Popular music acts of today who can read music

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Seerek, May 24, 2011.

  1. Seerek

    Seerek Well-Known Member

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    This may be a rather small group, but are there any current pop acts who can read music ( notes on a staff)?
  2. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

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    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.
  3. Twilight1

    Twilight1 Well-Known Member

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    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.
  4. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    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:
  5. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

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    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:
  6. PeterG

    PeterG Argle-Bargle-ist

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    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.
  7. FiveRinger

    FiveRinger Well-Known Member

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    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.
  8. KikiSashaFan

    KikiSashaFan Well-Known Member

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    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.
  9. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

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    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...)
  10. Veronika

    Veronika gold dust woman

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    Paul McCartney can't read music, and I think he did okay for himself. ;)
  11. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    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.
  12. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    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).
    Last edited: May 24, 2011
  13. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Get off my lawn

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    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.
  14. Kruss

    Kruss Well-Known Member

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    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.
  15. mila19

    mila19 New Member

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    I think to recall Pavarotti couldn't read music. He came off well anyways
  16. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

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    Thom Yorke of Radiohead can't read music.

    And not that I'm a fan, but Yanni can't either.

    Both have done quite well.

    ETA: I've always been curious about how written music came to be . . . i mean, we all have different languages, and even sign language is different from country to country. And yet musical notation is universal, so anyone from any country can read it. How did that develop? Is braille the same way?
  17. MikiAndoFan#1

    MikiAndoFan#1 Well-Known Member

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    Japanese singer Hikaru Utada plays the guitar and the piano. :)
  18. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    Modern musical notation developed out of the European system of notation of classical music, and although its use is widespread, it's not universal for all types of music in all countries/cultures.

    Braille is also not truly universal. It gets adapted for systems of writing that don't use Latin letters, and in some countries, such as China and Japan, it changes quite a bit.
  19. PeterG

    PeterG Argle-Bargle-ist

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    Lots of people can play instruments, but cannot read music.
  20. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

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    I would guess Xtina Aguilera can read music
  21. Twilight1

    Twilight1 Well-Known Member

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    Sarah McLachlan is another musician who can definitely compose/ read music. Theory is actually pretty easy once you learn the mathematics of it. Beethoven was able to continue to compose because of this.

    My sister went to school for music and she explained how Beethoven was able to continue after he went deaf and she said it is actually quite easy once you have the mathematical understanding of music composition. I just smiled and nodded. I can read music but do much better from hearing a song then playing it on the piano. From there, I can write it. I can't listen and compose to sheet.
  22. cailuj365

    cailuj365 New Member

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    Maybe I'm being optimistic, but I feel like most musicians can read music, even the popular acts.
  23. DickButtonFan

    DickButtonFan New Member

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    I read once Mariah Carey couldn't read notes.
  24. KikiSashaFan

    KikiSashaFan Well-Known Member

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    I think Jennifer Lopez has enough dance experience to be able to count music, but I doubt she can read it.
  25. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    In pop, rock, and blues, that wouldn't be true at all. Some can read chord signatures, but not full sheet music. Others can't read music at all. This doesn't necessarily make them bad musicians in any way, shape or form.

    For example, in rock guitar, it's a bit unusual, to be honest, for a rock or pop guitarist to be taught to read music. They are taught to read chord signatures, or what my sister, a guitarist, calls "tab", but not sheet music.

    From my personal experience, almost none of the rock musicians I know can read music. Many of them can read chords, but not full sheet music. Those few that can read music learned to do so earlier, if they studied a classical instrument.

    In a lot of modern forms of western music - rock, pop, jazz, blues, etc. - being able to read music isn't necessary. What's needed is to know chords, chord progressions, to play by ear, and to improvise. This is why you may recall hearing a group of musicians that haven't worked together on a song before - one person will call out a rough tempo and the key, and then they're off and playing.
  26. cailuj365

    cailuj365 New Member

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    Okay, maybe not guitarists or other instrumentalists, but singers? Like actual singers, not Britney or J.Lo (who I heard is tone deaf). How would they learn the songs they would record? Just by listening to a demo and re-singing it?

    I don't think being able to read music is that important either when it comes to overall singing/songwriting ability. I studied violin for years and became quite good, but I'm shit at music theory and wouldn't be able to compose anything. I think it's a rather separate talent.
  27. Matryeshka

    Matryeshka Well-Known Member

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    I seriously doubt that--her mother was an opera singer. Besides the awesome range she had when younger, there's quite a bit of technique in her singing voice.

    Same as Mariah Carey--not the voice quality, but the technique. I know it's odd to say technique in terms of music, but Jennifer Lopez actually has great musical technique, if not a great voice. Britney Spears is the same way. I would be totally shocked if neither of them could read music.

    Tori Amos not being able to read music is not shocking at all. She mumbles her words sometimes, her rhythm is interesting (in the best and worst ways) and her phrasing is not always great. It's not fullproof, but a good way to tell how much formal training a singer has had is by listening to the way they sing "sky" and how easy it is for you to understand what they're singing. It wouldn't shock me if Xtina Aguilera didn't read music for the same reason--not her vocal tone/quality, but her technique/phrasing is DREADFUL. Emotional quality, tone is top notch, but technically...:shuffle: If she can read music, I'll bet it's a recent acquisition.
  28. DickButtonFan

    DickButtonFan New Member

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    ^ Mariah said she doesn't read music when she was on Larry King. http://edition.cnn.tv/TRANSCRIPTS/0212/19/lkl.00.html

    CAREY: I don't read music. And my mom is this classically trained person, and I went the other way. And I think it's helped me write songs that I wouldn't have written if I were going at the technical way. Because they go, "Oh, you can't go from this chord to that chord. It's not the way you're supposed to do it."

    KING: Irving Berlin couldn't read music.

    I guess she doesn't say she can't read music, she said she doesn't write songs that way. In the interview she said she started Vision of Love on the piano.
    Last edited: May 25, 2011
  29. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    Yes. They'd listen to a demo and sing it in their own style.
  30. Ozzisk8tr

    Ozzisk8tr Well-Known Member

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    I wonder how many artists can actually read anything, be it music, their name, a cereal box?
  31. PeterG

    PeterG Argle-Bargle-ist

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    :cat:
  32. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

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    I'm no fan of Celine Dion, but I have to give the woman her props in the musical skill department. I was watching some program about her years ago, and they said that she was given the sheet music for the Titantic theme song, and then recorded it in just ONE take. Now, we can debate the merits of the song itself back and forth, but I think it's incredible that she basically looked at the sheet music once and was able to interpret it that quickly.

    I remember when she had to do it at the Oscars too, with sheet music on stage as a very last-minute stand in (for Streisand I think?). Dion was given the sheet music backstage and was able to go out on stage with it and sing it perfectly.
  33. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

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    I *could* read music, but I needed to hear the music to make sense of what those notes were. By this, I mean I could recognize it was a C sharp or B flat or whatever, knew where the hand placement would be on the flute. But I needed to hear it more than read it. It was better for me to listen than read. So for my senior year in high school, I gave up reading and focused on sound.

    So I am not sure that all people need to be able to read the music
  34. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    It sounds like it would be less bother than finding a piano to play the notes, actually. :p I can't sight-sing and I've been studying piano for years. I have to find a keyboard first and play the notes before I'd be able to sing it.

    That's awesome. :respec: Not only to be reading the notes on sight, but to know how to approach it technically. That's what vocal practice usually entails - finding the trouble spots in a piece and figure out how to conquer them.
  35. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    I wish :lol:

    You don't need to read music to be able to SHRIEEEeeeEEEEEkkKKKKKK :scream: