Why should I learn to read music?

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Although there are many brilliant pianists in the world who play only by ear, many of them wish that they could read music. Playing by ear is great, but those pianists are very often limited to what they can remember of the piece that they’re playing. Very often, the performance we hear is only a somewhat vague impression of what the piece should be. Although learning to read music fluently can take many years of serious study, the benefits are well worth the effort. When you can read music well, you are able to play just about anything – no matter what the style of music is. Conversely, too much reliance on the printed page can make a performance stale whereas playing without music allows you to concentrate on dynamics, articulation and balance more than if you were looking at the page. This is why piano teachers insist that their students memorize their pieces before a concert and it is also why concert pianists play without music. The memorization process can be very challenging for some, but the performance will benefit in the end.
Many great pianists who only play by ear, have a tremendous sense of timing and rhythm that is very often lacking in those who read music, but “play by ear” pianists who compose their own music are particularly challenged when it comes to remembering what they just played. Having the ability to write the music down as you go along really helps, although modern computer software and recording devices are making this much easier. To sum up… learn to read music really well and the doors of the music world will be flung wide open for you.

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