Did you know… that expert music-reading is a highly learn-able skill?
Did you know… that expert music readers do not have some super human ability to process meaningless, unrelated information?
Did you know… that expert music readers are experienced observers of meaningful musical patterns?
Did you know… that expert music readers read music like you are reading these words… in meaningful chunks called words, phrases, and sentences?
Did you know… that expert music readers do not read one-note-at-a-time any more than you are reading these words one-letter-at-a-time?
Did you know… that expert music-reading is no more a talent than learning to read English?
Consider the letter M. The letter M is one of twenty-six arbitrary symbols in the English alphabet. By itself, M has no intrinsic meaning. The letter M contributes to meaning only when put into some larger context… as part of the word Music, for example.
Likewise, consider the note F#. F# is one of many arbitrary letters in the music alphabet; it has no intrinsic musical meaning. F# contributes to meaning only when put into some larger context… as part of the D Major Scale (D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D), for example, where it defines the major tonality.
Just as letters are combined into words, phrases, sentences, and so on in an upward spiral of meaning… musical notes are combined into melodic and harmonic phrases and so on in an upward spiral of musical meaning.
And so, music reading expertise grows by studying musically-useful patterns… scales, chords, chord voicings, progressions, form, meter, characteristic stylistic devices, and so on.
In summary, knowing your ABCs is not enough if you want to write poetry. In fact, knowing your ABCs is not enough if you just want to recite someone else’s poetry well. The same is true when it comes to reading and performing music.