When it comes to learning music, there are a few different ways in!

Some musicians have the ability to hear a melody and quite easily find the notes on the keyboard, fretboard, or their voice. “Playing by ear” can certainly be useful in songwriting or jamming with others.

But many musicians need to train their ears. And they do this by learning to read music. At Miistro, our teachers can teach you how to play better by ear, but they’re all absolutely prepared to teach you how to read music in the traditional way, that is, notes on a staff. (Some guitarists will prefer to read music in a less formal way, known as tablature.)


Regardless of how one learns to read music, the discipline is critical to growing into a well-rounded, professional player. So this week on the Miistro blog, we’re giving you 3 Ways That Reading Music Levels Up Your Playing.

Shows You New Ways to Play

Reading music allows you to do more with your instrument. By ear, you can really only pick up on things that you’re already familiar with, and it’s difficult to understand a new genre or technique just by hearing it.

But by seeing notes on the page, all in relation to each other, in the context of a tempo a key - now you’ve got everything you need to execute the piece on your own! Complex pieces and whole new genres become instantly accessible when the musician has the sheet music to read from.

You’ll Speak the Same Language

When a musician learns (and plays) by ear, he or she often doesn’t learn the same universal vocabulary that the music world uses. And this actually puts a musician at a disadvantage when setting out to play with others. Whether in an orchestra, a choir, or a band, it’s embarrassing to hear words like crescendo or ritard and have to ask what they mean!

And then there’s the music itself. In a garage band rehearsal, it may be alright to take a few minutes to learn a melody by pecking at your fret board. But we’re expected to be more efficient and professional as we grow in our careers, and being able to sight read music on the page is a part of that: Whether it’s notes on a staff, articulations in tablature, or chords in a simple chart.

Adds Humanity to Your Playing

Some musicians actually worry that reading music will result in a stiff, robotic sound but the opposite is actually true. Sure, every musician will go through a period of rigidity in order to learn the rules. But that process yields confidence and mastery, enabling you to then start breaking those rules. And that’s where the real fun begins!

As your sight-reading skills increase, you’ll find yourself applying your own unique playing style to the staves on the page. The black and white notes will burst forth in colours and shades that the composer couldn’t have expected as you interpret their works in new and exciting ways. These subtle thrills are simply unknown to musicians who play only by ear.

If you play by ear and want to improve your knowledge of scales, chords and more, music lessons are a natural next step for you. It’s like when an athlete with raw talent finally commits to the disciplined formal training that will hone her skills.

In reading music, you’ll plumb new depths of inspiration and pave the way for more technical ability. When you’re ready to make the jump, we’d love to help you find a teacher. It’s what we do.

Happy playing!

Zach & the Miistro Team

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