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  1. #1

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    For those of you that are really weak at sight reading let me ask you a question...

    Do you practice sight reading?


    I've heard the various reasons why guitar is difficult to read on and therefore why guitarists are poor readers. I'm not buying it, I say those excuses are just rationalizations.

    Like guitar; on the violin, the cello, the viola, you can play the same passage at various places on the instruments. Yet, those instrumentalists tend to be good readers.

    The piano player has to read chords and bass and melody at the same time, pieces with much more complexity than guitar pieces. Yet, piano players seem to be the best readers I've run across.

    I think it comes down to this...

    Most guitarists don't practice sight reading. It's that simple.

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I'd have to agree.

    As someone who is a very good sight reader on woodwinds, I've been able transfer much of that to guitar. It's just a matter of sitting down and doing it.

    There's no reason for guitar players to be musical illiterates.

  4. #3

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    I don't do this nearly as much as I should. And it is freakin' required as part of my auditions for jazz combos and ensembles at the beginning of every semester...no wonder I'm never placed in the top combos! Anyway, I've started using the Berklee/Leavitt "Reading Studies For Guitar" and "Melodic Rhythms for Guitar" at the beginning of each session now, instead of saving them for the end...this way I'll be sure to get readin into every session, instead of bailing at it because it's late and I'm tired.

  5. #4

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    Wow... some sanity ... thanks Fep , I was beginning to understand why I hear so many jokes about guitar players at gigs... Reg

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    Like guitar; on the violin, the cello, the viola, you can play the same passage at various places on the instruments. Yet, those instrumentalists tend to be good readers.
    maybe because the "legit" string instruments tend to be taught classically, where you *have* to read

  7. #6

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    All the above is apropos, but I think another reason is that jazz rhythms don't crop up in classical guitar literature too much as well. I had played classical for a few years before entering a reading situation with jazz guitar, and the charts seemed very different than the classical stuff I was playing.

    Plus, with classical guitar I was basically solo - whereas, in an orchestral setting, I think you get better at practicing "at tempo live" sight reading.

    Anyhow, I like FatJeff's ideas about how to improve. I myself used to just grab saxophone etude books and read through them once (then set them aside for a few months, then use them again, then toss aside). I _should_ have been playing through the Parker omnibook I think - better jazz practice.

    Hmmm, maybe I need to do that now!

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by FatJeff
    Anyway, I've started using the Berklee/Leavitt "Reading Studies For Guitar" and "Melodic Rhythms for Guitar" at the beginning of each session now, instead of saving them for the end...this way I'll be sure to get readin into every session, instead of bailing at it because it's late and I'm tired.
    I think the beginning of the days practice sessions is a good idea.

    Both vocal sight reading and guitar sight reading seem to be tasks that I often don't seem to get to. I'm putting both of those at the beginning of the day now.

    Currently I'm reading The Real Book and Bach's Chorales.

    Bach's Chorales are a bargin for sight reading as I read each part separately (the tenor and the bass I read on my bass guitar). So I get four seperate sight reading exercises on each chorale. And Check out the price:

    Amazon.com: Bach / 371 Chorales / Volume 1 (Kalmus Edition) (9780769240916): Johann Sebastian…

    Also, I use a metronome when sight reading. Usually set pretty slow . I think it creates more bandstand type reality pressure.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    Like guitar; on the violin, the cello, the viola, you can play the same passage at various places on the instruments. Yet, those instrumentalists tend to be good readers.
    Essentially monophonic instruments, a single line at a time (techniques like double stopping don't really involve a second part).
    The piano player has to read chords and bass and melody at the same time, pieces with much more complexity than guitar pieces. Yet, piano players seem to be the best readers I've run across.
    The piano is polyphonic, but the pianist does not have to 'make' the notes in any way, they're there, always in the same place. The point of piano fingering is more to get smooth phrasing than to be able to find the damn notes in the first place. I think this is true for all today's common polyphonic instruments except the guitar - organ (obviously) and other keyboards, harp, xylophone and such, any more? They all have essentially 'static' notes.

    I'm not arguing with your thesis that guitarists could be better readers if they weren't reluctant to practise reading, by the way, I'm just pointing out that reading guitar music does involve complexities music for other instruments doesn't have. In fact, I think the best ways past this are a) learning the piano, if only as a second instrument, and b) sight-singing.

