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PennyDreadful
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11 Aug 2012, 5:50 am

I am curious to know if this is not unusual in AS.
I play piano mostly, but I can't read music. I've taken lessons, I did music theory and all that when I was a kid, so I know what the symbols mean and everything, and if you point to a note, I can tell you what it is, but I can't for the life of me play off sheet music. I've got near-perfect pitch, though, and can play songs by ear as easily as singing. My teacher used to get frustrated with me because I would memorize the notes instead of reading it (I can still play Hungarian Rhapsody from memory after 10 years!). In other areas I have exceptional visual pattern recognition skills, so I have to wonder if my difficulty lies in connecting the notes to my fingers, or just that it's so much easier for me to do it by ear or memory that I give such a strong bias toward auditory processing that my brain just can't train itself the "proper" way.
Anyone have this? Have you been able to learn at least simple sight-reading techniques?

I picked up a violin last week, and I'm in the process of arranging lessons (when I say I picked it up, I mean I literally picked up a violin for the first time, so I'm assuming lessons will begin with basic skills like reading notation), and I'm hoping that starting on a different kind of instrument will help kick my brain into doing things right, but on the other hand, I'm afraid I'll just frustrate this teacher as well. I mean, I've got the scales and everything, and I've been playing some simple things, so it's not the motor skills so much as the coordination.

Am I making any sense at all? Is this common among Aspies?



Ellingtonia
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11 Aug 2012, 7:04 am

I had similar experiences learning how to read music. I know how to do it, but not fast enough to be able to play a new piece by reading it. I would always memorise all my pieces, something I found quite easy. I can't play by ear though.



Ganondox
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11 Aug 2012, 1:47 pm

I can't play by ear, and while I can read music it takes me too long, so I play by memorizing the sequence.


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11 Aug 2012, 8:28 pm

In my experience, 90% of students will do anything to avoid actually reading the music. I get around it by giving them a lot of simple sight-reading exercises and simple strategies for reading.
I taught a boy with Asperger's who could play the piano beautifully by ear but struggled when he had to read music; with him it seemed to be a problem paying attention to 2 things at once. Could that be the case with you?
I can read music fluently but I play better when I memorise and play by ear.


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physicsnut42
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13 Aug 2012, 10:00 am

I can play things by ear on the piano, but only really simple, bare-bones melodies (like i could play the tune of greensleeves by ear but not all the fancy chords--I could play the tune you sing, but not the actual one you'd play on the piano). I can't sightread and be able to play the piece right away, but i can read music. So I memorize my pieces. I can learn the chords to most contemporary songs by ear on the guitar (and the piano too, for that matter) after listening for a bit, but only because almost all contemporary music chord progressions just have the 1st the 4th and the 5th and that's it, with the occasional minor 3rd or 6th or a 5th - 7.



izzeme
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13 Aug 2012, 10:33 am

i learned music at a young age, while i was still in the 'language critical' period, so i have learned to read notes fluently.

i can however also play by ear, with some practice on a song.
one point is that i'm a brass player, and if i want to play by ear, i must think about what i'm doing, which hinders my regular way of playing from sheets, which is more like a reflex then anything else



AScomposer13413
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13 Aug 2012, 11:04 am

I don't think this aspect is attached to AS in any way, shape or form. I can do both about equally well, since I learned how to read music at an early age and my perfect pitch helps me catch things by ear faster than most. At the same time, I've also met musicians on the spectrum who excel in one over the other. It's all dependent on their musical training/experience.


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13 Aug 2012, 12:22 pm

Kinda depends on what I am playing. If I play classical I'll read the music. Preferably in tabulature form, since it takes me a long time to read notes. If it's something else I will try to figure out how to play it myself, but my ear isn't that great ( yet ) so I usually end up looking at the sheets ( chords / tabulature ) for anyways. But I find that playing it correctly is more important when playing classical music.



