[Harp-L] Why don't harp players learn all the notes and music?

Hellerman, Steven L. shellerman@xxxxx
Tue Oct 30 17:45:44 EDT 2018


From: The Iceman <icemanle at xxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2018 12:58:29 PM
To: Hellerman, Steven L.; harp-l at xxxxx
Subject: Re: [Harp-L] Why don't harp players learn all the notes and music?

that's an old chestnut question. Of course one doesn't have to know theory or read music to be a good musician. Natural talent works pretty well.

First came the music. Then came the theory to try to explain how come it sound so good....

Knowledge is power, so the more one knows or understands ones craft from many perspectives, the better. No one is putting a gun to anyone's head to force them into more understanding.

Those with that extra understanding like to speak in that language to each other - like two folk living in the US who both speak fluent German would do. So, when it gets kinda technical here, it is a combo of folk practicing their theory debate skills sprinkled with a little hoping to educate the uninitiated and a dash of dig it.

-----Original Message-----
From: Hellerman, Steven L. <shellerman at xxxxx>

But, to the point: There are a great many talented professional musicians (one might define "professional" as those who earn a living at it; or at least usually get paid for playing in public) who do not read music. The best examples, of course, are the Beatles (and Sir Paul McCartney STILL can't read music). The late great British sax player Bobby Keyes couldn't read a note, played completely by ear. As for us harp players, obviously, one needs to know enough theory to play in the right key in a position that works ((and , hopefully, sounds best).

But just how necessary is it to be able to read notes and understand concepts like "circle of fiths", etc.? When soloing, is one supposed to label the notes in your head as one plays them? (For the record, I have no idea what any of the notes are called as I play.) I would also be interested to know just how "musically literate" some of the great blues players were; guys like Sonny Boy Williamson, Brownie McGee, Little Walter, Big Walter, James Cotton, et. al.

Can anyone shed some light on any of this?

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