Getting a “D” in typing

April 13, 2008


In grade school, I took a class from Miss Ding Dong (can’t remember her name) in typing. She didn’t like me very much. My hand-eye coordination was not the greatest in typing (although I was always good at sports) and as a result, I got a “D” for a grade that term. I’m a blazing typer now, as long as it comes directly from my head, if I have to read it off of a page, I’m slower. Just like the piano.

Coming late to reading music, I am not a great sight reader, at least at the piano. I can get through it, but not at tempo. My brain is always chattering: Oh look at that! Are you sure that’s the right note? Ooh, pretty. Hmm how do I play this, eek, this is WHAT chord? I can’t just shut up and play the notes. I suppose had I been sight-reading my whole life, I’d be better. But what I HAVE been able to do, is to play what I hear by ear at the piano. And for a composer, that is a useful skill.

What is ironic is that we are being encouraged to incorporate this kind of learning into our reading based music curriculum. And with the Beatles as popular as ever, my musical upbringing is more relevant than ever.

What is clear to me now, is that starting BOTH playing by ear AND the ability to read music at the piano at a relatively early age is the best plan. Can everyone learn to sightread at the piano? I don’t think so. I think many brains can’t get their neurons around all that information.

The paragon of sight-reading machismo is the ability to look at an orchestral score and play it at the piano. We used to require all composers to be able to do this in graduate composition, but I suspect that there are brains that are predisposed to this remarkable ability, and many that are not.

I”ve gotten good at “hearing” music by looking at the score, but manifesting what I hear and see through my fingers onto the piano is one synapse that doesn’t fire so well. Maybe when I’m old and wise.

I’ll be patient.

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