To start my research, I went to a music book library in Covent Garden to have a look on what kind of books they sell. I found out that there are many books on music: some for children, some to learn how to play an instrument, some for students, some with scores on a particular artist or band and others more technical.
This book is made to help children to learn how to play piano in a funny way. The book is full of images and explains the piano theory from the basics.
Thompson, J. (1955). John Thompson's easiest piano course.
Cincinnati, Ohio: Willis Music Co.
This book is made to help adults that never learned how to play piano before. The book includes lessons on piano's theory and technique.
Palmer, W., Manus, M. and Lethco, A. (1996). Adult all-in-one course.
Van Nuys, Calf.: Alfred Pub.
These books are guides to learn music theory. With these, students will learn how to read music on the music score.
Taylor, E. (1992). The AB guide to music theory.
London: Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.
Cooper, H. (2007). The basic guide to how to read music.
New York: Amsco.
These are more technical books. They contain several essays on modern music and technology.
Karolyi, O. (1995). Introducing modern music.
London: Penguin Books.
Finney, J. and Burnard, P. (2010). Music education with digital technology.
This book contains a collection of guitar's music scores from the best songs of the Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler.
Leonard, H. (2010). The little black songbook: Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler.
London: Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation.
To better understand music, I booked a music lesson with Ben, a music teacher. During the two hours lesson I studied an introduction on Music Theory and I had time to interview Ben.
Interview length: 1 hour.
Date: 20 October 2017.
I’m Ben, I’m a composer and I also teach. I have a degree in music from Trinity Laban and I studied composition. So, I studied writing music for other people. I attempt to write in lots of different styles: I write for orchestra, I write for bands, I write for voice. I’m been doing music pretty much from a really early age.
AT WHAT AGE CHILDREN SHOULD START TO LEARN HOW TO READ A MUSIC SCORE?
Playing an instrument is a physical thing, your body has to learn, has to adapt to that. To learn how to read music can be kind of like learning a language. I think you can learn music at any age. You just have to be aware what stage a person might be up. Learning music as a 2 years-old is going to be different to learning music as a 20 years-old.
IN YOUR EXPERIENCE, THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT CAN PLAY AN INSTRUMENT WITHOUT KNOW HOW TO READ A MUSIC SCORE?
Yes, lots. It really depends on how you approach music. There are people that can do both, there are people that can read and learn music with or without score.
Some people find the system of music theory confusing. So I try to incorporate it from lesson 1 because I try to teach it in a way to apply it to what you are doing. You can learn music theory without playing an instrument because it is a set of symbols and rules.
Download the full interview.
I interviewed music players of different ages. What I was trying to understand is why not all the people that can play an instrument can also read music.
Read music scores: Yes.
Reading music scores is like being able to read books, it gives you access to culture. I know myself fantastic musicians who are not able to read a music score. I guess it is not necessary, it depends on your own practice of music and what you expect from it. But I think that a musician who doesn’t learn music theory will miss an opportunity to be a better musician.
Instrument: Bass Guitar.
Read music scores: No.
Sometimes learning to read music scores it's connected to classical studies which leads people to play in a less emotional way. You should never let go your soul and your fire which leads you to give something magical to the crowd.
Instrument: Electric Guitar.
Read music scores: No.
I’m sure that knowing how to read music would help me to improve my composition skills rather than my performance. Not knowing how to read music scores is an important gap for a musician. But the talent and the inspiration alone can be enough.
Instrument: Acoustic and Electric Guitar.
Read music scores: No.
For my experience, not knowing how to read the music limits me to speak with other musicians only through playing or listening music. Don’t know how to write in a universally music language is my biggest limit. I think that it is a good standard that everybody has at least the basic knowledge of reading a score for practical and cultural reasons.
The people that I interviewed said more or less the same things, independently of the academic background of the participants.
With these new findings in mind I will design a new interactive interface to make the music theory more accessible.