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Topic: Score reading experts, come here please

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  1. #1

    Score reading experts, come here please

    Hello there, I'm an undergrad composition student and have a question that has been on my mind for the last week or so.

    I need to be able to hear a full score in my head, so I have been working with clef transpositions and have seen improvement in them (alto and tenor clefs).

    My problem is one probably from a lack of understanding of the true score reading process. I have little doubt that it is completely possible to fully realize a score in your head, with no "BS" or left out parts. I think it is just a matter of training and fluency.

    Here's where I'm at: I have a great ear, absolute pitch actually, and can sight sing just about anything, and can hear pretty advanced piano scores in my head (I'm a piano principal). So I wonder, how does one stretch out their reading to 12 or 20 staves?? Is there a kind of eye movement I need to make? Also, even if I COULD follow all of the parts at once, how do you put together the different voicings instead of just labeling, like "Oh that's a C#mi chord" and not actually understanding the voicing distribution. That's what bewilders me still. How can THAT become automatic??

    My practice right now is basically just reading a Mozart score (40th Symphony in G minor :]) and trying to process all of the parts, and at the end taking a couple of minutes to try and go through the score without the music and hear it in my head. Thing is, this doesn't challenge my NOTE reading at all. That just seems insane.

    Are there any professional composers/conductors here that can demystify this for me? I'd GREATLY appreciate it--it's a ghost of a subject on the internet and in my library!

  2. #2

    Re: Score reading experts, come here please

    Hi snazzypadgett.

    Even I'm not a prfessional I wish to suggest not to try to do everything at the same time.
    Start locating who's playing the main theme across staves
    or focus on an instrument/section throughout the work and so on...
    I'm not sure if its Schott, Eulenburg or Universal Edition,
    but I remember one of those houses to offer for free a few sheet pdf
    introducing to side reading of orchestral scores.
    Take a look to their websites.
    If someone dowloaded it in the past it could help you to locate it:
    I missed mine. So I'm still poor at reading scores.

    Regards
    Fabio
    Arrigo Beyle / Milanese / Lived, wrote, loved -- Stendhal
    Being Italian is a full-time job -- B. Severgnini

  3. #3

    Re: Score reading experts, come here please

    I'd be interested to hear any answers as well. Interesting subject.

    Quote Originally Posted by snazzypadgett View Post
    I have little doubt that it is completely possible to fully realize a score in your head, with no "BS" or left out parts. I think it is just a matter of training and fluency.
    I actually do doubt this, I'm afraid; I'm not convinced anyone can really realize a full score in their head. Otherwise, what would be the point of listening? We would just remember it all. I don't think the conscious mind is actually capable of that, which is what makes listening so glorious, especially listening to pieces with a lot of counterpoint and rich orchestration. But even the sound of a single piano note, there's a difference between remembering it and really hearing it.

    The orchestration and composition books I've read tend to encourage listening to performances or recordings or playing examples on a piano. Sight reading can be good for getting a basic sense of melody, rhythm, and maybe harmony and some orchestration (i.e. "ah, a flute melody with string ostinato...") but I don't think there's really a substitute for actually hearing it, especially if it's a piece you've never heard before.
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  4. #4
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    Re: Score reading experts, come here please

    [QUOTE=snazzypadgett;658667]. I think it is just a matter of training and fluency.

    I love that bit. That's what they told me several decades ago when I started to learn the violin. But to the point; some conductors wield the baton with no score at all before them. I doubt if they do that in rehearsal. But extreme concentration and familiarity can produce a mental version of sorts. Also, the linear nature of music enables mental cueing which is how we can learn things by heart. Undoubtedly Beethoven, when deaf, had taken these skills to their limit. For ordinary mortals like myself I tend to read a score by following mainly the First Violin line then letting the eye skip up and down to see what is going on in the woodwind brass and percussion, usually a lot less. Transposing instruments are not a problem as soon as you have registered the tonic note position. But I cannot claim to really hear it and doubt if very many others can either.

  5. #5

    Re: Score reading experts, come here please

    I was motivated to read scores as a boy from my grandfather who loved it and wanted to become a conductor in his own youth. While studying I then began to to read scores without listening. String quartet music has been a good starting point for me.

    Everything can be overdone though (remember Schumann's fingers?) and I would say it is only good as long it is linked to your inner radio playing, with other words your intuitive ear, and as long as you don't loose contact to what you hear from the outside. As a purely intellectual training I am not sure it leads to better music, and from own experience I can say it can be dangerous in traffic if your inner radio plays too interesting :-)

    The inner 'pre-listening' is what a composer and a player does, and precisely listening to what is happening is what an engineer does. Apparently we need to know both nowadays.

    To anybody that is searching for scores of the classics. many of them are available here

    http://www.imslp.org/
    http://shmu.alexanderstreet.com/
    http://dme.mozarteum.at/DME/nma/start.php?l=2
    All your strings belong to me!
    www.strings-on-demand.com

  6. #6

    Re: Score reading experts, come here please

    As a professional composer, and someone who has gone through all those years of formal training, I can only wonder why you would need to gain this "ability".

    You are a fluent pianist, and can get a good idea of a piano score from looking at it. Is anything more really that necessary?

    In my opinion, you should be concentrating on the actual craft of composition, rather than some abstract, and arguably debatable, skill like the one you describe.

  7. #7

    Re: Score reading experts, come here please

    I would echo what qccowboy says. I wish I had better keyboard skills because as a composer I would rather distill a score down to something playable on the piano to study the linear aspects of the music. To me that's where you can get "inside the head" of the composer a little better and start to understand how and why they decided to do this or that.

    I think you're in an enviable spot right now. That is you have a great ear AND you have keyboard skills. I have a pretty good ear but not the keyboard skills. For me I would have to do my analysis and "playing" by typing the reduction in Finale.

    Now on the other hand if you're trying to hear the orchestration in your head, that's a different matter. And even in that case, the recordings become invaluable with some focused study on certain affects and what not.

    Hope that makes sense to you.

    Steve Winkler

  8. #8

    Re: Score reading experts, come here please

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    As a professional composer, and someone who has gone through all those years of formal training, I can only wonder why you would need to gain this "ability".

    You are a fluent pianist, and can get a good idea of a piano score from looking at it. Is anything more really that necessary?

    In my opinion, you should be concentrating on the actual craft of composition, rather than some abstract, and arguably debatable, skill like the one you describe.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS!

    I have enough trouble as it is just following one line. (if I know what it should sound like, I can "hear it with no problem, but if it's pure sight reading...) The thought of having to be able to actually hear a full/near full score makes my head spin. I have NEVER understood why (especially for those of us who plain old suck when it comes to reading music) we must be able to look at a score and hear it in our heads. I mean, I can see where it might have uses, but for the most part I think it's just something to show off with. My theory teacher can do it like he's reading a news paper, but he spends more of his time thinking about how it should work, than actually writing new music. I'm a composer, not a performer. I don't care about having to look at it and know what it sounds like. I care about writing it so it sounds good.

    I agree with others here. I do not think it's possible to fully hear a score in your head. Even if it was, what's the point? We have recordings, play back on computers, live performers, etc... Is it really worth spending ALL that time to be able to hear it in your head when there's so many better ways to accomplish this?

  9. #9

    Re: Score reading experts, come here please

    I think it'd be an extremely awesome skill. I'd love to just open a score and hear it. It would save tons of time. I just don't believe it's possible.
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  10. #10

    Re: Score reading experts, come here please

    I agree that it would be awesome. On the other hand, I don't think it's worth the time to learn it, which I don't think is ever fully possible.

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