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  1. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss
    Now that I think of it, attitude would seem to be an important factor here. How many times have we read things posted here like "I do this exercise while I' m watching the TV (i.e., mindlessly)?" At least lots. And how many violinists, pianists, etc. do we know who practise while watching the TV? In my case, none.

    (Though I admit that I don't get out as much as I should).

    This suggests to me that self-esteem in general is essential in the learning process, and particularly the idea that what you work on is likely to lead somewhere.
    I'm not sure that's a fair comparison. You can't play violin or piano while watching TV, because (a) those 2 instruments are too big or require you to hold them in an uncomfortable position while playing them, and (b) they're both substantially louder than an unplugged guitar (an electric one, at least).

    I don't think there's anything wrong with practicing rote exercises while watching TV (although I don't do it myself), but you shouldn't expect to learn anything from it mentally.

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  3. #27

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    It does all come down to practice, for sure; and I believe that some folks feel more inspired to practice reading than other folks, and sometimes that inspiration (of lack of inspiration) comes from their teachers.

    If a teacher does not know how to read, she/he is less likely to pass that skill onto her/his students. Also, a lot of students come to their first guitar lessons with all kinds of bad feelings associated with reading, and they have heard on the web from other illiterate guitarists that reading is not very important. A teacher who does not know how to read may support the student's opinions.

    I always tell students over the phone, before our first lesson, that I believe that reading is an important skill and I will be giving them reading assignments if they choose to study with me. If they really don't want to learn how to read, I will recommend another teacher who does not teach reading.

    I'm not a great reader, but I get by. I love the Melodic Rhythms book, and I just bought a new book that's pretty cool: Reading for Contemporary Guitar. Anyone using that one?

  4. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by FatJeff
    You can't play violin or piano while watching TV, because...
    Of course you're right, Jeff, but I was trying to hint at something else when I said "attitude," I was thinking sitting-on-your-bed or feet-up-on-the-table, and strumming your guitar because, basically, you haven't got anything better to do, as opposed to the other musicians gravitas mentioned who were expected to spend x hours a day sight reading for y years. The latter approach not only implies a focus lacking in the former, but also guarantees more returns.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with practicing rote exercises while watching TV (although I don't do it myself), but you shouldn't expect to learn anything from it mentally.
    There was an interesting discussion a few months ago on a classical guitar forum I frequent about some research which suggested that 'mental' practice, i.e., just thinking about playing, is very nearly as effective as actually doing it. I don't know whether this study's conclusions are true, but I am inclined to think that the opposite, practising while your mind is elsewhere, is a total or near total waste of time.

  5. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss
    practising while your mind is elsewhere, is a total or near total waste of time.
    I think practicing in front of the TV is good for various classical guitar techniques like tremolo's or arpeggio plants (like PIMA or PMIA so on..). Its good for grinding in things you shouldnt have to think about.

  6. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Susan Palmer
    I'm not a great reader, but I get by. I love the Melodic Rhythms book, and I just bought a new book that's pretty cool: Reading for Contemporary Guitar. Anyone using that one?
    This one?

    Amazon.com: Reading Contemporary Guitar Rhythms: Single Note and Rhythm Guitar Technique (9780634018299): M.T. Szymczak:…

    Or this one?

    Amazon.com: Mel Bay Sight Reading for the Contemporary Guitarist (9780786664764): Tom Bruner: Books

  7. #31

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    I’m here to give some encouragement to you aspiring sight readers. I am a good sight reader. I have been practicing sight reading every day for almost seven years now. It's a project (so to speak) that I've been working on. I was becoming bored of playing so I decided to start reading music ever day to see where it would lead. I have never looked back. I still read every day. I would encourage anyone to get started. Although difficult at the beginning, if you keep at it you will begin to love doing it. After 1-2 years your skills will be good enough that you will begin to really enjoy it. This new found love of reading will further improve your sigh reading skills. It all feeds on itself. After five years you will begin to recognize things very quickly and a lot of music will become easy for you to read. For beginners, read everything you can get your hands on, including bass clef. I would recommend starting with easy piano folios of popular standards and classical music. You can find these at any music store. These EP books will include melody, basic accompaniment and bass clef. For me, reading has made playing very enjoyable. It has allowed me to experience a lot of the great music out there. The trick is to get started and do it every single day because you will lose your skills if you don’t stick with it. If you are disciplined and stick with it you will get very good.


