How Well do the "Serious" Readers Read?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by alexssandro, Jun 23, 2001.

  1. alexssandro

    alexssandro Guest

    Jun 7, 2000
    Houston, Texas
    My question was spawned by the thread on reading. I'm not an excellent reader, by any means. Many times, especially when trying to read melodies and solos, I have to really tap out the rhythms and think about the possible fingerings before I can play them.

    I remember when I was in high school, I asked my friend who is a a classically trained violinist to try to read and play some Marcus Miller type slap bass and Teen Town on his violin. He had been reading all of his life and he was technically very proficient. He could get it down, but my point is that he still had to "work it out" to some extent. He wasn't able to "sight read" it.

    Now, all of this leads up to my question. How well can some of the monster readers read? Can they cruise through Coltrane solos (slowly but in time) at a glance at the sheet music? (with all the accidentals, chromatic phrases, and big leaps?) Have you ever seen anyone's reading chops really put to the test on the bass?
  2. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    there's a term some musicians use, called "the black page", meaning the sheet has so many notes on it that it's black.

    i've heard terry bozzio (a drummer) talking about it in relation to his tenure with frank zappa. man, terry bozzio has skills.
  3. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    My reading practice is (slowly now) the charlie parker omnibook. I'm not saying I can read through that stuff to tempo, but I do ok slowly and in time.

    I also highly recommend the Berklee series book on "sight reading electric bass rhythms", or some such title....
  4. Yvon


    Nov 2, 2000
    Montreal, Canada
    I learned to read with to books.
    First one was a book by Benoit Glazer (montreal trumpet player), it had only notes, no rythm(sp?).
    And I have another one with only rythm. No notes.
    I wont tell you it's the best way, I had a hard time to put the two of them together. But it worked ok since my reading is good. Not great but good.
    Maybe a third book that help me was the jazz fake book in bass clef. Also band in a box.
  5. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook Sheet Music Manager
    The monsters readers can probably blow right through most sheets, people like "Ready" Freddie Washington and Carol Kaye who do a lot of studio work would fall into this category. The more you read the better you get at it. Try playing from sheet music 20 minutes every day for a year, at the end of that year you would probably be amazed at how your reading skills have changed.
  6. furtim

    furtim Guest

    Dec 12, 1999
    Boston, MA, USA
    Terry Bozzio scares me. I mean, REALLY scares me.

    As far as the main topic, I need to take some time to figure out more complex charts, but I'm fairly competent at reading things the first time through... if not right, then at least not too terribly wrong. And I suck. So, extrapolating, the best readers can probably zip through the hardest charts you can whip up for them and barely even blink.
  7. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Isn't "The Black Page" a composition by Zappa?
  8. NightVampZ

    NightVampZ Guest

    Jun 22, 2001
    For bass, I have to work it out. For piano, I can do sight reading but it can't be really complicated music. My old piano teacher however, could sight read anything. He would play it perfectly the first time... But, as far as I know, people like that are rare...

  9. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999

    There's a tale that a certain European Classical musician/composer(I forget her name) presented 'Trane with a transcription to one of his solos...she wanted 'Trane to play it & verify that her work was correct. 'Trane started & then gave up, sayin', "'s too difficult".
    It would also depend which solo of 'Trane's you're way, IMO, is somebody gonna read "Transition's" solo! No way! ;)
    ...and just 'cause someone can read a solo, IMO, that doesn't mean they're playin' it; IMHO, again, a solo is 'personal' & was composed on the spot, in the heat of the moment. Just my .02.

    No way am I a 'good' reader, especially nowadaze; in college, I was "OK" enough to fake it through a couple years worth of plays/shows; thankfully, MOST bass parts don't involve wild intervallic leaps(like, maybe, on a sax). The key is getting fluent to recognizing the rhythmic notation...
    What blows me away are the pianists that sight-read(they're reading BOTH horizontally & vertically); I'm assuming they 'see' a chord voicing the same way that you & I 'see' a word(that is, we don't necessarily READ each letter, we see it as a whole).
  10. There's a "Black Napkins" on "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore - Vol. 6"

    (there's also a "Pink Napkins" on "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar Some More")

    - Wil
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Well, reading is a two-step process: the first part is learning to hear what you see; the second part is to get what you hear out of your instrument. I had a wonderful piano teacher for four years back in undergrad who was the first to explain the first part to me in any detail. Music that you were playing but not hearing, she referred to disdainfully as "typing", which she believed was fine for secretarial school but had no place in serious music study. One of the worst comments you could get in any lesson (assuming you weren't just completely sucking and not even getting the notes) was, "okay, now stop typing and start playing some music".

