Thread subject: The Dyscalculia Forum :: Dyscalculics who are musicians or who have had any musical experience...please read!
Posted by saxysai on December 05 2007 11:04 PM
Hi guys! I'm new here. I'm so excited to have found out about this disability. I am currently looking into where to get diagnosed, but I am 99.9% certain that I definately have it.
I was intrigued that one of the symptoms is difficulty in learning an instrument and difficulty sightreading. I am a musician. I am actually working on a masters degree in music. I always wondered why I could never learn my music at the rate I should when I've been a saxophonist since I was 9 (I'm now 25!).
Dyscalculia has quickly become a subject I am absolutely passionate about. I have a bachelors in music education and I am really interested in the affect dyscalculia has on musicians.
I really want to research this in depth and hopefully write an article, and if I have enough information, maybe even a book. To do this, though, I really need contact with as many people as possible.
So, if there are any musicians here, or if you've ever had any musical experience (were ever in band/orchestra/choir, took piano lessons, absolutely anything), I would be interested in talking to you to see how our disability affects us and to discover approaches to help students in music classes to be able to learn to sightread and play our instruments better.
So, if you can help me, please e-mail me!
Posted by Toe_Nail on December 06 2007 05:36 AM
Hi saxysai and welcome to the forum :)
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Edited by Toe_Nail on October 27 2008 08:20 PM
Posted by Kathy on December 06 2007 08:47 AM
I was Opera trained through The Central West Conservatorium of Music, followed by the Sydney Con followed by London Trinity College. I have written a book (I tend to say this quietly to you guys as I consider myself definately not a writer!)- The title is
"How to yodel while standing on your head in a toilet: is as easy as living in a world without numbers"
- OK deep breath, soon to be released
as it is at the final Proof stage at the moment
at Traffords Publishing House in Canada.:)
I write about the fact that I was not able to find where I was in an Opera Score -because I couldn't read music, to be precise anything below middle c and basically anything about G-I could never work out what a flat was or sharp and forget what all the wiggley things they put in - I would memorise all my musical scores, geat-until rehersals and like Toe-nail "lets take it from bar 53- Kathy you lead us in- Of course as soon as they played the bars I knew where I was although of course not always.:(
I would have loved to continue on with my studies and was encouraged to do so, but after many years I became anxious and finally the brain was not so accurate at remembering and I could forget whole sections. Pitch perfect I can transpose anything into "C" but I also had to contend with the learning of languages side of things!
Interestingly enough when I watched ABC -Operatunity- over here in Australia - I don't know if you have that programme its all about ammature singers making it big, the conductor of the Sydney Symphony orchestra Brian Onion went to school with my husband. -Sorry I digressed. But Evonne Kenny said that reading music was not such a great problem, well if I could meet her I would certainly say - the ability to do so is very beneficial to a music student!.
In my book it tells about my musical life and how my dyscalculia helped me and hindered me. It also shows me dancing up a storm in a Chorus line (The musical) top hat and tails tapping away but- completely out of step!! makes for some fun times.:p
Cheers for now
Posted by Toe_Nail on December 06 2007 05:18 PM
hopsonk, you are so modest... You have written a book, wow! :)
Edited by Toe_Nail on October 27 2008 08:21 PM
Posted by Fox McCloud on December 08 2007 08:26 PM
Ah I have a long long story on music and not being able to play it...
When I was in year 3, about the age of 8-9 or something, I couldn't play anything properly, I couldn't get the hang of playing a recorder or flute when we were practising it in year 3 and I couldn't read notes, I still can't do it properly.
My teacher, (I know this is harsh but she's one of the people out of the very small group of people I've met that I actually want to have something bad happen to them...) she used to make me stay after school every day for an hour to make me do my times tables real fast and so that I could try and play recorders and she wasn't "Oh well, you tried, keep going, you'll get better soon" and no, she would shout and scream at me for not being able to do it, and I was only 8 years old ffs...
Even after that I still got taught but couldn't play music well, and I still couldn't read notes, no matter how hard I tried to memorise them, I either didn't have enough time to practise them before we stopped being taught music or I just didn't get taught properly or even ask, I seem to have a problem of not asking for help, no idea why.
However, I'd love to be able to play something a little less modern, I was thinking violin, I'd love to be able to play one, the only problem is I never got round to doing it and I might be able to actually, I had problems with keyboards and pianos because I had to look at the sequence then look at the marked keys. Violins don't require that in a way. I guess when I go to university or have a break I'll have a practise and learn to read notes properly.:)
Posted by not stupid on December 09 2007 11:16 PM
HI SAXYSAI . Going to try and explain this the best I can and hope it makes sense .
My parents always wanted me to be musically inclined and enrolled me for violin lessons when I was in primary school. Something just didn't connect when I was trying to read sheet music, however playing by ear the difference was noticed straight away. I believe to this day that the method of teaching us read sheet music was not explained as well as it might have been considering our age,
the violin and I parted company at the end of the first year, a never to be repeated duet !
