Paul McArtney on Larry King

Paul stunned me last night. During the interview he candidly admitted that he does not read or write music. Never has. I DID NOT KNOW THAT! I don't think Larry new either. Absolutly amazing. He Said He and John use to record everything on cassette. How cool is that? MONDO in my book.
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Sorry about the spelling guys and girls Please no bashing "McCartney" and "absolutely" in place of the above
I just watched part of an interview in the past few days with Paul McCartney. Was that Larry King? I didn't recognize him.
Being a music teacher who's strong suit isn't reading music, I can tell you a few things. McCartney understands everything functional about music theory. Not reading the notes on a page is not a matter of pride, it is a matter of not really needing to. If a person is exposed at a young age to a competant teacher, (rarely), then reading music is no more difficult than learning to add and subtract, or learning to read. If not, talent, a good ear, ton's of enthusiasm, and a competetive peer group will do the trick just as well. I went to a few music teachers when I was around 15, and they were only capable of playing, and did not teach well (even though one had been well known). I played by ear for 8 years, doing albums, tours, sessions, etc, before studying with a great teacher for 4 months, in which I learned more about music than in the previous 8 years. What is necessary, is to know enough about music to communicate with other musicians and not feel stupid. I have taught my students enough about music to speak intelligently with any caliber of musician, without fear of embarrasment, even if their own ability is barely average. If I was going to be a teacher for a while, my goal was to be the teacher I couldn't find when I needed one. Thanks to Mr. McCartney for all of his great melodies, which are a permanent part of my musical "education".
Hardly any rock/pop musicians "read" music. They may know as much or more than anyone that does, but they never bother to learn the actual language. Unlike jazz musicians, they can afford to pay someone to transcribe the score for them. :-)
Phild, other than the really big time rock stars, the Rock musicians I know make far less than their Jazz counterparts. The Jazz players can fit into more money making music situations than the Rock guys can. This has been so in my 28 years as a paid musician, Aftra Signatore and 802 member. Believe me, the Marsalis Brother's can afford anything they need, including someone to transcribe if they want.
Bmpnyc- Nice paragraph. I agree whole heartdly with your views on music as it pertains to Paul or any gifted musician. Wouldn't be surprised if he never had a singing lesson either. Do they still call that gift perfect pitch? I tried studying music full time in college but dropped out after a year. Couldn't keep up on the theory end of it. I still play and write original tunes but never felt like I could compete. 3 years in L.A. confirmed it. Paul is an undisputed and absolute genius. Great interview very honest guy.
Irving Berlin could not read music. Dave Brubeck cannot read music. Pavarotti can not read music. This is not as unusual as you think.
Remember that although Pavarotti cannot read music, he has committed dozens of operas to memory. Can't bring the music on stage. Quite amazing when you think of it. Being able to read music is pointless to an opera singer it they can't memorize the parts.
Glen, perfect pitch is the ability of a person to identify a sound without any reference points. Sort of like seeing a color. McCartney doesn't have perfect pitch, but has probably developed relative pitch, meaning that if a starting note is given, then the person can identify the interval between the next note. After a while some people can identify certain chords because of the particular distances between notes of that specific chord. Once a chord has been recognized you can figure out the rest of the chords. I can write out the chord changes for about 70% of popular music by ear, with few mistakes. This ability usually developes over a long period of time, and after a lot of playing. Most good singers have a good voice to start with, and need little training. They mostly need guidance on maintaining the condition of their instrument. Of course, there is much to be learned from a good vocal coach, but the majority of what they offer is the discipline of practicing regularly. Sight singing is a different matter. For those that have a need to learn to sing the notes as they are written, it takes a great teacher, and about 5 years of serious daily practice to become competant. Not for me, thank you very much. Your studies were not a waste of time. Music is not like magic, if you know how the trick is done, some of the fun can be lost. Any musical knowledge only serves to enhance your appreciation. Now, if I could only train myself to know how many beats per minute I was counting off...that's one internal clock I wish I had access to!