made me feel inadequate!
But, he is a nice fella so I forgive him! Ha ha.

Rllink
03-12-2017, 09:19 AM
My brother in law , who is over 60 is a fabulous guitar player. Acoustic, electric, lap steel, dobro the whole nine yards. He has played in many bands, writes is own songs and cut albums when there were only albums. He ran away from home at 16, bought a Martin D28 acoustic guitar and hitch hiked around North American for 10 years. He is completely self taught, cannot read music or tab. He survived on the streets busking and eventually playing in bands. He still has that guitar and it is his main player. Paid $1000.00 for it 45 years ago, good investment.

I dont understand how he and others did it either. He plays totally by ear and feel. When I started playing uke he came over with his acoustic and told me to just start singing and playing what I knew and he would follow. Mind blowing really


I don't like people like that. �� Made me feel inadequate!
But, he is a nice fella so I forgive him! Ha ha.

People like that do not intimidate me at all. And they don't make me feel bad about myself. They inspire me. When I run into that kind of musician I just try to make myself into a sponge and soak up as much knowledge from them as I can. They challenge me to be more. Those kind of people didn't become the musicians that they are over night. It took years. In some cases a lifetime. I see in them a reflection of what I can be if I keep working at it. I'm in this for the long haul.

PhilUSAFRet
03-12-2017, 09:21 AM
B.B. King didn't learn his "chords" until his mid-forties.

Choirguy
03-12-2017, 09:36 AM
I'm a music teacher and one of my tasks--both in state and national standards--is to teach music literacy. For me, that means more than reading music--it also means writing music.

A lot of classical musicians will look down on popular musicians, but in reality, while you may learn how to read notes in band and orchestra (choirs, like my own, may spend time trying to teach literacy, but most singers still learn by rote)--very few classical music teachers are teaching students how to write music. In fact, for most classical musicians do not start writing music until college. Yes, there are exceptions, just as there are popular musicians who can read and write music, and musicians that play both popular and classical music.

Ultimately, I have never known a musician who couldn't read music to be proud of that fact. Every one of them wishes that they did--but not enough to sit down and learn (you can always learn). It would be similar to saying, "I can speak English, but I cannot read or write. But I can make up great poems on the fly!"

And we all know classically trained musicians who can play surgically clean, but cannot improvise or write music.

In the world of notation, there is another bias against tablature in the classical world--an entire other bridge to cross.

So, my encouragement to all would be:

1. If you are a musician, don't choose to be musically illiterate.
2. If you are a musician, dabble in composition.
3. If you are a musician, dabble in improvisation.
4. If you are a musician, you don't have to like all music, but all music deserves respect.
5. If you are a musician and ARE literate, don't look down at others, but instead, offer help.

On an related note, I was at a church function on Friday night and helped clean up popcorn (vacuuming). When I finished, there was a seventh grade student with a ukulele that was badly out of tune. I stopped over and asked if they would like help tuning it...and they accepted, so I took out my phone and used the Kala Brand Tuner to get that ukulele going. I could have ignored the out-of-tune ukulele, or I could have looked down on the young player. Instead, it was an opportunity to reach out, be friendly, help that player, and pass on the "Mahalo Spirit" that is supposed to be a part of the ukulele world.

Rllink
03-12-2017, 09:36 AM
We are on a roll now. I wonder if learning to read music is a hindrance rather than a benefit. It would seem so, considering how many great musicians can't read music.

ScooterD35
03-12-2017, 11:47 AM
All four of the Beatles, Elvis, Clapton, Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Michael Jackson... none of them can/could read music. That's just off the top of my head.


Scooter

Down Up Dick
03-12-2017, 12:17 PM
I don't believe anyone just picked up a musical instrument and began playing it. In my experience, people teach each other to play. Friends get together and show where one should put his/her fingers and how to pick or strum. Guys in the barracks usta form little groups and sing. One could could hear their feet keeping time and sometimes clapping. We weren't supposed to play instruments, but, anyway, they did.

And one can write music without knowing how to read music if your group has a good general memory or something with which to record. They do it all the time. Even I make up songs once in a while. One just sings or whistles and a buddy chimes in with an idea, and, bam!, you gotta song.

But it's all so much easier with musical knowledge. I wonder if B.B. King or the Beatles or the other notables would have risen to even greater heights with musical knowldge.