I was more interested in a guitar or a wind instrument. The Beatles were making it big in the uk at that time and nearly everyone in our street had a guitar, not me.That was pay back for not getting on with the violin.
A neighbour had a flute on which I could more than happily turn out a recognisable tune without sheet music, but no instruments were forthcoming during my childhood.
In my late 40's I bought a second hand flute and quite impressed myself with the sound I was producing, doing a fair impersonation of Jethro Tull, and decided to spend out on lessons and learn properly.
Reading sheet music proved to be a problem at first unntil I stopped associating it with music. I taught myself to read dots as key positions and no more. It worked and nobody knew any different. My teacher was pleased with my progress and even thought I should be playing in a local orchestra but to pass my grade one exam first.
OH DEAR that word EXAM hit me like a ton of bricks for some reason and come the day I think I would have done better playing a kazoo !
My method of reading music flew out the window and I was playing the set pieces from memory. Yes the examiners did spot it.
What instruments do I play now ?
flute , and clarinet ,and I also play guitar and bass.which I prefer playing in a jazz/ blues style. Its all played by ear although I can read the music.I play for my owm pleasure but have sat in on a few gigs with a mates band.
Posted by Nicola on December 11 2007 09:32 AM
I learned the recorder at school and did have one of those Eureka! moments when it clicked that the dots corresponded to the letters which my teacher had kindly pencilled in above them. So that was okay. I taught myself to play the piano when my parents bought one and I just went by the sound of what sounded “right” and what didn’t. So I’d make up chords and accompianments to common songs – you know, arpeggios to Silent Night, that kind of thing. :)
Then my parents sent me for piano lessons and that’s where things went really pear-shaped. Learning to read music.
I could cope with anything round about Middle C – up to Upper C. But anything above/below that point, outwith ledger lines, like Toe-Nail says – eeek! Like her I’d count and write the name of the note – which used to really, really annoy my piano teacher who used to accuse me of not practising. And the opposite was true – I WOULD practise, but the only way I could make any headway would be to write the note letter beside the note and then practise until the notes/chords etc were in my brain and I didn’t need the sheet music any more. In fact, that’s how I got through piano pieces – learned the pieces off by heart (it did mean I didn’t have a very wide repertoire mind you, but on the plus side, I could play the pieces without needing any music in front of me!)
But that (learning off by heart) meant that if someone said something like – let’s take it 12 bars in – I’d have absolutely no idea where we were.
And there’d be absolutely no chance of transposing between key, none at all – took me all my time to learn a piece in one key, never mind another. :o
And because I couldn’t sight-read, I’d no chance of picking up any rhythm – I was too busy concentrating on the notes to start worrying about the beat! :D
Anyway, I have to say that being forced to learn sheet music killed my love of playing the piano. I could have muddled along quite happily, taking my time and grafting my way through pieces I wanted to play, writing the names of the notes beside them and finding the rhythm myself, but it was basically ruined by being made to feel as though playing music was an endurance and a struggle rather than something to be embraced and enjoyed. :(
Posted by Chris Bogardus on December 12 2007 02:56 PM
Mainstream Education has accepted the use of colored highlighter markers as a tool for making music more readable. Do they Work???
Posted by Nicola on December 12 2007 06:41 PM
I haven't heard of that - is it just a US thing? How does it work?
Posted by Toe_Nail on December 13 2007 05:46 AM
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Edited by Toe_Nail on October 27 2008 08:22 PM
Posted by palmettogirl on January 10 2008 01:58 AM
I have played Oboe all through out middle school and high school. I had trouble reading music. I had trouble reading note names if they were close together on the staff. I couldn't read anything above or below the staff on Leger lines, so I always had to label them. I also couldn't count measures, remember fingerings very well, and I couldn't read rhythms very well, (I usually had to hear it first and play by ear.) If I could manage to play something one minute, the next it sounded as if I had never seen it before in my life. I can't sight read, period. I lost count when resting for significant periods of time, and totally didn't understand time signatures. I have a great ear and was always in tune, however.
Posted by EWF on January 16 2008 04:07 PM
I know it might seem baby like but this works.
Have someone mark each piano key with a letter for the note. (sharps and flats come later)
Then use music that has a letter marked on each note.
If you can't buy it you might have to have someone mark everything for you.
Those letters are not nearly as scary as notes. :)
Posted by saxysai on January 22 2008 05:02 PM
Wow so many great replies. I'm sorry for my late reply to all this, but I very much appreciate so many great responses. I'll be PMing all of you. This is really going to help me!!!
Posted by Laura on January 23 2008 12:19 AM
Hey a little late but i have played the recorder in promary school and i just could not for the life of me understand sight reading. My mate who was very kind use to sit and write the letters under the notes for me. My music teacher couldn't understand why i didn't go to practice one day and it was becasue my mate was off and no-one would be there to write the letters under the music for me. I took up singing in high school and was a aoprano which i loved but still i can not read music. I know the lines go Every Good Boy Deserves Cereal but i have no clue about reading this :@
I use to get dead frustrated, haven't sung in a while and my recorder has been given to a younger cousin but i would still love to understand sight reading.