    Kman

  8. #32

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    It's funny this came up. I was thinking about this kid (eighteen year old rocker) who could wail on guitar. We played together in a pit band for the musical Footloose last year here in Kansas City. When I first met him, he taught me a ton about electric guitar setup for the sound we needed. I just wasn't that good at it and he was.

    I also learned that after we were done with the show, he was picking up and driving to Nashville to become a studio guitarist. It was his dream. The kid could shred with the best of them so I figure he's got a decent shot.

    Fast forward to a week before the show and we are playing this one number in dress rehearsals and I notice that there are notes all over his page but he isn't playing. I ask and he says he doesn't read music. He even asked me if I could take it home and tab it out for him.

    I don't know whatever happened to him or if his dream came true, but honestly I doubt it. Here was a kid who was convinced that all you had to know was the fret board stuff. I'm willing to bet that he has a decent gig somewhere shredding away, but I seriously doubt that any group or studio would sign him on since he couldn't read much less sight read.

    ~DB

    P.S.: Me, I don't sight read too well. But, I do better than most as long as it is one note at a time. I get the opportunity by playing hymnal music at church every Sunday. My goal is to eventually be able to do it. So now when I pick up a new song out of the hymnal, I try to play all four parts (on two different lines). I'm not too good at it yet, but I bet after a few years I'll pickup a lot of skill.

  9. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by Susan Palmer
    I'm not a great reader, but I get by. I love the Melodic Rhythms book, and I just bought a new book that's pretty cool: Reading for Contemporary Guitar. Anyone using that one?
    Or this one:


    Amazon.com: Sight-Reading for the Contemporary Guitarist (9780739031568): Tom Dempsey: Books

    I use this one, as I have studied with Tom some in the past. Good book.

  10. #34

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    OK, so here's real-world for all you cats out there:

    I just got back from my semester audition for placement in the jazz combos at school. I did OK on the repertoire section of the audition (we played Yardbird Suite and Body & Soul), but I totally flailed on the sight-reading stuff. Of course, this was the first thing they had me do (in front of about half a dozen of the big boys on the jazz studies faculty, and a few local gig musicians as well, two of which I saw last night backing Dale Bruning). So, it set the mood for the entire audition.

    The reading was a song I had never heard of before - and which I've already forgotten the name of. It was a mid-tempo "rock" feel song (130bpm, no swing), and I was given a piano chart, so not only were there multi-voiced melody lines to keep up with, but half of the chart was just slash chords changing every beat and with really odd syncopated rhythms. A lot of chromatic descending dominants resolving to weird places. In short, there was a whole lot of shit going on there.

    But the piano and bass players kept up just fine. It was only me - fulfilling everyone's negative expectations - that couldn't hang with the reading. I left feeling like a tool, but you know what? I am going to start hitting the sight reading now every day, and I will not be embarrassed like that again.

    Can anyone recommend a good book to get that would help me improve on this type of reading? It was way more complex than just reading out of the RealBook.

  11. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by FatJeff
    OK, so here's real-world for all you cats out there:

    I just got back from my semester audition for placement in the jazz combos at school. I did OK on the repertoire section of the audition (we played Yardbird Suite and Body & Soul), but I totally flailed on the sight-reading stuff. Of course, this was the first thing they had me do (in front of about half a dozen of the big boys on the jazz studies faculty, and a few local gig musicians as well, two of which I saw last night backing Dale Bruning). So, it set the mood for the entire audition.

    The reading was a song I had never heard of before - and which I've already forgotten the name of. It was a mid-tempo "rock" feel song (130bpm, no swing), and I was given a piano chart, so not only were there multi-voiced melody lines to keep up with, but half of the chart was just slash chords changing every beat and with really odd syncopated rhythms. A lot of chromatic descending dominants resolving to weird places. In short, there was a whole lot of shit going on there.

