Sight Hearing 

9/8/18, 7:24 AM

Perhaps you are familiar with the phrase – sight reading. This amazing skill permits some musicians to pick up a piece of unfamiliar music and read it as easily as most of us can read a book. Some people can “sight read” blueprints, circuit diagrams, computer code, financial statements, project plans, or other forms of visually codifying and memorializing complex information. This ability to cross sensing boundaries is very helpful to rapidly understand multiple domains.

One such ability I personally covet, is what I call Sight Hearing although many professional musicians simply call it score reading. This is the skill where a person can look at a musical score and internally hear what the music sounds like. All conductors must have this skill fully developed and it is also helpful for both performers and composers.

In todays unlimited information world where books, recordings, videos and yes even musical scores can all be almost instantly accessed online sometimes for no or little cost, it seems the ability to develop these sight-reading and sight-hearing skills could be greatly accelerated. I will let you know when and if I get there. What does this have to do with innovation in general? I am sure you can see (hear) why it is useful for musicians.

It has to do with the fact, that all of us can select new skills we may want to master, and dive in almost instantaneously (especially when online). There will alway be some who know more than us and who know less than us, about any even field, so this is not a contest about being the best or worst. It is more like immersion or swimming because of there is now a literal ocean of relevant information about anything and everything.

I suspect all innovation advocates are life long learners, because we all have not only curiosity in common but the mental bandwidth and disposition to look for answers. We now can pick a topic or a goal, invent a curriculum cobbled together from this ocean and literally begin to grow at any instant in time and a far more accelerated rate than ever before. 

To get way from the generalities and use one of my own current passions as an example: Lets say I wanted to be able to write and conduct a symphony in five years (a current goal). Yes I know this may sound insane when one has other degrees, and has lived other lives for decades but bears with me for a moment.

I have determined a critical skill to be able to compose and conduct a large scale work is to be able to hear a score by looking at it. I know this is possible because amazing individuals in my life can do it. Assuming an outrageous goal and enough discretionary time (and admittedly some proclivity) how could one do this? 

Well without delineating my entire curriculum here are a few elements one could integrate and remember this does not only apply to music – it is an example.


1) Giant free online music score repositories.  

2) Giant online free repositories of recorded music many of which are videos.

3) Lots of free courses, podcasts, articles and mostly relevant blog postings.

One could simply correlate the above resources and get there eventually.

Stepping things up a little bit supported by a few low cost subscriptions picked from music streaming services, written and recorded book repositories and journals. For much less than the cost of a single college course you could subscribe to enough services to occupy every available minute of the day. For a few hundred dollars you could have a fairly amazing pile of inputs but then you could step it another level and get yourself a mentor.

Almost everyone in the world makes less than $100 per hour and if you were to do the research and be able to come up with a couple of thousand dollars per year, you could roughly have a personalized extremely high quality or if you are lucky, an extraordinarily high quality instructor to help guide you through this new endeavor including your piles of resources. If you live near your instructor-mentor great yo can do it in person but if not you can increasingly often do it through a video call.

Pick an audacious goal, commit to at least a couple of hours a day, and a couple of hundred dollars per month and you can experience consistent fulfilling progress.  

Remember even 20 minutes per day of real exercise can get you in shape! Imagine what two hours spent on anything could do? And the cost, amazingly at this time, roughly a cup of coffee per day.

The real issue is neither money nor time, for barriers to entry to acquire new skills or start new businesses are lower than ever before.  The real issue self talk!