Posted by pinky75 on February 15 2008 04:58 AM
Hey! I am not (yet) diagnosed with dyscalculia, but I exhibit most signs...music being a slight exception. I started playing piano at age 9 and the only thing I remember having trouble with was using the right fingers on the right keys. Sometimes it would even be labeled on the page to use the 3rd or 4th finger on a certain note and I would just make it all up as I went. It drove my teacher nuts!
I started clarinet in 6th grade, and it initially came easily because I already knew all the music fundamentals. As my band years went on, I was awful at sight-reading and had zero sense of rhythm, but once I heard something, I could play it back and that's what kept me first chair. Marching band was absolute torture! Our shows were extremely complicated, and we were expected to find our spots with these cards full of this code made up of tiny numbers, and then memorize hundreds of sequences. Oh, and stay in step, play an instrument, and not get lost.
I didn't know about dyscalculia then, and all the trouble and frustration I went through is all beginning to make sense. I have zero sense of direction, if I haven't been somewhere in more than 2 weeks, I need directions all over again to find it, I don't do well with organized sports (I ran cross country. I excelled because there were so few rules!), and don't even get me started on what math class is like for me. I'm so glad I found this website.
Posted by AnnetteS on February 18 2008 09:25 PM
Throughout primary school I was in the school choir, sang with my school orchestra and at the age of ten was chosen with one other person from my choir to sing with a very well known orchestra in my city along with other hand picked children. I learnt to sing from the sound of the notes alone and completely ignored musical notes as I did not understand them. It was and still is one of my biggest achievements to date that I sat through the whole of the nut cracker listening to the amazing classical music wondering how all these musicians are reading these strange musical notes to play music and why they did not record the tune in their head like I did?
I also attempted to learn the violin but was "sacked" by my music teacher because I forgot my music book and kept on losing the key to my violin case!
I also adore the piano as the sound soothes and relaxes me and I would still love to learn how to play it one day without having to read music - after all how did Stevie wonder learn how to play the piano??
Posted by Laura on February 18 2008 09:56 PM
Hey from primary school i played the recorder i was unable to read the notes so my best friend use to write the letters under the notes. Then i started high school and sang in the choir, still unable to read music. Then when i hit the 3rd year at high school i took Standard Grade Singing and sat an exam in it in my 4th year and received the 2nd highest grade for my singing. In my 5th year i took Singing again and passed with a B which is the 2nd highest grade. Again in my 6th and final Year at school i took Singing. This time i passed with the highest grade of Higher Singing Module. I am so pleased with this grade. My problem with music is that i am naturally a shy person and it took me 6 whole years to learn to singing infront of people. I was asked to perform with The Dundee Chorale Union which is a major thing to do. It was an one off concert and i was part of it. I am a Mezzo Soprano. I love singing and wish i could still do it but as i got older i lost my singing voice. One day though i will take singing back up.
Posted by Laura on February 18 2008 09:58 PM
Opps sorry forgot i already wrote on this thread just read the thread there and didn't see mines doh!!! :)
Posted by tr3slunas on May 08 2008 03:34 PM
I played recorder from a young age and believed I was reading the music in front of me when I used to play to the school until the piano teacher pointed out I was playing her piano solos as well. I then went on to do some school music exams and got stuck on being able to name notes and place their position in the bars- I realised then that I could read and understand music but when playing i had to convert it like a language in my head which took too long- however my brain was compensating in the mean time- I only needed to hear the tune a couple of times and could play it straight off. I took up violin later on and was set exercises but could never complete them- I used to come in and ask the teacher to play the tune for me first and then i could complete the exercise no problems- i dropped out soon though as she told me I did not practise enough however i can play much complex pieces than the standard i was taught by listening to them- i do have some difficulty coordinating the bow with the strings but thats if i concentrate. I play to myself in stolen moments now but i love doing it- singing too
Posted by Lynx on May 14 2008 03:15 PM
I am 19, I am teaching myself bass and 6-string guitar, but finding it difficult. I've always found playing an instrument very difficult.
I had recorder lessons at school when I was 8 but I quit after about four lessons because the teacher was going too fast, and I couldnt keep up. Also I was having difficulty reading the notes and couldnt remember the finger sequence, so I just got really frustrated and left the class.
I learned harmonica for a year when I was 11, but same problem, couldnt read the notes, and just felt really useless all the time, I never really got anywhere with it.
Went to recorder lessons again in year 7 and 8, this teacher was more sympathetic though and even though I didnt know I had a learning disability at the time, but she seemed to notice that I was having problems with keeping up and taught me n my own a couple of times to help me catch up. I caught up with the rest of the class after a while but never mastered reading notes and always had to write the letter of the note underneath the symbol. When I played I never used the symbols or letters I just remembered the finger sequence and the timing.
I'm very good at keeping to a rhythm I just have major problems with remembering the names of particular notes. I also find that once I have played the tune a couple of times I get the hang of it, but I'd don't think I'd go back to being taught by a formal teacher as I just prefer to go at my own pace and play what I want to play.
I also went to a singing group when I was in year 5 and I really enjoy singing.
So yeah, I self-teach, and the stuff I can play I'm getting rather good at.
Edited by Lynx on May 14 2008 03:16 PM
Posted by yellowquestion on May 29 2008 01:29 PM
I have played flute for allmost 8 years now, I have sung in several school choirs and I attend a special school with a selective music program- and I love it! music is beautiful (but u allready knew that;)). I have always been ok about spacial relationships, I was the 1st person in my class to get net squares (which surprised me,the class and my teacher lol). I guess that's why I love music. music is all interconnected, it flows, everything gets connected in my head so I can understand it, that's the problem with no's, they just sit there. The only thing I have problems with is intervals. I can't hear the distance between just 2, random notes. I just can't seem to do it. those notes do nothing for me, they just sit there just like numbers do and expect me to do something with them. I can hear melodic dictations though, when it's in a whole tune. when things are interconnected, and can form a mental picture I don't seem to mind so much. :)
hope that helps
Posted by justfoundout on May 31 2008 02:50 PM
Dear Lynx and yellowquestion,
I've just finished reading your entries. I ask forgiveness of the entire forum that I'm going to reprint here an entry that I just got through posting to a very old (2006) thread. After I posted it, it occurred to me to do a word search of "music". That's when I found the two of you.
Before I re-paste my entry, I want very much to respond to the question yellowquestion had on "intervals". My childhood piano teacher had never mentioned "intervals" to the best of my recollection, but as an adult, I took a few lessons from a Russian concert pianist. She told us to think of a song we knew well to identify each of the "intervals", and this worked very well for me. I was able to identify each of them correctly. Even the one that was dissonant, I was able to identify, though I had no "song" to which to relate it. I did this by mentally running through all the "songs", and since it didn't match any of my songs, I knew it was "thirds" (this is the name of the dissonant interval, isn't it?) The intervals I learned to identify were always starting with the lower of the two notes and then proceeding to the higher of the two notes. I didn't get to continue my lessons, so I didn't gather together any songs containing those two notes going in the opposite direction. I was very proud of myself for the accomplishment of being able to "hear" the intervals, especially since I was learning it as an adult.
Well, again, my apologies for recycling the post that I just posted on an old thread. Here it is:
Dear Darwin and eoffg,
I see that the last post on this thread was 9/6/06, so I'm entering a time-warp to be posting here now. But the themes were too close to my heart to pass this up. Maybe one of you will search the forum from time to time and find me here.
I took piano lessons for ten years, from the time I was five years old. I wasn't encouraged to "play by ear". I practiced an hour a day, by decree. During the hour that other children were playing outside after school, I had to practice my hour. After I finished practicing, I would go outside to an empty street. Everyone else was having supper. I would practice the same mistakes over and over. When I was 15 years old, my father bought me a Steinway Grand piano. I guess he hadn't noticed that I was still playing at a second grade level. The three or four songs that I could play by memory sounded pretty good. And I could read music and play all right, until I got under stress. So, of course, as soon as I would play a song before an audience, all the sour notes made their appearance. When I made mistakes playing at our religious meeting, my mother told me how badly I had embarrassed her and that she wouldn't allow me to play there any more if I wasn't going to stop making mistakes.
Now, many years have passed. I recently took "Fundamentals of Music" at my community college and enjoyed it. Aced the course. Got an "A". Have a nice teacher. But I still have to count the lines and spaces to figure out which note I'm seeing, especially in the bass clef.
Do any more of my dyscalculic buddies have a 'music reading' story?
End of recycled post-
Bye yellowquestion and Lynx,
Edited by justfoundout on May 31 2008 02:55 PM
Posted by hoobit on May 31 2008 05:13 PM
justfoundout – your post reminded me of an incident, lo, these 20-some-odd years ago, now. At the time, my son was in 5th grade…and his class was learning how to play the recorder during their bi-weekly music lessons. The recorder was a lovely little thing—all yellow plastic and all. He brought that thing home, squeaked and squawked on it, and eventually got—through (seemingly) endless
trial and error—to where he could play the children’s ditty: “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Knowing that he had to learn to play the instrument, our family listened patiently as he practiced and practiced on it; we rejoiced (and were relieved!) when he finally mastered his (and as it turned out, his only) song on it. Quite an accomplishment, considering how difficult it was for him to get the fingering down so the sounds that came out were recognizable as an actual melody with which everyone was familiar. It took him well
over a week to get the song down pat, but get it down pat, he did. We were all proud of, and for, him.
