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Beginner Reading music and "notation"

ProfJames

Elementary member
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12,069
Location
Berkshire, UK
"If you can bear to learn notation, and for 'beginner' tunes you'll pick it up really, really quickly, you'll find much more stuff you can play. One thing you could do is find the music for Crazy and a chart with notes and letters, and write the letters above the music. It will help you learn the notation".

Saxdiva wrote this on a thread some time ago and I wanted to invite discussions aboout how it can help a beginner and why? Although I am learning to read music (again) is it something that I should also be considering?

Saxdiva - apologies for not responding with the questions at the time!
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
698
People have different methods to improve their reading of music. I simply treat it as reading in another type of script.

When we first start to read in any language, we are quite slow, and we can't read complex structures easily. Over time things look up. The additional difficulty with music is that we have to coordinate fingers and the tongue to produce the result we desire.

I have not learnt to improvise. Everything I play is based on printed music. Of course, I now know some passages by heart. That comes handy in fast runs. The range of the saxophone means a limited language compared to many other instruments. Whether you charts or other teaching aids is up to you, but the time comes when you have to able to look at a piece and play it, not necessarily to the highest standard. So, the sooner you are able to free yourself from various supporting mechanisms, the earlier will you find that playing new pieces is fun. Good luck!
 

Saxdiva

Older, wiser, should know better....
Messages
533
Location
Burgess Hill, West Sussex
"If you can bear to learn notation, and for 'beginner' tunes you'll pick it up really, really quickly, you'll find much more stuff you can play. One thing you could do is find the music for Crazy and a chart with notes and letters, and write the letters above the music. It will help you learn the notation".

Saxdiva wrote this on a thread some time ago and I wanted to invite discussions aboout how it can help a beginner and why? Although I am learning to read music (again) is it something that I should also be considering?

Saxdiva - apologies for not responding with the questions at the time!

Hi Prof, firstly, no need to apologise, you'll have been busy practising! The reason I have for saying it is rather simplistic. Most 'tunes' or 'playalong' books have notation. So if you want to play along, you will need to be able to read the notes. I certainly don't think a beginner needs to read complex stuff, just identify the note and how long to hold it for. I also think learning to play by ear is valuable, although my Weimaraner often runs for cover when I hit a bum note (she's very fit these days, can't think why!) Even improv often has the head notated so people can play it straight then wander off.

I haven't seen anything with notes written above the notation (other than chords meant for accompaniment) so I'm guessing they are harder to get hold of - might limit the number of tunes a learner can play, and potentially their feeling of progress.

Played a load of new tunes last night with the new posh tenor. So much more fun than long notes and scales for one evening! I will have to be more disciplined tonight !
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
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12,069
Location
Berkshire, UK
Spooky! I have three Weimeraners! Did have five but lost two over the last two years. They don't even budge - not due to good playing but they are used to noise! I think I shall stick with attempting to learn music properly and keep up to speed/recommendations from other forum members. Are there any sites/books that you could suggets that I look at?

Glad you are enjoying the new tenor.
 

jbtsax

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Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
There are actually two parts to reading music on the saxophone. One is looking at the symbol on the staff and recognizing it by its alphabetical name. The second part is knowing which keys to depress to play that note seen on the page. The goal is to put these two together so as to become an automatic response---just like typing on your computer keyboard (without looking down at your hands).

Leaning to identify the notes by name can be practiced by making a photocopy of a song and writing the names above the notes. There are books published for each instrument called "Note Spellers" that do this exact exercise. I strongly discourage students from writing in the names of the notes on music they are learning to play. In my experience, this simply delays learning to recognize the symbol and respond by fingering the note.

As students are learning to play, one of the most effective exercises I know is to "say and finger". The students say the name of the note as they finger the instrument. "Sing and finger" is even better because it develops the ear as well.
 

Saxdiva

Older, wiser, should know better....
Messages
533
Location
Burgess Hill, West Sussex
I can't even begin to image 5 Weimaraners! We lost my beloved 12 1/2 year old boy last year, chosen at 4 weeks old, and we now have a 3 year old girl. She is a re-home via Weimaraner Rescue and arrived as a completely untrained, but fully grown, adolescent 18 months ago. Exhausting doesn't begin to describe it. She's great now!

Let me look though some of my books. You'd be welcome to borrow them to save cash for more interesting GAS attacks. I'll PM you later and make sure I'm not duplicating what you might have, and I can pop a couple in the post.
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
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12,069
Location
Berkshire, UK
How kind! Well done going for a re-home. I know my wife is looking at more. That is her afflication Weimeraner Acquisition Syndrome! Fortunately we have a big garden so they are out a lot! Would appreciate a loan of a couple of books. Would be very grateful. I think JBTsax suggests excellent "simple" advice that I shall follow. However I want to give the notation a try.
 

Jeanette

Organizress
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Cheshire UK
There are actually two parts to reading music on the saxophone. One is looking at the symbol on the staff and recognizing it by its alphabetical name. The second part is knowing which keys to depress to play that note seen on the page. The goal is to put these two together so as to become an automatic response---just like typing on your computer keyboard (without looking down at your hands).

Leaning to identify the notes by name can be practiced by making a photocopy of a song and writing the names above the notes. There are books published for each instrument called "Note Spellers" that do this exact exercise. I strongly discourage students from writing in the names of the notes on music they are learning to play. In my experience, this simply delays learning to recognize the symbol and respond by fingering the note.

