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If Irving Berlin could not read or write music, how did he compose?




[From the Straight Dope Archives]

Born in Russia and brought to the U.S. at age five, Irving Berlin dropped out of school in his early teens and taught himself to play the piano while working as a singing waiter from 1904 to 1907. He played almost entirely in the key of F-sharp, allowing him to stay on the black keys as much as possible. This wasn't unheard-of for a self-taught musician, since it's easier for untrained fingers to play the black keys (which are elevated and widely spaced) without hitting wrong notes...





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