And then I got a call from his music teacher: Would I please go up to his school to have a conference with her—it was urgent! (Aiii – you can imagine the thoughts running through my mind!) I went to see her the following day. It seems as if my son was failing the music class…he couldn’t play the recorder! All of the other
students had learned how to play it…they were all taking the music sheets she passed out to them, reading the notes, and were all playing their recorders to beat the band (pardon the pun.) They were also
taking any music sheets she passed out and were able to sing the songs written. He, she said, had a “G_d-given voice that was one of the most beautiful she’d ever heard” but he would not sing off of the sheets. She wondered why he didn’t—he just “didn’t seem to put forth the effort,” she said. And he was failing the class because of it. I assured her that, as far as I
knew, he was
trying, and told her about his hours and hours and hours of practice on the recorder, etc.… She was a nice lady, and seemed concerned about my son really ‘making his way’ in music.
That evening, at dinner, our family was discussing the meeting I’d had with the music teacher. The discussion was breezy and lighthearted (we’ve never been of the opinion that coming down heavy on something that’s not working (when every effort is made to get it to work) is too smart…it just makes the situation worse.) My elder son (the “math whiz,” the one to whom math and foreign language comes as naturally as breathing and who will tell anyone, in a heartbeat, “my brother is the smartest person I’ve ever
known”) said: “I can just hear it now… “Mr. ______, we’re sorry, you can’t graduate from high school because you can’t play the recorder; Mr. _____, we’re sorry, you can’t get your PhD because you can’t play the recorder; Mr. ______, we’re sorry, we can’t award you the Nobel Prize because you can’t play the recorder.”
We all laughed at the very notion of my younger son’s not being able to play the recorder being a ‘stop’ to him really soaring in academics and life. Little did we know how prophetic those words of my elder son were, though. (at least as far as the hs diploma goes.)Although we already knew that my ‘math retard’ son was having extreme difficulty in math, we had never heard of “dyscalculia” nor did we, obviously, know any of the ‘red flags’ that are part and parcel of the possible-LD’s investigation and its eventual diagnosis...not being able to read music notes being one of the many possible
We know those ‘red flags’ now, and are slowly putting the whole puzzle of “what” his particular ‘brand’ of dyscalculia is -and means- to his functioning in a math-using world. He still can’t play the recorder or read a lick of musical notation (he can, though, well-follow tabs)….but he plays a mean, kick-arse bass. He’ll have to post his personal experiences with his music and his band…I’m just the keeper and re-teller of the ‘history’. m.
----edited to clarify about the prophetic part of the hs diploma. We still wait with hope for the PhD and the Nobel. ;)-----
Edited by hoobit on May 31 2008 05:31 PM
Posted by Antony on May 31 2008 06:23 PM
I am in the process of being diagnosed with dyscalculia... however, i am a musician, not in the typical sense... but i make contemporary music using computers, drum machines and keyboards etc... i'm not classically trained in music whatsoever, and i failed music in school....subsequently, I have just secured a record deal...so, it proves...that the old school/education system is shit..
you may goto to school to learn so you can earn a living, but with self-education you can make a fortune!:p
Posted by justfoundout on June 01 2008 03:28 AM
Dear Hoobit and Antony,
Loved your story, Hoobit. You made me laugh out loud again.
Antony, when I write a song, maybe you can help me know what "time" it's in and where to put the bars on the measures?
I read a different site on the computer today. It was awful. Someone who is good at math said very rude things about people who aren't. I didn't write anything on their blog. I've written a lot on this site in the past few days, and have really enjoyed everyone's stories and support. I hope that no one will be offended if I quote here just one small Scripture. I won't even put any comment about it. I'll just quote the Scripture all by itself. (First Corinthians) 1 Corinthians Chapter 4, verse 7: "For who makes you to differ from another? Indeed, what do you have that you did not receive? If, now, you did indeed receive [it], why do you boast as though you did not receive [it]?"
Good night, my dear new friends,
Edited by justfoundout on June 01 2008 03:35 AM
Posted by betzeeboston on August 21 2009 04:58 PM
I grew up playing piano, and I believe I am Dyscalculic. I always found it easier to count and do math in school if I heard the numbers as syllables in my head almost like a beat. I would also tap my pencil on the number itself and count. By counting the number of "beats" it helped me remember the numbers better, and by doing so was able to do math better. (Not that I did math very well at all)
Posted by scrapheapchallenge on September 07 2009 03:55 PM
I played recorder (badly) at school, I also can't read music, which was a bit of a problem as I could (more or less) play the piano (I have a very musical family) and managed to get grade 1 piano, however the marking sheet is hilarious - top marks for everything until it gets to sight reading - which must really have confused the examiner as the mark was low enough to drag the average down to a 2 marks below the "merit" pass rate!
My piano teacher's instructions to me before the exam, knowing my blind spot (I'd spend hours going over a piece of music beforehand usually, carefully working out each note and pencilling it in underneath) were: "try to work out the first note, then when the notes go up, go up, and when they go down, go down, do your best and good luck"!
