View Poll Results: Do you read sheet music for mandolin?

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  • Yes I do, it's great for learning/playing mandlin!

    74 67.89%
  • No, I rely on tablature.

    7 6.42%
  • I learned to read music but really, I just play by ear.

    18 16.51%
  • Never learned it, I play by ear.

    10 9.17%
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Thread: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

  1. #151
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    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulS View Post
    The ideal is to be able to play by ear, to be able to read tab, and to be able to read standard notation. There is a wealth of information in that notation, which is why the same notation can be used by a just about every instrument invented by man. This does mean that if you have a part made for another instrument in a similar range, you can easily figure it out. Right now, being fairly new to Mandolin, I find standard notation and tab are both useful.
    One thing I will never understand is why some people think fluency in TAB is an essential skill. To me its's a waste of time. I believe I've used TAB as a source for a tune or song only once. As Ashokan Farewell had been mentioned frequently I became curious about it, and the only source I could find at the time was in TAB. It was painful, mainly because I realized that this is the kind of tune I would learn in about the time needed to hear it through, just once. Today it's printed in many places on the internet. And today TAB banks ususually have both TAB and standard -- translating from TAB to standard is straightforward using tools like Tefview.

    One piece of advice here: IF you learn a tune from, say, mandozine, at first turn on the MIDI and turn off the notatioan and TAB and listen for the greater picture -- such as harmony -- before going into details.

    And I would say that the proper question to ask here is not, should I bother with notation, but should I bother with theory, and what is the best route to learning and understanding theory? I believe the anlaogy with learning a foreign language is fruitful. Elementary text books usually have short texts introducing a bit vocabulary (often organized around some special topic) and some grammatical topic; then, on top of that teacher led conversation classes. All of ths translates to learning an instrument.

  2. #152

    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    I'm struggling with the process thus far. There's a dot, then EGBDF/FACE thinking to figure out what letter, then trying to remember where C is. Then, I can see another dot two-up. Then, recall the scale progression to find that spot. If I get lost in the middle, it's a repeat at that point.

    My daughter is KILLING IT! She knows the dots, the C thing at the beginning which tells her something, and she's learning the picking patterns in the notation now. So, I'm very proud of her. And it's good that we're getting time together while she teaches dunce cap me a little.

    I've got another lesson tomorrow night. I will have made very little progress which is embarrassing. Of course, part of my problem is I get frustrated and revert to just exploring the instrument and figuring out songs. Which, it would seem to be a good thing. This instrument is divine. What a sound and vibration. It's incredible such a little thing can ring in so many harmonics so loudly.

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  4. #153
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    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    What a wonderful question. When I starred playing guitar, there was no internet, no training videos, etc.
    Just vinyl records. When CDís came out, I could use the A/B option to play a few notes over and over and find them on my guitar.
    It was a very slow learning process, but I did ok.
    Now, 50 years later itís so much easier. I wished I had gone to school for music, but that wasnít an option back then for me, as I had more compelling interests like chasing skirts.
    What Iím trying to say, is that you donít NEED to read music, but I wish I could have. The chords are most important, along with the strumming, and timing.
    The videos now days are a wonderful way to learn the mandolin. This is my opinion. Others have different opinions, and is what makes this forum a great place to be and to learn. Just my 2 cents.

  5. #154

    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    Quote Originally Posted by r0gue View Post
    I'm struggling with the process thus far. There's a dot, then EGBDF/FACE thinking to figure out what letter, then trying to remember where C is. Then, I can see another dot two-up. Then, recall the scale progression to find that spot. If I get lost in the middle, it's a repeat at that point.

    My daughter is KILLING IT! She knows the dots, the C thing at the beginning which tells her something, and she's learning the picking patterns in the notation now. So, I'm very proud of her. And it's good that we're getting time together while she teaches dunce cap me a little.

    I've got another lesson tomorrow night. I will have made very little progress which is embarrassing. Of course, part of my problem is I get frustrated and revert to just exploring the instrument and figuring out songs. Which, it would seem to be a good thing. This instrument is divine. What a sound and vibration. It's incredible such a little thing can ring in so many harmonics so loudly.
    It sounds like you are trying to start in the middle. It would be horribly painful to learn to play whole songs that way. You lose the flow, rhythm and context which is most of the value of reading music. It is like learning to read big books sounding out one word at a time. Learning songs is best done phrase by phrase so you do not lose the flow. A whole song is too much to remember and a note at a time is jerky and not connected.

    When I learned to read on guitar it was from an old beginner book similar to Mel Bay. It would give you little exercises string by string in first position. Here are the notes on the first string, second string etc. I would play those exercises over and over, tapping foot to keep in rhythm, till that note position and fret position were associated in memory. Then move to the next string and get those locked in. Then there were simple song exercises. None of it was like real music but it developed those fret and note associations till they came automatically without having to go back and think it through for each note.

