Over the past few days I’ve encountered (or rather had to face) a rather large stumbling block, which is that I’ve always relied a lot on learning music by ear. I’m really struggling to sight-read new pieces without knowing how they’re meant to sound. Even back in the day when I had to sight-read regularly and knew a fair bit of music theory, I recall some anxious moments in orchestra rehearsals when actually required, on the spur of the moment, to read the notes in front of me.
Obviously there’s a lot to be said for learning to play by ear too. It’s more or less indispensable for folk and jazz. But, for classical music at least, you do need to read music confidently and have a solid grasp of basic music theory. Otherwise it can feel a bit like being able to chat coherently in a foreign language without recognising the individual parts of speech. Or like giving the correct answer to a maths question without knowing what calculations you made to get there. Neither analogy works brilliantly but you probably get the picture. So, with the help of sites like musictheory.net and musictheory.org.uk, I am reacquainting myself with key signatures, time signatures and, er, notes. Hopefully they’ll stick this time.