And if someone is teaching you face to face, is it any different from learning from a book? Books are great helpers for learning music, and people have been writing music for hundreds of years. Not to use it is like playing a uke with gloves on.

I'm probably outta step again, but there ya go! :old:

kypfer
03-12-2017, 12:33 PM
I'm also self-taught from the '60's school of playing ... want to play a tune/song ... sit down and learn that song! For me it was Dylan's "Tambourine Man" ... didn't know (or care) about chord sequences, keys or strumming patterns, just wanted to sing Tambourine Man and accompany myself on the guitar!

Bought the music book of the album (I still have it) and learnt to play most of the songs in it, simply by listening to the record and copying the chord shapes in the book or watching other performers. Learnt a whole repertoire like that, played coffee bars and folk clubs ... and still didn't know a key change from a gear change!

Played like that for over 40 years. With practice came the ability to "hear" chord changes and even make a reasonable guess at what they might be ... soon figured it out if I didn't get it right first time :)

I'm not boasting or crowing about my "capabilities" ... it's simply how we learnt to play in those days. In a crowd, in a group, by oneself, just fiddle with ideas and practice, practice, practice. Don't expect to be perfect, don't try to copy your hero(s) note for note, just play the music 'cos the music is worth playing ;)

I finally learnt to read music about 5 years ago ... just 'cos I wanted to. In hindsight, I wish I'd made the effort earlier, but I never regretted not having done so. I strummed/picked a lot of good songs and made a lot of good friends with a handful of chords and a big blonde guitar :music:

CeeJay
03-12-2017, 12:40 PM
I met a fellow a few years back who had been a guitar player since the sixties. He also plays the ukulele and the banjo, and I don't know how long he has played them, but he is quite good. But he does not spend a lot of time on the internet, like I do. He learned everything the old way, whatever the old way was before the internet. He still tunes off a pitch pipe, or off his piano, or sometimes he just tunes off whoever he is playing with. I'm quite sure he is self taught. I think that he is one of those people who has been playing a stringed instrument for so long, it is as natural to him as whistling. But most interesting is that I come up with some very basic stuff off the internet and run it by him, and it is like he has never heard of it before. It seems to me that some how he just went to being really good without any of the basics. Or maybe he is so far beyond basics that they are insignificant to him. Or maybe he does understand the basics, but just doesn't know them as basics. Anyway, I talk to him about things and ask him questions, and he just shrugs his shoulders and says something like, "we don't need to analyze it, let's just play it." It is like no one told him he had to know this or that to be proficient. I find that approach very interesting. Maybe there are some old timers here that might want to tell us a little bit about how it was before we had the internet and youtube videos to explain to us the most intricate details of ukulele playing.

Never met him,love him and his philosophy already. Sounds like someone I know........strange though , try to tell peeps and you just get into trouble...................Funny Old World.

ksiegel
03-12-2017, 12:55 PM
I made an attempt to learn to read music, when I was much younger. When I was in 6th grade, I took drum lessons (because we could afford the sticks, and the pad was provided, free!). After 6 months, I was asked to stop taing lessons... by the instructor. I was still unable to do a quarter-note roll, could describe a time signature, give a description of notes and what they meant ("A dotted-quarter note holds for a note-and-a-half...") but couldn't put any of that into practice. I also had a major coordination problem, as in I didn't have any.

The following year, we ended up getting a guitar when my parents bought a refrigerator (Anyone else remember that RCA/Whirlpool guitar giveaway in the late 60s?). It was supposed to be for my older brother (who has perfect pitch AND can read music, although he plays no instruments,but he had no interest.

I memorized a few chords from the charts in the back of "Alfred's basic Guitar Course Book One", and if I knew the melody of the song, I could play it, after a fashion. But even singing in choirs, I never learned to read notation. I tried learning tab from Pete Seeger's "How to Play the 5-string Banjo" with no success.

After years of playing guitar, I got to the point where I could look at a melody line on a page of sheet music and play the individual notes. But I was, at best, a mediocre guitar player.

Several years ago, I hurt my left arm, and can't play guitar without pain My father-in-law gave me an old Harmony uke, and I started playing. I have the principles of playing, know many of the chord shapes, and rely on learning the music from the sound - or as I say, "I play what I hear in my head". That includes strumming, finger-picking, and rhythms. I can't get it from paper.

Would it be nice to be able to read music? Damned straight! It would also be nice to be able to hear as well as I did when I was in my teens, but I'm thinking that both ships have sailed...

