Copyright 2005 RAW Productions
When you read music you are deciphering printed page and transferring information to keyboard. You might say that you are decoding what composer or arranger put on page . The symbols put on paper by composer are only means he or she has to convey his/her musical ideas to performer, hence to listener.
But! Is decoding a page of printed music and transferring those symbols to sound really making music?
Not necessarily. That is only one step. We might say that reading notes with our eyes and playing them with our fingers is putting mechanics to work. If we stop studying piece as soon as we are fairly fluent in playing notes we have read, we may be good keyboard mechanics, but we may not be considered "musicians."
No doubt you have listened to a pianist and come away saying, "That performance really carried me away." On other hand you have also probably heard much so-called "music" that left you cold—that did nothing for you. Perhaps one reason we enjoy listening to "ear" players is fact that they are listening to what they play and are not distracted by printed page.
"Ear" players MUST listen to themselves or they would have no idea of what comes next. The music is really speaking to them. Always remember that until music speaks to player it cannot communicate anything to listener.
What has all this got to do with reading music? You ask:"Is it wrong to try to learn to read? Since I can't play by ear, should I just forget about learning to play?"
The first question will take a bit of detail to take us from printed page to good listening. Don't forget that performer must be a good listener, if not most critical of all listeners. If, as you perform, you become so engrossed in printed notes, their pitch, their time, touch, dynamics—that you forget that all those things must fit together as a whole to make a good tone story, then you are a note reader, not a musician. But you must learn to read fluently if you can't play by ear.
There are comparatively few people who can play from memory or by ear everything that is on page, fully and accurately. But, you don't hear them falter and fumble over spots that are rough because they have learned how to "fake," how to cover their mistakes so average listener is not aware of their bloopers.