Reading Vs Listening to Learn Piano

I have hacked around on a piano for a few years, mainly learning a few chords and "faking" it a bit but I am at a point where I am stuck and would love to learn more.

Despite protests from traditionally trained pianists and their teachers, I unfortunately do not have the time, patience or inclination to really learn to read music.

Curiously, whenever I have been really moved and inspired by someone playing the piano (most recently by a customer in the piano department at Harrods in London)it seems they RARELY know how to read music but will say things like:

"Oh I just picked it up" (?!?!)


"I had a couple of lessons as a kid, but then I just started to PLAY"

With no disrespect to anyone who can sight read Chopin, obviously an amazing skill, that to me seems to be a more technical and analytical exercise.

Musicianship, in my opinion, is ultimately more spiritual and inspirational, than it is technical.

I have had this discussion with one friend who I think can "play" from both parts of his brain, although his intution seems to emerge more on the guitar than the piano.

Despite my protests and references to Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, he basically said I just didnt "get it."

So two questions please:

1) Do any of you have experience, thoughts on the subject of intuition and improvisation vs reading music, especially for piano, and

2) If anyone would encourage me down that spiritual, intuitive path, what jazz, blues, and/or gospel music would you suggest I listen to, in order to just "pick it up" as mentioned above.

Thank you.
Do you remember how you learned to read? Someone,probably a relative, read to you for a half hour a day,while you looked at the book,untill one day,it made sense. No one tried to explain the rules of grammar to you first.

If you ever change your mind and want to learn to read music,DON'T DON'T get caught up in "The lines are every good boy does fine;the spaces are FACE". Get a recording of the JS Bach two part inventions,and the music. Listen to the inventions and watch the music. Do that every day for a year and you might be suprised how much music notation skill you pick up.(Then do the three part inventions;then the Well Tempered Clavier.)

If that approach works for you, pick a piece of music you want to learn,watch the notation,listen to the recording,and play along. Then play and watch the music;then play it from memory.

Now that sounds great! Thank you for the suggestion.

For the one or two music lessons that I obviously did not stick with, "Put Put Goes the Little Steamboat" somehow did not fill me with inspiration as an adult.

I still find it curious that so many people seem to think reading is essential.

Again, how do we explain Stevie Wonder?

And could anyone please suggest a similar exercise to Pragmatists suggestion for the Bach inventions, but in a blues or jazz form?
I'm pretty sure Stevie Wonder can read music (braille) and even B.B. King has a music degree, something he does not like to advertise. Sight reading/playing and being able to read are two very different things (and sight reading itself is a subjective term) and depending where you want to end up is how important reading will be. Developing a good ear (and techincal skills) is most important as being able to hear whats going on with the musicians your playing with (or playing along to) is what what it's about especially if you are looking at going down the jazz path but either way you need to have an idea of what you are doing. This leads to theory, if you really want to progress you must have an idea of what it is you are doing and learning to read is not really neccessary in learning your theory but it being able to read the notes of a scale you wish to play.

The adavantages of beig able to read are that the more songs you learn the harder (impossible for me) it is to remember the chord progressions or structures so at least learning to recognize the chords you are playing is essential for following charts. Another useful tool of being able to read is that you can look at sheet music (and hear it if your good enough) and study what the person is doing...what I mean is if you are interested in what Charlie Parker does you can see on paper what it is he is doing rather than trying to work it out while it flys by you when you are listening. Getting to a basic level of reading is not as difficult as most people think it is. I have had excellent success with teaching students to read by seperating the elements, starting with rythm first (clapping out patterns to a metranome) and waiting till they grasp that then introducing notes.
Hope this helps.
Thanks Rockethouse to point out my view in better words. Otherwise this topic would be getting too much on the light side - to say it in a nice way.