Reading Music

Is knowing how to read music a plus when playing rock keyboards?. I definitely think so. Is it an absolute necessity? Not really, but it’s another tool to help you become a well rounded musician. It’s makes your musical journey a little easier. Say you want to learn a classic organ solo from a record?. Well, there are a few ways to do that, and some ways are easier than others. if you have a very good ear, you can simply learn the solo from the record. There is even cheap software available that will slow the whole recording down without changing the pitch, helping you nail the faster passages, so learning a solo by ear is a good thing, and we have all done it.

While training your ear to work out solos from a recording without any notation or tabs in front of you is actually a critical skill to develop, but we want to even go beyond that. Guitar players have it a little easier because they are only dealing with one clef, and the tab system is so prevalent, it seems every guitar solo in the world is available in tab.

Keyboard players are more limited because there does not seem to be a universal keyboard tab

Reading glasses over the music sheets

system, and if one does exist, it will never be as ubiquitous as it’s guitar counterpart, because the logistics of keyboard are way more involved. Great sheet music publishers like Hal Leonard and Alfred Publishing offer a library of books featuring note-for-note transcriptions, but if you get the books with the keyboard parts, what will you see? You guessed it – standard notation…only. No short cuts here. If you can’t read music at all, you’re out of luck, and that’s a shame because most of these transcriptions are dead on.

Now when I say “reading music”, I don’t mean “sight reading music”, which is a very different animal- That’s the “Play this up to speed without ever having seen it before” scenario. I’ve seen theatre pianists sit down and play tunes they were not familiar with, and get through them with minimal mistakes. To me, it borders on magic. I’m playing like what? 45 years?, and I still suck at sight reading. I can sight read an elementary piece from a young student’s study book, like “Tommy Goes To The Circus” , but what the hell good is that?. Reading big balloon notes is not exactly a prized skill. What I can do, however, is look at a far more advanced piece of music, like a Jon Lord solo, and TELL you exactly what is going on. I often learn pieces that way- bar by bar- and that works for me- no shame. There are only x amount of things going on in a piece of sheet music (melody, rhythm, harmony, dynamics, etc), and if you can interpret those individually, you open the door to a whole world of written music.

Even in Youtube instructional videos, I’ve seen lots of viewers request  “a written transcription” of the solo they’re learning, because it’s one more tool to have when learning the tune-and it’s also a permanent record.

I may be preaching to the choir here, cause I’m guessing most of you guys can read already. That’s just the way it is when you’ve had traditional piano lessons, but for those of you who haven’t taken the plunge, here are a couple of Youtube videos that  run through some of the basics. Tons of free reading music instruction online. You can take it from here. It really is worth your while to learn to read