Musical dyslexia

Back in the day, we were all shocked that the worst reader in our class, a girl who’d been left back, picked up a spelling mistake in our high school yearbook “The Lighththouse”.

Which brings me to the Ravel Piano Trio where I’m having the same problem she did. It’s probably one of the hardest works for piano trio in existence, and even with an hour a day on the first two movements I’m only making slow headway at best.  Even the violinist, a conservatory graduate, finds it difficult.

Normally when a pianist  looks at a score, chords and scales leap out, and you don’t have to look at every note in a Beethoven sonata to know what key he’s writing in.  Not so with Ravel.

In the second movement there is a sequence of 15 chords in which the right hand plays 4 notes, the left 2 or 3.  Here’s the first chord

left hand f double sharp, c sharp e – right hand f double sharp, a sharp, dsharp fsharp (the fsharp is about an octave higher than the the lower f double sharp).

You can’t look at that and know what to play — you’ve got to finger every note in order and hope that your brain will remember it the second time around.

All 15 of these chords like this must be played in about 10 seconds or less.

This is what life must have been like for the dyslexic girl back then (the diagnosis didn’t exist in the 50’s).  No wonder she was left back, if she had to figure out every word had letter by letter.

Like me probably after figuring out what one word (chord) was, she probably forgot what the multiple words of the sentence were trying to say (the music in the chord sequence).

You did notice the misspelling didn’t you? If not here it is — lightHThouse.  Most readers just look at the first few letters, recognize the word and move on, just like a pianist playing Mozart or Beethoven.  Not the poor girl back then or me with the Ravel.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Margaret  On June 14, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    So what does it mean if I caught the misspelling on the first read? I read it, and did a double take because it just didn’t look right.

  • luysii  On June 15, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    Not to worry if you’re a very visual person. My wife is a fiber artist and took up the cello 10 years ago and had a terrible time playing in time (but not in tune). She instinctively read the space between notes as the time between notes. It took me a long time to figure this out. Now she puts in two dots for a quarter note, 4 for a half note etc. etc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: