Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 47

Thread: Reading music

  1. #1

    Default Reading music

    In short, this is a stumbling block for me. One I am sure others have run into. I will preface this by stating that I dont want to learn tab, I want to learn how to read music.
    All that being said, here is where I am. I played bagpipes for a decade. Bagpipe music is pretty basic, when it comes to reading music. We only have 9 notes, no flats or sharps, no chords, and any embellishments are, simply put, gracing a played note (they are called grace notes, and have no time signature in the music itself).
    Over the course of the decade, I found that, through my own teaching, I could figure out the notes on the sheet music and translate it directly to the pipes. This, over time, was simple, but I never figured out the timing-I simply listened to a tune once, looked at the sheet music, and could figure it out via trial and error. Not the most efficient way, but, when you only have 9 notes on one scale, it becomes fairly simple over time to figure out.
    Learning to actually READ music seems to me a whole lot more difficult. I am going to do this though, because it will open up music to me. Barring having an instructor, which, for now, until covid is under control, isnt going to work for me, what are some resources on line I can look to? This question may have been asked a thousand times, and for that I apologize. It seems a LOT of people either play by ear, or use tableture, which I dont want to use. I am simply looking for direction on how to equate whats on the sheet music, to what it should be on the mandolin.
    Which leads me to my second question: is music written for different instruments, differently? For example: if I picked up music for, say, drowsy maggie, would it be written the same for guitar, flute, etc?
    This is all new to me, and, honestly, frustrating. I work on scales, and chords, and really want to learn how to read music, so that I can at least follow along, if not actually play along, with tunes I enjoy.
    Anyone have suggested books, or websites, or computer programs, that can assist? Thanks in advance!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Reading music

    Ya, Drowsy Maggie would be written the same for all Irish Trad melody instruments the only difference is that guitar notation is written an octave higher than it sounds, meaning that if a classical guitarist read the Drowsy Maggie chart "as written", the notes he'd play would be an octave lower than what a fiddler would play. (A whistle-player would actually play the notes an octave higher than a fiddler, but that sounds so normal that no-one thinks about it much.)

    Any beginner mandolin or violin book would get you going, if you take your time with it, memorizing where the notes on the page fall on the fretboard.

  3. The following members say thank you to Jim Bevan for this post:


  4. #3

    Default Re: Reading music

    Vol 1 of the Suzuki violin method would be great for learning to read music (somewhat ironic as it is not used by Suzuki violin students for learning to read music).
    Marilynn Mair's book would be even better https://www.marilynnmair.com/books/2...e-mandolinist/

    I used the Hal Leonard Mandolin Method and Mel Bay's Complete Mandolin Method.

    I also find that many of the fiddle tunes on the incredible mandolessons.com are good for beginners. You can download the sheet music for all the tunes and they have TAB below the notation.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Reading music

    Duke Sharp’s Garage Band Theory appears to be a good option as well. So far I’m getting a lot out of it. There’s a separate thread on it.

  6. #5
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,444
    Blog Entries
    53

    Default Re: Reading music

    Any of many beginner fiddle books would be helpful. The left hand is the same as the mandolin.

    I recommend a beginner violin book over a beginner mandolin book, in your case, because fiddle books do not take up space with tablature, whereas many beginner mandolin books have a tab line even when they teach standard notation. The result is the book is twice as long as you need.

    I am thinking you would do well with a beginner violin book because you already know how to learn to connect finger position to music staff position. The timing of the notes and time signatures comes quickly. Soon enough you will be on your way.

    An instructor would be very helpful too. Many are available online through Skype or Zoom or some such.

    While it is true as you say that a lot of mandolinners play by ear, there are a lot of mandolinners who read standard notation. Many.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  7. #6
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Nacogdoches Texas
    Posts
    1,266

    Default Re: Reading music

    I’ve taught a lot of guitar and mandolin students to sight read. Mel Bay and Hal Leonard have beginner books for children and adults. I would suggest learning to read be done in addition to your other practice. Make it as much fun as possible. If you want to go this direction, I’m sure several of us could recommend specific books.

  8. #7
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,444
    Blog Entries
    53

    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by oldsoldier181 View Post
    Which leads me to my second question: is music written for different instruments, differently? For example: if I picked up music for, say, drowsy maggie, would it be written the same for guitar, flute, etc?
    Yes. That is the primary advantage of learning to read standard notation. You do not need to get music written for or arranged for mandolin. You can read directly anything written for violin, and actually, most any other instrument. I play a bunch of tunes I learned from some French accordion music, and some tangos I am working on from some piano sheet music. This to me is a gigantic over tab. I can take any music and mess with it on mandolin, not limiting myself tp the music someone else thought would be good on the mandolin.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  9. #8
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,444
    Blog Entries
    53

    Default Re: Reading music

    Don't get me wrong. I believe tab is valuable, and in for some specific things indispensable. Also playing by ear is a very important skill to acquire.

