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  1. #1

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    Just spent an hour and half trying to play one page -- a segment of Wes' solo on "Tear it Down" from his method book.

    And I had taken a few stabs at it before.

    The thing is, to me there's a big distinction between reading, which is important, and sight-reading, which seems pretty optional unless you have pro aspirations.

    So after that hour and a half I had it as a pretty good fit to the chords (with a metronome), and most importantly, what did I learn?

    That it's all about shaped phrases, with a lot of varied rhythms and some tasty rests.

    In my defense, though the solo mostly lays out in 5th position, you do have to travel around a little bit. There's one double-stop in 13th position and then you slide bit by bit back to 5th. And then it's about getting those accents just right.

    I'm also doing my own transcription of Wes, D Natural Blues. There's one point where he just alternates between 2 D notes for about 3 or 4 measures -- but he does it with so much rhythm it's a great phrase.

    Wes is the best!

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  3. #2

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    You might want to check out some videoes of Wes soloing, he moved around a lot and didn't stay in positions in general. I would guess to keep the timbe of his lines smoother and he used a lot of slides to be more horn like in his phrasing.

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by JazzinNY
    sight-reading, which seems pretty optional unless you have pro aspirations.
    Not true, in my opinion. Avoiding sight reading is a sure way to never get very far in jazz guitar. You don't have to be great at it, but if you don't have much sight reading competence you need a a whole lot of talent if you are going to become even a semi competent bedroom solo jazz guitar player. And forget about ever playing with others.

    I'm no pro, have no pro aspirations, am at best a mediocre player, but I would never have had any of my memorable playing experiences if I hadn't put in a certain amount of work learning to read early on.

    If I had to give any advice to the many people who have a hard time getting started in jazz guitar it would be: commit to about three months of just sight reading practice: everything you ever tackle after that will be much easier. Imagine if you could have read that page at a reasonable tempo in say 10 minutes instead of 1.5 hours. That's what a few months of sight reading work can accomplish

    Wes did move around a lot, someone explained it to me by saying he moved "diagonally". I think that playing and practicing octaves forces you to thing outside positions since you have to move up and down the neck to get octaves to flow.

  5. #4

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    Give yourself a break man.

    Do think Wes could have read that.

    Remember when you're reading through a transcribed solo [I'm assuming that's what you've got there]
    that the player was functioning in real time and as the reader of someone else' playing it is a big ask to play it up to tempo
    at sight.

    Consider that an aspirational goal.

    Think about it....if someone transcribed your solo would you be instantly able to read it off the page....a tempo?
    [I'm talking a week or more down the track.....so minimal memory at play here]

    Yep sight reading is a core skill among all the others required of a fully functioning jazz musician...but as I said
    at the top you have to know your current skill levels.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by pkirk
    Avoiding sight reading is a sure way to never get very far in jazz guitar. You don't have to be great at it, but if you don't have much sight reading competence you need a a whole lot of talent if you are going to become even a semi competent bedroom solo jazz guitar player.
    I have to disagree with this.

    Reading is very important IMO. However the true definition of "sight reading" is to pick up a piece of music that you've never seen before and just play it as if you were reading the newspaper.

    That talent has no particular use for a bedroom player. It's important in professional work....studios, live TV and the like. Even player in pit bands in shows usually aren't really sight reading by definition.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by docbop
    You might want to check out some videoes of Wes soloing, he moved around a lot and didn't stay in positions in general. I would guess to keep the timbe of his lines smoother and he used a lot of slides to be more horn like in his phrasing.
    Yes, good point. I think Wes is the most "along the strings" of the top guitarists. And I am trying to add this to my playing, because it's more guitaristic than staying in position.

    The path thru this solo I worked out is a combination of the 2 approaches -- reading from notation is much easier if you stay in position. I'm finding that a lot of the solo tracks pretty closely to the shapes in the Herb Ellis blues method, so that was the foundation for me.

    And I just finished up the other transcription (by ear) the other day; now I want to memorize it in pieces and work up the tempo.

    One other thing, in response to some of these replies: the tone of voice really doesn't come across in these posts. It's meant to be pretty light-hearted, I'm not real down on myself. I CAN read; I can read Donna Lee (you just don't want to know how long it took). I'm just pretty amazed at people who can SIGHT read jazz because of all the sharps and flats, and the rhythms of the masters.
    Last edited by JazzinNY; 01-12-2015 at 12:58 AM.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by JazzinNY
    Yes, good point. I think Wes is the most "along the strings" of the top guitarists.
    Well, and that Django guy.

