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a little story about reading music...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by joebar, Sep 28, 2013.

  1. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    I enrolled myself last month in a 6 day Jazz intensive course at a local college. after corresponding with the music director a few times over email, he informed me that I needed to read music or I would be at a severe handicap in the course. by this time I had already paid my fee and jumped in with no regard to this small yet important piece of information. a minimum of 3 years as a musician was a requirement.

    now I have been playing bass for nearly 30 years on and off and have a solid grasp on theory and music; I read music back in high school but that was 25 years ago, and I had retained nothing. I have been telling myself for years that I don`t need to read music and made every excuse as to why I don`t.

    I told the director of the jazz course that I would see him in 6 weeks- I literally had to relearn what notes were where on the staff; I started from scratch.
    I went and bought some hal leonard jazz play-a-long books and immersed myself in a month and a half odyssey of reading music. had to Wikipedia for a lot of the musical terminology and such.
    right up until the weekend before the course I was studying and playing 10-12 hours per day and hoped it would be enough.

    the first thing when I got there was an audition; I was nervous, but I did OK-the instructor said my reading was fine. I told him I just started to read a few weeks ago.
    as the week went on, we were to perform 3 times publicly around the city along with many improvisational jams.
    we were given 4 pieces of music on Monday and by Thursday we would start the performances- I panicked initially. once I relaxed, I settled in and progressed quickly.

    the last performance was at the college auditorium in front of family and friends. I was the only one who was recognized within my group and was given a performance award for my musical contribution. the director told the story to everyone about my rapid learning curve; apparently none of the instructors had seen a player learn to read so quickly before and all were impressed with my abilities.
    keep in mind that I was one of the old guys there; most of the enrollees were college kids formally studying music and a lot of bonafide savants/geniuses.

    and the punchline?
    out of everything that transpired that week, my ability to read was never questioned. it was a truly satisfying and humbling experience. best $350 I ever spent.

    I encourage anyone that it is never too late to start anything in life-if I can do it, anyone can. and the best part is that even though I passed my short term challenge, I enjoy reading charts and will continue to keep it up.

    thx for reading
  2. Awesome. Great read. Sounds like you got alot of value for $350.
  3. Mvilmany


    Mar 13, 2013
    Upstate NY
    Great story.
  4. topo morto

    topo morto

    Mar 22, 2010
    Excellent, good for you!

    Any tips for others who know theory but not the dots, if in a similar situation?
  5. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    a little footnote:
    at the very end of the last rehearsal during the final song (performance in one hour), the director tells the drummer and I that he wants to change the song-from swing quarter notes to a latin feel.
    I asked him why he would jeopardize the whole performance; we were officially finished rehearsing all of the songs and the next step was the stage. he looked me right in the eye and said-`I want to see what you can do`.
    of course I panicked, but after I rewrote my part in my head for about five minutes, I realized that I can do this-no, I HAD to do this.
    turns out that the song sounded even better doing it as a samba than it did the other way-and it was unrehearsed to boot!
    he obviously was stretching me to my limits that week and I fully submitted to his authority and laid my ego at the door. it was the best thing I could have done.
  6. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    this may seem obvious, but it wasn`t to me for the longest time-
    reading does make you a better musician but not in the way you may think; I found that because your eyes are on the chart, they cannot be looking at the fretboard. you must know your fretboard and positions inside and out.
    that was a big revelation to me. all of your bad habits come to the surface when you first attempt it. after about three days or so, I was able to play simple songs and recognize rhythymic groupings etc.

    I found that because I knew my theory well and my fretboard well, it was a fairly easy transition to make. when I was in high school and reading music way back when, I didn`t have the musical knowledge to fully capitalize on the reading aspect; I was just playing notes. when you have the theory behind you and a well trained ear, you can anticipate a great deal of what comes next on the chart.
    easily one of the most satisfying things I have ever learned to do in music.
  7. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    Great story ...and a bit scary. I'd gather that if a prerequisite was noted that reading was required - you would probably have passed on the course altogether? Missed out completely
  8. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    All books about the sight-reading tell you that practicing just 20 - 25 minutes a day is better than 10 - 12 hours/day.
    Also, not everybody could afford practicing 10 -12 hours a day. Not everybody has that kind of luxury.

    I would not call it "sight reading" if you are given notes on Monday for Thursday's performance.
  9. JordyLegend


    Feb 24, 2013
    If you are trying to learn fast 20-25 mins is not long enough...
  10. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    I had a hard time getting information up front on the course and I had to make decision before the deadline was up; I decided to take a chance and do it and found out later that reading was required.
  11. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    under normal circumstances, that is a luxury I couldn't afford either. but I had the time at the right time
  12. Good for you! :)
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Don't be a bringdown ;)

    Good for you, Joe! That's a very inspiring story.
  14. Not sure if the post has been edited, but no-one except you has mentioned sight-reading.
  15. That's a good teacher. Here's what he didn't say, but what he was doing: it was a class. It was an educational experience. The goal was not a performance product, the goal was for his students to learn. He didn't let the performance steer the course, the let the course determine the performance.

    Like I said: good teacher.
  16. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Way to go, Joe. Great uplifting story.

    Something that helps me when reading is to look ahead. Kinda like looking ahead when driving around a tight curve in my truck. Sometimes it's harder to do than other times, though.
  17. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Great story Joe, and very inspirational for "mature" ;) people like myself, who are just starting to read.
  18. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Thank you for not getting mad at me like some other TB members who, probably, misinterpreted my comment.
    You have my respect.
  19. basspraiser

    basspraiser Jammin for the Lamb! Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2006
    Chicago - NW Burbs
    Awesome story!

    Congrats on a great accomplishment!

    I really should learn.....keep telling myself that....but you made it happen!
  20. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    No one got mad at you. :)

    They were just reacting to what appeared to be a negative post.

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