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Best method for teaching myself to sight read music?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by RemoteOutpost, Dec 15, 2019.

  1. RemoteOutpost


    Dec 5, 2019
    My wife bought me the Hal Leonard Complete edition, books 1,2,3 but before I get too far into it I just wanted to ask if there were any more entertaining or more effective methods out there that might make the process more efficient or just overall better.
  2. And I

    And I Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    Repetition... there's no trick, you just put music that you don't know in front of yourself and play it.
  3. RemoteOutpost


    Dec 5, 2019
    Makes sense, I'll run with it.
    Ellery and StatesideRambler like this.
  4. Samatza


    Apr 15, 2019
    It takes some work but once you’ve done it I swear you will be in demand.
    MCF likes this.
  5. superheavyfunk

    superheavyfunk 音楽は人生だ

    Mar 11, 2013
    Whatever method you use, just remember that you are learning to read a new language. It will take you about the same amount of effort to read music fluently as it would to read Japanese fluently (assuming English is your first language, and you have no prior experience with music notation). Ear training is important too, so that you can recognize the sound of each note while you're reading it, even without an instrument in your hand.

    Dedicate some time each day to the task, and give yourself a little test every couple of weeks. If you do this for a year, you'll have the basics. If you do this for two years, you'll be pretty darn good! In three years, you'll be pretty darn fluent and should be able to sight read/play all but the most difficult pieces on the spot. Good luck!
  6. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    Just read lots and lots and your brain simply gets better at "chunking". Like after you have read English for years and can read much quicker because you don't have to concentrate on each word.

    Really no shortcuts to reading a lot. The good news is that there are very few places where you will be expected to sight-read something cold and get it perfect on one run, so set a realistic goal of learning to sight read so you can learn music faster.
  7. Goatrope

    Goatrope Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2011
    Sarasota Florida

    This is Great advice!


    “Music is life”
    superheavyfunk likes this.
  8. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Those Hal Leonard books have such a great reputation, I'd say you're in good hands just working through them.
    spvmhc and DJ Bebop like this.
  9. Guitarodeo

    Guitarodeo Who's got da funk? Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2007
    Rocky Mountains
    The Hal Leonard books in your possession are a great start. I also added the Music Tutor app on the bass clef setting as reinforcement. And read something everyday to get those reps in.
    superheavyfunk likes this.
  10. In my experience sight reading is a practiceable skill. In high school band our director has us sight read music all the time. On tuba I was a good sight reader. Let’s say my overall ability and skill with the tuba was the main impediment.

    On bass I have never had much practice sight reading and I am horrible at it. At least I play bass, once I know a song, much better than I ever played tuba. I feel like sight reading on a string instrument is a bit tougher than on wind or piano because you have to look ahead for position switches.
  11. kerrycares

    kerrycares Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    Get the best reading teacher in town , take 3-4 lessons and you’ll cut your time in half.
    MrLenny1, Joshua and Ggaa like this.
  12. TinIndian


    Jan 25, 2011
    Micco Florida
    Exactly how its done. In high school band we used to do this over and over to prep for music competitions. Sight reading was 25% of the scoring.
  13. ec2bass

    ec2bass Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2019
    Really, You got some good advice here already and I agree that the Hal Leonard books are a good starting point. It would also be great to get some human 'in-person' lessons. Just take a month or two to get you started, then your practice time will be more efficient. Yeah, memorize some good riffs and positions or else you'll get too board!

    Learning to read music takes some time and practice, I don't know of any "hacks" that will substitute for effort and determination. The nice thing to know is it's not rocket science, take in what you can day by day and be realistic.

    I would suggest, IMO, that you stay away from Tabs for now. There will always be an easy path back to Tabs, if you want, after you learn to read.
  14. TideSwing


    Oct 31, 2014
    All Cars Eat Gas
    Great Birds Do Fly Always
    elgranluis likes this.
  15. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    The single best way to get good at reading music is to read music. There’s really no trick. Just repetition until it becomes second nature. Learning to read words is much harder.
    drumsnbass and JimmyM like this.
  16. jbhaugh

    jbhaugh Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2018
    ABQ, NM, USA
    As others have said, building fluency in reading takes a lot of work and repetition, but it also can help immensely with ear training (and vise versa) -- if you can read the notes on the page, recognizing and hearing the correct intervals between notes as you play is key. I have found that transcribing is also a good way to practice reading.
  17. ChrisBowsman

    ChrisBowsman Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2006
    Yellow Springs, Ohio
    I haven't read since high school, but when we did sight reading to see what chair we'd be in band. You could play the piece as slowly as you wanted, and your score was only based on accuracy. If I were to try to get back into reading, I'd set a metronome at like 40 bpm, or however slow I had to go to play everything perfectly.

    I got into archery awhile back, and the instruction was the same. Start off standing as close to the target as you need to to get a bullseye every time, and slowly take steps away. As soon as you're not hitting the bullseye, scoot back up until you do. Otherwise, you're just practicing mistakes in both cases.
    BossOnBass, LetItGrowTone and JoshS like this.
  18. Read while you play. It's the only way to learn.
  19. You’ll do fine and go a long way using the Hal Leonard books. If, sometime, you feel a yearning for something different to read try to connect with someone in your local community orchestra. Ask them to copy a page or two of music for any bass clef instrument, e.g. trombone, cello or bassoon. It doesn’t have to be a bass part.
    Good luck with your goal!
  20. InhumanResource


    Dec 28, 2012
    Find people to work on it with you.

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