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  1. #1

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    Hi everyone, I'm new here and this is my first post yadd yadda. I hope you're all having a wonderful day.

    I can play good but like I've heard that a good number of guitarist's do I have not worked on my note reading skills nearly to the extent I worked on my playing ability and understanding theory etc. So my question is what is the fastest way to become a skillful musical notation reader? Also are there any good online applications that can help speed up the process?

    FYI for me I know it would help if the sheet music I'm learning from is actually making music not like a book I tried in the past that had stupid, not particularly musical, examples to play and learn from.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    You can't sight read what you can't play. Anyone can practice something and get better at performing it.

    1)You need good technique on your instrument 1st. That's just the way it is. You don't have skills to play something 1st time... your not going to be able to play it sight reading.

    2)Next.... you need to be able to recognize RHYTHMIC PATTERNS. You need to get past reading single rhythms. Learn to recognize 1 and 2 bar rhythmic patterns. You develop these skills from going through Drummer Books. I still like Louis Bellson's Modern Reading Text in 4/4... cheap. under$10. There are more, but Bellson's works.

    3) now you need to be able to recognize melodic patterns. Scales, arpeggios etc. That starts with becoming aware of what melodic lines are constructed from. Basic scales and chords created from them.

    You can work on this from playing tunes... but you'll never really get good. The days of playing 6 or more gigs a week are tough to come by, unless your really good.... really good and can entertain. You already said to can't read, so not many band leaders or agents will use or recommend you. Anyway... you need to develop the skills yourself.

    The 3 skills I mentioned above work...

  4. #3

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    Get a real book, learn melodies off the page. Write chords over the first beat of each measure, suffer those those out too. Eventually it'll get easier to read AND you'll be pretty good at playing chord melody off the page.

    None of this stuff is hard per say, what's hard is sticking with it, playing stuff at 40bpm isn't fun, but it's how you learn. Suffering through a lead sheet is awful, but necessary to learn. Write the notes over the top at first, eventually you won't have to but it's okay to start off like this if it works for you.

    Then do all that stuff Reg is saying I guess, I'm not that far yet

  5. #4

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    I recommend Rhythms Complete by Colin/Bower.

    Play everything as written and then up an octave.

    Also in different parts of the neck.

    It's graded, musical (albeit old fashioned) and has a lot of syncopation.

    After that, there are all kinds of things you can read. Clarinet has about the same range as guitar so you can use clarinet books.
    Berklee has lots on offer. Lenny Niehus (sp?) books. Lots of tunes. You can read out of the Bb and Eb versions too, to work on different keys.

    When you can find the notes on the guitar and understand some syncopation, then I'd go with Reg's ideas.

  6. #5

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    If you can't already do it, reading thru the Berklee Modern Method Book 1 is a good place to start. You should get to where you can read thru the whole book, every piece, kind of like sight reading, just flipping pages and reading one time thru and move on to the next piece. Keep doing laps. The pieces are enjoyable to play.

    Then, move on to other material that was recommended.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reg

    The 3 skills I mentioned above work...
    Reg is absolutely on the money. That's a lot of work but it's what's needed. Not only will your playing improve but the standard of people who want to play with you will improve.

  8. #7

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    All great advice. Getting to recognize rhythm patterns helped me a lot. You learn to see them as a chunk, like short-hand. Frees up the mind to look ahead and consider other challenges. I used a book called Rhythmic Training by Robert Starer. That one was developed for use away from the instrument. Like while on the subway while the author was commuting to jury duty.

    And similar to what Reg said about technique. Try to read simple things that are within your current capabilities, otherwise you're struggling too much with technique and not learning to read. Violin and clarinet study books. Bach Chorales one voice at a time. Don't learn them. Play one for a bit and move on so that you're not playing by memory.

    Non-musical examples can be good as long as you don't over-do it. Stops you from using your ears and know-how to intuit where the piece is going, and ensures you're reading. Some say this is a strong point of Leavitt. Not everything you might be asked to read is within your experience.

    And keep with it. It's a use-it-or-lose-it kinda thing. I know from experience. I used to be pretty good and then didn't use it for a couple of decades. Pretty sucky now.

