Being a self taught musician, and growing up on a staple music diet of hard rock and guitar driven music, I am one of the many who didn’t read and write “staff notation”.
Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that musicians like myself don’t know about music theory.
We sure do. From scales and modes, to chordal knowledge , to time signatures. But all of this is in my case, was in a very “Guitar Tablature” or “Notes” sort of a way.
Which was fine, cause most of the times, we work with softwares where programming a tune is pretty flexible and we work with musicians who are also very adept at “hearing” the part , and then performing it, on the tune.
But all of this changed for me when I did my first full length feature score, and my Director and I decided to go pretty much the traditional orchestral route for the most part.
Given the genre, I was sure that I was going to get a section to play the string parts : Violins, Violas, Cellos, Double Bass.
And as large a section as I could afford, who does music to make money…right?!!
And with a little bit of learning on how to get a pretty accurate music sheet from the software, I was set.
First, spontaneity is beautiful when you’ve got a soloist, but with 12 musicians playing the same part!
They want it all written down, to the tee. And apart from that, directing them or telling them the parts that might not be sounding bang on, becomes a problem.
I mean sure I could say “that bend from the G note to the A is a bit flat, please resolve the note to a more acceptable pitch” but for that, I need to memorise all my parts, which is really taxing in a huge background score, or I could follow them with my step sequencer in my programming software, which is cumbersome too.
So I decided I’m gonna learn staff, no big deal! And truly…. its not really a big deal!
Especially, as a composer. Cause you’ll need it more to communicate, than to do sight reading and play.
And now its better, cause I can simply follow the players, well, most of the times, and tell them simply by looking at the sheet where I want them to play differently.
And its so much more relaxed for me, the composer, as well.
And though there’s a long way to go , and while reading and playing the piano, there are simple pieces of music, that I need to stare at for a few seconds before I can actually play them, its a start , and if I can, I must encourage my fellow self taught musicians to learn how to read and write.. cause its surely a skill set that every composer should posses, especially when recording a large set of musicians.