are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

I have been thinking about this for some time.
in my opinion’ people who are self taught’ have a special gift.
they have the ability to imitate other musicians.
I am not saying that this is right or wrong’ but you can pick up a tune a lot faster when you are self taught.
the idea of someone telling a person how to play music’ does not appeal to me.
maybe this is because I am self taught myself.
I never went to anyone for lessons.
I listened to other musicians’ and after listening to them 2 or 3 times’ I could do a near perfect imitation of the tunes they played.
self taught musicians also feel proud of what they can do.
you need a very good ear’ to be able to imitate someone else.
however’ the upside is’ that musicians who are no longer with us’ live on because some people can just take them off’ or imitate their style.
is being self taught’ a good or a bad thing.?
what do other members think.?

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

"Self taught" just means you were taught by someone who didn’t know the subject matter. 🙂

A good teacher will get you there faster, with fewer blind alleys and rabbit holes to fall into. But in the end, nobody gets anywhere without a lot of motivation and hard work. It still comes down to the individual.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Notation is a tool, nothing more. Aural learning is a useful skill, nothing more. Total dependency on one or the other is a weakness. Literate musicians who can’t learn by ear are hamstrung when it comes to learning traditional music style, rhythm, phrasing, and, in many cases, repertoire. Likewise, ear learners are equally hamstrung when notation is all that is available. I certainly could not have grown my repertoire to its current size without notation. Notation has also served me well in instances when someone had taken the time to transcribe a particular performance by an acknowledged master in great detail, i.e., with all the articulations and phrasings clearly marked so that a student might gain deeper insight into that master’s style. Likewise, I would have neither the style, the rhythm, the "lift," nor a great number of the tunes I like to play had I not a) spent a lot of "face time" absorbing the tunes and style of older musicians who don’t read or notate music, and b) trained myself to learn by ear. Learn both, use both. If you ever have an interest in reviving older material from the 18th and 19th centuries (and earning some notability for reviving "Pre-Famine" music), for example, you will likely have to learn it from notation. If you want to learn the latest and greatest, most fashionable tune all the kids are playing, you’ll probably have to learn it by ear. If you want a recently composed tune by a current leading light, you may have to buy the tunebook to get it exactly right. Learn both, use both.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

I didn’t get why the opposite of being able to read music is being self taught, anyway.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Self taught musicians can teach themselves to not read music twice as well as those who are taught by reading out of books, because if you read music out of a book you can only play it twice as slowly as those who don’t read it at half the speed. By a factor of two perhaps, particularly in 2/2 time. The Shakey Egg is the most difficult instrument to read standard notation of, especially at double the speed of half the written speed.
This year, my special gifts were a pair of pyjamas and a jar of hot water bottle scale remover. Harpy Crisp Maths.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

It’s a false dichotomy. Sef-taught doesn’t mean unable to read notation. You can teach yourself to read notation.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Just what I was thinkin, That’s a false polarity. I am an ear player, but many years ago as I was just totally into music and didn’t understand theory, I put myself through a few years of college so I could read and write music and understand the mechanics of harmony. There is no disadvantage to this.

You are trying to over generalize,

I learn from a variety of sources as do most of us.

None of us are in a musical or cultural vacuum and it seems just a touch unrealistic when I hear people say they are ‘completely self taught’ like they never listened to a recording or asked someone the name of a tune etc.

We learn from those around us.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

The more you know the better off you are. Knowing too much is like playing too well.

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Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

I think it all depends on people who have the determination and want to play music :P doesn’t mater if they’re playing classical or traditional.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Mr Dineen:
1. Is your idiosyncratic use of the apostrophe self taught?
2. At which college did you read the history of music or are you self taught?
3.Why did you only sell your albums your ”own county’?
4.I’m a Vox Continental man myself. What’s your favourite?

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Is this about a parrot?

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Can grammar be self-taught?

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Can stupidity be self-unlearned?

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Many years ago I learned how to play reading ABC notes. I could pick up a tune reasonably well this way. Then I learned that if I just listen to the tune a few times then I could play a whole lot better and quicker. I started playing by ear and haven’t done anything different since. Sometimes reading a lot of the comments here, it seems like people are getting bogged down by theory of music, rhythm, ornamentation etc etc. it seems as though all the good stuff about playing music gets lost in the mechanics. In my opinion, any musician should only need lessons for no more than 2 years. If you can’t pick up a tune yourself either by note or ear after 2 years of learning them it’s time to consider either a different instrument or a different hobby.

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Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

There are so many different possible responses to this. Here’s a couple:

1 Learning by ear is the way to go with this music. We don’t really need that argument again - it seems so self-evident. But I’m struggling to see why that has anything to do with whether someone is "self-taught" or not. Again, it seems self-evident - to me at least - that having someone to show you the way is bound to help.

2 I don’t know any self-taught musicians. I play in sessions all over the UK and Ireland. Everyone I know has either had formal teaching, or been shown how to play in some way or other. I have met some people who claim to be self-taught, but they’re usually just not very good. I apologise if that comes over a bit mean, but that’s what’s been my experience.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

meh, self taught is just what we call "absorbing what we can without anyone explaining it to us." we learn language that way as children. But whatever. We all have our own learning style anyway—I have taken lessons here and there, and had a few books, but I never last long with them, and move into learning by ear mode because it suits me—I’m an imitator, fwiw. I know others who can’t learn a tune without the dots, and they are more than competent musicians. I don’t think it matters. The question "is being self taught a good thing or a bad thing?" is in my mind irrelevant, because we all do what it takes to get us where we want to be, musically speaking and otherwise, right?

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

ps re g mac’s comments about getting bogged down—that can happen it’s true! I learn best by ear but I’m always interested in the "grammar" of languages and music, and I can get a bit distracted by that for a time, but it DOES inform the way I play down the line. I need help with that grammar/technique stuff sometimes to push me forward.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

The two skills compliment each other. Many self taught/ear musicians can read music. I "self-taught" myself how to read music. Also all musicians play by ear. All learning is "self-learning". So I agree with others who posted above, this is a false dichotomy, there is no either/or. Sounds like you might be hunting for justification for not reading music. I think you are only limiting yourself. You can teach yourself to read music in 5 minutes if you really want to. There is no reason to hate those of us who do.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

People think that I’m self-taught because I play by ear, but I actually took piano lessons for 11 years. My piano teachers taught me how to read sheet while I was practicing learning by ear. It was difficult for them to teach me how to read because I aurally mimicked them most of the time.

I think it’s inappropriate to put sight-readers in a box because i’ve seen sight-readers play fresh(unlearned) pieces at speed, straight and accurately. It amazed me and I had no idea that someone could read such a thick musical text without practicing it beforehand. Then I realized, I do the same thing by ear, and they feel the same way about ear musicians.

Neither is better than the other. Either can be handicapped if they depend solely on one learning method. Even though my school choir directors allowed me to help harmonize the class, or do warmups for the class, they always gave someone else the responsibility of playing the accompaniment at our concerts because they new I wouldn’t take the time to learn the sheet music. It’s a two-sided coin.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

How about those who teach themselves to read and write music? Where do they fit in?
And why is this question posed as if it is using your ear or reading music; one or the other?
As if knowing how to read and write music means you have a tin ear.
Many folks can do both.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

I jumped right in to reply to the original poster, but should have read the thread better before I jumped in—I now realize that I am not the first person to make the points I raised. I suppose that if I had learned from those who went before me, I would not look as foolish as I do right now…

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

I was going to come back to the topic’ with that part of it.
thanks for bringing it up.
people who can read and write music’ also have a special talent’ of maybe I should say skill.
these people can often write the notes of a tune’ while someone is playing it.
I still think that being able to imitate or copy a tune or even another musician’ is the way that most musicians start.
after a while’ they develop their own style and sound.
however’ reading music is not for everyone.
some people just can’t master it’ and are happy to listen a tune or even a song’ and then copy it.
this is the way that works for them.
I suppose everyone has their own method.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Better at what? Or do you mean better examples of humanity?

Is Frankie Gavin better at opening a can of beans than Paddy Moloney?

Apart from the obvious flaws in the question, asking an "opinion" is not going to make anyone the wiser.

If you just want an opinion poll (which might have some sociological worth), fair enough. If you want a more decisive (but not conclusive) answer, then asking an opinion (especially on here, where there are regular wars on the subject of "ear v dots") is not the way to go about it.

If you can pose a more legitimate question, like "do "ear" musicians play more fluently than those who rely on notation, you would need to decide the criteria that define "fluently", and a way to measure those criteria. Then you would gather a sample of players, get them to play, and use the system of measurement to collect results.
That might give you an indication of the likelihood.

"I don’t read music and I can play really well"
"In my experience"
"I’ve been playing from written music all my life and I’m a brilliant player"

All opinions, and worth nowt if you want the answer.

But Paddy Moloney can open a can of beans in 4 seconds flat.

Here endeth my opinions.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Anyone who thinks they are a brilliant player you have to wonder.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Absolutely right, Earl.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

I don’t think 4 seconds is particularly fast. I can open a can in less than 2, all I need is a chewing gum, a metronome, a recent issue of The Beano and a bolt gun. And a can, of course.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

I was taught to open cans of beans, so obviously it takes me a little longer.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

But only because you’re reading the label first, I guess?

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Well, no, not really. You see, I know what it says, so I don’t have to read it again. In fact, I’d be pretty sure that I never did read it - someone read it out to me and I listened and remembered. I think it might have been a lady called Di Kotmi (she was Polish). Then again, it could have been an assumed name.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

I know someone who is dyslexic, including that he can’t read music.
He is an amazing musician on four different instruments. Just don’t bother to put a piece of music in front of him.
I don’t suppose Doc Watson could read music either.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Q: How do you get a guitarist to play quieter?
A: Put sheet music in front of him.

Q: And how do you get him to stop playing?
A: Write dots on it.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

hi guernsey Pete.
what you say’ makes perfect sense.
you either have the gift of being a self taught musician’ or you don’t.
I’d imagine’ this person must be mighty talented.
if musical ability/talent is in someone’ then it will come out at some point.
it is good to know that there are still people around’ who can pick up a selection of instruments and play them.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

"I don’t think 4 seconds is particularly fast. I can open a can in less than 2, all I need is a chewing gum, a metronome, a recent issue of The Beano and a bolt gun. And a can, of course."

But Paddy has to tune up three drone cans and a set of regulator cans at the same time.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

There seems to be a lot of players of traditional music who are rather suspicious of any musical intellectualism or interest in any other musics. This attitude seems to make them extremely self righteous and self appointed (and rather humourless) defenders of this music.
Could it just be they feel rather out of their depth when discussions here, with the very wide swathe of musicians who may play all sorts of stuff and gigged it for years?
The people I regularly play Trad Irish Music with have a very open mind on music generally. That doesn’t mean they’re careless with the tradition: far from it. But they are able to see it from a Big Wide World view not a nasty little small minded place.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

I agree with yhaalhouse. In these sort of discussions those in favour of being self taught/not reading music always come across as simply trying to legitimize their own shortcomings. I’ve never ever heard a taught musician say "I wish I hadn’t done that, I’d be a far better musician if I hadn’t had lessons" or " I could play this much better if I couldn’t read music". The reality is that music is like just about everything else: there is a certain amount you can learn from your own experience and mistakes, but there is a whole load more will learn if a teacher is exposing you to several hundred years worth of other people’s experience and mistakes.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Don’t go changing Michael Dineen. Your weekly conspiratorial posts are just the bit of spice this old mustard board has been wanting lately. Is sarcasm a learned skill? Or are certain people just born with a genetic predisposition?

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

"Don’t go changing Michael Dineen."

Isn’t that a line from a Percy French song?

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Since The Beano was mentioned, I see it as a little like taking Beano and eating a can of beans and seeing which will win. Lately, the can of beans has been winning every time, regardless of which way I approach.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

I guess it depends on how long you’ve studied, and/or what material you’ve studied.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

zzzzzzzzzzz………………

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Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

[*There seems to be a lot of players of traditional music who are rather suspicious of any musical intellectualism or interest in any other musics. This attitude seems to make them extremely self righteous and self appointed (and rather humourless) defenders of this music.
Could it just be they feel rather out of their depth when discussions here, with the very wide swathe of musicians who may play all sorts of stuff and gigged it for years?*]

I think you make a very good point, yhaalhouse. I get the feeling that much of that is down to sour grapes, resentment and a little envy, maybe. Not quite as bad as the dreaded Doherty’s Pigs syndrome, although there has been a fair amount of that that has surfaced here, past and present.

Anyway, back to the original question : "is being self taught’ a good or a bad thing.?"

