Score Reading

Translating a traditional musical score; simplifying and understanding it.

Reading the score

Now I’m going to show you how to use a simple trick to make a music score readable
– and it’s a trick that every musician should know.
Like changing keys on a jammer, this trick is easier to do than it is to describe, so if you prefer to skip the description and theory part, just page down to Highlighting the Root Line. 


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Jammer Navigation
The jammer key layout matches the way the ear hears music: there’s a root (key center) and associated notes; there’s a “secondary key center” called the dominant (and indeed it does sound like it dominates over the root) and it’s buddies; and the octave above the pattern repeats.
(I’ll get to the sub-dominant later).

Music often seems to do a little dance around the root, then tease one’s ear with a little dance around the dominant.

 

 How musical notes relate to the score.

First here’s how the piano, score and jammer notes inter-relate, shown above.

You can see that the white-keys-only keyboard came first, while the score, second, and the black keys (“accidentals” they labeled them – one can just hear the craggy old musicians’ contempt for these strange and exotic new notes dripping from the word) came last.

But the underlying pattern is totally simple: 3 root-key notes, then a jump to 4 dominant-key related notes.  This pattern is the same in all keys, it’s just the notation (and the keyboard) that makes it look hard; it hides the pattern.  

The "learn by rote" school of music

This notation forces musicians to play by rote, that is, to indicate the key is in G instead of saying the key is G, a mark that says “when you see a F in the score, play the F# just above. Only after  some music significant theory is the key known.  

Here you can see the pattern revealed. 

 

My friend MusicLearner has been writing about how to adapt a score to the same common notation and Jim Plamondon of thummer fame has suggested a better music score. This is a good approach for the future, but we still have to deal with the vast body of existing scores.

 

  

Highlighting the Root Line

So below I’ve shown how to markup a musical score for easy jammer playing, using only a ruler and a few highlighter pens of varying widths. I suggest you expand the picture for clarity.

 

Note - there is an error in the last score - the flat should be on B, not F

In effect this is a way to reveal the underlying structure; to convert it to standard notation.

Step 1) Naturally, you’ll first have to find your root. Count the flats/sharps in the score, and use the  playing-in-any-key technique.

Step 2) Mark the root with a squiggle.

Step 3) Highlight the root line and the 2 lines above it. Highlight all parts of the score you think helpful.

Step 4) look over the music, and visualize the fingering. Perhaps this will help:

Jammer Chord fingering examples
 

Do you need to always do this?

No, this is just a handy bridging technique, especially if you are playing just melody, you won’t need it for more than a month. It's still very handy when playing chords, as it shows where the line jumps are and tells you the chord shape, as shown here: (to be completed)

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