Here is a followup blog to my previous thread "I Get So Upset". Please read it as a positive comment on how we may be able to help out students, and not as a criticism of how we have developed as a result of our own training. Also please avoid comments like "I have no difficulty with playing by ear (subtext: I am better than....)". Please comment on your own experiences with this issue, and also please put forward suggestions as to how this issue can be moved forward. As before, here is a link to the original article: ivan?s blog And here is the text: Here is a tale that may shed light on why some instrumentalists have difficulty in playing music from memory. I have told you how upset I get when I notice trumpet players with decades of playing experience still needing to be able to see the printed music when they stand up for the last chorus of “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa. This is about James, one of my students, a well-educated, retired gentleman with a lifelong acquaintanceship with music. Over the years he has been studying with me, James has had no difficulty in playing the melodies of some of his favorite sacred and secular pieces, and various themes from classical music. All without the sheet music. We were involved together in a summer band playing on the village green. One of the pieces on the program was the movement “Jupiter” from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst. When we sat at our lesson after the music had been issued, James said that he did not know this piece at all. So I played through some of the melodic parts, especially the Chorale. He still did not recognize it, so we read through the music a few times so he could gain some familiarity with it. The band rehearsed the music several times before the concert, and James was able to keep up with his part, joining the melody when written. I started his next lesson by playing a melody. This is quite common for us; after a few notes, he normally recognizes the piece and plays along with me. However, he was neither able to join in with this piece nor was he able to even faintly identify it. You guessed it; I was playing the Chorale from “Jupiter”. For the record, I must make two things clear: the standard of my playing was more than acceptable, and this technique of playing something unannounced is very common in our lessons. Why was James unable to play or even identify the piece that we had rehearsed and performed very recently? And why is James still able to play melodies he is familiar with but has never previously played? I believe that the reason he was unable to recognize the piece or play along with it, is because his relationship to the Chorale is confined to seeing it printed on the page. He has taken this music in only through his eyes, not through his ears. If he had thought about the tune outside of the band rehearsals, or heard it on the radio, he would have had a better chance of absorbing the music. The reason he is able to play so much other music by ear or from memory is that he heard all of this long before he ever took up his instrument. Since taking up his instrument he has become more dependent on visual input than aural. Traditionally music was learned by a student visiting the master, and listening and copying what that master played. The development of printed music being available to everyone through mass-production has changed that practice. Currently instrumental education is based on visual imagery (reading sheet music). The first lesson will inevitably contain instruction on reading music. When we learned our language, it was some time before we were made aware of what the words looked like when printed on a page. We learned to talk before we learned to read. We can all talk “off the top of our heads”. Maybe if our music learning was more aurally based, as in the past, we would be able to play more easily Without the Dots.