Sight Reading?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Lance Bunyon, Apr 17, 2024.

  1. Lance Bunyon

    Lance Bunyon

    Jul 17, 2018
    So I tricked myself last year in a big way. I joined the choir at church. After over 40 years of not sight reading ANYTHING I find myself using a rather rudimentary Solfege method to follow the bouncing ball.
    I sit next to a graduated music major and he's helping to fill in the blanks. I ask "which of these lines on the staff am I supposed to be following?".
    So now I'm thinking, "why not learn to sight read for bass guitar?".
    Yesterday I found one YouTube channel that shows staff and plays the bass (well it sounds midi) along with the staff. This one is not a moving video staff but I'm already sight reading still music so there is that.
    Any recommendations for video channels which teach bass clef sight reading in a manner which is YouTube friendly?
    I want to get to the next level :hyper:
    Thanks in advance!
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  2. I'd recommend to use the old proven way to learn old proven concept. Take any printed sheet - or buy a dedicated sight reading book - and start. Use metronome, very slow at the beginning, don't stop when you make a mistake. Play it again. Before you raise the tempo, always focus on detail: learn to play the bars you were not able to play right at first.
    The advantage of book, among other things, is that you can very easily track your progress - just pencil a mark above the given excersise when you play it, and mark a tempo. After few pages, you will see that the number of marks for an excersise diminish, while the tempo increases. This way, you can easily become your own teacher.
  3. Lance Bunyon

    Lance Bunyon

    Jul 17, 2018
    I absolutely dig what you are saying... however one embarrassing caveat-
    I don't know my fingerboard outside of first position.
    Thats the downside of being self taught and ear trained.
    These videos spoon feed me the played note, getting me light years ahead of where I'm stuck with the obvious learning disabilities I have.
    Been a "Pro Player" for 30 years with this handicap. This means serious session work is outside of my scope.
    I do have a book I just unearthed I think it's Hal Leonard, I'll check it out if I get home today before 20:00.
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  4. OllieVT


    Jul 4, 2023
    I'm a beginner, but sight reading is one of my comparative strengths. (NB: "comparative" is doing a lot of work here!) I'm also helped by some piano lessons as a kid from which the rhythmic elements and overall structure of standard music notation stuck but not, it seems, any of the notes.

    I've been using the Hal Leonard book, which is great, but the thing I think has improved my sight reading beyond my other skills is a phone app called Bass Note Trainer. Any spare few minutes, I can get a barrage of questions about where notes are on the fingerboard and how that relates to notation. Once I started using it, my reading got noticeably better and continues to do so. (I don't remember whether it was free or a dollar or two---I got a few apps at the same time and they were all under $3ish. This is the only one I keep using.)
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  5. Get a book that covers double bass. It’ll force you into playing in other positions when you sight read.
  6. Don't worry. Reading rhythms is generally harder than learning pitches. New note? You will learn it in a bit. But don't go too hard on yourself - the fastest results in learning are achieved when you aim a little further than where you are comfortable, but not so far that you won't understand what you are doing. Try, you find that soon enough yourself.

    To be absolutely honest, I finally learned my sight reading enough only when thrown into a big band. Swim or drown, but drown you dare not because we are counting on you! It was ... really effective. If there's similar oportunity for you, I'd go for it.
  7. pineweasel


    Nov 21, 2003
  8. aesopslyre


    Oct 27, 2007
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  9. bherman

    bherman Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2009
    Grand Junction, CO
    Another vote here for ditching YouTube to learn how to read. What I would suggest is buy a copy of Ed Friedlands bass method, it starts at rock bottom, but will bring you along all the way and reading rhythm and notation. And he will learn where all the notes are on the neck along the way, and what notes they correlate to. You could find it relatively inexpensively on Amazon. To my mind, using videos to learn how to read it’s like watching movies to learn how to read Books.

    One last thought, whatever method you use, set aside 10 to 15 minutes every day, and in a month or two you’ll see some really good progress. Just like learning how to read a language, you need regular practice. Doing short bursts every day will yield far better results than only occasional practice.
  10. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I learned through violin/orchestra having the benefit of a teacher who would hit your hand with a ruler or a bow if you were not looking at the music on the stand. And didn’t have much formal piano or bass until high school. I admit I still find the upper clef faster even when playing bass and have to force myself to focus on the lowers. It’s not any more difficult or easy, just a bad habit.
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  11. ShawnG

    ShawnG Gold Supporting Member

    May 2, 2020
    Ft Worth, TX
    Mark Smith at TalkingBass has an exceptional sight reading course on his site. Highly recommend.
    Ed Friedlen book another good, but much less comprehensive, option.
    CharleyJackson likes this.
  12. Great question... I've been working daily on this for the past 18 months.

    Ditto the Ed Frieland book...starts with the open strings and works all the way down the fretboard.

    Ditto finding sheet music plus a metronome and go slow. I keep a logbook that links each days pace on each piece.

    Ditto on finding a teacher.

    And FWIW, my teacher uses a lot of trombone teaching exercises...a lot out there and it's all bass clef.

