Reading Words and Reading Music

Reading words and reading music have parallels.

Some people can’t read at all.

Some know what the letters say and they can sound out unfamiliar words.

Some people can recognize whole words at once and they pronounce them in their heads.

Speed readers see the words and simultaneously see the images in their heads without ever pronouncing the words.

Music works the same. 

Some people see a note and it means nothing to them.  These people can’t read.

Others can figure out the note on a piano or another instrument.  They can sound it out.

Some people can copy the notes that they hear from others.  These people can recognize a word if someone reads it to them.

Some can see and play one note at a time.  These people can play the music slowly as they figure the notes out in their heads.

“Speed readers” can see the notes and hear the music in their heads without ever touching an instrument.

Beethoven was just such a speed reader.  When he lost the hearing in his ears he was still able to hear the music in his head.  He was able to compose magnificent symphonies which he was never able to hear with his ears.  Nor would it have helped to compose at an instrument since he couldn’t hear the instrument.

“Only the well-conducted teaching of sol-fa can develop the ability to connect tone-image with written note to the point where the one will evoke the other instantly.”  (Bónis, F., The Selected Writings of Zoltán Kodály.  New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 1964.  p. 197)

For nearly fifty years I have watched my wife, Cynthia Richards, develop as a violin teacher.  She has always been good, especially with young children.  But I had never seen her so excited as when she came in contact with Dr. Jerry Jaccard and was able to connect the dots – linking the study of violin with a Kodály approach to complete musicianship.  She is now able to put her students on the path to “speed reading” the music.

I heartily recommend that you attend Intermuse at Brigham Young University, and find out what the excitement is about.  You won’t be sorry, I promise.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published