View Full Version : What will I gain if I learn how to read music.

08-14-2012, 02:35 PM
I have been playing the uke for 16 months. Because I practice every day, I have progressed to the point that I am wanting to learn more complicated chords to challange myself. I do not know how to read music and am finding it all too confusing between the diminished chords, the flats, sharps, majors, minors and all the rest. It's like a different language. What will I gain by learning to read music?

08-14-2012, 02:48 PM
Can you play by ear? Do you play melody or just chords? If you play instrumentals, and you can't really play by ear, you have a lot to gain from learning to read music, in that any sheet music can be "ukulele music" and you won't have to rely on others to tab things out for you. As an instrumental player who doesn't sing, I'd be lost without it!

If you're solely a strummer, I'm not sure what you have to gain from it - perhaps others may have an opinion. Many ukulele strummers I know, including pretty much every Hawaiian player I've ever encountered, don't read standard notation.

08-14-2012, 03:10 PM
Learning to read standard notation can be slow going at first, but it's worth it.

After re-learning to read music in standard notation---I hadn't read music since high school band class in the late 80s---I gained a better understanding of how melody and harmony (that's singing and chords, respectively) work together. I also gained access to an amazing amount of terrific music (folk song collections, sheet music, old uke method books, old collections of Hawaiian music, etc.) that has greatly enriched my life.

I started out with Ukulele Song Book In Notation and Tablature by Ron Middlebrook. This collection of folk, country, Hawaiian, and popular music has tablature below standard notation for every melody, perfect for learn which note is which on the staff. Another great resource is James Hill and J. Chalmers Doane's Ukulele in the Classroom series.

Whatever you do, have fun.

08-14-2012, 03:23 PM
I am currently strumming, but want to start to learn fingerpicking. Would it help to learn to read standard notation? I find fingerpicking difficult and confusing and anything that could make it easier to learn I'm willing to do.

08-14-2012, 03:41 PM
I'm not sure that it would make it easier for you, but it would give you more variety in what is available for you to play.

08-14-2012, 04:52 PM
Howdy. Here's a couple of options, learning the chord progressions with Jim: http://www.playukulelebyear.com/ and check out the Howlin Hobbit's chord progression songsheets
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1125378/ukulele%20docs/uke_chord_progressions.pdf .
Try to work your way into some music theory. It does help

08-14-2012, 05:00 PM
I am always flabbergasted how many people play instruments but don't read music. Reading music opens up the world of music available to you. It makes playing with others easier. It makes learning new songs easier. It won't necessarily make fingerpicking easier - I sometimes find it easier to learn a song by watching videos or reading tab, but the combination of tab or a video plus the actual music makes it much easier when it is available. Reading music also makes the music skills transferable to other instruments, and it makes learning theory and understanding chords better. Seems to me, if you can read, you have the ability to read music. I learned in elementary school.

08-14-2012, 05:26 PM
I wish I had learned to read music a long time ago. I decdied to take up the piano so I could learn. I am starting to get it, but I can't transpose it to the uke yet. However; I have found that I do enjoy sightreading and playing the piano... so be it!

08-15-2012, 01:42 AM
I remember hearing the Rev. Gary Davis was once asked if he could read music and his reply was, 'not enough to hurt my playin' :)

08-15-2012, 03:04 AM
It seems like what you are talking about is learning theory. A different thing from learning to read and much more applicable for writing or improvising. Reading can be good but you may never find it applicable. Music is a hearing art. Take all the hours you would put into reading and try listening to your favorite songs and figuring out the chords by ear. Then notes or solos, then try to jam or improvise around what's played with your own melodies. Find your own voice. This will help you in real life music situations more than any book. But theory can help you understand. I like the book fretboard roadmaps for ukulele. Check that one out.

08-15-2012, 03:22 AM
My patient brother in law has tried over the past forty years
to teach me the intricacies of reading music and learning all
the theory. He would still try,given the chance, but as a long
time folk singer,busker,and heavy metal thrash guitarist,it's all
wasted on me!
I play by ear,always have.I can read Ukulele tab and work out
things that way,and I am fine with song sheets showing the
chords.That's all I need,but each to their own,right? I suppose
it's all about enjoyment.Once it starts being like 'work' then I
just can't seen to get interested!

08-15-2012, 07:34 AM
What will I gain if I learn how to read music.

You'll gain the ability to read music. :)

Seriously, that may or may not help a great deal with your playing. That is sort of an individual thing - some people work great with bugs on paper and others learn better by ear. I will say that, like tab, sheet music can sometimes become a crutch that slows down actually learning the song - making it more difficult to reach the place where you can play without the tab or sheet music. If you avoid that pitfall, though (or if you don't consider being reliant on notation a problem) then certainly learning to read can't be harmful and might help.

At the very least you will be able to quickly recognize what key a song is in, how the basic rhythm and melody flow, and so on.

I can read music but not really fast enough to play from it. Being able to read helps me figure out what chords to use with a strange song and I can pick out the melody - so in that regard it's helpful. I try really hard to stay away from "stare and play" though because I've discovered I very easily let even a lead sheet become a crutch - something I'm still trying to break myself of.