As students are learning to play, one of the most effective exercises I know is to "say and finger". The students say the name of the note as they finger the instrument. "Sing and finger" is even better because it develops the ear as well.

My current and previous tutor were both dead against writing the note name on the music and for what it is worth I think they were right, I never did it. Still not fast at reading and coordinating fingers tongue etc but it is coming.:)

Jx
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
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12,069
Location
Berkshire, UK
Just done an hour of practice - having not ever written on a music book - and it is only via practice that my music reading will become habitual and easier! Darn! Any short cuts?!!!!
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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Whitchurch, North Shropshire UK
People have different methods to improve their reading of music. I simply treat it as reading in another type of script.

When we first start to read in any language, we are quite slow, and we can't read complex structures easily. Over time things look up. The additional difficulty with music is that we have to coordinate fingers and the tongue to produce the result we desire.

I have not learnt to improvise. Everything I play is based on printed music. Of course, I now know some passages by heart. That comes handy in fast runs. The range of the saxophone means a limited language compared to many other instruments. Whether you charts or other teaching aids is up to you, but the time comes when you have to able to look at a piece and play it, not necessarily to the highest standard. So, the sooner you are able to free yourself from various supporting mechanisms, the earlier will you find that playing new pieces is fun. Good luck!

You make some good points. Music notation is just another language in another script.

I read bass and treble clef fluently, I don't have to think what the notes are - I know. But I've been reading them since I was about 10. If I play a piece of piano music that I know reasonably well, it's like reading a book - I don't spell out c-a-t 'cat' - I just recognise the word shape etc. When I play sax, which is written in treble clef, I have no issues reading the music. The issues I have are working out the fingering!

The challenge that most beginners face is that hey are both learning to play an instrument and learning to read notation. Just like learning to read you will get more fluent at it.

For comparison, music for tenor viol is mostly written in alto clef (C3 clef - i.e. the 3rd line is middle-C) although you do see octave treble (sounds an octave lower than written in treble clef). I am less fluent with this clef - most confusion occurs reading low notes below the stave as you don't see them very often.

For cello, as well as bass clef I have to read tenor clef (this is a C4 clef - middle-C is on the 4th line up). This is the one I am least fluent with. Again, I find reading lower notes harder because you don't see them that much (except in the Mozart we are currently playing in orchestra!)

For alto and tenor clef, you try to learn where the notes sit and start off playing simple pieces that use a few notes, just like any tutor book, and develop from there. When I went to my first few summer schools as a novice bass viol player, the tutor (a lutenist and viol player) would just throw me a piece of music in some weird clef - alto if I was lucky, baritone (F2 clef - the F is on the 2nd line up) if not. Apart from frying your brain, you do pick it up quite quickly.

I think the 'flash card' method of name and play the note is a good option.
 
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Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
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14,057
Location
Burnley bb9 9dn
There's no short cuts and no point flogging it either. Practice every day and let it come to you. Having said that I often find I play better after a lay off. Not so technical but more ideas.
 

Clivey

Well-Known Member
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1,178
Location
Edinburgh/Hot Rock off African Coast
This might sound petty but my advice would be to make sure your eyes are tested regularly and that if you have problems that they are seen by an optician . I know my short-sight is deteriorating quite rapidly and it makes all reading a real pain Without the right distance and specs. I `m only mentioning it as I know a lot of the newer players may in fact be middle aged or even older LOL and learning music will be made easier if you can see the page clearly.
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
698
This might sound petty but my advice would be to make sure your eyes are tested regularly and that if you have problems that they are seen by an optician . I know my short-sight is deteriorating quite rapidly and it makes all reading a real pain Without the right distance and specs. I `m only mentioning it as I know a lot of the newer players may in fact be middle aged or even older LOL and learning music will be made easier if you can see the page clearly.

Totally agreed. Proper lighting and, if necessary, adjusted vision make things easier.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Just north of Munich
Following on Clivey's comments, I ended up getting a pair of specs just for sax playing. The optimum focus is about 2M, this allows me to see sharply at 1M as well. No good for reading - too strong. Too weak for driving, but just right for reading music. A bright light ober the music stand helps a lot as well. I've also ended up using Musescore to transcribe all the music printed in Jazz fonts. I find this really hard to read.

But if it's just recognising notes to positions on the stave, it's learning by rote. Just make up a few cards with the notes on them, shuffle and get someone to flash them at you. You call the name out. That's part one of JBT's description sorted quickly. Then on to the fingering.....
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
Messages
12,069
Location
Berkshire, UK
This forum is great! Had my new prescription glasses for reading delivered two weeks ago! I practice - standing up - by french windows over looking my garden - great light. I have no excuses! No neighbours close either so I get no complaints apart from my dogs! Just need to practice more! Work interferes! Many thanks for all comments and advice. Saxdiva has helped with rtecommendations of tutorials.
 

ozjett

New Member
Messages
8
I have found a couple of smart phone apps that quiz you on you notes etc.. I don't think it is anywhere as good as playing to learn the notes but it is good to do later in the evening when I would be shot if I picked up my Sax
 

trimmy

One day i will...
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10,293
Location
Liverpool ( Pool of Life )
What are the apps called? Where can they be found?

I have one on my HTC (android) called 'Learning music notes' it has the notes on the stave and you have to correctly answer which note it corresponds to....simple app that helps and free :)
I also have one called 'Perfect ear' which is very good and free, they do a pro version .99p
 

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