    Neither of these skills are diminished or harder to acquire by learning to read standard notation.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  10. #9

    Default Re: Reading music

    Thank you all for your input. I do have an instructor I had a lesson with, and am scheduling another one soon. My problem with that is twofold: one, my schedule, due to my vocation, varies a lot, week to week, so its hard for me to schedule lessons. Second, I am not very good, nor interested, in distance learning via video. I do my best with it, but, I just dont seem to get much out of it (through other things I have done via video conferencing). I am hoping to resume normalcy in the next few months (I am sure we all are wishing for that!) and would like to do in person lessons at that point. My hope is to get a jump on it before then.
    I have done some more looking, and there are a couple books I ordered to assist me with it. I have also found a few folks here who have put stuff online about reading, with standard notation AND tab, as well as audio files. I think, once I get over the hump of remembering where specific notes are at, and figuring out the basics, it will come easier. Like everything else, the initial learning curve is steep, and I have to unlearn my piping notations, at least until I am over that hump .

  11. #10
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Connecticut, USA
    Posts
    3,179

    Default Re: Reading music

    You seem to be on the right path -- I learned the mandolin from Mel Bay (back in the dark ages when there was no tab that i recall) and the first lessons were all about where to put which finger on which string to match with which written note on the staff. I also used that for the one student I had once upon a time -- we learned how to play the mandolin while learning how to read standard notation -- a single effort, since it was all new anyway. I will admit I started as a flute player and, despite playing for eight years, I never understood timing until I taught myself how to play an instrument as a (relative) adult. Mel Bay did that. The book(s) didn't get into theory, just playing and reading. Once you make the connection between note on the mandolin and note on the sheet music, I'd suggest playing as many unfamiliar tunes as you can find. The longer you do that, the better you get.

    As for the other, I've used flute music, recorder music, mandolin music, guitar music, piano music and fiddle/violin music to play and learn tunes. The biggest problem is some instrumental music is too low for the mandolin (think guitar) and you have to do some modifications. Mandolinists (or at least the ones I know) like fiddle music because the range is exactly the same.
    --------------------------------
    1920 Lyon & Healy bowlback
    1923 Gibson A-1 snakehead
    1952 Strad-o-lin
    1983 Giannini ABSM1 bandolim
    2009 Giannini GBSM3 bandolim
    2011 Eastman MD305

  12. #11

    Default Re: Reading music

    As others have mentioned you have the right idea, I'd urge you to give yourself time while you are learning to read music. Most of my students equate reading with sight-reading (reading in realtime at tempo) which is a great skill to develop, is hard to think about when you are just starting out. Part of learning to read music is recognizing the patterns on the page and part is recognizing the patterns on the instrument. The mandolin is tricky because it is a relatively uniform grid, you have to provide the patterns. On the pipes, once you recognize a birl or grip, you don't necessarily read each individual note when you look at the music, you already know the patterns. Additionally you can play a note in multiple places on the neck, unlike the pipes which have 9 dedicated notes with corresponding fingerings. Once you start recognizing some patterns on the instrument the whole endeavor gets much more manageable.

    I like books like Knowing Notes for the Violin for mandolin because they don't have tablature and are geared specifically for playing in first position.

    Learning to read is a fantastic skill to develop, so keep at it.

  13. #12

    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by onswah View Post
    As others have mentioned you have the right idea, I'd urge you to give yourself time while you are learning to read music. Most of my students equate reading with sight-reading (reading in realtime at tempo) which is a great skill to develop, is hard to think about when you are just starting out. Part of learning to read music is recognizing the patterns on the page and part is recognizing the patterns on the instrument. The mandolin is tricky because it is a relatively uniform grid, you have to provide the patterns. On the pipes, once you recognize a birl or grip, you don't necessarily read each individual note when you look at the music, you already know the patterns. Additionally you can play a note in multiple places on the neck, unlike the pipes which have 9 dedicated notes with corresponding fingerings. Once you start recognizing some patterns on the instrument the whole endeavor gets much more manageable.

    I like books like Knowing Notes for the Violin for mandolin because they don't have tablature and are geared specifically for playing in first position.

