Are there many Thereminists who don't read music?

Posted: 1/13/2011 11:22:55 AM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

Do you think that not knowing much about music notation etc will hinder your proficiency at the Theremin?

For me, reading music has not been a very important thing since i do most of everything by ear. My knowledge is not huge on that department, so if performing in the future is something that comes my way, perhaps gaining understanding in that aspect will probably be a benefit.

Do you think that people view you as less knowledgable if you do not know how to read music?
Posted: 1/13/2011 11:41:44 AM

From: A Coruña, Spain

Joined: 9/26/2010

Good question. I am in the same boat as you, I don't read music either... although I plan to learn at some point, when I find a good book and some time. The problem is that when I have the time, it's always much more tempting to spend it actually playing the theremin than finding out about music theory :)
Posted: 1/13/2011 12:04:41 PM

From: Northeast USA

Joined: 7/30/2010

I can't imagine it hindering one's proficency at all, as long as practice time is ample and focused. Reading music will certainly help depending on the type of music you want to do, ie is it a setting where reading music is commonplace. If your favored genre works better by ear, then you are probably just fine. Furthermore, if you are used to playing by ear, it is a large mental switch to start reading. Having said that, if you plan to play the theremin using notated music, now might be the time to learn!
Posted: 1/13/2011 12:26:22 PM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

I also would say that it depends on the kind of music.

With only learning by ear you risk out of that to adopt the faults and imperfections of the one you are listening to.

If you want to play written music together with others the ability to read an entire score is a big advantage.

I don't know why and how, but I've been given the talent to read a score and to hear the music with my inner ear at the same time. This helped me a lot in my youth when I earned my pocket money by "filling in" in the last minute as a viola player or a choir singer.
Posted: 1/13/2011 12:55:11 PM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

Yes there are a lot of theremin players that don't read music. Some might say that is a major reason they took up the theremin in the first place. In many cases that is probably true. There are some who play the theremin so they don't have to adhere to any musical standards at all.

I CAN read music, although not fluently. I don't find it necessary in the normal course of playing the theremin. I play by ear.

As Thierry said, it would be vital if you intend to play with a group of professional musicians, such as an orchestra.

Personally, I feel it's better for a thereminist to memorize the pieces they play. Thereminists are generally "soloists", and a music stand in front of them would be a major distraction for any audience. The 1929 RCA theremins incorporated a music stand in the cabinet design.
Posted: 1/13/2011 12:57:36 PM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

The ability to read music should not prevent you from learning it by heart, especially if you perform as a soloist! :-)
Posted: 1/16/2011 7:43:27 PM

From: Richmond Hill, Georgia

Joined: 9/18/2005

I have a good sense of relative (although not absolute) pitch. I have a music book, although with my schedule these days, its impossible almost to find time.

Posted: 1/16/2011 8:51:07 PM

From: A Coruña, Spain

Joined: 9/26/2010

Yesterday, my mother gave me a CD with some backing tracks and scores, and I found out that even being musically illiterate, the scores can still help to some extent. I wouldn't be able to read them without actually having heard the music first, but once I have heard it, at least I can read enough to serve as a reminder of the parts that I haven't memorised well yet.

Perhaps I'll see what I can learn from practising with them and figuring things out, before getting the book :)

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