Do I need to read music as a gigging pianist?

sheet music Dec 07, 2017

This is a question I get a lot.  On one extreme, many classically trained pianists will only read music, and only play the notes exactly as they are written, while on the other hand, many self-taught pianists can't read music at all, but can play any song after only listening to it a few times and maybe looking up the chords.  

So who's right?  

The real answer?

It depends.  

Depends on the Gig

Depending on the occasion, reading music may not be that important.  

If the gig is to simply play some pleasant sounds in the background, then heck, you don't need any music at all, just play a few chords, make up some pleasant melodies, and boom, you're golden.  

If the gig is to play popular songs, then just pick a few, and you don't need to read any music to learn those, that's for sure, again, just figure out the melody and the chords.  

However, if the request is for specific pieces of the classical repertoire, then...

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