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How Important Is It To Learn To Read Music?

For those of us who are really good at playing piano by ear, some ask what’s the point in learning to read music? As someone who can do both I can tell you that both are equally important.

In my early years I had a lazy piano teacher. I had a good ear, I could pick up anything just by hearing it, so…she took the easier route and just taught me that way. I spent about three years of piano lessons only learning pieces by ear. No one even knew that I couldn’t read music. It wasn’t until I switched teachers and found someone who was aghast by my previous teacher’s laziness that I was taught how to read music.

So why learn if you don’t have to?

Because, while it may be easier to just play by ear, you are missing out on a lot of songs if you don’t learn to read music. It is a great skill to be able to pick up any piece of sheet music and be able to read it. It’s another language, if you only learn one way of expressing it you are limiting yourself. Not to mention that it is wonderful exercise for your brain to learn how to read as well. It uses more components of your mind to be able to play what you see not just what you hear.

Being able to play by ear is equally important however, and a skill that can also be learned. The reason it is also great is because it opens other doors for you as well, it helps you break down pieces of music into little bits, and really get into the song. Reading notes can be mechanical, but hearing music and playing what you hear is often felt and can bring a whole new dimension to your music.

Conclusion: Learn both ways. It doesn’t necessarily matter which one you learn first, I’m a testament of that. But if you do one way better than another, increase your practice on your weakness and it will ultimately make your strength even stronger.

By the way, if you’re wondering the best way to learn either of these skills, Rocket Piano has great programs for learning both.