    Enjoy the choir too!
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  13. groovepump


    Aug 3, 2020
    Ed Friedland....YES!
    Daily practice... YES!
  14. dbsfgyd1


    Jun 11, 2012
    Mascoutah, IL

    Patience and practice. There is no substitute for time working on skills. Personally, other than some basic skills like what all symbols on a staff mean in practical application, watching videos isn’t going to get your fingers to the right place and or on time.

    There are plenty of lesson books for beginners to the highly skilled with exercises to develop your reading skills, as well as getting you up the fingerboard.

    Best wishes.
  15. Lance Bunyon

    Lance Bunyon

    Jul 17, 2018
    I respect all the purests that are going to pop up in this thread and tell me that the symandl method is best etc. However, I'm learning disabled and have looked at bass clef on paper on and off for 40 years and I still read music at below kindergartner level. If I can get anything out of this at all, I'll be grateful.
    lowdownbp5 likes this.
  16. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Sight reading jazz/big band charts is exactly how I learned to play bass guitar at band camp in the summer of 1976.
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  17. SIGHT reading comes along with other prerequisites. If you know the bass fingerboard you're already ahead of the game. Just being able to read bass clef easily/naturally is a help. Understanding how rhythms are notated is essential. After that it's just practice.

    I don't know that any video channel can teach you to sight read, but using recordings of tunes you want to play trying to read/play along will help further your mission.

    One of the big challenges, at least for me, isn't reading the music, but determining how I'm going to play it. Down below I've posted an excerpt from the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back". An example of that I'm saying is beats 3 and 4 of measure 8. It can be played in 1st position or in 6th position. I just finished a show where there were two Latin licks and there were 3 different ways I could play them. My ability to sight read fairly well was slowed by having to figure out which fingering laid better.

    My confession is that I'm a very mediocre bass player, but I would like to think I'm somewhat in demand because I can read. And reading never came easily for me and still doesn't. Unfortunately, at least for me, the older you get the slower you get mentally. And remembering stuff or memorizing music gets harder and harder. For me now, nearly impossible. So reading music saves me. But I highly suggest you start. I don't think there are any signts that can fully teach you to sight read, but there are tutorials that can help you get started and give tips along the way.

    Below: Excerpt from "I Want Your Back" J5

  18. Reading music, and sight reading music, are two different skills, and must be practiced in different ways.

    first you must learn how to read music. You must learn how to recognize all the notes that you may encounter. You must also have a working knowledge of how to interpret notated rhythms, and be able to break them down into their component beats in order to decipher the measure. You also need to know the symbols that lie above and below the staff. Things like directional markings (1st and second endings, DS, DC, coda, etc.), dynamics, tempo markings, articulations, ties and slurs, etc. Once you can do all this, and are able to perform written music accurately after practicing it for a while, you are ready to begin learning to sight read.

    Sight reading means you are able to play something correctly the first time. This is not a skill that develops naturally from learning to read music. It must be cultivated, and learned. You will find that you can read music slightly beyond your capabilities, with enough practice. Sight reading however, can only be accomplished one or two levels behind where you are currently at. You can sight read music below your current reading level, but not at or beyond it. Because it is a separate skill from music reading, it must be practiced separately, and often. The most important component is that you cannot back up and play again if you make a mistake. You must proceed in tempo despite any mistakes.

    1. Materials. Obtain a graded series of method books, for bass, trombone, or cello. Graded means that each subsequent volume increases in difficulty and complexity.
    2. Peruse material beforehand. Take a few moments to look the piece over before playing. Try to identify difficult passages ahead of time, and go through them in your mind, or finger them without volume. Identified directional markings like repeats, endings, and codas. Scan for dynamic and tempo changes.
    3. Play once from start to finish. Start with the first exercise in volume one. Begin the piece at an accomplishable tempo. Pretend you are playing in a group. If you make a mistake, the group will not stop – the piece keeps going. So must you. If you make a mistake regroup on the subsequent beat. If you play a wrong note keep going. If you make a mistake that last say a few beats, regroup on the next measure. Do not start over. Do not play it again when you are finished with it. The goal is to play it perfectly the first time. This ability will not necessarily come easily at first, but will over time.
    4. Do not pause, stop, or rewind. After looking it over and identifying troubles spots, Attempt to play it correctly one time, and one time only.
    5. Despite success or failure, proceed to the next piece, And repeat steps one through four above.
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  19. Lance Bunyon

    Lance Bunyon

    Jul 17, 2018
    Solfege is a version of sight reading. I've been sight reading my tenor harmony parts now for about a year in church choir. I know whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, rests, 16th notes, codas, glissando's etc.
    The difference is when I'm sight reading for my voice I don't have to place my fingers on a piece of wood in a certain position. I get the tonic from the lady who plays piano or organ. It's a lot harder applying my developing knowledge of jumping black dots to a fingerboard.
    So I guess what I'm saying is, I'm in a worse position than an absolute beginner. I know just enough to trip myself up seven or eight times a day lol!