  9. #8

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    Hi, J,
    I once visited Saturn on a bottle of Uncle Harris gin . . . but that's another story. If you want to learn to read proficiently, take lessons from a Classical Guitar teacher or a Jazzer who can ACTUALLY READ standard notation--fluently. Don't waste your time with self-study ,if you're serious, since you'll undoubtedly be practicing mistakes after a very short time.
    Play live . . . Marinero

  10. #9

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    Assuming we are talking about jazz and plectrum (i.e. not classical) guitar....


    William Leavitt books. All of them. His methods, his reading books, and melodic rhythms.

    Fake books are important too, as long as you realize you're playing vocal melodies most of the time. The Leavitt books are more guitar oriented. Both have value.

    And read every day

  11. #10

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    Also read the music and try to sight-sing it before you pick up the guitar

    read intervals not notes

    Isolating rhythm vs melody is helpful - for example I can sight read classical pieces OK, as that is my background, but I struggle with Jazz leads as I have not played enough jazz to have memorized and recognize the patterns and have to slowly count them

    Also recognize the octave transposition - a c below the stave on normal sheet music is the second C on the guitar (2nd string, first fret). You can’t do much under a lead sheet melody if you play it like it was written for guitar

    and no matter what, under no circumstances should you use a barre chord
    Last edited by BWV; 06-27-2021 at 02:01 PM.

  12. #11

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    First of all, Reg.

    Thanks for your advice. I wouldn't expect u to know this because this is my first post here, but I'm an advanced level player right up there with you bro. Yea don't get it twisted I'm a burnin' jazz musician I just don't read notation. Well I can read it, just not as fast as I'd like too. So my playing is actually impeccable at this point. This question was ALL about learning to read notation nothing else. Yes, you can become a burnin' jazz player without knowing how to read notation, just ask Birelli Legrine (I hope I spelled that right. I just don't have the time to go look it up right now lol). Did you all know the amazing Birelli doesn't read music?

    Thanks for all of your suggestions. You've given me some good food for thought on how to learn this as quickly as possible. I'm also thinking its just going to be a matter of dedicating some of my practice time every day to it, even if its just say 15 mins a day until I become proficient. You know, just frequent repetition on it until it becomes second nature.

    @bwv Yes I agree about reading the intervals not the notes per se, well at least after the first note, so you know where your starting from But you've got to know what the notes are too.

    If you take his way of thinking outside of music though, then Reg is absolutely right. Sometimes the rhythm of how you do certain things is very important, lol
    Last edited by James Haze; 06-27-2021 at 02:41 PM.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by James Haze
    First of all, Reg.

    Thanks for your advice. I wouldn't expect u to know this because this is my first post here, but I'm an advanced level player right up there with you bro. Yea don't get it twisted I'm a burnin' jazz musician I just don't read notation. Well I can read it, just not as fast as I'd like too. So my playing is actually impeccable at this point. This question was ALL about learning to read notation nothing else. Yes, you can become a burnin' jazz player without knowing how to read notation, just ask Birelli Legrine (I hope I spelled that right. I just don't have the time to go look it up right now lol). Did you all know the amazing Birelli doesn't read music?

    Thanks for all of your suggestions. You've given me some good food for thought on how to learn this as quickly as possible. I'm also thinking its just going to be a matter of dedicating some of my practice time every day to it, even if its just say 15 mins a day until I become proficient. You know, just frequent repetition on it until it becomes second nature.

    @bwv Yes I agree about reading the intervals not the notes per se, well at least after the first note, so you know where your starting from But you've got to know what the notes are too.

    If you take his way of thinking outside of music though, then Reg is absolutely right. Sometimes the rhythm of how you do certain things is very important, lol
    I go by the note. I don't read intervals. If I see a C followed by a G, I play those notes. I don't think "that's a fifth, so the second note is on the next string two frets higher, unless it's on the g string". I know it's a fifth, but that doesn't help me read it. Apparently, there's more than one way to do this.

    To read well

    1. Know every note on the fingerboard instantly without thought.

    2. Start with a simple book, like Rhythms Complete that's graded. Play everying in multiple octaves and multiple position. Read, don't memorize.

    3. From the above, you know all the notes and can read in any octave. You'll also know how to count syncopation (I mean, you already do, but now you'll get familiar with what it looks like in print).

    4. At that point, you have the basic tools, so you want to just keep reading stuff. Everything. And, somehow, you need to make sure that you're playing it correctly. That can be done with BIAB, a zillion on-line transcriptionw etc.

    5. Recognizing rhythmic patterns is a fine idea. The best readers are reading chunks not single notes, or so I think. But, when an arranger writes a part, he often wants something different. That is, he's trying to write a pattern that you won't recognize. Anyway, there are some advanced skills to be employed in that. After you've completed steps 1-4, you'll be ready to deal with that, probably by getting the guitar chair in a horn band.

    6. Try to get used to sneaking a peek at the next few bars. Tricky. You see the bar the band is at and while you're playing it, you look ahead.

    7. Be prepared to change the way you approach fingering and picking. It's one thing when you select the notes. It's another when you're trying to melt in with a doubled horn part at a high tempo.

    Finally, The Silence of the Clams. Better to cross stuff out on the chart and lay out than play it wrong. May the heavens grant you the wisdom to know the difference.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Donplaysguitar

    And read every day
    Along with all the good ideas that have already been posted, this is an important one.

    Read music. A lot. Often. Daily.

    And read a wide a variety of music.

  15. #14

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    Warning - left field content.
    Maybe start by notating tunes you know? Fill in a couple of measures in a program like Musescore and get it to play the music back to you. Learn to tweak the notes until they sound right, then sit back and watch and listen. Not being a good reader, I had to learn to do this to write a couple of parts for some demos during the lockdown and my reading skills were definitely improving, though I wasn't able to continue with any kind of intensity due to time restrictions.

  16. #15

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    Read any notation every day for an hour. Overtime you’ll get better at it. (see groups of notes, thus always looking a little ahead)

    When I was younger I didn’t realize that poor lighting and a small font made my brain work almost twice as hard to process the notation. Very mentally stressful! Nowadays, I don’t even want to read typical sheet music. It’s usually so tiny.
    Using Sibelius I’ve created my own gig book using a LARGE FONT (it works well in poor lighting, and I can take my eyes off the page) for all my favorite standards; about 220 of them in my jazz binder, and around 100 others in my pop and light classical binder. I often forget which tunes I like to plays because there’s so many of them! So I carry my own custom gig binder. I do solo piano gigs and love it.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by rintincop
    Read any notation every day for an hour. Overtime you’ll get better at it. (see groups of notes, thus always looking a little ahead)

    When I was younger I didn’t realize that poor lighting and a small font made my brain work almost twice as hard to process the notation. Very mentally stressful! Nowadays, I don’t even want to read typical sheet music. It’s usually so tiny.
    Using Sibelius I’ve created my own gig book using a LARGE FONT (it works well in poor lighting, and I can take my eyes off the page) for all my favorite standards; about 220 of them in my jazz binder, and around 100 others in my pop and light classical binder. I often forget which tunes I like to plays because there’s so many of them! So I carry my own custom gig binder. I do solo piano gigs and love it.
    Did you ever read much on guitar? Just curious. I know a couple of great pianists who play great guitar as well, but can't get their heads around reading on the thing.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by james haze
    Hi everyone, I'm new here and this is my first post,,,So my question is what is the fastest way to become a skillful musical notation reader? I can play good but like I've heard that a good number of guitarist's do I have not worked on my note reading skills nearly to the extent I worked on my playing ability and understanding theory etc.
    Quote Originally Posted by reg
    1) good technique on your instrument
    2) recognize rhythmic patterns
    3) recognize melodic patterns: scales, arpeggios etc.

    You can work on this from playing tunes...
    The 3 skills mentioned above work...
    Precisely so, and beautifully embodied in:
    Mel Bay's Modern Guitar Method, Grades 1 to 7.

    Mel Bay provides the laboratory within which you can work the 3 skills outlined by reg. One can't read Charlie Parker if one can't read a Mel Bay primer. But, try not to be a perfectionist, or you may never get through it while life is happening around you. You can always review and redo it. For 7x$10 plus tax and lots of effort, one can find many opportunities to complement their chosen career with a musical sideline.

