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Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
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Learn to Read Music Paperback – February 15, 1971

4.3 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Howard Shanet is Associate Professor of Music at Columbia University and Conductor of the University Orchestra, which, under his guidance, has gained a reputation for the daring and unconventional programs it offers the public. He has been guest conductor of the New York Philharmonic in its Young People's series, the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, the CBS Symphony, and orchestras in Holland, Israel and elsewhere. Before that, he was assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein and to the late Serge Koussevitzky.

As a writer on musical subjects, he has been Program Annotator for the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Symphony. Subscribers to Music-Appreciation Records are familiar with the long series of recorded lectures and printed essays he prepared for that organization. He is also the author of a history of the New York Philharmonic.

Mr. Shanet received his training in conducting from such masters as Serge Koussevitzky, Fritz Stiedry and Rudolph Thomas; in composition from Arthur Honegger, Bohuslav Martinu and Nikolai Lopatnikoff; in musicology from Paul Henry Lang. He holds two degrees from Columbia University.

As Mr. Shanet explains in his Introduction, he taught the contents of this book to more than a thousand students when he was conductor of the symphony orchestra at Huntington, West Virginia. Since then, tens of thousands of others have taught themselves from this book, and untold numbers have learned from Mr. Shanet's television series, also called “Learn to Read Music.”

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Many people who love music and have a wide hearing acquaintance with it suffer from a feeling of inferiority because they cannot read music and are timid about asserting their opinions in the company of musicians. They may have excellent taste and judgment concerning what they hear, but they wilt before the professional because of his technical knowledge. The layman in literature and art will stand up for his ideas, but the poor music lover is apt to back down and feel that somehow he has got beyond his depth. So music becomes something mysterious to him and the musician a strange fellow who lives in a world different from his.

Obviously, musicians are the best judges of music, but non-professional opinion should not be brushed aside. The layman is the consumer and patron and what he thinks is important. He will find that with technical knowledge music loses none of its magic, but he will be able to see through some of the hocus-pocus now. The ability to read music is the first step and can make him feel that what he has to say about programs and performances is entitled to the professional's respect.

Educators think wistfully that some day notation may be taught in the elementary schools along with the alphabet. Children could master it easily, and many of them would have a lifetime of pleasure from the skill. But it is not being done, and the concert halls are filled with eager people who have found out too late that they are missing something important.

To these frustrated individuals, Howard Shanet's Learn to Read Music will come as a happy surprise. Not only because of its clarity and competence but also because of the author's infectious spirit of optimism, the reader will arrive at confidence and hope.

Douglas Moore,

MacDowell Professor of Music

Columbia University

Copyright © 1956 by Howard Shanet --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (June 1, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671210270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671210274
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is THE most useful book I've purchased and read on how to read music so far. I have just started learning to play the violin (I am in my mid-40s)and although all my life I've sung and music is, and has always been, a huge part of my life(many of my family members are accomplished musicians)I've never played an instrument or had any formal musical theory training. This book is the reference I have gone back to again and again as I progress with my violin and I have questions or areas that aren't clear to me (such as the concepts of major and minor scale, flats/sharps/accidentals and how they came about). . not only does this book take you from the very basics to the complex, Howard Shanet takes the time to explain WHY certain things are the way they are in written music. I was struggling with some concepts and when my teacher explained them to me I didn't get it....I looked it up in a smaller book on music theory and the explanation was there but I still didn't quite get it . . and then I looked up the subject (this happened to be accidentals/flats and sharps and also time meters) in this book and because Howard Shanet explained why sharps and flats are written the way they are, I was able to understand the concept and work beyond it. Just an excellent book and I recommend it to anyone learning to read and play music. It is true, this book will not teach you how to play any instrument, BUT without the basics and theory in this book it would be very difficult for me to progress with my violin playing. Highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a gem for any adult interested in teaching themselves the fundementals of reading music.
It lets the reader teach themselves by presenting examples to be solved and then explaining the solutions with painstaking detail and clarity.
The examples proceed in a logical order; commencing soley with reading rhythms, then soley reading pitch, then finally combining rhythm and pitch into melodies to be analysed and played at the piano.
The chapter on explaining the concept of tonality is masterful.
The examples are plentiful, and over time (in my case about three months of 5 to 15 mins per day), are meant to instil the basic skills and confidence you need to acquire to read single note melodies by sight. As Shanet points out, and very accurately from my experience, the examples must be done, not glossed over, because one learns to read music by doing it, not only understanding it or reading about how to do it.
What the book won't do is teach you how to p! lay an instrument although the basic examples at the piano provide a solid foundation from which you can go on to learn any instrument with much more confidence than you might have otherwise.
The language is clear, though sometimes wordy (it was written in 1958 and so does reflect the language style of the day).
I feel that Howard Shanet has a real appreciation of the problems people face when learning to read music and has successfully written a text that works.
In my estimation, a classic educational text.
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Format: Paperback
Though there is no substitute for one-on-one teaching, this book gives a very good introduction to the fundamentals of learning to read music. It has very thorough explanations on musical notation and offers many useful activities to build one's skill.
Upon finishing this book and its exercises, you will not have learned to play an instrument. What you will have gained is an understanding of how to read the notes and symbols on sheet music, which will be extremely beneficial to your musical development.
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Format: Paperback
I bought Howard Shanet's book about 15 years after I had been playing guitar for 10 years, and after a short flirtation with the violin.

Although I had learned to play guitar quite well during that time, and although I had managed to fake my way through playing violin in the school orchestra when I was a teenager, I was frustrated by not being able to read and write music well.

In the following years, I bought numerous books - most of them guitar books with chords and guitar tablature which I understood fine, and others books on how to read and write music, which I found confusing, complicated and frustrating.

Despite progressing to writing and playing songs, and playing in bands, I resigned myself to thinking that I'd always have to rely on a combination of a tape recorder, chord symbols, and my own quirky form of notation in order to write down the music that I wrote.

Finally, I found Mr. Shanet's book, and it explained all that I had been confused about in clear, simple and enjoyable ways. I do think that people are right when they say that learning the mechanics of music (notation etc.) is related to mathematics; a subject that I have always failed miserably in, and that's where Mr. Shanet's book excels - he explains all of this in simple terms.

Just to be clear about this, I have a pretty good sense of rhythm and timing, it's just that I could never write it down in standard musical notation, nor could I read it very well.

The whole process of counting from, and writing to, paper was too complicated a process, and no other book had ever unlocked this process for me until I found 'Learn to Read Music'.
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