Sight reading help

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Lanzy, Dec 12, 2014.

  1. Lanzy

    Lanzy Guest

    Dec 5, 2014
    Hi all, i hope this is the right place to post this

    Heres the deal, I want to be able to look at sheet music and be able to play it on both electric and upright. I know that it takes a lot of practice, but I've started within the last year. Im in jazz band and i can't memorize those songs....

    So where is a good place to start?

    I have until march for the jazz concert
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2014
  2. xUptheIronsx

    xUptheIronsx Conform or Be Cast Out....

    Feb 6, 2010
    C-ville, Col, Ohio
    I am a band director/percussion instructor at the middle school/high school level, so I will give you some hints that have helped my students in the past. IO have been doing this for 20+ years and have encountered many different issues with this.

    To sight read, I feel that you need to be able to understand 3 different things:
    1. the structure of the language of music, meaning what the symbols all mean. Like sharps, flats, time signatures, key signatures, repeats, Codas, which notes are on the lines or spaces; clefs etc.
    2. Rhythmic Theory - how rhythms are determined and notated against the pulse, and how subdivision of the pulse works.
    *** for me, this is the area that hinders ALL MUSICIANS in sight reading. 99.9% of the time when I have kids fail at sight reading tests at auditions, it is the rhythms that they are failing, not the melodic content.
    3. how to create the sounds on your instrument - basically, which fret is what note; what patterns from out of this kind of knowledge (i.e. scale patterns, interval relationships; step relationships etc)

    Sight reading will develop by doing it more. Just like reading in English. the more you do it, the more you apply your knowledge of how the elements of language combine to form communication. Music is just like any other language. It has syntax, form, sentence structure, phrases, meter, accent etc....

    So, in order to from a logical way to progress, think about where you are in your knowledge in the 3 things I mentioned up top.

    As you strengthen your understanding in these areas, and then apply them to interpreting music, you will get better at sight reading.

    So that we don't take up a ton of space here in specifics, PM me if you have more specific questions, cause there are tons of things I could help you with if I know where you are within these 3 categories
    esa372 likes this.
  3. Lanzy

    Lanzy Guest

    Dec 5, 2014
    Thanks ^ 1 and 3 I'm pretty good in and i understand, number 2 i know to keep going if i mess up, but i do have some rhythm problems...
    As of right now, i need to count up or down to find the notes on both the music (A little) And the fretboard (A little)

    Also, as a director, have you ever cut anyone from marching band? I'm nervous..
  4. xUptheIronsx

    xUptheIronsx Conform or Be Cast Out....

    Feb 6, 2010
    C-ville, Col, Ohio
    Well, i am only in charge of the drumline, but I have never cut anybody. I don't do auditions though. I do placements. I have had people "bow out" when they realized that there is more to it then "walking around and whacking a drum". For the most part though, everyone mans up, learns to play and practice correctly, and then has fun. WE do have cuts in some of the hornline sections who have more people come out that we have spots.

    Is there something else you could do if you don't make bass? That way, you will still get the experience of playing music with an ensemble, and that will add to your bass playing abilities. I would say that 100% of my ability to find groove, and read rhythms on bass came from having to do the same thing on drums in marching band.
  5. Sight reading is one of those things that really does get easier the more you do it. There are some pretty good books available, starting with very basic (simple rhythms, first postion notes) and progressively get harder.

    My biggest single tip is COUNT! Keeping the count going in your head makes it easier to place those trickier rhythms. You'll start to recognize rhythms just like you recognize words you read on a page. Counting is like sounding out a word. You'll soon learn to spot whether notes are falling on or off the beat. And if you keep counting, you're less likely to get lost even if you don't hit all the notes.

    Time, time, and more time are your friend with this project! I still don't consider myself a great sight reader, but after two weeks of theatre shows, I find I can pick up new music a lot faster - just because I've been working on it. (That said, I have first rehearsal for In The Heights tomorrow. Lotsa Latin rhythms... what a workout!)
  6. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    That's a good place to start.
  7. Lanzy

    Lanzy Guest

    Dec 5, 2014
    Thanks everyone....

    I can not play any other instruments and can only read bass clef, and I also play soccer in the fall, which limits me to mainly bass, as thats what i want to focus on.
    It has been done A LOT, as this year there were 9 kids who did soccer and band, 2 who are section leaders, and one was the drum major!

    We have a large band, of about 95
  8. pfox14

    pfox14 Guest

    Dec 22, 2013
    I assume that you know how to read music, particularly the bass clef. If not, then you have to start there. As mentioned above, you have the learn the basics of musical notation, key signatures, time signatures. If you can read the bass clef, then I would start by getting some introductory bass books that DO NOT have tablature. Something as rudimentary as scales and arpeggios and variations on them. I would get those down before moving onto something more complicated like a jazz arrangement. The technique I use for sight reading is to look at the part and sound out the rhythm in your head before actually playing anything. I also look through the part for any more complex bass lines and work out the fingering ahead of time, so you are not just playing it cold.
  9. Lanzy

    Lanzy Guest

    Dec 5, 2014
    Yes yes i know all this stuff, BUT I just need a place to start reading simpler music so i can easily work my way up to jazz
  10. Check online as well. I don't know how much free stuff is up there, but there are lots of books available. Your music teacher will probably have material.
  11. Andrew1997

    Andrew1997 Guest

    Aug 3, 2014
    Hello! I am in a high school jazz band on bass, and I have played clarinet since 6th grade. I never read music for bass until jazz band (I could read bass clef, but couldn't put it on the fretboard). The best place to start with sheet music, like xUpTheIronsx mentioned, is rhythms. Clap out the rhythm before playing it or use a metronome. You can probably find music books for bass guitar in your local music store. Find something you like and try it out. Top priority is playing in key, and maintaining the rhythm, a bassist's role in jazz is to maintain "the groove". The bassist practically conducts the band.
  12. Lanzy

    Lanzy Guest

    Dec 5, 2014
    Cool, thanks.

    Mind if I PM you?
  13. Tad

    Tad Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2007
    Island Park, Idaho
    Get the Hal Leonard Bass Method 1-3 by Ed Friedland.

    You can get all three books combined with CD's in the Complete Edition.

    Start at the beginning and work your way through it.

    If you already know a little the first book should go pretty quickly for you.

    You can be deep into it by March.

    It will give you a good basic understanding of reading and your electric bass.
  14. Andrew1997

    Andrew1997 Guest

    Aug 3, 2014