    Learning to read is a fantastic skill to develop, so keep at it.
    I think you hit the nail on the head. With the pipes, it was almost cheating, as we only had 9 notes-and, well, there were a finite amount of arrangements to play. Add the embellishments in there, and, once those are learned, they just kind of disappear in the music when reading. I, and many, many other pipers have experienced, starting on one tune, and finishing another, due to the similarities of the arrangements. That, and most bands played the same sets of marches, which made playing for other bands fairly simple.
    As an aside, I recall playing at some highland game, where we played the same tune for about 15 minutes straight, while parading back and forth. I dont recall the name of it now, but I literally learned the tune by ear on the parade field, due to the constant repetition (and there being a limited number of ways to play). Many of our music also came from either fiddle or harp. Thats likely where I got the bug to play that kind of music. That, and a good jig or reel, is just simply a fun, upbeat style of music. One cannot help but be happy listening to them .
    On fiddles and mandolins, anyway. There are a number of people who arent very fond of the pipes, and have no qualms telling you that

  14. #13
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Westchester, NY
    Posts
    27,971

    Default Re: Reading music

    Give yourself a break and be patient with yourself. Like most things in life you will get better with practice. Start with some tunes or melodies you already know either from your playing bagpipes or that you learned on mandolin by ear. Simple fiddle tunes like reels and jigs would be a good start. Take it slow but also note what notes on the staff correspond to the ones on the fretboard. The rhythm stuff can come later and that you can workout either by learning how to subdivide the notes and count and maybe listen to a recording of the tune that you are working on to get the feel for syncopation and dotted rhythms.

    Work with a tune book or Suzuki regularly and when you feel comfortable try some tunes that you may never have heard. Play one known jig in D, for instance, then find another and read it note by note. After a while you will read but it will not happen overnight. It is fun, like decoding a message.

    As far as other instruments, that is the joy of standard notation: as long as the range of the instrument is close to yours then you play music for any instrument but not TAB. Violin, flute, oboe, recorder, etc.
    Jim

    My Stream on Soundcloud
    Facebook
    19th Century Tunes
    Playing lately:
    2018 Campanella A-5 -- 2007 Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- '83 Flatiron A5-2 -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- 1936 Epiphone Deluxe -- 1928 Gibson L-5 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo -- ca. 1923 Vega Style M tenor banjo -- ca. 1920 Weymann Style 25 Mandolin-Banjo -- National RM-1

  15. #14
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Beaverton, OR, USA
    Posts
    1,529
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Reading music

    Here is a website with a series of lessons on musical notation. It is labelled "music theory" but the first 20 or so lessons are basically on how to read. It is interactive so when you click on a bullet point, the picture image highlights what that point is talking about. I think it is pretty good, but I haven't looked at each lesson in detail. Give it a try and maybe report back on what you think!

    https://www.musictheory.net/lessons
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

    My website and blog: honketyhank.com

  16. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    East Concord, NY 14055
    Posts
    48

    Default Re: Reading music

    Once you know where the notes are on paper you may not know how that corresponds to where they are on the mandolin neck. Clip on a tuner while playing slowly and you will learn quickly.

  17. #16
    Pittsburgh Bill
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    PA
    Posts
    766
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Reading music

    Alfred's Learn to Play Mandolin will simultaneously teach you to read music and learn the fret board as well as muscle memory on your fret hand.
    As per my humble opinion, and surely many here will disagree, I found learning to read music this way a relatively easy adventure.It merely involves practicing the step by step exercises. I have many times tried to learn tablature. Not really much in tablature to comprehend for me but extremely tedious of which I for one do not have the patience.
    This simple to use book played an important role when I was first learning mandolin and continues to this day. I lack natural music intuition held by those fortunate enough to have a developed ear for learning tunes. So reading music opens up a world of tunes that I can learn quickly and would likely take considerable time for me to learn by ear and exasperate my patience trying to learn by numbers. Additionally, reading music allows me to do stints in a mandolin orchestra where the ability to read is imperative.
    I have used this book with success in teaching my grandchildren to play and wholeheartedly endorse it.
    Stiver A style (MAS has stopped here)
    Kentucky KM-950
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Rogue 100A (current campfire tool)
    Harley Benton A style (grandchildren's learner)

  18. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Pittsburgh Bill For This Useful Post:


  19. #17
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    New Mexico
    Posts
    553

    Default Re: Reading music

    If you live in an area with a music store and a school music program, go buy the ground level violin book. Many school districts use the Essential Elements series. It introduces reading at the beginning, as you are learning where the notes are on the fingerboard, and I think it would work well for you. Cheap and easy to find, too. A number of Suzuki violin teachers use the I Can Read Music series with their students who are ready to learn to read. The old Samuel Applebaum String Builder series might be good too. Warning: all these book are written for kids! I believe I have seen books on note reading for mandolinists on the Mel Bay website.

    You ask if music is written the same way for all instruments, and the answer to that is a qualified yes. Some wind and brass instruments—clarinet, trumpet, horn, saxophones—are pitched in different keys, and their music is transposed to a different key. Clarinets, for example, come in Bb, A, and Eb versions. For a piece in the key of C, the part for a Bb clarinet (the most common) is written in D. This isn't a problem if you have are playing by yourself, but two mandolinists playing a duet written for flute and clarinet will sound hideous!

