I consider myself quite lucky to have the ability to sight-read sheet music. I’m not sure exactly when that kicked in, but it is what has landed me occasional jobs, whether playing for a community choir, musical theater group, or just being asked to record something.
Even if not 100% accurate, whether it is due to purposely omitting more ‘challenging’ portions, or just the need to simplify in general, it’s an amazing ability to have. It is something that has just come naturally to me, and I think really accelerated my passion for playing.
Playing by ear, on the other hand, was never my strong suit. I avoided it as I figured I could sight-read so why bother to take the time? One day, a friend of mine convinced me to just learn a song by ear, which then turned into a few more songs, and just snowballed into being able to sit down and do it really well, and I am very appreciative that I was forced out of my comfort zone and have really developed the ability to ‘make a song my own’ over the years. No longer dependent upon sheet music, playing a song by ear, making my own arrangement / interpretation of it, feels more passionate. It has also allowed me to really hear different layers of a song, and incorporate more rhythm. Trying to fit in as much drum, bass, rhythm guitar, lead guitar and vocals into two hands can be quite the challenge.
Definitely thankful for friends, family, and colleagues who have pushed me to continue developing my abilities. I might have to create a ‘fun’ section of non-classical covers to share. Besides, I like receiving copyright content ID claims from YouTube.