  10. #9

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    #1 reason guitarists are poor sight readers: tablature

    i've never seen saxophone tablature

  11. #10

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    In addition to personal reading practice it is in my opinion crucial to read in an ensemble.
    Maybe there was a lyrical passage that sounded beautiful at home but needs more attack to cut through the band.
    Finding a compatible approach to eighth notes with a drummer who plays more in front or behind the beat than you.
    What is the meaning of your notes and rhythms inside the musical architecture of the composition?
    Everything changes in a ensemble context.

  12. #11

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    Here's something that nobody has ever answered for me.

    You buy a book like one of the Leavitt books. You "read" it for practice. How do you know that you're reading it right if you don't know how to read? I'm guessing that one has to have at least some rudimentary reading skills to start with.

    I can read music, but not very well on sight. My answer to my question above was to read music that I already heard and then after a while I could see groups of notes the way that we see groups of letters as words when we read text. My reading got a lot better when I just sat without guitar in hand with the Pat Metheny Song Book and read it while I listened to him play. I could then sit with the guitar and play it. As far as connecting notes to my fingers, I have Jimmy Bruno to thank for that.

  13. #12

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    #1 reason so many guitarists are poor sight readers, is because so many guitarists are self taught. How many self taught string or horn players do you know? Most guitarists get their hands on a chord chart, and off they go. They learn some chord fingerings, learn to read some chord symbols, and they actually can go on to playing very satisfying music for a couple of years before they crave to go to the next level.

    You might learn to decipher music notation, and then start learning some fancy chords and scales, and it becomes a new tool for figuring out things musically. This also can satisfy you for a long time. By this time, you probably are getting pretty good on the guitar.

    At this point, most guitarists fool themselves into thinking they can read enough music and they're pretty good to go. Maybe you've been playing in blues, rock, country, etc., type groups by now, and you think you've got as good a handle on music as anyone else you play with. Until...you actually get the opportunity to play with some musicians who read charts when they play.

    Now you finally realize that you really can't read music, because you can't sight read and play along with others. Alas, the self taught guitarist...then you realize that Timmy McNerd, who played trumpet in high school for 4 years, is light years ahead of you as a reading musician.

    The next big mistake and waste of time is you get a bunch of books to help you to be a sight reader, instead of just getting charts of the songs that you want to play. Don't put it off. Reading for guitar, especially in jazz, is about the most complex instrument there is. Good sight reading guitarists are the rarest of all musicians, second to none. What a blessing and time saver, to have a teacher or be in a music program right from the start.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    What a blessing and time saver, to have a teacher or be in a music program right from the start.
    Did I hear you right, Gumbo? Did I actually just hear you say something positive about a music program?

  15. #14

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    Reading is important, but most of what is interesting and compelling about (non-classical) guitar playing is not acquired through sight-reading. Especially in finger-style.

  16. #15

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    I think Fep has got it.

  17. #16

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    It's a combination of a lot of things mostly it's not using it in day to day practice, that is absolutely true.

    There is a culture around the instrument that exists that is strongly rooted in 'self teaching' or 'you don't have to know (insert whatever)". Reading falls to the way side because it is difficult to do on any instrument and is not vital to being able to actually play any instrument.

    With Guitar there is no agreed upon pedagogical approach, there's no unified way to teach the instrument and thus no catelog of cannonic material you find with other instruments with longer legit histories like Piano or Violin or whatever.

    Also the Tab System is very easy to pick up, however impractical it is you can simply tab things in a way to make any guitarist learn to play the notes with a blissful ignorance to what happens to be really going on. Tab is as old as standard notation as we experience it today (Lute music was tab) but it really is obsolete with today's world, plus Tab is an exclusive language to string instruments, you cannot expect a Trumpet player to tab something for you.

    I make Sight Reading manditory in my studio to the point that there is a minimum ability level in order to proceed in the degree after 2 years. It's always a big point of stress for the students. I know that in 2 weeks when I audition 10 new freshman and 3 transfer students for ensemble placement 8 of them won't be able to read quarter notes with any level of accuracy and will leave the audition feeling utterly embarrassed, and they should! To use a great metaphor my co-worker uses, it's like vacumming a really dirty carpet just seeing what gets sucked up.

    Reading is always going to be bad. And when you see those that can actually read then you're seeing those people who actually took the time to get down on it in practice.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jake Hanlon

    With Guitar there is no agreed upon pedagogical approach, there's no unified way to teach the instrument and thus no catelog of cannonic material you find with other instruments with longer legit histories like Piano or Violin or whatever.