    Also:
    Practice Chord Spelling all qualities of chords while commuting on the train to determine where the accidentals fall. This will help you not just with notation, but you will use it when blowing through changes in a chord chart.

    The Musical Alphabet consists of 7 letters (...DEFGABCDEFGABCDEF...)
    Skip a letter to get the Cycle of Thirds: (....D.F.A.C.E.G.B.D.F...)
    Skip a letter to get the Cycle of Fifths: (....D...A...E...B...F...)

    Learning the Cycle of Thirds allows you to Chord Spell quickly and determine the Extension Notes of a 9th, 11th or 13th.

    When reading chord stacks, the lines are a third apart and the spaces are a third apart. So, the staff is solved by memorising the Cycle of Thirds.

    Then go on to the Cycle of Fifths. The Cycle of Thirds fits into the Cycle of Fifths. Here is the complete Circle of Thirds & Fifths.

    Fastest way to get good get good at reading notation-download-png

    From the Circle, one can quickly recite the Three Principal Chords of the Key, Secondary Dominants, Relative Minors, Tritone Substitutions, Upper Structure Substitutions, and the Notes in a o7 Chord/Augmented Triad/Major Triad/Minor Triad...

    Also, know the landmarks on the staff such as Middle C on the Ledger Line just below the Treble Staff. Realise that the sixth string's E, F, G, A, B notes on the lower ledger lines are really the abbreviated Bass Clef. And the upper ledger lines are the first string's A C E.

    The staff encompasses 23 notes ranging from the sixth string open E to the first string F on the 10th fret.

    3 Ledger Lines....ACE
    4 Ledger Spaces...GBDF

    4 Staff Spaces....FACE
    5 Staff Lines.....EGBDF

    3 Ledger Lines....FAC
    4 Ledger Spaces...EGBD

    NB. The letters repeat FACE & EGBDF.


    Also, memorising the gamut of each neck position and mapping them to the staff with your selected fingering system (Jimmy Bruno, Segovia, Johnny Smith, Mel Bay, Bill Leavitt...). They all work, but some are better suited for some playing situations.

    Playing by ear is essential, but reading music certainly adds a dimension of understanding and repertoire development, not to mention opportunities to work.

    It's eternal. The devil is in the details...

    ...
    Last edited by StringNavigator; 06-27-2021 at 08:55 PM.

  19. #18

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    Humility is a great aid to learning.

  20. #19
    Fastest way to get a guitar player to turn down? Put a chart in front of him. Well there are a lot of good ideas to overcome this situation here. Ask the guys who do Broadway Shows and touring companies of Broadway Shows how lucrative reading and doubling can be. Not to mention having Giants On Your Shoulders!!!

  21. #20

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    Here’s another way. Be a guitar teacher and teach staff notation, stay one page ahead of the student :-)

  22. #21

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    There have been some great replies in this thread. But, for me, the bottom line is that because the guitar is an instrument that, in essence, is so easy to play poorly, it has attracted generations of strummers with dreams of stardom after clobbing out a few chords. Many have made millions with these skills and garnered fame along this pathway as the lionshare of Rock/Country-Western/Folk genres musicians can attest. It was really Segovia that first drew attention to the fact that the guitar was a serious instrument and the pedagogy that followed him into the music world changed the guitar forever. . . even for Jazz guitarists who ,like their Pop cousins, were also "ear musicians" and limited in their abilities to play in arenas where reading music was required.
    Today, serious young musicians have unlimited possibilities to study/practice Jazz in certified music programs or with a qualified teacher who can teach them the craft/art of music on the same level as a Classical musician. And, even for older accomplished "players", the resources exist (as many have detailed) to backtrack along your pathway and become a total musician. In my early days in Chicago, I had many opportunities(Sax) for income from studio work or to sub with good bands when they needed someone quickly for a gig. And, when I joined the Chicago Music Union, local 10-208, in 1972, I was required to read a piece of music before being accepted. I doubt that is the case today where working rock bands/C@W surely must make up the majority of union members.
    Why read? Because it opens material to you in the quickest, most efficient way possible and increases your chances for employment. . . and, the days of lifting the phonograph needle from your sadly beaten LP will be gone forever.
    Play live . . . Marinero

  23. #22

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    Hey James... sorry. Your post sounded like the usual. Anyway, There are two types of musicians that sight read, the 1st is the old school, somewhat classical tradition of learning music and how to play through notation. Notation is just part of what music and being a musician is.

    2nd type, which sounds like you.... is learned to play by ear etc...

    So you can burn, probable better than me. I'm not that great of a soloist, I can cover and entertain when I need to but I'm much better at support, directing ensemble... I comp as well as anyone. (but I can read almost anything, and don't get lost even when I don't get everything right)

    So you you move to the front of the line.... Sight reading in a jazz style involves much more than just reading the notes, but I can get into that later. Can you follow a chart... are you able to keep time while watching music, notation? I'm taking it for granted you don't need to stare at the guitar to play. Also one of those required physical things, the better you become at recognizing sections of music... the more you can take your eyed off the music. Kind of like watching a movie with subtitles.

    Do you understand rhythmic notation, can you scat or tap the rhythm of music. Can you get at least the 1st beat of each bar.... That's where I would... again start. Learning the actual notes is easy... there isn't that much to memorize... the rhythm thing, that's where your chops will help.

    And most musicians can get the notes right.... but most musicians tend to get the rhythm wrong. In the end everything is important. Part of how I sightread is understanding the music, I understand harmony and theory which helps me recognize different types of notation, different styles, what's implied and where it might go. Generally when you sightread... you have a brief moment to get the road map or Form of the music together. So you'll always at least be in the right place... even if you make mistakes.

    It's not complicated.... really. Start with Rhythm, learn how to recognize rhythmic figures. Do you understand subdividing... breaking down rhythm to smallest value being used. Anyway.... good luck, if I can, I'll gladly help....

    ... eventually you'll be able to hear the notated music in your hear. Just playing mechanically is just part of the journey.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reg
    Hey James... sorry. Your post sounded like the usual. Anyway, There are two types of musicians that sight read, the 1st is the old school, somewhat classical tradition of learning music and how to play through notation. Notation is just part of what music and being a musician is.

    2nd type, which sounds like you.... is learned to play by ear etc...
    And a 3rd type, which my teachers called the "complete musician" that had classical chops and reading ability, understanding of the jazz idiom when written for shows and big bands, and could play by ear.

    For example, they would play an orchestral gig Friday, play a big band gig w/ charts on Saturday, and on Sunday play a jazz combo gig with no sheet music at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reg
    And most musicians can get the notes right.... but most musicians tend to get the rhythm wrong.
    Seems that's true - and why the best players I knew said you still have to count!

  25. #24

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    yea... David, LOL Don't really meet many of those 3rd types. I did Union work, shows, musical etc... hell I won our local union golf tourney a few years. Now we're really getting into union BS.

    yea... I was just labeling the different approaches to learning how to sight read.... not really getting into the levels of musicianship... That's probable difficult to teach....

    I use to turn out Big Band charts, at least the parts in less than 2 hours. And still wright out 2 and 3 part arrangement at Gigs...LOL. I'm getting old... the transposing parts has slowed down and keeping the arrangement in my head while writing out the parts is going fast. Your older, I think, if not I apologize... you must remember the notation days. I'm arranging tunes right now for coming gigs... ( with Finale),I would think that could create a 4th type. LOL...Not me... my classical day are long gone... and my playing just gets by. I do remember performing back in the 70's with Bay Jazz Ensemble. Three of the players had perfect Pitch, all of us sight read or played by ear well. And our thing was... if you could hum the tune... we would play it. made great $. We were jazz players that also played top 40,000. Some really lousy gigs.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reg

    I use to turn out Big Band charts, at least the parts in less than 2 hours. And still write out 2 and 3 part arrangement at Gigs...LOL. I'm getting old... the transposing parts has slowed down and keeping the arrangement in my head while writing out the parts is going fast. Your older, I think, if not I apologize... you must remember the notation days. .
    Sounds like you've certainly seen a lot in your career!

    I'm in my 60's, and do recall "the notation days" when I would write arrangements with paper, pencil, and a big eraser. Now I use Sibelius. I used to love all those "as played by the so-and-so orchestra" big band charts, often held together with yellowed and crispy cellophane tape.