Michael, I do think it’s a good thing. At least it’s a good start, having shown a bit of initiative by buying (or picking up) an instrument, and teaching yourself the technique required to emulate the person / instrument / tunes , either by ear or by the dots (if you can read). Or maybe a bit of both. Maybe even ABC too - let’s keep ole Ceo happy.

But, it’s only a start.

Read all the other well-informed and very intelligent replies (ignoring the sick-joker) to find out why 🙂

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

I’ve been kicking around the same idea as yhaalhouse for some time… the knee-jerk anti-intellectualism I’ve encountered here is just ridiculous and destructive. I stopped referring young players and newbies to this place for general advice because of it. It’s a great resource for specific information, like "hey what’s this tune name?" or "who’s this player."

But beyond that? People can be easily led down some pretty fruitless paths.

Yes, it is possible to self-teach your way to becoming a pretty decent player.

But why the heck would you want to if you didn’t have to? If you want to attain excellence on your instrument and play this music (or any other) to more than a mediocre standard, and you did in fact have the time and money and instructor availability (and with Skype, now, the last part is less an excuse!), then trying to go it alone just for the sake of having gone it alone is false pride. Pure silliness.

I think you can get very good if you have role models to emulate, and you can sit next to them in sessions and get together outside of a formal teacher/student arrangement, and that can be fantastic! Lord knows it’s cheaper. But it sure isn’t "self-taught."

Why reinvent the wheel?

And dots vs. ear? Use both as much as you can! Metronome or no metronome? Well, sure, in some contexts, it’s nice for tempos to breathe a little bit. But if you can’t play with a metronome, then you can’t play with an impeccable timekeeper snapping his fingers to the beat. And if you can’t do that, don’t tell me you have time. It is all fair game. ITM isn’t like playing tennis. There’s no rule that says you have to put a net up to make things more difficult for yourself. Use anything and everything to improve. And a good, experienced teacher with an understanding of this music is among the best things anyone could possibly have going.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

I have to say that, in general, the musicians I like to listen to the most, and that I think are the best, exhibit humility and a desire to learn and improve, to develop as musicians. It’s being passionate and hard-working that makes great musicians. There are a bunch of different tools great musicians use. Reading music is one. Playing by ear is another. Just pull whatever tool the situation calls for out of your toolbox.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

"Q: How do you get a guitarist to play quieter?
A: Put sheet music in front of him.

Q: And how do you get him to stop playing?
A: Write dots on it."

This would-be humour has a basis in ignorance so vast I don’t know where to start.

For 24 years I had the huge privilege of working with (or I should say in the vicinity of) Ernest McLean, who died last February at age 85. In the 1940s he was considered the top guitarist in New Orleans and was in demand for studio work, for jazz in particular. He was instrumental in the development of R&B and has been called ‘the first rock & roll guitarist’. He played with many of the greats.

One of his many strengths was sightreading. He could sightread anything, dead cold. Yes, anything: there’s the story of a part written in Alto clef being set in front of him and him reading it without hesitation. And fluently sight-transposing from any key to any key.

And yes he had as good an ear as any jazz player does (fantastic).

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

BTW I taught myself to sightread. Still not as good at it as a studio pro, but I usually can get by. I can read reels and jigs nearly up to speed, cold, if the tunes tend to follow common patterns, which they usually do.

I also have a decent ear, and at a session will usually have 70-90% of a tune I’ve not heard before by the 3rd playing of it.

Professional musicans I meet and do gigs with have both better sightreading than I do and better ears than I do. They have to: music is their job.

Though a professional musician won’t understand the stylistic norms and ornaments of Irish music and will get a lot of little things wrong, if asked to play an Irish reel or jig by ear. They’ll probably, on the fly, incorrectly assume that rolls are pralltrillers etc, in other words hear things according to the norms of classical or jazz or pop music. As soon as these details are explained they’ll hear everything just fine.

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

"Can you read music??"

"Sure…but not enough to hurt my playin’."

From one of the great American trad players (Monroe, Scruggs, Burns…??)

Re: are self taught musicians/ear musicans’ better than those who can read and write music.?

Self -Teaching to me is extensive practice, but it also depends upon a person’s learning style, I taught myelf to play several instruments, after discussing the basic fundamentals, like embouchure, breath control etc. with other musicians, but there is always that sticking point where it will be necessary to refer to a tutor, being either a textbook or teacher.