March 13, 2013
Why dots are bad
I came to the harp in the folk and aural tradition. It was very difficult for me to leave the page – the safe haven of knowing precisely what was expected, how the music had been played since it was written. Although initially I fought (hard) against learning this way, eventually I realized the freedom in learning music the old way.
Ok, maybe I didn’t realize the freedom so much as I actually began to give myself the freedom. Maybe I gained the courage to try something new.The bad thing about the sheet music dots is that they are a haven. They can encourage you to pursue a false perfection, to abandon your own good judgment. If not careful, dots form a jail not a frame. And if the jail is reinforced with doubt you may never break out.
In addition, much of the best music has been handed down not passed out on paper. I never had as much fun learning a tune from a sheet of paper as I have had learning it from another person. And if I thought I was being inventive in my interpretation before, I didn’t know the half of it.
There is still room for precision – I give you playing a marchy march or a danceable reel. There is a need for that precision – it just comes from a different place.