    But the piano and bass players kept up just fine. It was only me - fulfilling everyone's negative expectations - that couldn't hang with the reading. I left feeling like a tool, but you know what? I am going to start hitting the sight reading now every day, and I will not be embarrassed like that again.

    Can anyone recommend a good book to get that would help me improve on this type of reading? It was way more complex than just reading out of the RealBook.
    Have you tried classical guitar repertoire books? Lead sheets are easy compared to regular piano and other written forms?

    Obviously you have to play finger syle but there are no chord symbols, so you have to know the individual chord notes stone cold. Man, was that an ass kicker--reading multiple voices on the fly.

    I started with a rep book by Charles Duncan.

  12. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by FatJeff
    Can anyone recommend a good book to get that would help me improve on this type of reading?
    No one book, on the contrary, what you seem to need is exposure to lots of different kinds of written music. But above all, orchestral and big-band stuff - might it be possible for you to find one in your area you could get into?

  13. #37

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    Hey Jeff ... we all have faith in YOU... Has any one every taught you how to approach becoming a great sight reader...the actual methodology, sequence or steps... not just material to practice. I'm one of those, as you called "Gig Musician"... I won't bore... but I know players who became great sight readers in six month... best Reg

  14. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reg
    Hey Jeff ... we all have faith in YOU... Has any one every taught you how to approach becoming a great sight reader...the actual methodology, sequence or steps... not just material to practice. I'm one of those, as you called "Gig Musician"... I won't bore... but I know players who became great sight readers in six month... best Reg
    No, no-one has taught me much about the way I should be approaching sight reading. I mean, other than the obvious: look at the key signature, the time signature, maybe try to find the tricky bits real quick and see if there's a good way through them...I'm open to any and all suggestions. One thing is for sure, I am making reading a priority starting tonight (well, actually, I already started a few weeks ago...) - I'll continue with my Berkelee/Leavitt books, because I think I'm learning a lot from them. I was in a big band for one semester and it was tough - I should definitely get my hands on some charts and start using those as sight reading material as well.

    And yes I am definitely interested in your course, "How to become a World-Class Sight Reading MONSTER (tm) in only 6 months!!"



    EDIT: PS Thanks to all the other responses as well - I would love to get back into a big band but time restrictions prevent me from doing that right now. I'll revisit my old classical books, which I have on a shelf gathering dust since I skipped out on the CG in favor of jazz a year ago. :-)
    Last edited by FatJeff; 08-23-2010 at 07:24 PM.

  15. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by FatJeff
    MONSTER (tm)
    lol, good one.

  16. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    I think it comes down to this...

    Most guitarists don't practice sight reading. It's that simple.
    It isn't possible to +1 this post nearly as much as it deserves.

  17. #41

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    When I was in band in high school sight reading was a big deal for contests. It showed your musicianship and could be the thing that put you over the top for best band (we did that all four years).

    We approached practice by spending the first ten minutes each rehearsal (after warm-ups) sight reading a piece put on our stands that morning that we had never seen before. You were not allowed to make sounds on your instrument. So in my case, I took the mouth piece out of my horn and put it on my stand. So, any fingering I did wouldn't make noise. Yes, we practiced the attack which was just breathing as we went.

    Steps to sight reading as I remember it were as follows:
    1) Notation, look at/for:
    - Key signature
    - Time Signature
    - Tempo markings
    - Accidentals and key changes
    2) Hard passages
    - Find groups of notes that are quick in the tempo marked
    - Finger them silently finding the most efficient, recognizable approach
    - Look for similarities between these "runs" and others in the score
    3) Beginning and Ending
    - Four measures from the beginning/end
    - Finger each note until the easily done full speed
    4) Song
    - Go through the entire song beginning to end
    - Remember any "tricky" passages to replay after finishing
    5) Polish
    - Replay "tricky" passages
    - Re-finger runs.

    Yes, guitarists have it a little harder since you can choose different positions for stuff, but with practice you can get preferences on what is easy for you.

    ~DB

  18. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by lindydanny
    Yes, guitarists have it a little harder since you can choose different positions for stuff, but with practice you can get preferences on what is easy for you.
    ~DB
    I see this as a cop out, and one that I have used myself in the past. Violins, violas, cellos etc have the same choices, and they can be some of the best readers in a group.

