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sightreading issues

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bassinplace, Apr 7, 2009.

  1. bassinplace


    Dec 1, 2008

    I'm studying out of the Hal Leonard Bass Method book right now and having some problems with sight reading. I seem to have a problem with moving forward at a steady pace without looking back. I keep catching mistakes and the going back to correct them. Part of the reason is I psyche myself out to make a mistake which causes me to then make said mistake. I found a link on you tube which I actually thought was pretty helpful, here it is if anyone's interested:

    The thing that killed me is right off the bat one of the first things he stresses is to never, ever, go back when sight reading and to always keep a forward momentum. Looks like I've developed some bad technique here. Any tips on how to break it? Like I said, I just can't stand the thought of playing something wrong!
  2. southernrocker

    southernrocker Inactive

    Apr 4, 2009
    I don't know if your in school or anything, but if there is a jazz band or something of that sort to get into, do it. Look for something to kind of "force" you to learn. I joined my high schools jazz band and I could read, but not well. The pressure to lay down a good groove and stay in time with everyone else forced me to become a good sightreader. Get in a group or something to force you to sight read.
    Good Luck, and hang in there!
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Get a metronome. Set it a little slower than you think you can do a piece of music. (just a little slower). It will force you to keep going. You will just have to get over yourself when it comes to making a mistake. Noone is there to hear it. Plus, it will help you to be less likely to make mistakes in the future. So in more ways than one, keep looking ahead! Good luck!

    P.S. An Arban's trombone book make for some outstanding sight reading!
  4. bassinplace


    Dec 1, 2008
    I'm not in school nor in church. I've been playing the drums for 16 years so my time is well developed, it's just the learning curve at my age is somewhat less rapid than a younger buck. *sigh* Well, back to the drawing board. Thanks for the tip though, I appreciate it!
  5. bassinplace


    Dec 1, 2008
    Cool, thanks! I'll look into that!
  6. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    If you wanna get into melodic sight reading, get John Patitucci's etude book!

    It's pretty advanced, but it'll give your reading chops one HELL of a workout. Plus, they're awesome tunes to work on!
  7. After the initial reading go back and work on the weaker areas. Just telling yourself that you can clean up the mistakes after the sight reading will perhaps allow you to break the barrier that you have seem to run into.
  8. bassinplace


    Dec 1, 2008
    Yeah, I've seen that one, it does look good. A bit too scarily advanced for me at the moment but definitely on my list of things to study.
  9. deckard


    Apr 4, 2003
    Greetings -

    Your initial post tells me you need to slow down, i.e. set your 'nome slower until you can consistently read through the exercise/piece without errors & w/o feeling the need to "look back".

    Once you can do this consistently (there's that word again), only then should you bump the 'nome up to a higher speed, working on the new speed in the same methodical manner.

    Obviously, it is also important to be able to keep going/continue on through a particular piece or exercise without stopping & regardless of errors - but to me, this is a separate skill to work on.

    So I'm really talking about 2 different things/skills here:

    1.) - slow way down & work on being able to go through a piece consistently "mistake"-free at a particular speed before you bump the metronome speed up any higher, then work at the new speed the same way prior to bumping up the speed again, etc. - all in small incremental steps;


    2.) - separately, work on being able to continue through a piece regardless of errors.

    Hope that all makes sense...
  10. buddyro57

    buddyro57 me and PJ (living with the angels now)

    Apr 14, 2006
    Cedar Falls Iowa
    All the previous posts are right-on; slow the metronome down. The problem is that in sight reading one has to synchronize several actions; recognizing the pitch, the rhythmic value, hitting the corresponding note, and looking ahread to do the same series of actions all over again. It seems daunting at first, but gradually you begin to synchronize all of those duties. If you can't resist the temptation to stop the forward progress of the eye, then I think it indicates that the tempo is too fast for some component to work. Think about how we start to read; we don't start with Finnegan's Wake, we start with "Run Jip run". Start very slowly with the metronome, with music easy enough to permit this synchronization of actions. Soon I think you will be able to progress to playing with others- then it gets easier. One thing for sure....do not quit. If you can read, you will be able to communicate with all of the musical world. Seek a teacher who can sit one-on-one and help you. Best of luck- it will happen if you persist!
  11. modbass

    modbass Supporting Member

    Dec 31, 2008
    Baltimore Maryland
    I've been working a lot on sight reading lately, (i'm in school). I find that if I jump straight into a piece of music that has note and rhythmic values; i get lost.

