Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (“Is it essential that all musicians must read music?”)

I am certain that there will be parents out there who will vehemently disagree with today’s Daily Thought topic. When you are putting out money so that your child can receive the best training musically the last thing you want to hear is that your efforts are somehow being wasted. However, I believe in letting the truth out. I will start out with my own story. When I was 4 years old, my parents brought a piano into the house. It was awesome and I was so happy. In fact, I was so elated by it that the very “next morning” I had learned a song on it. My parents were thrilled, and at that point my mother decided that she wanted to broaden my musical abilities by putting me into piano lessons. With most piano lessons teachers tended to teach students how to read sheet music. My issue was that I “loved playing by ear and I didn’t like lessons.” I was horrible at “sight reading” and to this day I “still can’t read sheet music.”Yet I have done some great gigs musically and played for some of the biggest names in music during my career. I do realize that  my story might not be normal because I have “perfect pitch” and that allows me to learn a tune just as soon as I hear it. My skills have helped me tremendously, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that other musicians have the same gifts. With that being said, how many gigs have I actually had where I “needed” to read sheet music? I have been in this business for many years and I can count “on one hand” the amount of gigs I had where reading was “mandatory.” In one of those gigs I performed with the New Jersey orchestra at the NJPAC center in Northern New Jersey. They actually “placed a chart in front of me and told me that we were about to play this tune.” I was in a really weird state of mind because they were expecting me to do something that I couldn’t do in front of a large audience. At that point I decided to let my ear do the work for me, and I listened to the song as we played it, and actually picked up the tune by ear while “pretending” to study the chart. For me it was easy to follow the progressions of the music and after the song was finished the orchestra members congratulated me on a “job well done.” I am not one to tell other musicians that they have to follow my lead. In fact, if your goal is to be an orchestra player then “by all means” learn how to read music. However, if you play a rhythm section instrument like keys, bass of drums (and don’t plan on playing classical music) then learning to read may not be in your best interests. I know of many musicians who went to school and got “Masters degrees” in music only to come out graduated and “unemployed.” While I can still “learn”  how to read music I choose not to… I am perfectly fine with allowing my ears to work for me. So far that has been “very” successful. Do whatever you feel is best, but make sure that you “love what you do.” Music is expression, and what you play depends heavily on “what you feel…” Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.


Skype: Brettjolly1

Brett Jolly


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