  9. #8

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    I play classical and jazz styles and find that different challenges reading both styles.

    In classical, there tends to be a lot more information' to read whilst in jazz, and I'm referring to the real books here, the rhythms are usually (although not always!) more complicated.

    Referring to the original thread, I think the important thing is you worked at it from the sheet music and should therefore give yourself credit; you've probably learned and improved upon your reading skills more than you realise.

    I think the points raised about true 'sight reading' are good, in that there is rarely a use for it (even the pros often get a quick heads up when they can or have played the piece before). One of the great advantages to reading for me is the whole world of classical music that became available to me. Having said as much, the classical pianist I sometimes duet with is leagues ahead of me in terms of sight reading ability!!! (Although improvisation is a mystery to her bizarrely).

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flyin' Brian
    I have to disagree with this.

    Reading is very important IMO. However the true definition of "sight reading" is to pick up a piece of music that you've never seen before and just play it as if you were reading the newspaper.

    That talent has no particular use for a bedroom player. It's important in professional work....studios, live TV and the like. Even player in pit bands in shows usually aren't really sight reading by definition.

    Yeah, I've seen people make the distinction between reading and sight-reading in this way on this forum before. But it makes no sense to me: it's a mechanical skill, akin to typing, and one can do it at whatever tempo one's skill level allows. A very skilled sight reader can presumably read whatever music is placed in front of them at tempo the first time with no mistakes, a less skilled reader may be able to read a single note bebop solo transcription at 50%, or 10% of its original tempo, in time, with some mistakes. Someone who is at the "EveryGoodBoyDoesFine" stage of reading will take forever to "decode" a simple tune. It is just a matter of degree, I can't see how anyone can draw a line, one side of which is called "reading" and the other "sight reading". If a studio guitarist makes a mistake, is she no longer a sight reader?

    But my point wasn't semantic, but rather that if one can read at the "single note solo at 25% tempo with a metronome" level then all kinds of playing opportunities open up, confidence on the bandstand increases, and all kinds of meaningful practice material becomes useful. At least it did for me.
    A few months of focused practice will get you to this stage, and at least for me once I got there, learning new stuff was much faster: I didn't have to exhaust myself reading new material and could instead focus on incorporating it. So it is also efficient.

    I'm kind of on a sight reading binge right now, so I'm a bit overly obsessed with this topic.

    I understand the OPs frustration, he doesn't mention if he's reading the head, single line solo, or chord solo. Maybe he's reading the chord solo, and some of the grips are unfamiliar, which for me is the hardest part of reading. In any case, kudos to him, learning from the masters is the way to go. And, of course, he's probably a better sight reader than he was before he started.

  11. #10

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    I remember my first jazz guitar lesson - I sat down and told my tutor I wanted to be a jazz guitar player. He asked me if I could read music and I said not very well (in other words, no). I was told that, if I wanted to play jazz guitar then I would just be handed a lead sheet and be expected to get on with it.

    I spent the next 5 years trying like mad to read, working my way through the Leavitt and Noad books and practicing reading every day, even if only for 15mins.

    I'm still a pretty awful reader (!) although the skill has opened up a magical world for me as I can now sit down at my music stand, throw some sheet music up in front of me and just dive quickly into the music. Likewise, I was able to pick up classical guitar much more quickly and within a few years had played my first classical duets with piano, all read from sheet music.

    It might not be an essential skill to guitar playing (I understand Wes couldn't read but virtually most other notable jazz guitarists do) but I think that the effort is very much worthwhile so keep at it!

  12. #11

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    The guitar is one of the most difficult instruments to sight read on. There are so many choices of the same note. Studying classical is one of the best ways I have found to improve my reading as it is the most reading intensive discipline in the study of guitar. I also believe that just practicing reading is the best way to develop sight reading skills, learn to play tunes in different positions on the guitar and read as you play.

    of course, ymmv

  13. #12

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    I sight read well... it's one of my jobs. I walk on stages or studios and can sight read what's in front of me. I also have educated ears and I understand music,

    But a somewhat misunderstood aspect of sight reading is the very physical technical performance skills required to be able to sight read... You can't read what you can't play... By that... if you need to rehears a line, chordal phrase or whatever.... your not going to be able to sight read it.

    If you can't play two octave arpeggios anywhere on your fretboard... how do you expect to be able to sight read them.

    Again my point... just as you work on reading skills, recognizing and understanding Form, rhythmic and melodic patterns etc...

    You also need to be aware of what form and those rhythmic and melodic patterns are...