    The other part of learning to read that a lot of beginners mess up and have to go back and redo is learning the timing and rhythm of the note values. Getting that correct up front is less painful though it may not seem like it at the time.

    Remember when you first learned to read english. First it was simple books, "See Spot, See Spot run. Run Spot run, etc". It took several years to learn to read anything remotely fluently and you had the advantage of being young and teachable. Don't compare to your daughter. She already knows how to read other instruments and just has to transfer the code. I learned to read mandolin pretty quickly, in a few days. But I already had learned on guitar and banjo. Those took months and years to establish.

    Keep plugging away. It is best to devote a little time each day to it over a long haul then spend some time on the other stuff including the fun stuff. Don't neglect tone, technique, ear training, chords, rhythm, etc. Lots to learn.

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  7. #155
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    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    I was about to suggest maybe taking some lessons, if learning how to read music is giving you problems. Then I saw you already are ... Then I realized - you are living with someone who can teach you, at least the basics! Take advantage of that. Get her to help you with the rough spots, so that by the time the next lesson comes around you'll be further along.

    You may not think it is necessary to learn this skill at this point, and you may be at least partly right. Learning to play by ear is very likely more important. But all aspects of learning and playing are important, arguably in different degrees, but all interrelate. And why not learn all you can about as much as you can?

    In my case, my sad tale of learning how to learn music, all I had back then was sheet music. I did not grow up in a music-rich environment, or even area, so I had to self-teach. Fortunately, a few years before I got my first mandolin, my mom had gotten me a few lessons for recorder through the local music store. So I picked up the basics through that - staff notations, notes and rests, flats and sharps, key signatures, that ort of thing - which all translates to any and every musical instrument in Western music. I could slowly pick my way through sheet music, bit by bit, and that got better over time. But this was the late 60s, and there were no other options, nothing like what there is today. So if you are still having problems, try youtube videos. There have to be some that will address the issues bothering you. And, again, there's your daughter, who may turn out to be the best help you can get.
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  9. #156

    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    And to build on what CarlM wrote above, the Mel Bay Complete Mandolin Method is standard notation-only, and starts in a graduated manner.

  10. #157
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    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    Quote Originally Posted by r0gue View Post
    I'm struggling with the process thus far. There's a dot, then EGBDF/FACE thinking to figure out what letter, then trying to remember where C is. Then, I can see another dot two-up. Then, recall the scale progression to find that spot. If I get lost in the middle, it's a repeat at that point.

    My daughter is KILLING IT! She knows the dots, the C thing at the beginning which tells her something, and she's learning the picking patterns in the notation now. So, I'm very proud of her. And it's good that we're getting time together while she teaches dunce cap me a little.

    I've got another lesson tomorrow night. I will have made very little progress which is embarrassing. Of course, part of my problem is I get frustrated and revert to just exploring the instrument and figuring out songs. Which, it would seem to be a good thing. This instrument is divine. What a sound and vibration. It's incredible such a little thing can ring in so many harmonics so loudly.
    +1 on the Mel Bay books for reading.

    That said - Flash cards! I swear they are such a useful tool when memorizing things like notation, scales, key signatures, and similar. Put the standard notation on one side and the name of the note on the other (using note cards with lines on one side make this a lot easier haha). With 11 flash cards, you'd have all the notes from the basic staff (no ledger lines etc) which is probably what you should start with. Slowly add in the ledger line notes as you feel comfortable. I think a total of about 19 cards would give you the low open G note (two ledger lines below) up to a high D note (2 ledger lines above). I used to just throw these in my car and would use them when I was at a stoplight or in a lot of traffic.

    Another thing that I've found helpful is to write as much as you can in standard notation. This is really easy to do with programs like MuseScore and it allows you to transpose keys as well as toggle TABs on / off which can be helpful. That said, there's also a significant benefit (at least IMO) in manually writing the notes on real paper. Regardless if you chose to use a program, paper, or both - start with basic single note exercises like arpeggios or major scales etc. Eventually move up to more songs you already know well and are fairly simple (like Old Joe Clark). Aside from building up your reading skills, you also get to build up a really nice book of tunes you know
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  12. #158
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    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    Quote Originally Posted by r0gue View Post
    I'm struggling with the process thus far. There's a dot, then EGBDF/FACE thinking to figure out what letter, then trying to remember where C is. Then, I can see another dot two-up. Then, recall the scale progression to find that spot. If I get lost in the middle, it's a repeat at that point.

    My daughter is KILLING IT! She knows the dots, the C thing at the beginning which tells her something, and she's learning the picking patterns in the notation now. So, I'm very proud of her. And it's good that we're getting time together while she teaches dunce cap me a little.

    I've got another lesson tomorrow night. I will have made very little progress which is embarrassing. Of course, part of my problem is I get frustrated and revert to just exploring the instrument and figuring out songs. Which, it would seem to be a good thing. This instrument is divine. What a sound and vibration. It's incredible such a little thing can ring in so many harmonics so loudly.
    Sounds like you are doing great so far! Stay patient with the learning to read notation and keep at it. Also, keep on "exploring the instrument and figuring out songs". That is very important to do whether you learn to read notation like a pro or not.

