For years, fans of Taylor Swift have speculated about the extent of her musical abilities, often focusing on the question of whether or not the extraordinarily popular singer-songwriter can read music.

"Fun fact: Taylor Swift Can't Read Sheet Music. She Plays By Ear!" one Reddit post on the topic claimed, for example. "Does Taylor Swift actually read music notation?" a Quora user asked.

"She most likely writes a melody on a guitar or piano, and then the production is simply built around it. typical 'reading music' type of music is very mechanical to compose sometimes, taylor's melodies are good because they come directly from her own creativity," one Reddit user commented, while another wrote "I feel like this is the way she was shown doing it in Miss Americana [a documentary about Swift's career]. She hums a melody into her phone when it comes to her and then works it out from there on a piano or guitar."

Numerous generic articles with titles such as "15 Of The Most Famous Musicians Who Can't Read Music," and "10 legendary musicians who never learned to read music," also have addressed the question.

Swift answered the question herself in a 2009 Rolling Stone interview in which she said, "I can't read music. I can a little bit," adding that "when you're reading music for me it turns into math":

What would you have majored in at college if you went?

I would not have majored in music because when music becomes technical for me I don't like that part of it. I can't read music. I can a little bit. When you're reading music for me it turns into math. I like for it to go the way it's going to go. I'm not as much into technique as I am into the emotion of it.

As of June 2024, we have not found any more-recent interviews with Swift in which she discusses her ability to read music. We have contacted her representatives for comment and will update this article if we receive a response. 

It's worth underscoring that it is possible for a pop artist not to engage with sheet music at all in the creative process and opt for a more intuitive approach, yet still be quite successful. Moreover, the fact that Swift can play piano and guitar and compose songs demonstrates she has musical ability. Even the one-note structure of many of her songs, as highlighted in a 2017 BBC article titled "Why does Taylor Swift write so many one-note melodies?" reveals an intrinsic musical flair, according to the author:

Repetitive melodies that centre around a single  note are part of that appeal. They emphasise her relatability by mimicking the cadence of speech.

It helps that her lyrics are effortlessly conversational and vernacular. "We are never, ever getting back together" is a clumsy song title but it makes perfect sense in Taylor's brand of teen-speak. The impression is that you're hanging out with a friend, chatting about boys (and it's almost always about boys).

Taylor uses the device most often in verses, shifting the chords beneath her voice to give the melody a sense of movement, in the same way that moving a light around the room casts different shadows.

When the chorus soars up the musical scale, it's like a rush of energy. The emotional highs become even higher. And, as I am not the first to point out, she has a flair for melodrama.

This isn't the first time we have investigated a Swift-related rumor. In May 2024, we looked at whether Swift really burned 138 tons of jet fuel visiting her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, over three months. In April 2024, we debunked a video clip supposedly showing Swift expressing opposition to same-sex marriage.


Dobrin, Nikki. "Clip of Taylor Swift Expressing Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage Real?" Snopes, 24 Apr. 2024,

---. "Taylor Swift Burned 138 Tons of Jet Fuel Visiting Travis Kelce Over 3 Months?" Snopes, 18 May 2024,

Taylor Swift Talks Boys and Mean Girls - Rolling Stone. 23 Apr. 2021,

Why Does Taylor Swift Write so Many One-Note Melodies? 8 Nov. 2017.,

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