  14. #13

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    One way to improve one's reading abilities is to work with notation daily with a notation software program. It helps to be familiar with a piano keyboard for note entry, though with the proper equipment one can use a guitar via Midi. In any case working with notation is a very hands-on way to learn.

    Having glanced at this thread earlier, I checked Amazon for "learning to read notation for guitar" and found many offerings.

  15. #14

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    I bought a book called I Can Read Music vol. 2 for Violin Students.

  16. #15

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    I have just started to work on my reading. I've been going to jam sessions, and it seems like the horn players and pianist can all read down a lead sheet pretty well!

    I started with the Levitt/Berklee "Reading Studies for Guitar."
    Problems With Sight-Reading on Guitar-51x98ohk-1l-jpg
    It's a little over my head--I need to spend more time in C, F, and G for example--so I just ordered this one:
    Problems With Sight-Reading on Guitar-51z2bhbr9yl-jpg
    I've liked all the MI books I've gotten, so I'm hoping this will be helpful.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by dingusmingus
    I have just started to work on my reading. I've been going to jam sessions, and it seems like the horn players and pianist can all read down a lead sheet pretty well!

    I started with the Levitt/Berklee "Reading Studies for Guitar."
    Problems With Sight-Reading on Guitar-51x98ohk-1l-jpg
    It's a little over my head--I need to spend more time in C, F, and G for example--so I just ordered this one:
    Problems With Sight-Reading on Guitar-51z2bhbr9yl-jpg
    I've liked all the MI books I've gotten, so I'm hoping this will be helpful.
    Would say add at least one more book solely on rhythms. It helps a lot to do a separate study on rhyhms the Louis Bellison book has been a standard for decades, but if you want an MI book on the same topic check Gary Hess' out. As I was taught in reading class in school.... You screw up reading a pitch, you probably only added to the harmony, you screw up reading a rhythm you stand out like a sore thumb.

    http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-R...ords=gary+hess

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by docbop
    Would say add at least one more book solely on rhythms. It helps a lot to do a separate study on rhyhms the Louis Bellison book has been a standard for decades, but if you want an MI book on the same topic check Gary Hess' out. As I was taught in reading class in school.... You screw up reading a pitch, you probably only added to the harmony, you screw up reading a rhythm you stand out like a sore thumb.

    Encyclopedia of Reading Rhythms: Text and Workbook for All Instruments: Gary Hess: 9780793573790: Amazon.com: Books
    Thanks for the recommendation, Docbop!

  19. #18

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    I am probably biased here as I'm not much of a sight reader either, though I can read music, I sight read at very slow tempos (say 8th notes at 66bpm - hey, 10% better than last year!), and I can notate music that I already know how to play (say for making leadsheets or writing out melodies, etc).

    But I think "sight reading" is over-rated for the amateur jazzer. Some basic reading is good - essential really. But to become a competent "sight reader" on guitar is quite the mountain to climb. There are so many other aspects of playing jazz where I can pretty much guarantee your jam-mates would rather you improve your skills in. For example, know more tunes or play more in the pocket or be a better comper, etc vs know how to sight read.

    And actually I am pretty darn sure that being a bad sight reader has made me a better jazz player, because by necessity I have had to internalize a lot of music...something that (from what I can tell) amateur jazzers rarely get around to, and something which is a lot more important to playing jazz than sight-reading.

    So...I'm not saying sight reading is not a great skill to have, but if you only have say 120 minutes a day to practice and you already spend say 10 - 15 minutes of them on basic sight reading, I'm not sure it makes sense to increase that by much, if any. I like to sight read a bit out of a Real Book as sight reading practice (not a way to learn tunes) because in my experience that covers 95% of the sight reading skills I actually need as a non-pro jazzer.

    Just my opinion.

    I like the "Mel Bay Guitar Journals - The Reading Book" to keep my basic sight reading in shape.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by coolvinny
    I am probably biased here as I'm not much of a sight reader either, though I can read music, I sight read at very slow tempos (say 8th notes at 66bpm - hey, 10% better than last year!), and I can notate music that I already know how to play (say for making leadsheets or writing out melodies, etc).

    But I think "sight reading" is over-rated for the amateur jazzer. Some basic reading is good - essential really. But to become a competent "sight reader" on guitar is quite the mountain to climb. There are so many other aspects of playing jazz where I can pretty much guarantee your jam-mates would rather you improve your skills in. For example, know more tunes or play more in the pocket or be a better comper, etc vs know how to sight read.

    And actually I am pretty darn sure that being a bad sight reader has made me a better jazz player, because by necessity I have had to internalize a lot of music...something that (from what I can tell) amateur jazzers rarely get around to, and something which is a lot more important to playing jazz than sight-reading.

    So...I'm not saying sight reading is not a great skill to have, but if you only have say 120 minutes a day to practice and you already spend say 10 - 15 minutes of them on basic sight reading, I'm not sure it makes sense to increase that by much, if any. I like to sight read a bit out of a Real Book as sight reading practice (not a way to learn tunes) because in my experience that covers 95% of the sight reading skills I actually need as a non-pro jazzer.

    Just my opinion.

    I like the "Mel Bay Guitar Journals - The Reading Book" to keep my basic sight reading in shape.
    Have you considered how much more you could be done in that 120 minutes if you could sight-read transcriptions, or whatever book you might be working on. Also sightreading build fretboard knowledge and instead of just trying to play that real book melody you can focus on maybe adding chords to be like simple chord melody. Learning to sightreadi buys you time to do more with what you already doing. Something to think about.

  21. #20

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    Could the people who say that reading is very important for a jazz guitar player elaborate the reasons why ? When you're soloing, you're not reading. And you can learn to play any melody (head or solo) using your ears. So unless you have to play a tune you never heard from a partition, why would you need to learn how to sight read ?

    I can read, but at a veeeeery slow pace. Which is not surprising, because I rarely read anything. And in my opinion, what I need to work on is absorbing more language, and learning more tunes. I never feel that I need how to read better, and I don't see how that would make me play better solos. I may be wrong thought, which is why I'm asking you to elaborate !

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by coolvinny
    I am probably biased here as I'm not much of a sight reader either, though I can read music, I sight read at very slow tempos (say 8th notes at 66bpm - hey, 10% better than last year!), and I can notate music that I already know how to play (say for making leadsheets or writing out melodies, etc).

    But I think "sight reading" is over-rated for the amateur jazzer. Some basic reading is good - essential really. But to become a competent "sight reader" on guitar is quite the mountain to climb. There are so many other aspects of playing jazz where I can pretty much guarantee your jam-mates would rather you improve your skills in. For example, know more tunes or play more in the pocket or be a better comper, etc vs know how to sight read.

    And actually I am pretty darn sure that being a bad sight reader has made me a better jazz player, because by necessity I have had to internalize a lot of music...something that (from what I can tell) amateur jazzers rarely get around to, and something which is a lot more important to playing jazz than sight-reading.

    So...I'm not saying sight reading is not a great skill to have, but if you only have say 120 minutes a day to practice and you already spend say 10 - 15 minutes of them on basic sight reading, I'm not sure it makes sense to increase that by much, if any. I like to sight read a bit out of a Real Book as sight reading practice (not a way to learn tunes) because in my experience that covers 95% of the sight reading skills I actually need as a non-pro jazzer.

    Just my opinion.

    I like the "Mel Bay Guitar Journals - The Reading Book" to keep my basic sight reading in shape.
    I agree with this. I want paper in front of me as little as possible. I want just ears and my guitar, as I think that makes me a better player.

    Reading is important though. I still can't play things as soon as I hear them, so it is really the only way for me to make progress in certain areas.

    I've been working on James Jamerson transcriptions on my Fender Jazz Fretless bass over the last two weeks. They are all in the bass cliff which I'm less familiar with. The notes are easy to read, it is the rhythm that is difficult to read and difficult to play. He has a lot of 16th note syncopations.

  23. #22

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    Let's put it this way. Learning to become a proficient notation reader is never a negative. As for why it is helpful for playing jazz or other musical styles, I think it is self-evident to a degree. For one thing you can virtually just 'read' through sheet music and "hear" the piece. If you are doing session work, the advantages are obvious. Finally, the sheet music itself can become a kind of stimulus for your improvisation in terms of keying off important tones in a chord, for instance. It is a kind of virtuous cycle.

    Jay

  24. #23

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    As long as we've hijacked the thread...
    I've been really woodshedding reading recently, and I thought I'd add some books I found really good.

    First the three Levitt
    books (reading studies 1 and 2 and melodic rhythms) are a good start, although they are painfully boring: they do get you to read and connect the entire fretboard, but those damn key signatures and silly melodies are not that much fun.

    A great book I found through this forum is Tom Bruner's book:
    Sorry! Something went wrong!
    It's all atonal, so you can't memorize it, and he breaks down the fretboard into four regions.


    Another great book is Allard's "advanced rhythms" ADVANCED RHYTHMS: C EDITION: Joe Allard:. The rhythms aren't that advanced, but do cover most of what you're ever likely to
    come across in 4/4. It's largely atonal too, so you won't memorize it, and the range of each 12 bar exercise is limited so you can play each one from about 3rd to 8th position mostly.

    Bergonzi's Volume 5 Vol. 5 Thesaurus of Intervallic Melodies | Jerry Bergonzi is good for purely melodic stuff. (its also a great source for weird melodies if
    you can't finish your composition and want to cheat) No rhythms in that book, though.

    As Docbop mentions, the Bellson book is great: Modern Reading Text in 4/4 For All Instruments: Louis Bellson: 0029156061369: Amazon.com: Books
    I keep it in the office, so I can
    work on it with just a metronome, no instrument needed.

    I had high hopes for Fred Hamilton's book Melodic Studies and Compositions for Guitar Book - Mel Bay Publications, Inc. : Mel Bay, but it doesn't have a lot
    of exercises in it. like the Howard Roberts book, does have a lot of suggestions on how to practice reading, but I wanted just more material to read, I already know how to read and what approaches to take. But these might be good for someone who is thinking about ways to practice reading.

    The David baker etudes are OK Jamey Aebersold Jazz: Jazz Alto Sax Solos/Etudes - By David Baker
    but the problem is every solo starts easy and ends hard and so you can't just run through them without adjusting the metronome. But I did go through several of his books, including the II-V-I lick books recently just as a reading exercise, and they are worth it (I can get all these at the library)

    Then I've been though tons of violin and clarinet etude books. One problem with some of these is that they can be overly predictable, mostly major and melodic minor things without too much rhythmic variety, or, at the other extreme, etudes that are meant to be played with rhythmic liberties that don't work well with a metronome (which I think is crucial to use for jazz study) A really good one is the Kreutzer violin etudes, which are public domain so you can download them. Violin etudes are good because as they progress they start to use double stops, which are a first step towards reading chord solos.

    Finally, for chord reading I'm a huge fan of Bill McCormick's books. Bill McCormick | mPub | Jazz Guitar Books for Sale
    I've memorized one of his in the past (the rhythm changes pick style one) but I have several others that I hadn't yet gotten into and so opened them up in the last few weeks. They are fun to read, but also great for learning to comp in more profound ways.

  25. #24

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    As to whether reading is important: maybe it's not for most people. If you can read basic chord symbols and can improvise a bit over them, that will cover 95% of what you'll face.

    For me, though, I would never had had the opportunity to play modern original jazz with great musicians if I couldn't read reasonably well (and compose/arrange) and even so I've had a number of occasions where I was so stressed about sight-reading something tricky that I could not just relax and play well, *in contrast to everybody else in the band*. When I play with good players, they expect a certain level of reading ability. In truth, I suspect if I were a great reader I'd get more choice gigs than if I were a better improviser.

    Finally, in my practice I often transcribe/memorize solos. The better I read, the more quickly I can do this, and the time cost of improving sight-reading offsets the time it takes to do this.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by docbop
    Have you considered how much more you could be done in that 120 minutes if you could sight-read transcriptions, or whatever book you might be working on. Also sightreading build fretboard knowledge and instead of just trying to play that real book melody you can focus on maybe adding chords to be like simple chord melody. Learning to sightreadi buys you time to do more with what you already doing. Something to think about.
    To reiterate - I do sight read, but not at realistic tempos. So as a learning tool, I can read. But as a performance tool, I can not really read effectively. Like danweineo above, when practicing I spend as little time as possible with sheet music or books in front of me. I try to have it all in my head. Though I will stop to write out lines (in notation) that I come up with if I really like them. As for the suggested ways those better reading skills might supposedly help me: sight reading is not necessary to do those things (I don't really buy-in to the need to study transcriptions...I think it's better to make one's own, or just learn them but not write them).

    I probably shouldn't have even chimed into this thread when the whole thing was premised on trying to play a pre-transcribed solo, an activity I don't buy into anyway...
    Last edited by coolvinny; 01-12-2015 at 07:04 PM.

  27. #26

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    I would like to know how many here actually sight read and play a melody at a moments notice? I think that most of what you are going to do is comp. I may be way off(known to happen), but I would think if you know the chord symbols you could play the basic changes through the first time around then either add/substitute the 2nd/3rd time around.

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited by edh; 01-12-2015 at 10:29 PM.

  28. #27

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    Depends on the tune for me...this week's Jam of the Week (well, one choice) Ugetsu? no problem.

    A Parker head at 280? No f--in' way!

  29. #28
    I suck at reading. Part of the problem for me is, learning to read music is not fun in any way. I think the key is, like others have said, read only a little each day. Don't set your goals too high. To be able to sight read would be great, but, fact is, you're only going to be able to achieve that with TONS of sloooooow reading until you become very very proficient. It's a perishable skill too. My girlfriend used to play in the orchestra and although she could site read, it was never necessary, and if she didn't read and play everyday, her site reading would start to slip right away. She played violin.

    I only speak for myself here, but I am happy to be able to plow through a tune very slowly and I doubt I'll ever be able to sight read anywhere near tempo. If I can read a chord chard and improvise, that's good for me. The solos I can learn by ear if I want.

    Here's a free resource if you're interested...
    How to read sheet music... a free course.

  30. #29

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    One reason I want to read better is so I can use other learning materials, like Mark Levine's books, in which all the examples are written in notation (mainly for piano so I can't actually play them all on guitar anyway, though...)

  31. #30

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    During rehearsals at camp last summer, the expectation was to play through the warmups. Until then, I had never been in a situation where I had to read on the spot at such a fast tempo. Everyone else in my combo were on top of it, meanwhile, I'm still squinting at the first measure like, "okay....C....E...lemme find my spot on the guitar, alrighty....G...B". Next thing I know, everyone else has moved on to the next section of the warmup and I haven't left the second measure. Do you know how embarrassing that is? Been busting my ass on this reading ever since.
    Last edited by Broyale; 01-13-2015 at 02:40 AM.

  32. #31

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    Isnt it ironic how musicians like to talk about the imprtance of sight reading, but then you show up at a jazz gig or jam session with a fake book, or iphone app, and try to sight read a tune you haven't play before, and people look at you funny...'no dude, you supposed to know all the standards in the world, stop cheating by reading the charts'.

  33. #32

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    sight - reading is a skill or sometimes a talent, but it has nothing to do with musical talents...

    in professional areas there are cerain conventional expectations what pro should be able to read considering tempo, dynamics, articulation... this expectation includes more or less musical interpretation. ANd they are a bit different for band players and for soloists

    But it is stupid to expect one to sight-read unknown piece of music properly in artistic way. And no need to do it...
    Any educated actor can read clearly an unknown text from the book, but even great actor cannot play his dramatic part properly just reding the unknown text. No-one expects him to do it...

    And about techique - I met good players who cannot play abstract models like scales/arpeggios etc. mechanically at pre-set tempos, and they do not practice it, but they can play it/and read it within a piece of music easily... I guess it is just the way of thinking, they need to have coherent phrases, meaning to be in rythm and tempo...

  34. #33

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    Sight reading for guitar is also knowing all your various chord symbols, and the variety of nomenclature used by arrangers/engravers. A big band jazz ensemble style chart may have very few lines to read and have hundreds of specific chord changes to address, which sometimes can be just as challenging to read at tempo as line notation.

  35. #34

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    If you can sit through a real book page(most of the real book, the really complex ones can be excluded) without faltering (both chords and head) you're good to go as far as reading is concerned.

    Generally you're not going to use sight reading unless you are
    1) Doing a specific official course or camp or class.
    2) Playing other peoples music for money.

    If you are more interested in playing at home and jamming/gigging with friends, there won't be much reason to read music.

    If you are learning music off a transcription - I highly recommend against it, both solos and tunes. Especially solos. It should be done by ear.

    If you can make your way through the real book, then don't waste any more time on reading. Life is short, make better use of your time and learn music by ear. Keep reading to a minimum.
    Last edited by pushkar000; 01-14-2015 at 06:20 PM.

  36. #35

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    Like I said... Sight reading is also just a reflection of your technical skills and abilities also. Most can't sightread because they can't technically play what is notated, with out practice anyway.

    So yea, who needs it, it's just a waste of time.
    Last edited by Reg; 01-13-2015 at 09:40 AM.

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive
    Isnt it ironic how musicians like to talk about the imprtance of sight reading, but then you show up at a jazz gig or jam session with a fake book, or iphone app, and try to sight read a tune you haven't play before, and people look at you funny...'no dude, you supposed to know all the standards in the world, stop cheating by reading the charts'.
    It doesn't have to be an either/or. Knowing how to read and knowing a lot of standards are both important skills.

  38. #37

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    Knowing how to read more effectively will help me learn more tunes faster.

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive
    ...'no dude, you supposed to know all the standards in the world, stop cheating by reading the charts'.
    Slightly off topic, but I had a lot of top area jazzers over at the house last week for a jam and a friend brought along a 14-year old kid who plays trombone. He hung with every tune that got called, without any charts or music, and did quite well. I figured he either had amazing ears or had studied a heck of a lot of tunes. He later told me that, in his high school band, they have had to study 120 standards! 120! I haven't even yet played 120 standards, let alone study them. So he knew them all, "but not always in those keys", which means he also had great ears cuz he was transposing the changes on the fly. Kid's gonna go far...

    (We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programme...)

  40. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by jasaco
    Slightly off topic, but I had a lot of top area jazzers over at the house last week for a jam and a friend brought along a 14-year old kid who plays trombone. He hung with every tune that got called, without any charts or music, and did quite well. I figured he either had amazing ears or had studied a heck of a lot of tunes. He later told me that, in his high school band, they have had to study 120 standards! 120! I haven't even yet played 120 standards, let alone study them. So he knew them all, "but not always in those keys", which means he also had great ears cuz he was transposing the changes on the fly. Kid's gonna go far...

    (We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programme...)
    Some of these kids...

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by jasaco
    Slightly off topic, but I had a lot of top area jazzers over at the house last week for a jam and a friend brought along a 14-year old kid who plays trombone. He hung with every tune that got called, without any charts or music, and did quite well. I figured he either had amazing ears or had studied a heck of a lot of tunes. He later told me that, in his high school band, they have had to study 120 standards! 120! I haven't even yet played 120 standards, let alone study them. So he knew them all, "but not always in those keys", which means he also had great ears cuz he was transposing the changes on the fly. Kid's gonna go far...

    (We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programme...)
    You know, I agree, and after awhile your ear start recognize the changes, and basically you can have it figured out by the 2nd or 3rd chorus... I once sit in with a swing combo, where they were doing all this classic American songbook standards. I thought I would do a couple of songs, but ended up playing the whole set and a lot of songs I never played before, and nobody kicked me out. (Granted, they had a piano player, but it's a good feeling not to rely on charts but on your ear)

    But still... I've been to a straight ahead/modern jazz jam, and some of the tunes gets called.. I've never heard stuff like that, like Inner Urge, or Invitation... This kind of jazz is new to me, and frankly I have a hard time feeling it like I do swing tunes. And if I on a band stand, I find reading the charts helpful. But don't give me those looks, it's not some people's everyday music lol.

  42. #41

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    I totally think basic sight reading skills are essential, which is why I practice it daily, but the people who keep saying that superior sight reading will help them learn more tunes or learn more solos from transcriptions etc are IMHO coming at this jazz thing the wrong way.

    Best thing you can possibly do for your playing: learn stuff by ear. Sure, if you are going to play something then relying on sheet music can be helpful. But learning stuff that way is a false economy.

  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by coolvinny
    I totally think basic sight reading skills are essential, which is why I practice it daily, but the people who keep saying that superior sight reading will help them learn more tunes or learn more solos from transcriptions etc are IMHO coming at this jazz thing the wrong way.

    Best thing you can possibly do for your playing: learn stuff by ear. Sure, if you are going to play something then relying on sheet music can be helpful. But learning stuff that way is a false economy.
    I understand what you're saying
    For me, its not so much wanting to have superior sight reading skills, I am not trying to be a pit orchestra musician, but I want to improve my reading skills so that I can read and play assigned charts quicker and not get caught off guard in a situation where I am expected to sight read something.

  44. #43

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    I can see that point. In reality a "chart" can range from a Realbook style melody plus lyrics and chord lead sheet to a detailed specific part in a group setting. I am a good reader of notation, but if I have a preference between a tune that I know the melody and harmony well by ear versus an unknown song with complex rhythmic figures, I'll take the known standard every time. But reading skills never hurt and you can gain a lot.

  45. #44

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    Transcribing a lot of solos (meaning notating/reading them) will take care of your sight reading ability. If you read your transcribed solos every day along with other material, you will be playing in the studio a lot sooner than you think. Start today. If you feel you need help, find a GOOD teacher, soon. This is a difficult project, but it can be done if you do the grunt work.

  46. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by Professor Jones
    Could the people who say that reading is very important for a jazz guitar player elaborate the reasons why ? When you're soloing, you're not reading. And you can learn to play any melody (head or solo) using your ears. So unless you have to play a tune you never heard from a partition, why would you need to learn how to sight read ?

    I can read, but at a veeeeery slow pace. Which is not surprising, because I rarely read anything. And in my opinion, what I need to work on is absorbing more language, and learning more tunes. I never feel that I need how to read better, and I don't see how that would make me play better solos. I may be wrong thought, which is why I'm asking you to elaborate !

    Sure, one of the reasons reading is so important for a jazz guitar player is to be able to play with other jazz musicians. Jazz players use real books and you are usually told what page to play and then go straight at it. It is a shame but, in my own experience, the pianists and brass jazz players are usually far more competent readers than the humble jazz guitar player (myself included and I've been reading for years and playing over 30yrs!).

    reading shouldn't be seen as a hurdle but more as an asset and an advantage to playing. The rewards and satisfaction of being able to read competently at the gig are enormous and, for a working pro band, essential.

    Hope that helps.

  47. #46

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    This quote from Bill Frisell applies:

    "For me, it's really important to keep the melody going all the time, whether you are actually playing it or not, especially when it's some kind of standard tune or familiar song form. A lot of people play the melody and rush right into their solo, almost with an attitude of 'Whew - that's out of the way, now let's really play!' Then they just burn on chord changes, and it doesn't relate to the song anymore. I like to keep that melody going. When you hear Thelonious Monk's piano playing - or horn players like Ben Webster, Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter - you always hear the melody in there. Sonny Rollins is the classic example of that - I've read that he thinks of the words while he's playing the sax, so the song really means something to him. It's not just an excuse to play a bunch of licks over chord changes."

    If you are sight reading the melody, it is not internalized. Playing licks over chord changes is not the kind of jazz music I'm interested in. That is why I don't really value sight reading. I don't think it helps very much in playing jazz.

  48. #47

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    I agree with all of what Bill says. I'm a big fan and don't rehearse ''licks' myself. However, Bill, Sonny and Miles all read music and I think they would say it is (or was) an invaluable and essential skill.

  49. #48

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    I know of some killer Jazz players who are blind...... so much for the importance of sight reading! ........

  50. #49

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    OK - here is the "Zen" approach - the goal is where it all becomes One.

    Let me try to explain. As I was reading the thread, I was sitting here playing the song Georgia On My Mind on my Yamaha classical guitar in the key of G. Solo chord melody style. Now, it is hard to get analytical about your playing "in the moment", but I call it "chasing the melody". I anchor the bass notes off of which I play the melody and fill in the harmony. This is by ear. Yet, as I type this post, I can visualize in my mind the notation. But I don't need the notation to play this tune, and in reality when I'm playing it solo as before, I'm playing what I hear.

    Analytically, the rhythm and the qualities that imparts to the melody and harmony in terms of forward motion are so important. It is like the rhythm of lines of poetry. I write detailed notation transcriptions, which sometimes is just an improvised piano version of the song. The notation is the dry record of the performance (midi file), yet the two are one. And I can 'see it' the song - melody and harmony - as notation in my mind. The two are One.

    Having said that, I do not like to play new music cold in performance settings. But it very much depends on the "degree of difficulty" of the music as written. The style. The complexity. Tonality. Functional harmony. Atonality.

    Most of the time you are playing musical standards that you know or can work out before hand at least in terms of structure. If you are playing a song like Georgia On My Mind, I never need a transcription of the song in whatever key you want to transpose, but I like the fact that I can 'see' the notation in my mind as well as read it on a screen or paper. In some ways music notation can be the "net" below the jazz 'trapeze artist' (improviser). If you zone out for a moment while you are playing (and it happens), it can help you find your way or cushion your fall.

    This is not intended as some elitist screed or anything. It's just that if you do this notation and reading thing long enough, it does become second nature to a large degree. Easier, but not always easy. Anyway, ultimately the ears rule. Even better if you can see what you hear and hear what you see - Zen.

    Jay

  51. #50

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    One added thing - I should point out that in truth, the harder thing for me is not to read music notation. It is actually to see it in the dark. Or in the light for that matter...getting older.


    Jokes aside, one interesting observation I find in relation to my Yamaha keyboard synth. It has an LED that includes keyboard staves. When you hit the keys, the appropriate notation of the note appears on the relevant bass or G clef staff. When I focus on my right hand in terms of focusing my gaze on the upper melody staff, I find I can play almost 'automatically' - something I consider a strategy to disarm the attention of the Superego. A kind of distraction of focus which allows your subconscious to make the decisions. There is also a kind of synergy between the hands ears and eyes in terms of the notation and playing. Hard to explain.

    Jay
    Last edited by targuit; 01-14-2015 at 11:02 AM.