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

Michael Rubin michaelrubinharmonica@xxxxx
Fri Dec 9 14:30:27 EST 2016

When I was 28 a Broadway Show wanted a harmonica player and I was called to
audition.  I could not read music.  They asked if I could read music.  I
lied and said yes.  They put some music in front of me and I struggled.
They asked again.  I said Yes!

I got the gig.  I had 3 weeks until rehearsals began.  I took two hour long
lessons from two different friends and spent 8 hours a day practicing while
quitting my job and putting all my stuff into storage.

I was the worst reader of the orchestra but I kept the gig.
Michael Rubin

On Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 12:27 PM, Barry Bean <bbbean at xxxxx> wrote:

> On 12/9/2016 8:05 AM, Richard Hunter wrote:
>> 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.
> This. It is entirely possible to be an outstanding player and never read a
> note of music. That said, if you want to survive in a professional
> environment, you'll find the ability to read somewhere between helpful and
> essential.
> In my limited experience, if you want to be respected as a peer in the
> studio, being able to read is a bare minimum requirement. You can still get
> gigs as a "talented amateur," but you'd be far better off to simply learn
> to learn to read.
> A million years ago when I was one of a handful of "serious" harp players
> in Memphis, I lost a studio gig to Pete Pedersen because he could sight
> read on harp and I couldn't. The producers were looking for a bluesier
> sound than Pete played, but they didn't want to take the time to walk me
> through learning my part by ear. I went back to the woodshed, spent a few
> months reading charts on harp (I took piano as a kid, and had played sax on
> and off up to that point, so I was a decent reader on those instruments),
> and started picking up better gigs, including at least one gig where I
> replaced a player who couldn't read.
> I haven't done any serious work for several years, so it's entirely
> possible no one should consider me a credible source for professional
> advice. But if I had any interest at all in playing harmonica
> professionally, I'd take the time to learn to read music. As noted
> elsewhere, I'd spend a little time with scales and theory, as well.
> But that's just me. C'est la harp.

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