[Harp-L] How important is it to be able to read music?

Richard Hunter rhunter377@xxxxx
Fri Dec 9 09:05:14 EST 2016

Fred wrote:
Richard Hunter (who I greatly admire) wrote:
".Wouldn't hurt to learn a little chord and scale theory too.
I can't imagine this conversation taking place on a forum for sax players."

I now write:
Almost all of what Richard says in his post is spot on.  But, a bit of a red
herring there at the end, Richard.  Sax players don't carry 12 different
tuned saxes with them, do they?.  If they did, I could easily imagine such a
discussion on a sax forum.  Personally, I put chord and scale theory well
above music reading in the priority list.  Nashville numbering takes care a
lot of that for those of us with transposing instruments.  I thought Michael
Rubin's comments (who I also greatly admire) were really on the money.
Don't make me choose between you two, now.

Choose what you like man, it's a free country.

I am not sympathetic to the argument that harp players are a unique breed
to whom the ordinary laws of music, physics, etc. do not apply.  I am damn
sure never going to walk into a recording session and tell the assembled
musicians there that I don't need to read music because, after all, I only
play harmonica. Granted that I play a transposing instrument; that doesn't
relieve me of the obligation to know exactly where the note I see printed
on a score lies on the instrument I'm holding in my hands.

If you plan to spend your life in France, you'll be a lot better off if you
learn to speak French. If you plan to spend a good portion of your life in
music, you'll be a lot better off if you learn that language.

Like I said before, it all depends on the arena you intend to play in. If
that's your living room, learn what you need to play in your living room
and enjoy yourself there.  It's honorable and it's fun.  if your ambitions
go beyond that, learn what you need to learn in order to move forward.

Either way, make your choice and take your chances.  If you refuse to learn
to read, I'm glad to take the gigs that you can't. That's why I up-skilled
myself in the first place--so I could someday handle more gigs better than
anyone else.  I'm still working on it.

Regards, Richard Hunter

"The Lucky One" 21st century rock harmonica project at
Author, "Jazz Harp" (Oak Publications, NYC)
Latest mp3s and harmonica blog at http://hunterharp.com
Vids at http://www.youtube.com/user/lightninrick
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