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Sight-reading - I'm not making much progress !!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by rodoherty1, Dec 10, 2003.

  1. Hi Guys,

    I sat my Rockschool Grade 3 exam yesterday and I'm very disappointed at my performance. I absolutely have been studying for it but my sight-reading (among some other hiccups) let me down a bit.

    I have been practicting about 3 times a week for at least 30 mins (probably more) at a time. Chec k out the level with which I'm struggling and you'll agree I'm no sight-reading expert.


    I can read it ... I just can't sail through it first time without pausing. I get it right on the second passing, however.

    My question ...
    Should I be transcribing more? How much more?
    Should I reduce my sight-reading practice time to 20mins * 7 days a week?

    I'm hoping to aim for Rockschool Grade 4 in June 2004 so I really need to address this weakness (plus, I want to learn this skill anyway).

    Any tips/suggestions are most welcome !!
    Thanks Guys,

  2. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    According to the rules, you should get 90 seconds to look over the piece. They're short enough that you could mentally run through them several times in that period. For a short example, like the one given, you should be able to play through it (physically or mentally) several times before having to perform - even if you start at a relatively slow speed in order to get the accuracy.

    Another idea would be to figure out what your specific weaknesses are with sight reading so that you can 'work smarter, not harder'. Try recording yourself sightreading a few pieces and then listen back in detail (good transcribing practise as well!). What's tripping you up? Particular rhythms? Remembering the key signature? Come with some exercises that focus on those things and you should see an improvement.

  3. I think it's important to get new music in front of you EVERYDAY. Even if it is for less than 30 minutes, on days you don't usually practice, I guarantee it will help. Transcribing will also help but, for me atleast, there's nothing that works as well as just having to do it.
  4. chardin


    Sep 18, 2000
    Just curious. At what tempo do you have to play these sight reading tests?
  5. The sight-reading test was at 60bpm (which is reasonably slow). I guess I just need to work at my sigh-reading more frequently. I'll try transcribing a little too and see how that helps.

    Thanks for the tips, Guys !!

  6. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I agree. You should be given a minute or so to peruse the piece before you play it. Here's a few tips I've learned on sight-reading:

    - Find the lowest note and highest note of the piece.

    - Figure out the key. Look at the key signature, but also the trick is to look at (usually) the last note in the piece. Say, for example, your key signature has no sharps or flats and the last note is an A, it's most likely in A Minor. Figuring out the key has helped me with positioning, making smooth transitions from one position to another.

    - Watch out for tricky rhythms, chromatics, and other things that may cause you to come to a hault mid-song. Go over them slowly in your head before you play.

    You get better at sight-reading...well...by reading as much as you can. Keep working at it. :)
  7. sunburstbasser


    Oct 18, 2003
    With a piece like the example you showed, I find it easier to tap my foot. When my foot taps, thats the beat, and when it goes in the air, thats when I play those offbeat eighth notes. It can really make it easier, and it'll help you with your mental counting as well.
  8. bassmantele


    Jul 22, 2003
    Boston MA USA
    You need to know time/key signatures inside and out. It sounds like you know them, but make sure the sharps and flats don't bother you.

    When you read, you need to do three things:

    1. read the rhythms.

    2. read the pitches.

    3. put the notes on the fretboard.

    A basic drumming book is good for sight-reading. All they notate is the rhythms, so you can focus on them. When you first see a piece, go through the rhythm in your head. If you see a measure that has a confusing rhythm, try to work it out ahead of time.

    Pitch is the easiest part - a Bb is a Bb. Try to see notes in phrases, not individually. If there's four eighth notes tied together, try to look ahead and read them as a group. Eventually, you read measures, not notes.

    As states above, look at the range and decice where to play it with the least movement. When you practice, try to play different phrases everywhere on the neck, so you don't get tied to one position. When I read and play Beatles songs on guitar, I try to play each song in all five postitions.
  9. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD
    I sight read a lot for tuba, and it takes a lot of practice. Don't feel bad or inadequate if you don't have the hang of it. It takes time and a lot of practice. I mean a LOT of practice. The main thing that I can say has already been said. To sum it up, don't just start playing the song. Take a minute or so to look it over. Sight reading is a process of looking, reading, recognizing, analyzing, and then playing. If you just try to jump right in with no idea of what's ahead, then you will not learn anything. Heck, the pros don't even do that.
  10. Slot


    Oct 17, 2003
    Sydney - The Shire
    Basically .....the more you do it, the easier it will become. Its just like learning to read english again. You just have to engulf yourself in as much material as you can find. Start simple, and once the super simple stuff becomes a little easier, force yourself to progress to the next level.

    A few little tips though.

    With that lick that you had to read, reading it at 60bpm would let you read the "notes", but learning to read this way can really hold you back when it comes to reading phrases at quicker tempo's.

    The way to sightread properly is through interval recognition, not necessarily "note" reading.

    Basically, you have to try and recognise the intervals between each note, moreso than than the actual "names" of each notes.

    Liken it to reading english. When we read english we arent deciphering each word, letter for letter. We visually recognise clusters of letters and decipher them as words. For exmalpe, imgaine hwo hrad tihs wuold be to raed fleuantly if yuo weer readnig it lteter for lettre?

    What i do when practicing this technique is,(THIS MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU......ITS PROBABLY A BAD THING TO DO) i EVER SO SLIGHTLY blur my eyes ......for some reason it somehow turns off the subconscious part of my brain which wants to read the ol' "note for note" way, and it allows me to read through "interval recognition" a little easier.

    I probably wouldnt recommend trying this though, but for me, it helped to break the "note for note" habit.

    Also ....as someone else said .....practice reading rhythms seperately. Drum brooks are a great source of rhythmic notation. Just practice playing the rhythms on the one note, or even just clap them.