Needless to say, I never went any further with the piano lessons and quit after that.
My dad is a fantastic guitarist and has put together a few bands in his travels around the world, but he can't read music either. One big difference though, he is not dyscalculic - he is fantastic at maths, and shows NONE of the other symptoms of dyscalculia at all (and never understood mine). He just can't read music. Odd that.
Posted by justfoundout on September 07 2009 04:17 PM
It's me again. You'll see, if you 'back up' on this Thread, that it was one of the first Threads on which I posted, only days after joining this forum last year in June. So, really, my posts about my musical (dis-?) ability have mostly been here waiting, all this time, for you to come and give this Thread more life!
In the time since my having posted here, other members have written about their 'music reading' disability along the way. But over in Hidden Talents (in case you haven't found that already), do go and listen to the folk band that includes our member, Dulcy. They play and sing (with harmony) a whole song, all the way through, and it's great. Let me know if you don't find it. I'll hunt for it and send you the link to that specific spot on the forum. - jus'
Edited by justfoundout on September 07 2009 04:22 PM
Posted by dhakiyya on September 07 2009 11:06 PM
I can play music by ear, I taught myself to play flageolet entirely by ear, I used to play electric guitar by ear althouhg I studied some guitar with written music in the beginning (chords plus singing) but I never actualy read the music, just learned the tune from hearing it sung by others and kind of following the chords but I could usually hear from the music which chord it should be. I had piano lessons that were torture because I had so much trouble with written music and fingering and the teacher was really pedantic about correct fingering too. However eventually my parents changed my piano teacher and I explained my difficulties to the new piano teacher who said that I should have been taught by the suzuki method (not that I can recall what it was) but it suits me better, presumably it has much more emphasis on playing by ear. When it came to exams, after seeing just how bad I was a sight reading, her response was, "well I think the best thing is just to accept you'll fail the sight reading and try to get enough marks everywhere else to make up for it" and she also explained that she once had a student who refused to even play the sight reading in an exam and she still got 5 marks just for sitting there refusing to touch the piano, she she said I should get more than 5 marks for attempting to play it.
When it came to playing guitar in a band, I would learn songs by listening to the tape/cd of the original and working out the chords etc from that. I know how guitar tablature works, but I can't relate the numbers in the tablature to music. It was always easier to just buy the CD and listen to it. Everyone thought that was rather odd, but accepted it. I would even figure out the bassline and both the lead and rhythm guitar parts and teach those to others in the band, and I could work out both the lead and backing vocals and teach those too. But read guitar music??? my brain crashes. For classical piano I got up to grade six, and I used both the music and knowing how it should sound to learn, that way I know roughly what the notes are in advance but the written music kind of clarifies it, it also means I'm not reading every note, just the ones I can't figure out from knowing the music by ear. It took me a very long time to learn any piano piece though because actually learning the notes well enough to begin to actually learn to play it properly (as opposed to trying to decipher written music) and I failed grade seven and decided not to reattempt it, because the amount of time it took for me to learn a piece of piano music is more than is allowed from the time they publish the exam pieces for that year to the final date allowed for the exam. When I did grade 7 first time I took the exam at the last possible time so couldn't retake it without learning new pieces.
Posted by dhakiyya on September 07 2009 11:07 PM
Just to add, when I was diagnosed with dyslexia I put my inability to read music down to that.... it is interesting that it seems to be more linked to dyscalculia which I have most symptoms of but wasn't diagnosed with (all the symptoms were lumped in with dyslexia when I was diagnosed with that)
Posted by justfoundout on September 07 2009 11:39 PM
I've been trying to find someone to play a piano duet with. If you know of a good piano duet, we could each learn a part, and then combine those parts on the internet. I suppose that whoever plays the melody should 'go first'. Then with that recording, the other person could 'play along' and record the two together. I can read music,... well, in my 'count the lines and spaces' way,... but I can read. Let me know? - jus'
Posted by scrapheapchallenge on September 08 2009 12:20 PM
I used to play by ear too. In my grade 1 piano exam I had learned the set pieces by heart and the music in front of me wasn't relevant, I'm not sure if the examiner noticed that I didn't look at it as I played! He did look very shocked during the sight reading section though.
Posted by justfoundout on September 09 2009 12:26 AM
You almost made me laugh out loud (in my college computer room) when you said, "He did look very shocked during the sight reading section though."
When I was small, 6 years old, and again when I was 7 years old, my piano teacher had me enter 'auditions'. It seems like I got a little pin (broach) for State, and another year, both a State and a National,... I'll have to sort through my little jewelry box and hope that they are still there. When I was 6, the judge wrote, "A real little artist." But since my music teacher didn't permit any ad-libing, and since I had such a hard time reading music, I never really 'florished' as a musician. I think that if I were around the right group of people, the musical part of my brain might still have some 'hope'. As an adult, I took lessons from a Russian concert pianist (who was also a friend), and I was learning Number One of Rachmininov. (I'm sorry, but I've forgotten the proper name of that piece.) I really liked it, but I didn't get to finish learning it under her instruction. I have enormously long fingers, so I can make all the 'reaches', but I'm only 5'3",... sounds like a monkey, doesn't it? - jus'
Edited by justfoundout on September 09 2009 04:26 AM
Posted by mathmustdie on September 09 2009 04:11 AM
I've played violin for more than 8 years but I never was able to progress like the rest of the people in my orchestra classes. I could read the notes but I had problems with keeping count, tempo, figuring out the right finger positions etc and would get kind of mixed up during super fast songs...it was like it took too long for me to register the notes. My first orchestra teacher taught us to read the notes by numbers instead of letters but when I went to high school the teacher would name the notes by letters like A B C on whatever the string was instead of, for example "1 on G". It was hard for me to adjust. I would depend greatly on playing by ear, using my limited knowledge of notes and watch the other violinists play.
My orchestra teacher at my jr high was encouraging even though I wasn't the best player but my high school teacher was one of those people who believe you're born with talent or your not and if you aren't perfect then you should just give up. After figuring out my mishaps during practice room sessions my high school orchestra teacher basically labeled me as damaged goods and I was stuck in the 6th chair most of the time. I like to think that I wasn't such a horrid player to deserve my teacher's looks of disgust...but who knows.
Posted by justfoundout on September 09 2009 04:32 AM
I identify with you. I wasn't a bad piano player either, and though, to her credit, my (childhood) private piano teacher did her best not to show it, through the years, her disappointment couldn't help but 'seep' out. Music to her was such a 'consuming fire', so 'enthralling', that she couldn't comprehend anyone not having that same attraction to practicing the piano that she had. My lack of progress must have been difficult for her to bear.
And I also identify with you on having to change from one method of hearing the notes called out to another. I had learned ABC, but when I started playing piano and singing with a group of Koreans, everything was do, re, mi. Now "do", I got! That's C. But to know the others, I'd have to start at the beginning and 'count them off'. :( - jus'
Edited by justfoundout on September 09 2009 04:35 AM
Posted by dhakiyya on September 09 2009 04:30 PM
I've been trying to find someone to play a piano duet with. If you know of a good piano duet, we could each learn a part, and then combine those parts on the internet. I suppose that whoever plays the melody should 'go first'. Then with that recording, the other person could 'play along' and record the two together. I can read music,... well, in my 'count the lines and spaces' way,... but I can read. Let me know? - jus'
Hi, that's a really good idea, but I don't have a piano or access to one, I haven't played piano since I left home. I did have an electric keyboard but I gave it to someone before I moved out of the UK. I hope someone else would like to join in with you though! there are other pianists on this thread... *looks around*
Posted by squeakymonster on November 30 2010 09:49 PM
Hey Saxi, I know this thread is from a few years ago, but it definitely stood out to me. You see, I'm a self-diagnosed dyscalculic who is majoring in music education. I'm an orch-dork. I have my fair share of challenges. Rhythm is not always easy for me. Without blaming my first orchestra teacher, I do think she had something to do with that. She never taught us note-reading or rhythm. She wrote the name of the note, and a dash would tell us how long to play the note. My second teacher had to teach us to note-read (again, it took me a little longer, she had me come in after school to work with me one-on-one) and about rhythm. I think it was she that actually got me a firm foundation for my musical education.
I mix up notes on my scales if I try to play them from memory. I struggle to memorize material, but if I work on it for a few months, I can usually do it. I know how many sharps or flats are in a given scale, but keeping the finger patterns strait is a bit confusing some times.
Actually, I like fast songs. My problem with rhythm seems to be I rush a LOT!! To me, a slow piece is harder. Maybe because I'm a violinist... You know what they say, violinists like to speed. ;)
Anyway, hope that gives you some insight. If you need more info, let me know.
Posted by okmusik on December 08 2010 06:01 PM
I am a professional musician with my Master's Degree in percussion. I definitely have Dyscalculia (I was tested and diagnosed with ADD and an unnamed Math Learning Disability shortly after I finished undergrad). I am intrigued because I have many troubles in math but I excell in music. Everyone says percussionists need to be good at math! Well, I'm not. But I can process very complex physical movements without trouble, and my hearing and understanding of sequences of numbers is just fine. Musically, my dyscalculia comes into play in two major ways: MUSIC THEORY (not aural skills), and having to compute polyrhythms. I also have trouble understanding more complex relationships between metric modulations.
Anyway! Taking ADD medication (Adderall XR) has siginificantly improved my musical abilities. Now I can practice for more than 15 minutes, and I can get a lot more done in a shorter amount of time. I can also grasp logic much more easily, since the medication helps information stay in my head for a longer period of time. I can focus in enough to figure out how to do things.