PennyDreadful
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13 Aug 2012, 7:01 pm

Interesting. Most of my friends play instruments, and they seem baffled as to why it takes me an hour to read 3 bars of music...
I started when I was a little kid, but maybe I just developed bad habits early on? I've tried to practice by sight-reading different things, but I end up getting so frustrated that I give up.



Flamencita
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18 Aug 2012, 11:00 am

Ganondox wrote:
I can't play by ear, and while I can read music it takes me too long, so I play by memorizing the sequence.


I am a Classical Guitarist (also starting Flamenco too) and I always learn by memorising the sequence and the shapes within it, so it's a sequence of shapes and moves of my left hand in particular (one on the fingerboard making all the chord shapes as I am right handed) and I see my left hand making these shapes in my head as I play.

@ the original post - When I read music, I can read it, but it's like it is in my second language and I have to translate it into my own special language in order to understand properly and remember it.

No idea if it is an Aspie thing or if other musos have it too, but I would suspect that it may have something to do with the way the brain is a little different in an Aspie.
Kinda in the way that soemtimes you have to have a certain gene in order to get a certain disease, but not all those with that gene have the disease. May be like that in that either both some NTs and Aspie's brains work like this, or that people whose brains work like that are Aspies.



Animalious
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22 Aug 2012, 11:29 am

It's been a little while since I personally played a musical instrument. (Like years!) but I found when I was young I could play piano by ear much eaiser than to read the sheet music and play it.

Which years later has sort of turned to where if I hear a song long enough. I can tell what part of the song we are at and how much longer it'll be before it's over. I guess it's something that never goes away.



hearyoume1995
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22 Aug 2012, 6:27 pm

I have a great sense of ear myself and love to sing. I totally feel ya there.

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guitarman2010
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24 Aug 2012, 9:03 pm

When I was 11 years old I learned how to play the alto sax from reading the music, just like any other student learning to play an instrument. I never got comfortable enough with it to play by ear with it. I got bored with the sax and picked up the guitar. Playing by ear with the guitar just comes naturally to me for some reason. In my experience of learning a piece of music with the guitar is the stuff I played by ear seems to be remembered a lot better by me as opposed to looking at make-shift tab reading. I consider tabs like sheet music because you look at a sheet (or screen lol) to see what to play.


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PHISHA51
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24 Aug 2012, 9:36 pm

Although I started out on the drums, I discovered that I can play the piano pretty well when it comes to hearing music. I'm pretty decent at figuring out the chord progressions by ear on famous pop and some rock songs depending on the song itself. When I was in the marching band, I had to read the music during my marimba and vibraphones parts and as far as I can remember, it took me awhile to understand the whole score. Nevertheless, that experience helped me to read music for piano solo's. During music lessons, my private teacher was impressed that I can remember the music and like your teacher, she wanted me to read through the whole music and play the piano at the same time. I find that challenging because I'm always directly focused on the keys because I don't want to hit the wrong note because of my perfectionism. I have been able to use this technique and it started to enhance my sight reading skills by a little bit. As for playing by memory, my aunt is a piano player and she told my parents that " most musicians want to have the technique to play music by memory and this is what has made your son so unique as a musician". Although I understand why the pro's want us to play with the music in front of us, I wouldn't stop with playing music by memory as well as by ear. :wink:.


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kittygirl0811
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26 Aug 2012, 9:33 pm

I've learned the saxophone in high school and recently started taking piano lessons. I'm better at playing by ear (though i'm not great at it) and much better at playing once I've memorized it. So i'm finding myself memorizing a piece as quickly as I can, even now. But in high school we often had to sight read music and I found myself forcing myself to learn to sight read well to compensate. The time and effort have paid off. Now that I need to learn bass clef and chords I'm finding it easier than I expected since a lot of the sight reading ability from my saxophone days translates over to the piano.



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02 Sep 2012, 11:07 pm

I can't play by ear,I can read music as fast as I read literature,faster than average.I have always envied those who could play by ear,what a GIFT!