    If you really know your fretboard, positions shouldn't be an issue. Here's a good little practice item:

    Have somebody call out a note for you, say Eb.

    If you can't play an Eb (or any note) on all six strings in about 2-3 seconds, you need to work on your fretboard knowledge before you even think about sight reading.

    Guitarists are bad readers in general mostly because many haven't had any formal training.

    One other issue is 'ear learning" and memory. I'm fortunate to have a very good ear. I can't take credit for it, it was just there. Way back when I was 8 years old and took a few lessons, my teacher would give me assignments using the good old Mel Bay books. I'd come in the next week and blast through the songs, not because I was reading them, but because I had memorized them.

    In retrospect, my teacher should have been able to see this and given me more reading challenges. I didn't start really reading and transcribing things until a few years ago. I'm 63. It would have been easier at 8.

  19. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by lindydanny
    2) Hard passages
    - Find groups of notes that are quick in the tempo marked
    - Finger them silently finding the most efficient, recognizable approach
    - Look for similarities between these "runs" and others in the score
    3) Beginning and Ending
    - Four measures from the beginning/end
    - Finger each note until the easily done full speed
    4) Song
    - Go through the entire song beginning to end
    - Remember any "tricky" passages to replay after finishing
    5) Polish
    - Replay "tricky" passages
    - Re-finger runs.

    Yes, guitarists have it a little harder since you can choose different positions for stuff, but with practice you can get preferences on what is easy for you.

    ~DB
    Not to be argumentative, but if you play thru something, even silently, is it still sight reading? My understanding is that sight reading is taking a sheet you haven't spent any time. Does this seem too strict a definition?

  20. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by derek
    Not to be argumentative, but if you play thru something, even silently, is it still sight reading?
    Jazz is full of these paradoxes, isn't it? Practising improvisation, there's another one.

  21. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by derek
    Not to be argumentative, but if you play thru something, even silently, is it still sight reading? My understanding is that sight reading is taking a sheet you haven't spent any time. Does this seem too strict a definition?
    I'd say your definition is too strict.

    A long time ago I played in a college big band and we played in the Pacific Jazz Festival at UC Berklee.

    The festival was a competition. You'd play several pieces in the concert hall. Then you'd be scheduled at another location for a sight reading test.

    They gave us 5 minutes to look the chart over in silence, then a few minutes for the director to give instructions (dynamics for certain sections/passages, where he was going to give cues etc.). Then you'd play the tune as a band, one take, and you'd be graded/judged.

    They called that sight reading.

    And I think it should be considered sight reading as that is similar to a real life sight reading situation for a studio musician. So in practice, that is sight reading.
    -----------------------

    Also, good sight readers are looking well ahead of what they are playing... so they are in a sense also reviewing the phrases before they play them.
    Last edited by fep; 08-24-2010 at 11:06 AM.

  22. #46

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    Just as we no longer read words by individual letters but see letters and even words in the aggregate, we need to think of notated music that way--to not see each individual note in isolation (like a child spelling out each letter of C-A-T), but to see, for example, each 2 beat passage in the aggregate.

    For this I would recommend Louis Bellesons book.

  23. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss
    Jazz is full of these paradoxes, isn't it? Practising improvisation, there's another one.
    LOL

  24. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by derek
    Not to be argumentative, but if you play thru something, even silently, is it still sight reading? My understanding is that sight reading is taking a sheet you haven't spent any time. Does this seem too strict a definition?
    My definition comes from seven years of playing trombone in high school band. You can argue all you want as to whether that constitutes real experience or not.

    The sight reading challenges according to the state of Oklahoma's band contests were based on the entire group getting a fresh, usually written specifically for the contest, piece of music. You had a set, small amount of time during the contest to "practice" it during which none of your ensemble could play (fingering for keyed/slide/string instruments was okay as was "air" drumming for percussionists). After the practice time was up, you performed the song.

    Points would be deducted if someone played a note or a drummer hit a drum. However, the majority of the scoring was from the ensembles ability to play the song correctly according to notes, phrasing, dynamics, tempo, etc.

