Didn't make the cut...'cuz I can't read.

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by Peter McFerrin, Sep 6, 2002.

  1. I went to an audition yesterday for bassists for Cornell's four official (for-credit) jazz combos. I went in, and after a few equipment hiccups, I did an excellent job walking through "What Is This Thing Called Love?" (both in straight swing and bossa feels), and then played a pretty solid solo over it--although I did get lost at the tail end of the bridge, but found my place again. The director said he really liked my rhythm and feel and a lot of the stuff I was doing in solos.

    I never played in jazz band in high school (I didn't take up BG 'til right after graduation) and my reading is terrible, so I didn't go through a big band chart--which I had been told by friends would not affect my chances of making a small group. What pisses me off is that players who didn't do as well as I did walking and soloing on "What Is This Thing" got small-group spots, simply because they could sight-read a relatively simple chart.

    I realize that sight-reading is an absolutely critical part of musicianship, so I can understand the director's logic. The reason I'm bummed is that every single one of my friends who had been in Cornell combos previously had told me that sight-reading was not important for rhythm section personnel.

    I left the audition thinking I had made the cut, and when I didn't see my name on the personnel listings for the small combos, I was extremely angry. At least I know what I need to do this semester: work on my sight-reading.
  2. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    I've had that experience. I can read music, but I'm slower than a lot of people at it. I auditioned for a jazz band one time at school, lost out to a guy who was a perfect reader. He was inferior in every other way, by the directors and his own admission. The problem was, the bassist had to be able to just pick up a sheet and play, which was much harder for me than him. That sucked. Good luck next time Peter.
  3. Hey man - don't be so hard on yourself! At least you're smart enought to realise where you went wrong, and what's needed to fix it!

    Good luck for the next one!

    - Wil
  4. Who cares how SMART as you are when it comes to playing. Get this I read DM music better than BG music! It's the whole fret vs. no frets. But hey at least you tried. Some people would've said,"No I can't read music. I'll make a fool of myself." And at least you really wanted it. Be proud of what you CAN do.
  5. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Dude, you impressed the Cornell guys after playing for wha, 3, 4 years? I think you're doing ok.
  6. Lipis Roman

    Lipis Roman

    Mar 5, 2002
    Ditto what Wil said. You know what to do now, you'll get em next time.
  7. PeaveyTNT

    PeaveyTNT Banned

    Jul 21, 2002
    poke your friends in the eye.... yes.
  8. oh no! i'm auditioning for a jazz band in high school...and i cant read either!!! bahhhhh *cries*
  9. They'll teach you how. On a college level, you're expected to have learned in high school--I didn't.
  10. Brad Barker

    Brad Barker Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2001
    berkeley, ca
    or at least they'll take it easy on you.

    i couldn't really read very well when i was a high school freshman (i'm a junior now) and it was my first year of jazz band (hadn't even played for a year at the time! :eek: ).

    i told the band director that i wasn't ready for the class yet, blah-blah, but he just told me to hang in there.

    well...they way i got good at sight-reading was my bass teacher and his piano-instructing wife went over how to sight read in the "first" position (some may call it "1/2 position". it's the first finger on first fret-pinky for fourth fret).

    after an hour of the emergency instruction, i could do pretty well.

    ...but anyway, it wasn't necessarily the band teacher(s) who really went over with me how to read. band instructors are usually REALLY busy, esp. during marching season, which is the first few months of school.

    good luck, shoonk.
  11. ldiezman


    Jul 11, 2001
    that sucks pete.. but thats how it goes... have you been working on your reading??
  12. Two things:

    1. I emailed the director asking about lessons and was referred to a teacher. He was happy that I wanted instruction; evidently, a lot of guys, especially horn players, end up putting their axes away for good when they don't make the cut the first time they try out. :rolleyes: I guess it's because you can't use a saxophone or trumpet to get chicks, right?

    2. The director also coaches some student-run combos, and he gave my name to one of them. I'm gonna pick up the tunes tomorrow, work through them all week, and hopefully have our first rehearsal on Sunday.
  13. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Way to hang in there. When I played in my university's band (in the late '60's), I was amazed at the talent and skill level of many of the musicians in the band. One thing was for sure, if you couldn't read, you weren't in the band. If you couldn't read well, you weren't in any of the elite ensembles. I was an average reader (on tuba). Most of the good folks had taken private lessons all through their childhood. My family had insufficient jing for me to do that, but I was lucky that the public schools had enough coin for some pretty decent music programs in those days.

    While I can read in both bass clef and treble clef, I've never read music to play bass guitar, so I can't sight read for squat. Give me a piece and an hour to 'shed, and I can play the piece. That said, I know that to get a real professional gig, I'd have to spend a lot of time getting the notes on the page into my fingers.

    If you're looking to be a pro musician, or to play with folks at the level of those at Cornell, now would be a fabulous time to fill out that part of your musical experience. It will benefit you for the rest of your career/life.
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's great! I was going to suggest what you have done under point 2, when I read your first post - I think a student-run band sounds like much more fun and will be way "cooler" ;) .

    I mean - no pro Jazz bass players reads bass lines "verbatim" and to me Jazz is all about responding to the other players and especially for bass players it is about being sympathetic to what the soloists are doing and not just ploughing on through! ;)

    The thing to do then is pick tunes that you really like and suggest introducing them into the set - get the chords (maybe off the net or from books) and just get everybody to play by ear and from the chords - tell them it'll be good for their ears!! :D
  15. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Pity man, but don't give up!

    Nothing helps your sight-reading skills like going out there and toughing it out. In my first year of university I barely made the jazz band, and the other bassist was older and more experienced in jazz. I had had reading experience but my sight reading was still crap. Other commitments forced me to quit after several months, but being there helped my playing an awful lot.
  16. punkfunkfreak


    Dec 16, 2001
    i know NO theory whatsoever. I can still say i play bass pretty well...but I think maybe nows the time to learn for me.
    Thanx for inspiring me into it guys :)

    this time next year i shall have some theory under my belt.....

  17. Hey Pete, did you have to read lines or just follow the chart?
  18. My assumption was that I had to read the lines. I could probably have faked it and followed the chart--a lot of guitarists did that--but I would probably have gotten lost anyway.