    You just started this thread on 3/6/23 and your first lesson was that week. That's only a couple of weeks ago. At this point your cup is well over half full - you have a mandolin that you really like and enjoy, you have an instructor which is vital at the beginning, and you have a daughter that is also learning mandolin and can help you along. Hang in there. There is no reason to feel embarrassed.

    "The C thing at the beginning that tells her something" is likely the time signature for "common time". If so, that C tells her how to count the measures. If not, then she knows more than me which would not surprise me at all.

  13. #159

    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    Thanks all for the inspiring words. This will be my second lesson tonight. But it will feel like the first since I haven't advanced. I'm going to try those flash cards, because part of my problem has been learning on small print music.

  14. #160
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    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    r0gue, what genres of music are you learning from this teacher? I would assume that your daughter has separate lessons and that the teacher has a very different approach to her learning vs. yours. It almost sounds like the teacher is very dependent on your learning to read standard notation before actually concentrating on playing the mandolin. I would talk with this teacher and see what he/she says. Possibly this teacher is fine for your daughter and not so much for you.

    What is this music you are working from? Mention to the teacher that is is too small for your to read.

    Also, have you tried to sound out melodies on the mandolin that you know already? That might help a lot. Obviously you can do that after years of playing guitar. I am all for learning to read standard notation but it seems a bit backwards and is obviously frustrating to you to learn that first before enjoying this beautiful instrument.
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  16. #161
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    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    Yes and no. It depends on what you want to do.

    I just improvise, which suits my purposes: jamming, pub gigs, festivals, farmers markets, parties, my own amusement.

    If I'd ever wanted to do professional studio work or teach music, I would've tried to force myself to read music. But I just like playing.
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  18. #162
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    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    Heck, definitely print out enlarged versions of the sheet music! Why wouldn't you?

  19. #163

    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    r0gue, what genres of music are you learning from this teacher? I would assume that your daughter has separate lessons and that the teacher has a very different approach to her learning vs. yours. It almost sounds like the teacher is very dependent on your learning to read standard notation before actually concentrating on playing the mandolin. I would talk with this teacher and see what he/she says. Possibly this teacher is fine for your daughter and not so much for you.

    What is this music you are working from? Mention to the teacher that is is too small for your to read.

    Also, have you tried to sound out melodies on the mandolin that you know already? That might help a lot. Obviously you can do that after years of playing guitar. I am all for learning to read standard notation but it seems a bit backwards and is obviously frustrating to you to learn that first before enjoying this beautiful instrument.
    We're learning from the same person, but separate lessons. I think I need to focus on one string and learn it's notes and then to the next (for the scale we're working on). We slowed it down a bit last lesson and that helped. Now working on G, A, B, C and D, E. She's working on tremolo. I'm working on "Skip to my Lou".

    The last lesson went through the positions quickly and dumped me into an all strings exercise for the between lesson practice, and it was just daunting. I think I'll do ok. Progressing some.

  20. #164
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    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    Quote Originally Posted by r0gue View Post
    ... get frustrated and revert to just ... figuring out songs.
    FWIW: Early on, I could get chords fairly easily (rock is pretty basic), but getting melodies didn't happen smoothly until I had already absorbed some scales. Sometimes STILL not real easy, but ...
    Last edited by EdHanrahan; Mar-25-2023 at 1:45pm.
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  21. #165
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    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    One thing I will never understand is why some people think fluency in TAB is an essential skill. To me its's a waste of time.
    Sorry if I have to throw in my $.02 but ...

    I agree, Ralph, that if it's a case of actually having the notation but prefering TAB ... yes, a waste of time. But TAB has proven helpful often enough that, let's just say, I'm sometimes happy to use it when it's around.

    What TAB CANNOT do and notation does nicely, IMHO, is give you a mental sense of what that music actually sounds like. Granted, it takes some fair experience for that skill to deveop w/ notation, but it will (again IMHO) never develop with TAB. That's like learning to dance from footprints on the floor while haveing no idea what rhythm or actual music sounds like!
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  22. #166
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    Default Re: Just starting out -- Should I really learn to "read music"?

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    Sorry if I have to throw in my $.02 but ...

    I agree, Ralph, that if it's a case of actually having the notation but prefering TAB ... yes, a waste of time. But TAB has proven helpful often enough that, let's just say, I'm sometimes happy to use it when it's around.

    What TAB CANNOT do and notation does nicely, IMHO, is give you a mental sense of what that music actually sounds like. Granted, it takes some fair experience for that skill to deveop w/ notation, but it will (again IMHO) never develop with TAB. That's like learning to dance from footprints on the floor while haveing no idea what rhythm or actual music sounds like!
    Note the word ĒfluencyĒ.

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