Reading Music: A Step-By-Step Introduction to Understanding Music Notation and Theory, by Marc Schonbrun

My copy: 9781435144699 (image from amazon.com)

When I made the informed decision to go insane and re-learn all this stuff about music I’d forgotten over the past 20 years(ish), I knew I’d have to have some help from at least one book to get me figuring out how much I really didn’t know.

So glad I picked this one up…because it was a great start to what I needed.

Reading Music is a well put together book with an accompanying CD and plenty of examples printed throughout. It does honestly start with the basics, the notes, their lengths, rests, notations, most common time breakdowns and such…all the way up to more complicated bits of music theory that those with an elementary knowledge of music will really have to buckle down and focus on.

I was humming along nicely and going confidently til about chapter 9 and 10, with instrument-specific notations and musical keys. I barely remembered keys and how to work with them (which means this chapter’s a great help when I pick up my clarinet again). And I was slowing down more and more to try to get the gist of the book the further I went along. Most of what I was reading I don’t think I’d even bumped into in school, but at least the book prepped me for seeing this stuff and not letting me freak out about it!

Well, I’m a little freaked, but that’s just because so much of it’s brand new, such as the breakdown of major and minor scales, intervals, triads…some things I probably had 10 minutes exposure to each in my schooling, and no wonder I’m confused.

It just means I’ll have to keep the book a while to get a better picture of what to do. And to listen to the accompanying CD a few more times for these sections to make sure I get them down better.

It’s not a workbook, but does have a few staffs where you can pencil in the chord names and whatnot and check your answers in the back (very few, but useful). I get the feeling that once I start fiddling around with my instruments and actually using the info in the book as I go, the info will reveal itself to be much clearer. Just reading the theories about notation and chord building don’t mean squat unless you plan to practice, after all.

Reading Music is a great book for someone with some music under their belt, but perhaps you’re like me and rather estranged from music reading or making. It’s not overly dense (except maybe with the chord bits, but then again, that was totally unfamiliar territory with me), but doesn’t treat you like a dummy, either .

I’m keeping this one as a major reference work, and it’ll no doubt have oodles of sticky notes plastered within if I ever loan it to anyone!

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