View Full Version : Popular music acts of today who can read music

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05-24-2011, 04:38 AM
This may be a rather small group, but are there any current pop acts who can read music ( notes on a staff)?

05-24-2011, 04:55 AM
I am pretty sure Lady Gaga can and there has to be many others. They may be packaged as dumb blondes who can sell sex to sell their music but sometimes there really is talent hidden in there.

05-24-2011, 04:59 AM
I have to agree. Yes some can't read sheet music to save their life but many can. I would say most Canadian bands/ performers have the ability. Shania Twain, Alanis Morissete, Bryan Adams, Tea Party, Tragically Hip, Avril Lavigne etc etc all have the ability to read and compose their own stuff.

Lady Gaga was actually a very different musician prior to who she is now.

05-24-2011, 05:06 AM
I actually think the ability to read sheet music doesn't mean much in terms of composing or musical ability. Tori Amos famously got into the Peabody Conservatory at the age of 5 but lost her scholarship when it was discovered she couldn't read the music - she'd been playing by ear the whole time. :lol: Well that and she refused to play classical music the way she was taught but...anyway. :P

I can sight read pretty damn well but can't play by ear or compose to save my life. :shuffle:

05-24-2011, 05:07 AM
Lady Gaga is a trained pianist so of course she can.

The majority of the musicians in a band who play an instrument will be able to read music. Those who can't are normally the more exceptionally talented ones anyway. I don't know about the vocalists.

Reading music is one thing. Actually having talent or being able to play an instrument is another. It doesn't take much talent to learn how to read the notes on a page, but it doesn't take reading notes on a page to bring out a person's talent.

Now a pop star that could analyze the form of a piece or know what a neapolitan chord is and when to use one would be something entirely surprising to me. But pop stars don't need to know music theory, either. I would just think that was cool :lol:

05-24-2011, 08:10 AM
I remember seeing a show where Olivia Newton-John was being filmed in a recording studio and was :eek: at the depth of her musical knowledge. This was back around the time of Xanadu and while I was a big fan of hers, something in me thought that she was just some pop star who chose songs through demos and then sang what she had already heard. But she definitely knew what she was talking about.

This makes me give anyone who acheives even moderate success the benefit of the doubt. My guess is that most pop stars know much more than one might ever expect.

05-24-2011, 09:19 AM
Alicia Keyes came immediately to mind along with Gaga. I will have to revisit this thread after I take a nap. There have to be quite a view.

05-24-2011, 10:39 AM
I'm sure Taylor Swift can. She usually plays either piano or guitar (or sometimes banjo) while performing, so I'm sure she can read the music to go along with it.

05-24-2011, 03:05 PM
Taylor Swift also writes a lot of her songs. If anything I have heard it suggested she is a much better instrumental musician and composer than singer (and having heard her on DWTS minus the benefits of autotune, I kinda suspect they're right...)

05-24-2011, 03:07 PM
Paul McCartney can't read music, and I think he did okay for himself. ;)

05-24-2011, 03:11 PM
Paul McCartney can't read music, and I think he did okay for himself. ;)

I believe he finally learned when writing the Liverpool Oratorio not that many years ago. But neither John or Paul read music during the Beatle years.

05-24-2011, 03:29 PM
A lot of guitarists can't truly read music. Those that were formally trained often read the chord signatures on the music charts, not the actual notes. But obviously this depends on the guitarist.

Some modern musicians in a "popular", rather than classical or jazz style, who can read music because they were trained at a school that requires them to do so: Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Gavin de Graw, John Mayer, Thomas Pridgen (the Mars Volta), Rashawn Ross (Dave Matthews Band), John Lloyd Taylor (the Jonas Brothers' band), Natalie Maines (Dixie Chicks).

Some modern musicians who had a decent amount of classical or otherwise formal musical training, and thus should be able to read music: Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Lady GaGa, Erykah Badu, Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails).

05-24-2011, 03:54 PM
Maybe I was seeing things, but the contestants on the Voice seemed to be working from charts during their mentoring sessions. By contrast, the Idol kids mostly work from their iPods and a lyric sheet. Maybe that's why a lot of performances end up a karaoke. If you only have the chart, you have to decide how to sing the piece. If you have someone else singing it, phrasing and accents are there for you to use.

Back to topic, Pink is another artist who sight reads.

05-24-2011, 07:24 PM
David Cook reads and writes music, is experienced in music arrangements. Recent songwriters who have written with him have commented on how much he knows.

I'm sure anyone who was successful in playing various instruments and arranging music would have the same experience.

05-24-2011, 08:33 PM
I think to recall Pavarotti couldn't read music. He came off well anyways