    At this point in my life, I find the second part to be harder than the first. My old piano teacher is retired now, and we still get together and sightread 4-hands music from time to time. She likes to play at tempo, and we usually play arrangements of Mozart or Beethoven Symphonies or string quartets. We've tried doing Brahms symphonies, but no way can we get those at tempo....too damn many accidentals, and very unpianistic. On bass, I read charts all the time on gigs, as long as I'm reasonably awake, hits and changes are no problem. But when something is technically difficult - for instance, like the opening bass riff in "Black Narcissus" or something like that where it's PHYSICALLY difficult to play, my reading can come to a grinding halt. When this happens, I usually try to improvise something that's as close to the written idea as possible, but easier to play....then, when the gig/rehearsal/whatever is over, I take the part that caused me to stomp all over my Johnson to the woodshed and learn it slowly.

    Reading's a blast when you're in the right frame of mind for it...Like with a novel, reading through a great piece can take you to a completely different world for a little while.
  12. gruffpuppy

    gruffpuppy Guest

    Aug 15, 2000
    In your basement.
    Yes, there is also The Black Page #2
  13. kezekiel

    kezekiel Guest

    Sep 24, 2000
    The worship leader at our church has to, simultaneously:

    1) Read and play bass & treble clefs;
    2) Read and sing the lyrics;
    3) Listen to and coach the backup singers, who are singing in parts;
    4) Listen to and coach the instrument section (where I most humbly reside)

    He does all of these deftly, where I have trouble following fast changes in the chord chart, key transpositions, and anything other than a purely linear reading of the music (I routinely get lost in Coda-land, and have to go from memory).

    People like this amaze me. What a gift (and tribute to hard work).
  14. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...damn aliens! ;)
  15. Yvon


    Nov 2, 2000
    Montreal, Canada
    I saw Marc-André Hamelin once on TV.
    He is a classical pino player.
    He sight read! a fast classical piece, very fast with lots of 16th and 32th notes. it was unbeleivable. I couldn't beleive it!
  16. wynnguitars

    wynnguitars Guest

    Jun 20, 2001
    Reading is a skill it takes uh oh heres that word...practice.The idea behind reading is to become familiar with certain patterns so when you come to them you know them already.Another thing is to read ahead that's what bass players do we have to be ahead of the game in order to be of best support.I believe that you should take time to scan the music look for the hard parts the codas,the D.S. signs etc...John Goldsby did an article on this stuff a couple of years ago he said"We don't get paid to play fast we get paid to listen fast."Maybe you could look up his article it was called navigating a chord chart.He also did one on sight reading books.Happy hunting.John Goldsby writes for bass player,sorry forgot to mention that.
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    John borrowed my bass the other night to play on one of the faculty concerts at the the Aebersold camp (he didn't feel like trying to ship his from Germany, so he has to bum instruments when he's in town). Let me tell you, the man can flat out READ. He hears EVERYTHING before he plays it, and it comes out sounding like he's been playing the chart for years. I'm definitely going to try to scam a lesson from him before he leaves town.
  18. 4 brave mice

    4 brave mice Guest

    Jun 28, 2001
    utica, ny
    i read a LOT of sheet music...but i have run into a problem...all i can do is read sheet-i cant stand tab, because i cant figure out the rhythm, and i cant play by ear, because i need to hear for a long period of time so i get it perfect, and i want what i play to be perfect or i wont play it....give me sheet anyday, it shows me everything i need, and i can learn a song in just a few minutes-perfectly.
  19. rob_d

    rob_d Guest

    Jun 14, 2001
    As a former student of a music school which shall remain nameless I can say that yes, some people can read anything you throw at them...even if it's a Coltrane solo written in treble clef. I consider myself a decent reader but for what I do which is mostly improvisational jam type music I rarely need to read. The place where reading comes in handy is learning some new ideas. By sight reading a part, be it bass or some other instrument you may pick up on some new ways to approach a mode or a new rhythm, or even a whole new style you've never really played. As players we naturally fall into comfort reading pieces of music we naturally take ourselves out of these comfort zones and this injects some new life into your playing. Of course you could transcribe the bass part but this is more time consuming..granted you get some ear training out of the deal doing it that way but some bass parts are just too difficult for some bass players to transcribe. This is understandable, transcribe the simpler stuff, sight read the more complex stuff. Eventually the simpler stuff you transcribe will become more advanced as you advance. Oh, and sight reading helps your ear training too by letting you visualize the notes you hear. By no means should you use tablature. If youre going to read do it right. I wont go into detail on this but Jeff Berlin explains it well, more than once in his forum on here. A good book to work through to help your reading is Reading Contemporary Bass, or something like that..dont remember the exact title. It's from Rich Appleman.
  20. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The July 2001 Bass player has a column by Ed Friedland about "charts from hell" with some ACTUAL handwritten charts he was given to read on an actual gig. Check it out, it's pretty amazing.