    .
    Thank God for that!

  19. #18

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    Here's example why sight reading is required skill for jazz guitarist...This last weeks gigs; Mon.night, I host jazz jam at local club, this weeks house band was Gui., piano, bass, drums and tenor. We open by playing four new charts, I pulled a chart for old Wes tune, Jingles, I saw on youtube. The rest of the night we read through standards and a few originals players brought in.( And the normal transposing for vocalist) I usually read heads with different horn players. Wed. night big band gig, half the charts, my parts looked like sax parts, playing lead line with sax section. Thur. and Fri. nights duo gig with sax, basically solo sight reading, most of tunes did know but some for first time. Sat. and today,(Sun). Trio gig, Guitar, sax and bass, I never know what we'll play, reading at least half the time, I read heads with sax, we take turns adding harmonies.
    My point is I could not cover these gigs if sight reading wasn't one of my basic skills, and I have large ears from years of playing and training. It's not like... well I'll get it together after I develop my playing skills, it is one of your playing skills. I've posted many times how to improve your sight reading, so I won't bore... Best Reg

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reg
    Wow... some sanity ... thanks Fep , I was beginning to understand why I hear so many jokes about guitar players at gigs... Reg
    Like: How do you get a guitar player to stop playing? Put some sheet music in front of him.

    Isn't it a combination of two things?
    1. Becoming and staying a good reader is lot of work? Hard work and eye skill. It's like "speed reading" regular text.
    2. Most of the richest guitarists in the last 50 years can't read much, and to play what made them rich by ear is too fast and easy.
    There are probably more people in the US who can play the riff to Smoke on the Water than can recite a few basc historical facts.
    Last edited by Aristotle; 08-22-2010 at 10:25 AM.

  21. #20
    TommyD Guest
    I was going to add my two cents, but you guys covered the topic perfectly.
    tommy/

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    What a blessing and time saver, to have a teacher or be in a music program right from the start.
    Not all of us can afford teachers.

  23. #22

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    If I didn't have reading skills I wouldn't take half the gigs I get because I have no choice to be to be able to read and read well. Some of us don't have to... it depends on how deep you want to go imo.

    I have a 2hr drive to a gig tonight with guys I have either never seen or heard before and 1 guy I know musically fairly well. When the lead sheets come out thank God I can read. Although I sure can't read as well as I used to be able to, but I don't stress. Just takes some dedication to the language of music.

  24. #23

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    I remember when I started gigging professionally, it was a real shock. That I was expected to perform as well when reading as I was expected to with rehearsal was a terrifying prospect, mostly because I sucked at it. It took a lot of practicing for me to get up to a passable level (even now I'd say my reading is the weakest aspect of my playing).

    I don't think I'm a poor reader because I haven't dedicated time to practicing it (though obviously more time practicing would help). I think it comes down to the school system: all the horn players and percussionists and bassists and string players I know came from the pedigree of the high school music program, wherein you're expected to read music for an hour and twenty minutes every days for four years. If you're a motivated player, you'll come out of a high school music program with a really decent reading level. Unfortunately, most high school programs exclude the guitar because it's not viewed as a "serious" instrument, it's harder to find ensemble sheet music for concert band that includes guitar, etc... It's a sad truth that, in the eye of the education system, the guitar is viewed as an instrument that can never progress past three chord AC/DC rock. To this day, I'm a far superior tenor/alto saxophonist when it comes to sight reading. I wish I'd had the same experience I did on horn reading guitar music, but for now it's a grind every day to elevate my reading skills to a professional level.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by musicjohnny
    Not all of us can afford teachers.
    I had no access to a teacher locally, and went to public school for 12 years with no music programs. Most of the guitarists I knew were self taught and couldn't read. No one promoted reading as a guitar skill.

    The fact is, if I couldn't sight read now, I could not be playing with all the great musicians I'e been playing with fpr the last ten years. Being able to sight read gains you entrance into the inner circle of much better trained musicians. Because of the challenge of keeping your reading chops sharp, most of the horn players I know belong to a civic or semipro big band or such, just to maintain their reading skills. If you want to play with the best, and most productive musicians, you will need to sight read well.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    I had no access to a teacher locally, and went to public school for 12 years with no music programs. Most of the guitarists I knew were self taught and couldn't read. No one promoted reading as a guitar skill.
    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.