CeeJay
03-12-2017, 01:40 PM
I made an attempt to learn to read music, when I was much younger. My father-in-law gave me an old Harmony uke, and I started playing. I have the principles of playing, know many of the chord shapes, and rely on learning the music from the sound - or as I say, "I play what I hear in my head". That includes strumming, finger-picking, and rhythms. I can't get it from paper.



Because it isn't in the paper ...it is in your head...and your heart ...and your fingers...what's on the paper is an "aide memoir"or a recipe ....you mix it and you make it ...But if you can do what you can do, you don't need the paper....... ;)

kypfer
03-12-2017, 01:48 PM
... Would it be nice to be able to read music? Damned straight! It would also be nice to be able to hear as well as I did when I was in my teens, but I'm thinking that both ships have sailed...

I'm guessing we're of a similar age ... can't help with the hearing, I'm afraid, but I waited 'till I was 60+ to learn to read music! Started wanting to play penny whistle ... sat down with a book and a whistle and practiced ... then transferred the skill-set to fretted strings after a year or two.

I'd suggest, on a ukulele, for someone who actually wanted to learn, 3-6 months with regular (daily) practice to become fluent enough to pick up a piece of sheet music for a tune you already know and play it after a couple of passes.

Music you've never heard before will take a little longer :music:

spookelele
03-13-2017, 06:22 AM
I don't believe anyone just picked up a musical instrument and began playing it.

I think this is a fundamental flaw in the world. Just because we can't doesn't mean others can't.

Google Derek Paravicini.

Legba
03-13-2017, 06:53 AM
When I started in the late 60's early 70's, one of my coolest possessions was a tuning fork in A. 5th string for guitar, then tune from there.
Still have it.

bratsche
03-14-2017, 05:31 AM
I still have my tuning fork that I got when I began violin lessons in 1963. And it's right here with me - I still use it to get my A when practicing, if I need it.

I knew I wanted to play violin the first time I heard one, when I was 8. The first time I was exposed to really great music in the school orchestra, I knew I wanted to do that for a living. And I managed to, and still do, for the vast majority of my working life. Nowadays it's mostly in an opera orchestra, which is very part-time, and I've tapered back a lot in recent years.

I don't tell everyone this, but I'm most likely the only one in the groups I've played with who has no music degree. For that matter, I have only a high school and one year of college education. So when it comes to music theory, I'm pretty illiterate. I carry my weight and can sight read just fine, but when my colleagues wax eloquent about the harmonic intricacies in the works we're playing, I smile and nod, and hope they don't ask me for my insights. ;)

Recently for the first time (I'm 62 now), I began arranging some of the music for a trio I play with in church on Sunday mornings. I wouldn't be able to do this had I remained entirely "old school" in my habits. Without a music notation computer program that lets me hear what I'm writing, I'd be lost. I can hear when it sounds good - but I still have no idea what I'm doing, from a theory or analytical viewpoint.

bratsche

Bones43x
03-14-2017, 11:42 AM
I think you would be surprised how many of the greats in rock and pop genres can't read a lick of sheet music. It's pretty easy to be successful without having to read music or understand theory if you have an ear for it. I think most guitar players have little to no formal music theory education.

I picked up guitar 20 years ago, when I was 15. I took lessons for almost a year, but I was impatient with the pace. "Mary had a little lamb" while reading the sheet music wasn't doing it for me...I wanted to play Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Metallica and Stone Temple Pilots. YouTube didn't exist, and the only online aids were crude tabs that were often wrong. I would listen and play along with CDs or tapes of recorded songs off the radio. I came to a point where I had plateaued (Dream Theater kicked my butt) so I bought some advanced guitar books, and worked through them myself.

About 9 years ago, I started playing in church, and it forced me to learn a lot more theory. Luckily, our keyboard player is amazing, and has a deep understanding of theory. I can read notes on a clef, but not on the fly. I use mostly rhythm and lead sheets so most of the theory that I need to understand is rhythm and timing. I still listen to the recordings to learn the important riffs or lead parts.

Today, it's almost too easy to learn things without having to figure it out for yourself...it's practically handed to you on YouTube by someone who had to figure it out for you. I definitely take advantage of that when I'm in a pinch for Sunday and we're doing a new song. At the same time, YouTube can be disheartening when you see an 8-year-old tearing up whatever instrument you've spent 20 years learning.