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Is all Sight Reading Equal?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by jmone, Jan 6, 2020.

  1. jmone


    Mar 1, 2010
    I started a new project which is exclusively sight reading (100+ tunes). Some tunes show up more than others but there's always a few less frequent ones that get called every now and then.

    I also have a stack of books on my shelf I've wanted to work through for a while which are much more difficult than the majority of the tunes from the new project.

    Can I can kill 2 birds with 1 stone here by working through my own books and hoping my sight reading skills transfer over?

    Any advice?
    dan1952 likes this.
  2. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    If your question is "will practicing make me better at something?" the answer is yes.
    Dabndug, dkelley, drumvsbass and 23 others like this.
  3. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    Eastern North Dakota
    Sight reading is pretty much sight reading. Some is more challenging (tougher rhythms, bigger leaps, more notes, etc.) but reading is reading.
    DJ Bebop and nozkcb like this.
  4. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    IMO sight-reading is like a muscle.
    If you work out today for 3 hours and don't work out for the rest of the month you will see no improvements.
    Sight reading Classical music and sight reading Jazz can be to a certain point very different.
    With that said, any sight reading on an average basis is the way to go.
    You can get some classical material such as Storch-Hrabe, Simandl, Kreutzer , to help with your note reading.
    A lot of times Jazz charts are written with no accidents on the clef, and you have to get used to reading the flats and sharps as they come. Maybe getting some trombone books can help you read 8th notes in a friendly range.
    To help you with syncopation and rhythms I would suggest Pozolli.
    There are several site that offer specific bass transcriptions of pop, top40 type tunes. those are super fun because you can play along with the tunes, and hopefully some of them are somewhat familiar.
    I guess there are many ways to do it and I'm sure people will have other suggestions. I still think that whatever you do, try to sight read for at least 20 minutes a day for the rest of your life! lol
    Good luck!!!
  5. I believe the way you sightread is more important than what you sightread.

    Every time you do it, pretend you are playing in an ensemble. That means...
    1. You cannot stop and go back to try it again.
    2. You cannot slow down on difficult passages.
    3. You must read ahead, so you aren’t surprised.
    4. Read above and below the notes, so you don’t overlook articulation, phrasing, or tempo and dynamics changes.
    This means you start at the top and read it down to the bottom. Don’t ever go back and try a passage again (that’s practicing, not sightreading), and don’t slow down (you have to keep up with the ensemble). Read ahead, because if you don’t know the next note till it’s time to play it, you’re already too late.

    Also, prepare yourself. When you see the piece for the first time, scan it. Look at clef, key, and time signature. Check for directional marks (repeat signs, first and second endings, D.C., D.S., and Codas). Identify difficult passages, and finger through them. All this can be done in the few minutes before the downbeat.
    Ggaa, Eikari, dkelley and 17 others like this.
  6. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Even classically trained sight reading monsters will rehearse the same material many times for a performance.
    I'd carefully weigh the cost of not focusing on the material at hand.

    You could work on the hard stuff and what you learn might show up in the gig.
    Or work on the gig stuff, and what you learn might show up the hard stuff, but it will definitely show up in the gig

    I'd prioritize the gig and study the "extra credit" when I can - but such is my reading level.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2020
    dkelley, bfields, Wissen and 2 others like this.
  7. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Finding other musicians to sight read with is the best way. As a Freshman in music school I realized my sight reading skills were below average. So, I went to the story bought a couple six packs of beer, called the best sight readers I knew, invited them to play duets and drink beer. It took about a year, but it was worth it.
    And... it's a skill. That means learning is a process not an event. It means that to neglect the skill is to eventually lose it. It means that you are always working to improve, you are never done increasing the skill. It is as much a part of your kit as your instrument.
  8. Samatza


    Apr 15, 2019
    You need to do it regularly with varying material to stay sharp.
    Years ago it was all we did and we got very good at it so we were picked up by touring artists as the band.
    It took a lot less time to rehearse and prepare for a tour that way. Now I couldn’t do it to that level without a few months preparation to get my reading chops up.
    Dabndug, DJ Bebop and dralionux like this.
  9. That's not sight-reading at all. That's studying a piece for performance. Studio musicians who are called in to play a part don't have the luxury of rehearsing the same material many times before a performance. The music is handed out, you scan it over, ask any questions of your nearby muso, and clear up any ambiguities, and then the red light goes on (figuratively, of course) and off you go.

    Sometimes you get a dry-run.

    Sight readers are adept at knowing patterns. They're not reading note-for-note unless they don't recognize a pattern - like you phonetically "spell out" a word you don't recognize.

