How Do Cultures Create Good Music Without Reading Music?

Discussion in 'Musicians' started by Motion, Jun 11, 2016.

  1. Motion

    Motion Senior Member

    I was checking out this video on Haitian Vodou drumming. It dawn on me that the drummers here are very good with the music they are playing but I doubt if any of them can read music. So my question is how are these musicians able to put this music together when they probably don't play using notes like most trained musicians do?
    2 people like this.
  2. Pressed_Rat

    Pressed_Rat Do you even lift, bruh?

    You don't need to be able to read music to make music or even be a great musician. Many of the best musicians never learned to read music. Some of the best music comes from simply improvisation.
    3 people like this.
  3. guerillabedlam

    guerillabedlam Senior Member

    Teaching probably gets passed down verbally and through demonstration. Really in what we would call a chromatic scale, a scale that covers every note in an octave is less than 20 notes for most instruments, so even if they don't inherently understand the instruments and notes by music notation, it's not a ton of notes to learn and they likely train by ear and pick up these types of things through repetition.
  4. Asmodean

    Asmodean Slo motion rider

    Indeed, creating music and learning how to play just by hearing and demonstration can work at least as good as going from a basis where you use sheet music. I thought for the observational music lover this was evident.
  5. Meliai

    Meliai Senior Member

    No offense but this strikes me as a silly question. It is almost like asking how stories existed before written word.

    Music was around a long time before sheet music. Rhythm and the ability to identify different tones is ingrained in (most) humans, it isnt really something we learn only after learning to read music. Most musicians I know can't read music. Whereas I actually can read it but it doesnt really translate into the ability to play it well.
    3 people like this.
  6. guerillabedlam

    guerillabedlam Senior Member

    To be fair to the OP, Music theory, for instance such musical concepts as say a " Perfect Fifth" date back to Ancient Greece. It seems that in the Western tradition, at least, the idea that there is a structure to music, that it can be notated or formalized in a structured way perhaps goes nearly far back as written word.

    So I like your analogy, but at the same time I think OP highlights that we may not really have the reference point to separate Music Theory from playing Music.
  7. Motion

    Motion Senior Member

    Just to add on to what I'm asking. How do these musicians structure or organize what they are playing to keep it from sounding messy when they aren't playing from written music? There are several drummers in that video so how are they making it all sound "tight" like they do and not sounding "all over the place" if you know what I mean?

    If you gave six Americans who couldn't read music those instruments used in the video and told them to play something more than likely it would sound like a mess because they wouldn't know how to structure their playing to make it sound tight and together like those Haitian musicians. So how do those Haitian musicians,who also probably don't read music,make their playing work without it sounding messy?
  8. Tyrsonswood

    Tyrsonswood Senior Moment

    People were making music sound tight long before there was written music.
  9. Reverand JC

    Reverand JC Willy Fuckin' Wonka

    Can you listen and carry on a conversation? It's the same thing. If you've ever been in a band and rehearsed you will know that almost nobody reads at them but arrangements are discussed. If you go to a drum circle you will sit listen and add your voice. It is all the same thing.

    Rev J
    1 person likes this.
  10. Motion

    Motion Senior Member

    This seems close to answering my question. Since I highlighted some Haitian music I looked for some related west African music. This explains how the Ewe people of Ghana play their music.

  11. Tyrsonswood

    Tyrsonswood Senior Moment

    Glad you got that all sorted out...
  12. magickman

    magickman Supporters HipForums Supporter

    I was glad to see the reference to Haitian drumming. It comes from the spirit, the soul and builds. Haitian culture is quite interesting to me.
    This is what separates being taught by someone from just learning by yourself. Sure you'll get pointers online or by watching and listening to others, but training can be limiting.
    I tried instruction a few years ago and it didn't work out. They taught kids and older women, as they were also.
    So it was awkward for me because it was for them.
    And now I'm self learning as I go. I played when I was much younger, learned on my own then.
    I believe true music comes from within, from the soul. An expression of your true self.
    I figure if Hendrix can teach himself then why not anyone else?
  13. The Walking Dickhead

    The Walking Dickhead orbiter of helion

    I was going to say something, but PR pretty much summed up what I was going to say
  14. The Walking Dickhead

    The Walking Dickhead orbiter of helion

    I think a lot of people, if they were to put aside the ultimate stone of achievement they might find they can attain anything they want to by nothing more than having motivation and an open and experimental mind.

    Often curriculum leads to more confusion than enlightenment.

    The patterns that make life interesting are not arbitrary, they are there already before we think/thaught of them.
    1 person likes this.
  15. drumminmama

    drumminmama Super Moderator Super Moderator

    How did you learn to talk before you could read?
    By learning the language of language, rather than the rules, but, if you were lucky, you learned from people who had absorbed the rules into their patterns.
  16. StellarCoon

    StellarCoon Shadow Warrior

    How did people learn languages before books were invented.
  17. Asmodean

    Asmodean Slo motion rider

    Yeah, the question in the thread title is kind of like asking "how did people communicate before they had the internet"
    1 person likes this.
  18. Reverand JC

    Reverand JC Willy Fuckin' Wonka

    Here is one of my favorite musicians discussing this concept and doing a very good job of putting it very concisely:

    Rev J
    1 person likes this.

    WOLF ANGEL Senior Member

    Seems to me thatMusic is an International Language that does not require word
    1 person likes this.
  20. pensfan13

    pensfan13 Senior Member

    Ever heard the saying, "play it by ear?"
    1 person likes this.

Share This Page