Geniuses that are/were not able to read a sheet music

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Stefano G., May 21, 2015.

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  1. Stefano G.

    Stefano G. Ab alto, speres alteri quod feceris. Thread Starter

    Vangelis, Jimi Hendrix, Django Reinhardt, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Angus Young, Tony Iommi, James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine, Dimebag Darrell, Robert Johnson, and...yes: The Beatles.
    They are the first names that come to mind, but they are definitely not the only ones.
    It seems that it is not so essential to study for many years, to be able to give to the world great music ...

    What are/were great artists who are/were not able to read a score?

    "One day, while the quintet played cards, Django listened to Stephane Grappelli, Roger Chaput and Louis Vola discussing about musical scales. After a while, Django turned to Grappelli and asked curiously: What is a scale?"

  2. Monosterio

    Monosterio Forum Resident

    South Florida
    I'm just going to take a wild guess here: Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder?
  3. Picca

    Picca Forum Resident

    Modena, Italy
    PhoffiFozz and Stefano G. like this.
  4. Stefano G.

    Stefano G. Ab alto, speres alteri quod feceris. Thread Starter's true: big Luciano was not able to read a score. Maybe not everyone knows that.
  5. elaterium

    elaterium Forum Resident

    I would guess 99% of non classical and non jazz musicians cannot read musical notation. It's not necessary.
    PhoffiFozz and mark ab like this.
  6. davmar77

    davmar77 I'd rather be drummin'...

    clifton park,ny
    buddy rich if I remember correctly.
  7. Kevin j

    Kevin j The 5th 99

    Seattle Area
    Ever hear of Braille?
  8. Kevin j

    Kevin j The 5th 99

    Seattle Area
    Who needs that sheet?
  9. konut

    konut Prodigious Member. Thank you.

    Whatcom County, WA
  10. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    I'm not sure I'd call all those musicians geniuses....nor would I say that because they couldn't read standard notation that they didn't study their craft, and the work of their predecessors and peers for years. There's this notion that pop musicians who aren't conservatory trained somehow do what they do completely intuitively without work or study. But the great ones generally work just as hard on and think just as much about what they do as conservatory trained musicians, they just have a different language for talking about it and different techniques for doing it, something that's more akin to folk and oral tradition transmission or apprenticeship than conservatory training.
    eeglug, sgtmono and mw1917 like this.
  11. Arkay_East

    Arkay_East Forum Resident

    And, not being able to read does not necessarily reflect a poor understanding of theory. I can tell you what key I'm in, which scale or mode I'm using, can follow notes up and down with a choir and understand notation (whole note, quarter note, etc) but I can't sightread for guitar.
    chervokas and mmars982 like this.
  12. jbg

    jbg Forum Resident

    Irving Berlin
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  13. Maggie

    Maggie funky but chic

    Toronto, Canada
    Jason Pierce of Spiritualized famously arranged for a symphony orchestra on the Let It Come Down album by a combination of humming into a dictaphone tape recorder and plunking it out one note at a time on the piano. TBH I find the orchestrations on that album uninspired, but his other work -- with Spiritualized, with Spacemen 3, and solo -- confirms his brilliance, to me anyway.
  14. supersquonk

    supersquonk Forum Resident

    Phil Collins can't read music. Incredible, intuitive drummer nonetheless.
    Mr.Sean likes this.
  15. mmars982

    mmars982 Forum Resident

    Pittsburgh, PA
    I heard an interview with the great guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, where he said he signed up for lessons with a teacher who could teach him to read music. On the first lesson, the teacher asked him to play. After hearing how accomplished he was, the teacher said, "Get out of here!" Tommy persisted, saying, "No, I really want to learn how to do this." And the teacher told him, "You'll never use it."

    I'm a classical musician myself, so I can read, but I think there is a lot of truth to that in the popular music world (assuming, as someone already mentioned, you do know music theory).

    I think the list of artists who could read music would be much shorter. Frank Zappa is the only one that comes to mind (in the early days, he famously put session musicians who thought he was weird in their place by handing them music to read).
  16. g.z.

    g.z. Forum Resident

    Errol Garner
  17. Stefano G.

    Stefano G. Ab alto, speres alteri quod feceris. Thread Starter

    The jazz genius Art Tatum was blind, as we know; I do not know if he used the Braille method, but I can say that he is unattainable.
    Mal likes this.
  18. elaterium

    elaterium Forum Resident

    Are you sure about that? Harpo used to play chamber music with Arnold Schoenberg, Max Reger and others in L.A.
  19. notesfrom

    notesfrom Forum Resident

    NC USA
    They all were fluent in Latin, tho.
  20. Nostaljack

    Nostaljack Resident R&B enthusiast

    DC metro area
    Finally an actual genius is mentioned! Also, he used to have a lever on his upright piano that would transpose for him so he didn't have to. The way "genius" is being thrown around in this thread is pretty entertaining too.

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  21. altaeria

    altaeria Forum Resident

    I was going to say Albert Einstein, but alas he studied violin at an early age. :D
    L.P. and Stefano G. like this.
  22. SRV

    SRV Forum Resident

    Lenny Breau.

    I don't use the term lightly, but Lenny was a musical genius.
  23. Ken E.

    Ken E. Forum Resident

    New Providence NJ
    "God", as he was known, suffered from cataracts and was blind in one eye but had limited sight in the other which was improved with surgery.
    He may not have had perfect vision but he was born with perfect pitch.
    Mal and Stefano G. like this.
  24. Say It Right

    Say It Right Not for the Hearing Impaired

    Niagara Falls
    Hendrix, because the subject came up when there was discussion about working with Miles Davis. Miles didn't consider it a problem, as he's worked with other musicians, who couldn't read music. Hint: find out who they were, and there are other names for geniuses.
    dino77 likes this.
  25. seed_drill

    seed_drill Forum Resident

    Tryon, NC, USA
    Ironically, the way I was taught in school, I can read music but have essentially zero understanding of music theory. As far as I know that is still the way school's teach music. Learn 'em half a dozen major scales and teach 'em to march 8 to 10.
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