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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
    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 View Post
    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 View Post
    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 View Post
    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 View Post
    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.
    Jake Hanlon - Jazz Guitarist, Composer and Educator
    Website - Buy Music - Youtube - STFXU

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jake Hanlon View Post

    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 View Post
    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 View Post
    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.
    Jake Hanlon - Jazz Guitarist, Composer and Educator
    Website - Buy Music - Youtube - STFXU

  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 View Post
    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 View Post
    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.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    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.

  28. #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?

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by FatJeff View Post
    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.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    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.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Susan Palmer View Post
    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

  32. #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

  33. #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.

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by Susan Palmer View Post
    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.

  35. #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.

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by FatJeff View Post
    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.

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by FatJeff View Post
    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?

  38. #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

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reg View Post
    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.

  40. #39

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

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep View Post
    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.

  42. #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

  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by lindydanny View Post
    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.

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by lindydanny View Post
    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?

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by derek View Post
    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.

  46. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by derek View Post
    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.

  47. #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.

  48. #47

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

  49. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by derek View Post
    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

  50. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by lindydanny View Post
    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.

  51. #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