    It's a completely different skillset from what you described in the quote I included. What you described is just reading a piece and studying it.

    If you flub while you're sight-reading, the MD or producer will likely have you go back and overdub a fix for that section. That's it.

    Last edited: Jan 6, 2020
  10. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
  11. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Personally I wish all music was like this :) ...but that probably has a lot to do with my fondness for atonal, pantonal, and serial musics.

    Y'know, there are very few things I did at music school that I wish I could go back and do again, but ^^^that is definitely one of them. Only this time I'd take your suggestion about the beer.

    Seriously, it's been ages since any of my cohorts said "Hey, let's work on our reading!" Or even "Hey, let's practice together! Let's learn some new music! Let's hang with our instruments!" Music school was a great opportunity for those sorts of get-togethers. Nowadays everyone seems so hung up on "This is what we need to do for the gig!!!" that there seems to be little opportunity for This Is What We Need To Do For Our Sanity.
  12. OptimalOptimus


    Jan 4, 2019
    You get better by reading ... so read everything you get your hands on...
    BrotherMister, DJ Bebop and Bob_Ross like this.
  13. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    That method sounds more like putting yourself directly in a performance seeing the chart for the first time. If you have time to prepare, play through the parts and play them out of speed (if needed) and work on the tougher areas That is where you will actually get the practice in.
    dkelley and DJ Bebop like this.
  14. Do you expect to read treble clef as well?
    I'm not a good reader, I muddle along at a 1st grade level. But if I have to shift to one clef after spending time in the other my brain short circuits. It's scary.

    Try it. It probably won't be a problem for you. My befuddled brain. I don't see how piano players do it :confused:
    DJ Bebop and JC Nelson like this.
  15. reverendboom


    Dec 10, 2019
    Sonora CA
    As a vocalist I always read intervals rather than actual notes (since I don't have perfect pitch and there is no button to push to play a C# on my vocal cords). I got very good at that but it is not at all the same as sight reading on an instrument. And to sight read both bass and treble clefs for keyboards...forgetaboutit.
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  16. oaklandthumb


    Nov 12, 2014
    Kansas USA
    Aside from the first time you read down a chart, it's all memorized.

    After every playthrough you've memorized more of the chart until you zone out on the 10th playthrough.

    Most reading gigs I'll get 4-7 rehearsals until a show, minimum. Most BLs will focus more on the brass or vocalist anyway, so it's essentially time for the rhythm guys to perfect the nuances of a chart.

    What I would do in this situation is make little cheat notes on the most popular charts, write chords above bars and "fudge" the style if you have to.
    dkelley, logdrum and DJ Bebop like this.
  17. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member


    Any competent bass teacher will emphasize the importance of not practicing reading a piece. Just read the piece as best you’re able to and then go on to the next score.

    As I was taught; “You don’t practice note reading - you just read the music.”
    dkelley and DJ Bebop like this.
  18. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    I also wanted to add to my earlier post that, after a while (as someone else mentioned) what you see on the page becomes patterns, shapes, and that will also translate as fingerings, patterns and shapes on your instrument. Same will happen with rhythmic figures, syncopations and such. So IMO it's more like a matter of becoming familiar with the whole concept.
    I remember years ago sharing the stand with the Principal of my section. We got a bad copy of the music and you could barely see the ledger lines. Turns out the Principal had forgotten his glasses that night, and he read the music perfectly! He explained to me that he never had great eye sight and that he was always really focused on the shapes! For me personally it's more like a combination. Our brains do work differently. You really notice that when you start teaching. :)
  19. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    In my view general reading practice will help, but you also need genre-specific practice to become more familiar with the rhythmic patterns. For instance, though I consider myself to be a good reader, I still have a hard time reading complex funk bass lines because I just haven't played a lot of that genre.

    I've been lucky to have done a fair amount of playing in pits, classical, and big-band. I enjoy getting the chance to maintain and improve my reading chops. I've worked on improving my treble clef sight reading, so I can read the melodies from lead sheets on the bandstand.
  20. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Took me a second to get that last bit, and I would agree with that wholeheartedly. I believe in busting out new sheets on a regular basis and trying to play them like a performance the first time through, whether at home or on the bandstand.

    But I don't believe in whizzing right through everything when you're practicing and forget about it unless you played it perfectly. Go back and fix mistakes and double check the tricky parts. That, to me, is how you learn to sightread tricky parts well. If you flub up that pattern in one song, you're also going to flub it up the next time you see it in another. So work it out, and it gets easier to spot the more you do it. Just sayin'. YMMV. ICBW. WTFK?

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