  20. The following members say thank you to Louise NM for this post:


  21. #18
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Alvarado/Mansfield, Texas
    Posts
    3,838

    Default Re: Reading music

    As Louise NM says, a qualified “yes” to that question, as an example, a piano score is written for an instrument with 88 keys. I am fond of some musicals, e.g. Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific, etc. In order to find the straight melody in those cases, you need to get the vocal scores and follow the vocal lines.
    WWW.MARKGUNTER.NET
    ----------------------------------
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN

    ----------------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Blues Mando
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

  22. #19
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    397

    Default Re: Reading music

    You ask if music is written the same way for all instruments, and the answer to that is a qualified yes. Some wind and brass instruments—clarinet, trumpet, horn, saxophones—are pitched in different keys, and their music is transposed to a different key. Clarinets, for example, come in Bb, A, and Eb versions. For a piece in the key of C, the part for a Bb clarinet (the most common) is written in D. This isn't a problem if you have are playing by yourself, but two mandolinists playing a duet written for flute and clarinet will sound hideous!
    So, Louise, are you saying that if the clarinet and the mandolin are playing the same tune together, their parts are written in different keys!? This is hard to wrap my head around. Boy, do I have alot to learn.

  23. #20
    Pittsburgh Bill
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    PA
    Posts
    766
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    So, Louise, are you saying that if the clarinet and the mandolin are playing the same tune together, their parts are written in different keys!? This is hard to wrap my head around. Boy, do I have alot to learn.
    You are correct is saying there is a lot to learn. As I stated in #16 I did not find learning to read music to be very difficult and much less tedious than deciphering tab. I found after reading a book on music theory that music theory is "rocket science". Every time I make a new discovery it leads me to many other facets of understanding music theory that I likely will never fully or even partly understand.
    Fortunately it is not necessary to understand all the intricacies relative to theory to begin learning and enjoying the skill of reading music as applied to playing your mandolin.
    Last edited by Pittsburgh Bill; Dec-02-2020 at 10:17am.
    Stiver A style (MAS has stopped here)
    Kentucky KM-950
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Rogue 100A (current campfire tool)
    Harley Benton A style (grandchildren's learner)

  24. #21
    Registered User DougC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Minneapolis, MN
    Posts
    1,478
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Reading music

    I suggest a interactive sight reading software that you can use at your own pace and schedule. One can use keys on the keyboard or a pickup on your mandolin.


    http://www.micrologus.com/orders#sight_reading_method
    Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile

  25. #22
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    New Mexico
    Posts
    553

    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    So, Louise, are you saying that if the clarinet and the mandolin are playing the same tune together, their parts are written in different keys!? This is hard to wrap my head around. Boy, do I have alot to learn.
    It's true! Flute, oboe, bassoon, recorders, and anything with strings are all C instruments. Make friends with those people.

  26. #23
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Nacogdoches Texas
    Posts
    1,266

    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    So, Louise, are you saying that if the clarinet and the mandolin are playing the same tune together, their parts are written in different keys!? This is hard to wrap my head around. Boy, do I have alot to learn.
    Think of it as a capo. If you’re playing in D major on the mandolin but a guitarist only knows how to play in C major, the guitarist will use a capo on the 2nd fret and read music written in C major but both will be playing in the same key.

  27. The following members say thank you to Jon Hall for this post:


  28. #24

    Default Re: Reading music

    An issue you will have to work out over time that I do not believe anyone mentioned is that most of the notes on a mandolin can be played in multiple places. This is true for any stringed instrument including violin. For example the seventh fret on each of the bottom three strings is the same as the next open string higher. To start it is best to learn in first position then learn higher positions up the neck. This is one of the reasons for the predominance of tab in parallel with standard notation. The tab can give you information like finger placement choices and different ways of expressing tied notes and slurs that does not normally show in standard notation.

    On the other note, the whole transposing score thing Louise mentioned, for wind instruments blew my mind when I first encountered it working with saxophone players. It seems horribly cumbersome. The guys I know can switch and play a standard score as well because they have spent a lot of years working with accordionists and other keyboards who do not use transposed scores. They essentially had to learn to read the scores two ways. And to make it worse alto and tenor sax are different transpositions so if you play both you have to learn another system.

  29. #25
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    397

    Default Re: Reading music

    A quick search led me to this article. Wow. In all my childhood band years playing clarinet, I never knew that when I played a C everyone was hearing a Bb. So do I understand correctly? If I had sneaked a look at the music the flute player a couple chairs away was playing, there would be a different key signature on their sheet? Or are the written notes just shifted on my clarinet sheet?

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •