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  1. #101

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    "Having written all this, I’ll close with a contradictory quote from Dizzy Gillespie (about a trumpeter he knew in Cuba). “He can’t read a note but can play his ass off”. I CAN read (although not that well) but can’t play my ass off. But I’m optimistic." Guitarstudent


    Hi, G,
    I think that's possible in a Rock, Dixie,or a Blues idiom but the complexity of Jazz renders Dizzy's statement rather Romantic. I think one would have to be a musical savant for that to happen. Where are they today? Most of the top players are coming out of Berklee or other music programs across the country.
    Good playing . . . Marinero

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  3. #102

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    "Having written all this, I’ll close with a contradictory quote from Dizzy Gillespie (about a trumpeter he knew in Cuba). “He can’t read a note but can play his ass off”. I CAN read (although not that well) but can’t play my ass off. But I’m optimistic." Guitarstudent


    Hi, G,
    I think that's possible in a Rock, Dixie,or a Blues idiom but the complexity of Jazz renders Dizzy's statement rather Romantic. I think one would have to be a musical savant for that to happen. Where are they today? Most of the top players are coming out of Berklee or other music programs across the country.
    Good playing . . . Marinero
    Well.... I don’t think one has to be a musical savant to learn to play bop by ear. Because it’s basically easier to do it that way, and I’m pretty certain that’s how anyone would tell you to learn it at college or otherwise.

    Also most of the actually good bop players I know are primarily ear based. I’d advise anyone wanting to learn bop to shelve their books and focus on learning heads from the record.

    The changes to those tunes are pretty basic, based on Dixie/swing tunes.

    As for more modern stuff... we have a lot of diversity. Again, I feel actually listening teaches a lot more than any theory classes.

    I think saying you have to be a musical savant to learn jazz by ear is an excuse. The ear is the one thing we can’t do without, and it can be worked on and improved. Nothing mysterious there. Everything else is negotiable - reading, theory, and so on.

    But colleges (rightly) are interested in turning out well rounded musicians. Reading is part of that. Why wouldn’t you learn to read?

    What you end up using on the gig depends on what gigs you end up doing. I don’t do many reading gigs, mostly I play by memory. But I know people who do more reading stuff.

    Originals projects require reading.

  4. #103

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Well.... I don’t think one has to be a musical savant to learn to play bop by ear. Because it’s basically easier to do it that way, and I’m pretty certain that’s how anyone would tell you to learn it at college or otherwise.

    Also most of the actually good bop players I know are primarily ear based. I’d advise anyone wanting to learn bop to shelve their books and focus on learning heads from the record.

    The changes to those tunes are pretty basic, based on Dixie/swing tunes.

    As for more modern stuff... we have a lot of diversity. Again, I feel actually listening teaches a lot more than any theory classes.

    I think saying you have to be a musical savant to learn jazz by ear is an excuse. The ear is the one thing we can’t do without, and it can be worked on and improved. Nothing mysterious there. Everything else is negotiable - reading, theory, and so on.

    But colleges (rightly) are interested in turning out well rounded musicians. Reading is part of that. Why wouldn’t you learn to read?

    What you end up using on the gig depends on what gigs you end up doing. I don’t do many reading gigs, mostly I play by memory. But I know people who do more reading stuff.

    Originals projects require reading.
    A point I don't see discussed much is how well a person can remember music. My impression is that there is a wide range of ability in that regard. It correlates with having big ears, but it's not the same thing. Warren Nunes told me once that if he heard a song on a jukebox in a bar, once, he'd know that song for the rest of his life. I know other players who can memorize an entire show after reading through it once.

    This week I saw a well known player at a jam. I'm pretty sure he didn't know some of the tunes. It seemed like he was faking his way through the first chorus but, after that, he clearly knew the tune. Looked to me like it took him one hearing. I don't know if he can read. I do know that he tours in a duo and the other guy can read but just a little.

    So, if you've got big ears and a great memory, you can compensate for lack of reading. Not that reading would hurt anything.

    But, for those of us who aren't so blessed, reading allows us to function in a larger number of situations. And, even the guy with the ears, memory and talent, isn't going to get a gig where you have to play a written part.

  5. #104

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    A point I don't see discussed much is how well a person can remember music. My impression is that there is a wide range of ability in that regard.

    It correlates with having big ears, but it's not the same thing. Warren Nunes told me once that if he heard a song on a jukebox in a bar, once, he'd know that song for the rest of his life. I know other players who can memorize an entire show after reading through it once.

    This week I saw a well known player at a jam. I'm pretty sure he didn't know some of the tunes. It seemed like he was faking his way through the first chorus but, after that, he clearly knew the tune. Looked to me like it took him one hearing. I don't know if he can read. I do know that he tours in a duo and the other guy can read but just a little.

    So, if you've got big ears and a great memory, you can compensate for lack of reading. Not that reading would hurt anything.

    But, for those of us who aren't so blessed, reading allows us to function in a larger number of situations. And, even the guy with the ears, memory and talent, isn't going to get a gig where you have to play a written part.
    I would definitely agree. I’m crap at this. Jimi Hendrix, Mozart and yer man Nunes, clearly gifted in this area.

    It is embarrassing the amount of time it takes me to properly learn a melody. Just forever.

    I’ve got better at it though.

    It’s funny though, I used to memorise entire opera roles.....

    Here’s a thing though - we all perhaps have better recollection than we think. We have to learn to trust it more, often.

    And for those not blessed with savant recall - well there’s this science of memory that’s kind of forgotten. Mike Outram, top UK jazz guitarist is actually a world ranked memory expert. This doesn’t mean he has a naturally good memory- far from it. It means he has mastered a number of techniques for developing perfect recall.

    The techniques for doing this are discussed at length in the book Moonwalking with Einstein which Mike recommended, which is a really fascinating little book.

    I first came across it in the amazing Hillary Mantel historical novel Wolf Hall, which imagines the way Henry VII’s right hand man and the book’s protagonist Thomas Cromwell managed his ‘memory palace.’ In the present era we have all neglected this area of our minds, out sourcing first to cheap and plentiful books (or manuscript paper) and then to machines. But it used to be a cornerstone of education and if you go back far enough - to the oral traditions of the Veddas, the Iliad etc - the only way to recall information beyond one’s own lifespan.

    Anyhoo. In music, as in any type of memory, having an anchor is invaluable. This would tend to be extra-musical This could be imagined notation. In my case it is often words. Perhaps for others it might be colours or who knows.

    And memorising melodies must presumably be easier than memorising strings of random digits. And we all used to do that before cell phones.

    A little OT. Really good readers never have much of an incentive to develop this skill...

  6. #105

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    "I think saying you have to be a musical savant to learn jazz by ear is an excuse. The ear is the one thing we can’t do without, and it can be worked on and improved. Nothing mysterious there. Everything else is negotiable - reading, theory, and so on. " Christianm77


    Hi, C,
    You've made some interesting statements in this post. The one I disagree with is the first sentence above. The rest . . . we're both on the same page. Let me explain. There are some human beings who are born with a gift. We see it in sports, business and the Arts. These are human beings that I call "aliens" (in a joking sense) since they have abilities which are so far beyond even talented people that you wonder where these talents originated since they move the ball so quickly down the field and ,seemingly, with so little effort. In Science, there was Galileo, Einstein and Oppenheimer . In business, there were the robber Barons of the early 20th Century--Vanderbilt, Morgan, Rockefeller, Ford. In the visual Arts there was Michelangelo, DaVinci, Rembrandt. And, in Classical Music we've had Bach, Beethoven, Wagner. And, finally, in Jazz, there was Parker, Coltrane,Dizzy, Monk and Miles to name a few. So, when we speak of learning jazz by ear, playing poorly is accessible to all, but playing with conviction and artistry requires a higher standard. I think in a lifetime of performing, an average/above-average "ear" musician can learn the "book" and probably, with native talent, play confidently with other musicians . . . that is if they don't change the key from the original music or play from a book for a gig. But what's the point? Music is a skill and an art. And, for everyone but a genius, you need to learn your craft before you can produce "art." Would you rather have a house built by union tradesmen who have gone to school, worked as an apprentices in the field for years to other master tradesmen and have the ability to build a structurally correct product or would you rather have "Youtube" tradesmen who have honed their skills on 15 minute tutorials? Why should it be any different for Music. The days of Dixieland "ear" musicians are gone and to play the sophisticated music we call Jazz today is no small feat . . unless, of course, you're a "savant" like Joey Alexander. How many of us can make that claim? So, great discussion in a matter of real import to any serious musician. In short, a musician that doesn't read music and understand basic theory, harmony, counterpoint, etc. starts at the bottom of the ladder and in my experience, probably never leaves. Thanks for the input, C! Good playing . . . Marinero

    Here's Joey with "My Favorite Things." Enjoy!
    https://youtu.be/3pzIlq7jZzw

  7. #106

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    This is a false dichotomy imo

  8. #107

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    This is a false dichotomy imo
    Hi, C,
    Would your comment be the same if we were talking about learning advanced Math or Physics . . . or even the use of language when writing a novel? Can you explain how Music is different than any other skill, talent or Art? Good playing . . . Marinero

  9. #108

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    Hi, C,
    Would your comment be the same if we were talking about learning advanced Math or Physics . . . or even the use of language when writing a novel? Can you explain how Music is different than any other skill, talent or Art? Good playing . . . Marinero
    We could get into that and I actually be very interested although somewhat lacking in time to discuss this rather large area (I feel reasonably well qualified to talk about this both from an academic and personal perspective.)

    I feel you are trying to widen the scope of the discussion and I want to know first that you understand what I mean by false dichotomy. Not to be a dick, just feel you are setting up a opposition which isn’t in my experience reflected by reality.

  10. #109

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    Hi, C,
    Would your comment be the same if we were talking about learning advanced Math or Physics . . . or even the use of language when writing a novel? Can you explain how Music is different than any other skill, talent or Art? Good playing . . . Marinero
    Ok so I’ll try and give this a slightly more complete answer.

    I have a degree in physical sciences (astronomy) and my wife is a mathematician. We are both also musicians. I am studying music education at the moment.

    The big difference I would identify is that music theory itself is quite straightforward. It’s not especially hard to understand what a Lydian dominant scale is intellectually. At least not compared to number theory or something.

    The crucial bit is the praxis of that scale. So being able to master that on your instrument, the sound of it and so on - that takes graft. It is true that there is also a lot of basic hard work in any field, but I think the biggest thing I’ve had to learn in music is to work my butt off in a way that’s quite different from STEM subjects, where you might have to do a lot of boring stuff, but you aren’t necessarily acquiring practical kinaesthetic skills.

    So I find comparisons between music and science etc a little unhelpful.

    So, music is based on audition, the aural imagination. It doesn’t matter if you know theory if you can hear it. Theory is just a label for certain sounds. In this sense it really is no different from the other arts except that aural imagination is perhaps less familiar to us than, say visual imagination.

    In practice of course, most people know the theory now, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In the same way that there’s nothing wrong with learning notation. Far from it.

    Hence a false dichotomy. One does not exclude the other. Everyone who can play well plays by ear whether or not they know scales or can read fly shit.

    But there are unusual musicians like Birelli who just work by ear, not a lick of theory. Birelli is obviously a savant-like musician, but actually I say his lack of formal music educational background is actually more unusual than his talent. I know some musicians who have incredible aural skills and know all the theory having been to music college etc. If they didn’t know theory, they would still be awesome musicians. It’s just that musicians who are that talented most often end up in the education system.

    But audiating, the musical imagination, the inner ear, is the one non negotiable aspect of playing music, because everything you do has to be heard. Otherwise it will be shit, basically, not music.

    To set up a dichotomy between the master/savants and the rest of us - again it’s false. It’s not binary. It’s a spectrum, a continuum in terms of raw talent and everything else.

    And you work on this stuff. All the pro players I work with value ear work and so on very highly. Not all are great readers or theoreticians.

    Anyway a good book to read is Edwin Gordon’s Learning Sequences in Music. He’s the audiation guy. You might also want to check out the Tristano approach if you haven’t.

    (There’s also quite a bit of Edwin Gordon stuff on YouTube.)

  11. #110

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    (Another thing is that it is perfectly possible to study music theory without being a performing musician. You can do academic music degrees. That’s more like a science.)

  12. #111

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    "The crucial bit is the praxis of that scale. So being able to master that on your instrument, the sound of it and so on - that takes graft. It is true that there is also a lot of basic hard work in any field, but I think the biggest thing I’ve had to learn in music is to work my butt off in a way that’s quite different from STEM subjects, where you might have to do a lot of boring stuff, but you aren’t necessarily acquiring practical kinaesthetic skills.

    So I find comparisons between music and science etc a little unhelpful. " Christian

    Hi, C,
    Thanks for your reply. However, the above statement is a classic "red herring" in philosophical discourse since the necessity of kinasethetic skills are those unlike writing fiction, poetry(unless you use a typewriter for a good workout) but perhaps similar to the visual arts in coordinated motor skills, yet, in essence, have no objective bearing on the crux of the discussion--"Why Learn Standard Notation." Kinesthesia is simply part of the meat and potatoes in the soup. And, the example of Birelli Lagrene is ,indeed, the exception since hardwired in his DNA is a savant-like quality that belies normal patterns of human mental/physiological development. I think it's o.k to disagree since a discussion of right and wrong might wander into the depths of sophistry . . . an area I'm certain neither you nor I would like to descend. So, for me, the study of Math and Astronomy(your specialties) would not be possible without the necessary practical and theoretical building blocks to the next level . . . so, for me, it is also the case with Music, unless, of course, you're a savant. Thanks for your reply. Good playing . . . Marinero

  13. #112

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    "The crucial bit is the praxis of that scale. So being able to master that on your instrument, the sound of it and so on - that takes graft. It is true that there is also a lot of basic hard work in any field, but I think the biggest thing I’ve had to learn in music is to work my butt off in a way that’s quite different from STEM subjects, where you might have to do a lot of boring stuff, but you aren’t necessarily acquiring practical kinaesthetic skills.

    So I find comparisons between music and science etc a little unhelpful. " Christian

    Hi, C,
    Thanks for your reply. However, the above statement is a classic "red herring" in philosophical discourse since the necessity of kinasethetic skills are those unlike writing fiction, poetry(unless you use a typewriter for a good workout) but perhaps similar to the visual arts in coordinated motor skills, yet, in essence, have no objective bearing on the crux of the discussion--"Why Learn Standard Notation." Kinesthesia is simply part of the meat and potatoes in the soup.

    And, the example of Birelli Lagrene is ,indeed, the exception since hardwired in his DNA is a savant-like quality that belies normal patterns of human mental/physiological development. I think it's o.k to disagree since a discussion of right and wrong might wander into the depths of sophistry . . . an area I'm certain neither you nor I would like to descend.

    So, for me, the study of Math and Astronomy(your specialties) would not be possible without the necessary practical and theoretical building blocks to the next level . . . so, for me, it is also the case with Music, unless, of course, you're a savant. Thanks for your reply. Good playing . . . Marinero
    It’s really very simple. A musician needs to develop one’s ear. Thats the most important thing. Other skills are useful, but no great or even good player lacks an ear.

    It occurs to me that you may have confused my argument for the stupid argument sometimes made by silly people that playing by ear and knowing theory is mutually exclusive.

    But let me say this - without working on audiation and the musical ear, no player of jazz or any other style will ever be able to make music. In intelligent teaching of theory for improvisers the ear is always engaged. To me theory is always about grouping and understanding sounds anyway. Hence the term praxis, which I prefer to theory (although it does sound a bit pretentious lol.)

    It’s possible you don’t disagree with this and we are taking past each other.

  14. #113

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    Reading notation gives a good example relevant to this thread. One can start reading rhythms by counting but after a while you have to acquire the ability to audiate rhythms to progress.

    So far from the notation side of it being opposed to the ear side of it they are actually two sides of the same coin.

    It is true some people are naturally gifted audiators. Interestingly some of them can’t play instruments very well. OTOH we can all improve our skills in the area and I would suggest this is an area of priority for most of my students, and presumably by extension most jazz learners.

    Most of them need work learning to hear simple jazz phrases. But they improve quickly when they force themselves to do it. They might not become a world class audiator but they can make an honest musical connection to their playing. Theory is not generally something they need to know more of, but audiating theoretical ideas can take a while.

    Anyway the arguments I’ve made here are made much better and in greater depth in the Edwin Gordon book, which I would encourage anyone interested in music education whether of themselves or others to read.

    (BTW Gordon does point out that early childhood is critical in developing these skills to the highest level which is probably where these natural talents get so good.)

  15. #114

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Reading notation gives a good example relevant to this thread. One can start reading rhythms by counting but after a while you have to acquire the ability to audiate rhythms to progress.

    So far from the notation side of it being opposed to the ear side of it they are actually two sides of the same coin.

    It is true some people are naturally gifted audiators. Interestingly some of them can’t play instruments very well. OTOH we can all improve our skills in the area and I would suggest this is an area of priority for most of my students, and presumably by extension most jazz learners.

    Anyway the arguments I’ve made here are made much better and in greater depth in the Edwin Gordon book, which I would encourage anyone interested in music education whether of themselves or others to read.


    Apologies, I know the Edwin Gordon Book is referenced in a previous post but cannot find it. What is the name of the book? Great conversation. I don't understand a lot of it but you have both peaked my interest. Thanks

  16. #115

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    Quote Originally Posted by vashondan View Post
    Apologies, I know the Edwin Gordon Book is referenced in a previous post but cannot find it. What is the name of the book? Great conversation. I don't understand a lot of it but you have both peaked my interest. Thanks
    [/B]
    Learning Sequences in music - it’s on Google iirc

  17. #116

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    This is a good intro to his ideas


  18. #117

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Learning Sequences in music - it’s on Google iirc
    Thank you!

  19. #118

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    It’s really very simple. A musician needs to develop one’s ear. Thats the most important thing. Other skills are useful, but no great or even good player lacks an ear.

    It occurs to me that you may have confused my argument for the stupid argument sometimes made by silly people that playing by ear and knowing theory is mutually exclusive.

    But let me say this - without working on audiation and the musical ear, no player of jazz or any other style will ever be able to make music. In intelligent teaching of theory for improvisers the ear is always engaged. To me theory is always about grouping and understanding sounds anyway. Hence the term praxis, which I prefer to theory (although it does sound a bit pretentious lol.)

    It’s possible you don’t disagree with this and we are taking past each other.
    Hi, C,
    I agree. Good playing . . . Marinero

  20. #119
    Below is a link to Erroll Garner stretching out on his masterpiece, Misty.

    I submit it because of the lively exchange of comments regarding Mr. Garner’s ability ( or lack, thereof) to read music (related to this thread).

    Some say say he was self-taught and never learned. Others say he learned later.


  21. #120

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    Reading music has nothing directly to do with one’s ability to play jazz.

    OTOH it can get you on the bandstand. And you need to be on the bandstand to learn how to play jazz.

    Or you could develop an absolutely amazing ear and only need to hear something once to play it perfectly.

    Most people find it easier to learn to read.

  22. #121
    About 55 years ago, I took clarinet lessons. My teacher furtively taught me the circle of fifths and all 12 key signatures.
    I remember no drills or charts or “Every Good Boy Does Fine” devices. I just mysteriously learned it. And I, of course, learned to read music.

    That was my musical “DNA” when I (much) later took up guitar. Of course, I learned the chord diagrams (and how F killed my index finger) but somehow I always also wanted Standard Notation for guitar. I felt that was how you “married” music study - through reading (like a teacher on a piece of paper).

    But my experience seems to be different. Many of those who studied piano or trumpet or flute as kids don’t (in my zealous way) gravitate towards reading guitar or bass guitar music.
    I really don’t get it. I don’t get why the “beauty of notation” endured in me - when I moved from clarinet to guitar. Nor why it withered for so many others.

    I know a sax player who play strictly by ear. He says: “I can read but very slowly”. He has no inclination to rectify that.

    One way to express this (for me) is:
    - Reading propels me. It’s like people who read novels. They love it / need it. You can get a lot more than a “tale” out of a novel.

    Twenty five years ago I found it hard to find “note” guitar music, apart from classical, for guitar. There were chord books but precious-few note books. There was piano music, it was agony to map piano notation to guitar.

    I think this is why I came to Jazz because of the reading / theory aspect. No other genres seemed to do that. I love theory. It engages me.

    It’s like there are 2 “guitars”: “Chord guitar”: You can learn 10 cowboy chord songs in a weekend and impress a date or cousin. And, “Note guitar”: It might take weeks to learn, say “Classical Gas” or a Chet piece but there’s so much more MUSIC there then, say, “Wild Horses” which is hummable and has catchy vocals.

    Every evolved cultural area has a language, a “literature”.

    You can definitely go a long, long way with chords and tab but Standard Notation is so ancient and rich: Dynamics, key signatures, clefs, Latin words (Andanta and Rubato) - WOW! - but it was fed to me very young. (I like hanging out with Bach through a score)

    Yet I can understand why guitarists practically laugh when I encourage it.

  23. #122

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    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarStudent View Post
    About 55 years ago, I took clarinet lessons...
    That was my musical “DNA” when I (much) later took up guitar.
    Similar here; I learned clarinet first and played every school day with the school band (including summer band) from age eight to fifteen. When I was eleven I began six years of classical piano lessons.

    Nobody ever mentioned audiation but that was definitely a major component of my musical "DNA"; it was understood that reading music meant using one's learned technique on the instrument to make manifest the musical intent of the written score, and listening was the critical and necessary means of musical quality control for pitch, tone, rhythm, mood, phrasing, dynamics, etc. expressed in the score by marks, signs, symbols, Italian words, et al.

    At thirteen I discovered that I grasped and could play the guitar almost instantly the first time I held one. The greater part of that I believe was from my prior musical experience, especially audiation; so I decided to teach myself to play the guitar exclusively by ear. That approach worked well for me and to this day I continue to play, compose, and perform exclusively by ear.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  24. #123

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    Late in the thread for this, but I want to ask, what exactly do we mean by "reading"?

    It's one thing to be able to puzzle something out at a leisurely pace.

    It's quite another to play in a big band and have to read a chart you've never seen before, as the band plays it the first time -- with key changes, clef changes, ledger lines, long strings of syncopated hits, chords written piano-style on stems, lots of single note lines where you're acting like a horn, and troublesome page turns. Most big band charts have simple roadmaps, but there are exceptions.

    My experience is that all the other musicians in the band can usually do that. Most guitarists can't. Or, stated another way, the standards are sometimes lowered for guitar players because they can't easily get a guitarist who can read like the other players.

  25. #124
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    Late in the thread for this, but I want to ask, what exactly do we mean by "reading"?
    What I meant in my last post was reading Standard Notation, at any speed.