You Don’t Have to Read Music to Play Piano!

Being a good note reader is not a requirement to becoming a good piano player.

If you want to become a concert pianist and play concerts with symphony orchestras for a living, you probably need to learn how to read music. But assuming your interest lies instead in playing just about any and every other style, be it pop, jazz, blues, country, gospel, etc. for purely recreational reasons, you do not.

Music is what you listen to, not what you read. Sheet music is simply a recording device.

How do you notate accurately the incredible swing feel of Oscar Peterson’s melodic lines while improvising, or the great, funky syncopation of great New Orleans Style players like Dr. John? The answer is: you can’t. The “words” simply don’t exist in the language of traditional music notation. The fact is, for non-classical styles of music, even if you become a good notation reader, traditional sheet music will not give you the information you need to play the style correctly due to the lack of “words” in traditional notation to describe non-classical techniques. Let there be no mistake, notation is an incredible aid in telling you what notes to play. It just can’t tell you how to play them.

Don’t forget the ultimate goal, is to become a good player, not a good reader. I have found lead sheets to be a great way to get the majority of people to a point where they can have fun right away.

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