The British Dyslexia Association   is holding a conference in March called ‘What’s the Score: Music and Dyslexia’. 

The Conference, dedicated to the late Professor Tim Miles,  will draw together specialists in the field of dyslexia research and practitioners within music education. An overall aim of the Conference is to raise awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of musicians with dyslexia and the paradoxes in reading and performing music.

Unsurprisingly the major tenets of neurological research in the general field of dyslexia concerning lack of fast processing, limitations on working memory, or an assumption of automaticity skills, reveal themselves in musical activity. It is not only students of music who give the oft-heard, and very revealing, cry that “It looks like sight-reading every time I return to it”.

The personal disorganisation which often accompanies dyslexia can have its manifestations in music. Losing track of time of lesson, instrument and music to be brought to it may be examples here. The frequent difficulty in completing a task in the expected space of time leads to frustrations as often in music as elsewhere. Apparently there are five things that must be brought to bear, (the music notation, the eye, brain, mechanical manipulation and control of resultant sound) when music is played, and keeping the pulse.

All of these may contribute to problems playing music, despite the fact that a person might have an innate musical sensibility and talent.

Young pupils make greater progress in the long run with teachers who incorporate thorough learning combined with variety and fun: a cumulative and multi-sensory approach. This must be as true for learning music as for any other enterprise.

There is an interesting discussion here  elaborating on the difficulties experienced by some dyslexics. Here’s one post giving some practical suggestions to support people with dyslexia develop musical skills:

Dyslexia can affect many aspects of reading including perception of relative pitch, rhythm, interpretation of symbols, ability to follow the line of music. Some students have trouble with all these things, some with only a few of these at a time. The most important thing appears to be avoiding an overload of information that cannot be processed as quickly or as efficiently by dyslexic students. They need to have opportunities to prepare rather than be hit with everything in sightreading all at once. Many things can help: here are some suggestions:
1) Enlarge the music
2) Put corresponding colours at beginning and end of lines (ie green at end of one line and beginning of next line, then blue, then green etc) to facilitate the eye finding the next line
3) Darken the middle line of the stave, and the first ledger lines above and below
4) Rewrite the music so that all the stems go the same direction
5) Make sure that the music is written in proportional notation (ie that half notes occupy twice as much space as quarter notes) to facilitate rhythm reading.
6) Keep similar fingerings in similar passages

It looks as if it will be a fascinating conference. Would that I had the spare cash to go!

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