I have severe trouble figuring out cardinal directions, and it is very easy for me to get lost. It takes me FOREVER to do math problems (or in music theory, voice leading), because unless I have the directions on how to compute an answer directly in front of me and I follow them pedantically, I can't get through them.
However, it is easy for me to figure out time signatures, tempo markings, etc. and I can physically execute very complex rhythms.
As far as sight-reading goes...I am GREAT at sightreading and playing rhythms, but I have always been terrible at sightreading NOTES. Only through years and years of practice and experience am I able to sight-read.
That's my music story.
Any other musicians find their dyscalculia struggles in music theory??
Posted by justfoundout on December 08 2010 06:14 PM
Hi, okmusik. I enjoyed your post. You mentioned "having to compute polyrhythms", and I guess that's what I most want to comment on/ask about.
I'm very poor at 'multitasking', especially in the job world, and I have a slow processing speed. People who aren't really musicians are impressed with my piano-playing. ;) But there's always been one area that I puzzled over before learning about dyscalculia, and have still been fascinated with since getting my diagnosis two years ago,... and that area is 'polyphonia'. Yeah, like Bach's two and three-voice pieces.
When I lived in South America, I took lessons from a tremendously qualified and gifted Russian concert pianist. This is one of the amazing things that an American mediocre musician gets to do when living in a small-fish-bowl place. I briefly studied theory side-by-side with an extremely gifted student, who went on to Juliard. She could play beautiful 'polyphonia', effortlessly. Although I'd played piano from 5 years old, I couldn't do this. (And 'jazz' just plain annoys me.)
What I've come to believe is that, since I can not 'go back and forth' quickly between the two sides of my brain, this is the reason that I can't play the 'two voices' (much less the 'three voices') of Bach. I sound pretty good when I stay within my range of ability.
Nice to make your acquaintance. There's more to my story, of course,... as I'm sure there is to yours. - jus'
Edited by justfoundout on December 08 2010 06:15 PM
Posted by squeakymonster on December 08 2010 06:26 PM
Okmusik, yes, I too struggle with music theory. The semesters I have to take it, I have to reduce my overall course load to deal with that one class. SO frustrating!! I also have to use tutors to survive. However, it is nice to see someone who made it through the program and live to tell about it! :P
Posted by AnimalHugger on December 18 2010 02:13 AM
How interesting! Here's my story:
I am not a musically inclined person, period. I don't really have an ear for music, but my parents wanted me to learn an instrument when I was in my early teens. I attempted the flute, but didn't get very far at all. The reason was that I also had trouble reading sight music. I understood what the notes meant, but understanding the lengths each was supposed to be held (8th notes and the like) confused me and I could never seem to get the tempo right. Beyond that, I really had to struggle when it came to reading the notes quickly enough - I had to practice twice as much as my fellow flute players before I could move through the piece at an acceptable pace. I HATED starting a new piece as a group, because I would always be left behind. Counting the measure was difficult, too - the counting took too much of my concentration, and I couldn't focus on the other aspects of my playing at the same time. I stopped playing at the end of my first year...I enjoyed it, but I practiced so much trying to master pieces while my friends in the class (who were all younger) were far ahead of me in understanding and accuracy. Ah, well...
I'd love to read the finished work on this when you're done...Sounds like a great book!
Posted by SMSurla on December 27 2010 09:41 PM
I played the clarinet in middle school for two years and again for two years in high school. In middle school I could kinda read the notes. I didn't give them names but associated what holes were covered for particular notes. Those first two years they notes primarily stayed between the printed lines and were no shorter than quarter notes. I did ok reading music.
In high school I was thrust into the marching band because the teacher wanted a large band and found out I'd had some prior experience. Needless to say, the music was MUCH more complicated. There were all these sharps and flats that I didn't know how to play and notes were a LOT shorter and just more complicated. I soon figured out that, if I just faked it the first few times the band played, I would be able to play it. Somewhat. I would just not really blow on the notes I didn't know. ;)
We did the halftime shows for the football team which meant a lot of counting and playing. I often found I didn't actually PLAY all that much when I was out on the field. ESPECIALLY during actual performances. All my attention was on being in the right place at the right time. I don't think I ever really counted as much as just tried to stay in step with everyone and keep my line straight. I was often called out by the band major for all the mistakes that I made. Oh that I could go back and tell all of them off. Why I stayed for two years I'll never know.
I have a guitar at home now and I want so badly to play it, but I've not bothered yet. I'm thinking I'm gonna crank up a youtube video and see if I can follow along... ;)
Posted by Motu on December 29 2010 04:19 AM
I love music,but could never play it.But I taught myself to play saxophone and bass guitar.I can play the instruments because it's mechanical and physical,we are good at that.I could read music,but the timing stuff was totally lost on me - understanding what the timing value of the notes meant was meaningless,like algebra.I just played by ear...as far as how long to hold a note.I can play a song,but can't play with anyone else - the timing thing comes in and I can't do 2 things at once...my brain just freezes,like someone just asked me to give change.