    As a warm up, I do rhythm exercises out of a book called Modern Reading Text in 4/4 by Louis Bellson. It works through a lot of syncopated rhythms that you typically find in a bass line. After working through a page of that, when i get to an actual piece I don't worry as much about rhythm, and can focus on the notes
  12. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Masks, people, masks!
    Song Surgeon slow downer.
    Here's something you might consider:

    Instead of working on the whole song, take 4 measures (or whatever you choose).

    Work through the rhythm only by clapping while increasing the 'nome to speed.

    Work through the notes one by one (w/o worrying about the rhythm) so you'll know your fret fingerings.

    Put them together at a slow speed where you're not making mistakes.

    Then put the first 8 measures together, then 12, etc. until you can play the whole tune at a slow speed w/o mistakes. Gradually increase the 'nome speed.
  13. You just have to get over that feeling of having to correct your mistakes. Just keep moving on and get to the end, then fix the mistakes. Remember, you can't fix your mistakes on a gig you just have to play to the end. Doing shows helped me a great deal.
  14. Rudreax


    Jun 14, 2008
    New York, NY
    Just do it. Over and over again. That's the best way.
  15. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    All my students learn the same technique for reading, on guitar, URB, and electric. This method was handed to me by one of the greatest living string teachers- he has students in every major orchestra in the country, so I figure he knows what he's talking about.

    Go through once saying note names in rhythm.

    Next time mime the notes with your left hand- no RH.

    Finally play it down, making mental notes of errors.

    Go back and mark with pencil every trouble spot. Work on those parts.

    This covers all the issues inherent to reading on the instrument.

    Additional help- don't look at the neck.
    Try saying the names of the notes in your head as you read. Bonus points for hearing the pitches as well.

    Good luck!
  16. Muss


    Nov 20, 2007
    sounds very good, I will try that!
  17. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    As others have said, I find it helpful when reading anything new and/or complicated to separate reading the phrasing from the pitch. Get your foot or metronome going and "play" through the piece, or shorter sections of it, by tapping out the rhythm of the notes with your right hand (or left, if you're that way inclined). Also, keep a keen eye open for key signatures (especially if this changes anywhere), time signatures (likewise), expression marks and other info/directions that the arranger or orchestrator has included. Being familiar with where these are stops you being distracted so much by them later when you're concentrating on the dots.

    Once you're confident with the phrasing at a slowish tempo, then you can try playing through the notes a few bars at a time on your bass. Nothing wrong with going back and trying things again during this phase of your practice, imo. When you do put it alll together, though, keep going. It's quite easy to get "lost" playing through a piece if you get in the habit of looking back when you shouldn't or losing concentration for other reasons.

    I think you're really working on just reading when you do this. Sightreading is what you do when you don't need to do this anymore. Obviously, your reading will develop in a way that you'll be able to comfortably sightread (I mean, play near perfectly on sight) simpler stuff way before you can do the much harder stuff.
  18. timmbass


    Oct 4, 2006
    Atlanta, GA
    The original poster said "sight reading".

    They did not say "working on a part over and over and over to be able to play it correctly in the future".

    The best way to work on sight reading is to sight read. Put a metronome on slow, open a book, play through that page. Don't stop. Turn the page. Play through the next part. Don't stop. Turn the page. Play through the next part. Continue through that book.

    And play each note with confidence. Do not shy away from wrong notes. Do not flinch. Pretend that the incorrect note you are playing is the best, most perfect, most wonderful note in the universe.

    Do not speed up the metronome until you can play every note correctly with confidence. Then speed up the metronome and go through your books again. Have enough reading books so you are always reading fresh stuff.

    You can get books at www.bassbooks.com

    Do it a little every day.

    And you need to get to the point were you are looking a few measures ahead of where you are playing.
  19. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    True, and I was careful to make that distinction above.

    But in my own experience what improved my ability to sightread was getting better at reading generally, using some of the methods mentioned in this thread.
  20. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Tim makes some good points.

    A couple notes in the defense of the method I prescribe above:

    The goal here is excellence. Sight reading is just another tool to that means.

    When you "sight read" it's actually a series of very quick thought processes. At first, you have to think note name, where it is on the neck etc... later these things seem instantaneous but actually the process is just much faster with practice. In the beginning we must address the fact that for most people this is a mental challenge first and foremost.

    IME, reading poorly is a terrible habit. If you are missing notes or playing with poor feel or tone, you're just reinforcing "bad" habits. Take it slow, and make sure to completely master what you're doing before advancing tempo or moving forward.

    Shoot for awesome, all the time!

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