    So, you can "practice" in sight reading. I wouldn't be so strict as to say no playing during practice (that's just for those contests). I would say that if you just go the music in front of you (say within the hour) for the first time ever, then you are sight reading.

    ~DB

  25. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by lindydanny
    My definition comes from seven years of playing trombone in high school band. You can argue all you want as to whether that constitutes real experience or not.

    The sight reading challenges according to the state of Oklahoma's band contests were based on the entire group getting a fresh, usually written specifically for the contest, piece of music. You had a set, small amount of time during the contest to "practice" it during which none of your ensemble could play (fingering for keyed/slide/string instruments was okay as was "air" drumming for percussionists). After the practice time was up, you performed the song.

    Points would be deducted if someone played a note or a drummer hit a drum. However, the majority of the scoring was from the ensembles ability to play the song correctly according to notes, phrasing, dynamics, tempo, etc.

    So, you can "practice" in sight reading. I wouldn't be so strict as to say no playing during practice (that's just for those contests). I would say that if you just go the music in front of you (say within the hour) for the first time ever, then you are sight reading.

    ~DB
    I don't want to argue. I just wondered if getting some time to go thru a piece, practicing it silently for a few minutes, still fit the definition of sight reading. After reading your post again, and thinking about sight reading gigs (I have only had one with guitar), it makes sense that the band or orchestra would have time with the piece.

    Probably just reading something sight unseen as soon as it is placed in front of you exists only in academia.

  26. #50

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    There are sight reading methodologies, techniques etc... which help you become a good sight reader and then there are techniques which help you in the act of sight reading. I believe most are aware of approach at gig when chart is put in front of you... pretty straight ahead, if your lucky, you have 15 or 20 sec. But back to how to become good at sight reading, there are many approaches, but I'll pass on what I used and what I watched work. My end goal is to be able to have fun or enjoy playing, even when sight reading. In one liner style... You need to be reading ahead of what your playing. The trick to getting ahead is to be able to recognize rhythmic and melodic patterns. Most agree rhythm is more important or 1st aspect to get correct, (obviously all aspects are in the end, but need to start somewhere with a plan). I got my rhythm reading chops from reading Drum studies,(percussion). They cover all the subdivisions of each beat, which expands to each bar etc... There is probable better rhythm material available now, but you could take the time to notate the sub-divisions yourself... ( all these things will really help your playing also)
    Put simple... there are two styles of rhythm, 1)Isometric; all values are multiples of the beat, and are grouped in units of 2 and powers of 2, 2,4,6,8 etc... repeating patterns become units of time and you have multiple layers of time. This is the majority of jazz or western music.
    2) multimetric rhythm; (polymetric) all time values are also multiples of the beat, but with no recurrent accent pattern. I only give this information because I believe it difficult to become good at something without understanding what it is.
    So get your rhythm chops together, that will enable you to begin to sight read, you'll be able to recognize the rhythmic pattern and then you only need to fill in the blanks, the pitch(s).
    In regards to pitch, I also believe without knowing what scale, mode, arpeggio etc... your playing when sight reading, your going to struggle. Which lead to the 2nd part of sight reading... Pitch(s); Same thing as rhythm, pitch patterns, (also harmonic patterns), are pretty standard. In order to be able to hear what your trying to read, you need to understand what it is. From what I read on this forum and others, as well as at gigs, most could put a little time into pitch collections and how there developed or where there from. Take the time to write out all the scales, modes and arpeggios of each scale, label all the tones and chords built on each mode degree from each scale. That will cover the majority of melodic and harmonic material.
    I would suggest to become aware of the music theory, but that could take some time. But from practical experience, (years of it), the more theory you understand the easier sight reading becomes.
    So in short, learn to recognize, 1) rhythmic and 2) melodic patterns, and in that order. These should be worked on individually. I've always also practiced transposing while I sight reading, really makes concert charts feel simple. By transposing I mean, mechanically moving each note or pitch up or down a constant interval, for example move or transpose melodic line up a maj. 2nd. And as many have said, it's a daily thing. I sight read every day. Hope this helps give you a plan to develop your reading skills. Best Reg