Why traditional notation is bad for dyslexics

music and dyslexia

If you have dyslexia, do you love standard music notation? My guess is probably not! How did I know that? Because traditional notation is decidedly unfriendly to a dyslexic brain. Here … let me explain:

Traditional music notation is bad for dyslexiaDyslexia is a language problem

Most people think of dyslexia as a brain condition that affects reading skills—like reading books, street signs, and other written information.

But dyslexia also affects your ability to learn a spoken language, too—because the way you hear and sound out words is closely tied to how those words appear on a page. So dyslexia is more than a reading problem … it’s a language problem.

Some languages are more severe

As it turns out, dyslexia is more of a challenge only in some countries. For example, if you live in Italy, you may have only mild dyslexia—because the Italian language has a simple structure with very predictable patterns.

But if you live in England or America, you’re not as lucky … because the English language is a hodge podge of Latin, Greek, German, and a bunch of other languages. As a result, this hybrid structure lacks any predictable patterns that could ease the learning process.

In English, many words are spelled differently than they sound. Some unrelated words might even share common letters, or the same spelling might be pronounced differently only in some contexts. And these inconsistencies can be especially hard on dyslexics.

Because some languages are more mangled than others, a lot of people are noticeably dyslexic only in certain countries … like America and England. But the British Dyslexia Association reports that a full 10% of the entire world’s population has the condition.

Music notation only makes things worse

One in 10 people experience some kind of challenge reading? That’s huge! And this statistic affect musicians, too … since dyslexia also makes it difficult to read music notation.

But what’s worse is that music notation can be even more confusing than English. (And that’s saying something!) With its strange, medieval symbols and uniform black note heads, traditional notation can be a dyslexic person’s worst nightmare. Which is why many people avoid it altogether.

The biggest irony of all

But if you think about it … isn’t that ironic? After all, music—the universal language—should be accessible to everyone, right? It sounds so predictable and easy. So shouldn’t music be equally easy to learn and play?

Well … yes, actually. In truth, music really is the easiest language in the world to learn. It just looks a lot harder than English. Which is why most people spend years studying how it works. And only a few lucky people have discovered the real secret of music—that it’s actually a simpler language than even Italian … seriously!

What most people don’t know is that music is made up of completely predictable and very structured patterns. Unlike other languages, which include thousands of different words, music is made up of only 12 basic notes. So really, anyone should be able to master it—including dyslexics.

How to save your sanity

If you want to truly excel in music, then you have to remove the language barrier. That is, you must bypass traditional notation … and look at the simple patterns that are hiding underneath.

Think carefully about the instruction books you use. Are they designed to be dyslexia-friendly? Or do they look more like the flight manual for a 747 jet? Do your music resources rely on music notation? Or do they offer some alternative that makes learning easier for you?

Try different approaches. And look for authors who actually think about their audience when writing. Whatever you do, don’t give up! Learning the language of music is really fun—and it can be really simple … for everyone.

How do you learn music today?

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