In order to make a good pianist do I really have to learn notes and play them? Since 4 years from 12 to 16 I have played music by ear all the way through. I have also watched others play and I play what they play in a day literally. God gave me this talent to where I can play music that I want to within about 4 hours.
I have fans even though I am 16 but some people that ain’t fans do not like me. Some will say “I should learn notes that is what a pianist must learn. If you don’t learn it then what you play isn’t music.” Another is ” my 7 year old brother probably can play better than you.” I don’t believe that though. My teacher Brian Froge told me this, ” that is insane Anthony, I don’t know anyone that can play the entertainer by ear like you did!” That was my first song I learned.
I have been told that but I was told by a collage student that “the most professional piano players play by ear like I do.” Do you think I should stick with playing the way I have or playing with notes?
After this post and reply was made, this video link was sent of Anthony playing:
Conrad’s Original Reply:
To your original specific question: In order to make a good pianist do I really have to learn notes and play them?
My answer would be no, depending on what your bar or definition of “good” is.
However, learning to read music will open up a whole new world for you. There is a misconception about “playing by ear” – most professional pianists read music but also “play by ear”.
In conversations people often say to me “My father is a fantastic pianist and only plays by ear, no training. Do you play by ear or read?” And my usual reply is, “Oh, I only read” – and I try to say it sheepishly so they can retain their pride for their relative.
The two sides of playing great music is reading, then interpreting and getting the music off the page. The printed music is only a representation of a performance, it is not the performance itself. The perfomance itself is a quasi mystical journey and lives somewhere in the ether. How’s that for “out there”?
It has been my experience that the more I learn, the more I realize I have YET to learn. When I know little, that’s when I think I know a lot. My guess would be you are having this experience.
When you go pro there’s a painful experience of breaking out of the bubble – and being called on what you can and cannot do.
So my advice would be that if you enjoy your music for yourself, then by all means continue on this path and enjoy it. If you want to work in the field of music then I strongly recommend you learn to read music.
Have there been great pianists in history that cannot read music? Yes, mostly in pop, ragtime and jazz styles.
Do I know piano players that do not read music? Yes, but they lose a lot of work because of it, so not good for business.
I have mentioned that there ARE famous pianists that don’t read music. But I have had hundreds (yes, hundreds) of people in my life play piano for me and exclaim the joy that they have no training and cannot read music. Not one of them was any good at all. They all played the same tripe 12 bar blues or A minor melancholy pentatonic crap. Of course when they played I told them it was good because they were so excited about their talent. Why rain on someone’s parade?
Now if the same person told me they wanted to go into music as a profession, I would have a different (more pointed) conversation with them. The more you can do – the more versatile you are – the wider net of work you can get.
Hope that helps!