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sightreading - it pays off

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by RyanHelms, Oct 6, 2004.


  1. RyanHelms

    RyanHelms

    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    Or in my case, not being able to sightread cost me a working gig. I had an audition last night with a 12 piece outfit (guitar rhythm section with 9 horns) that works from a book with 500+ charts :eek: They said ahead of time the charts were half and half changes/notated. I was expecting fakebook style chord charts with some notated figures. WRONG-O. What the band leader put in front of me was my own book of big band style arrangements in F clef, with 80% of my lines completely notated.


    My stomach sank through the floor.


    To everyone's credit, though, they were very cool and encouraging. I got through about 9 charts that *did* at least have chord changes above the measures, since I was completely upfront about my dismal sightreading. We did some swing, rockers, slow blues, a touch of funky. After an hour they cut me lose. BTW, if you ever get the chance to play in a rhythm section with a full horn line on top, do it! It's too cool!

    Anyway, the point is the leader told me they dug my playing but must have a fluent sightreader. I'm betting if my sightreading was even just half as better as it is now, I might have had a shot at the spot. Guess who's gonna be busting out the exercises?
     
  2. johnvice

    johnvice

    Sep 7, 2004
    Ryan;

    I don't know how many gigs I have gotten because I can sight read fluently...the notation system has been around for hundreds of years because it is an efficient way of documeneting what musicians should play.

    Don't make the mistake I made of writing the notes in pencil below the lines. With some consistent practice, you will be reading in no time!!
     
  3. Steve

    Steve

    Aug 10, 2001
    I have always believed strongly that as a bass player, the single best thing you can do for yourself is to learn how to read well.

    It's the fastest way to seperate yourself from the herd and it allows you to play WAY over your head. I can play written lines that I'll never be smart enough or creative enough to come up with on my own.
     
  4. RyanHelms

    RyanHelms

    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    LOL, I though I was the only guy who did that! Trying to kick the habit, though.

    Oh boy, that could set off a $h!t storm around here... :rolleyes:

    That's always been the crux of the argument in favor of playing by ear as far as I can tell. In other words, plenty of players will be up in arms immediately if you suggest that what's written is better than any of their own ideas. In terms of conveying the writer's original intent though, I realize it's a moot point.

    But how many people got into music as a means of self-expression and will tell you that giving them a written line to play stifles that... It's a tricky subject. My faculty instructor at college used to talk about freedom within limitations. Man did we argue that one!

    The point though is this. If you want to audition for a band that works from a book (why are those the bands that seem to always have respectable work :meh: ) you have to be able to sightread.

    Out of 300+ tunes in my jazz fakebook, maybe 7 charts have written bass figures. So much for that...
     
  5. Steve

    Steve

    Aug 10, 2001
    Well let me nip that in the bud.

    I said that I can read better than I can create. Thats just me. I wish I was a creative genius but I ain't.

    For me it was faster to learn how to read then it was to learn all the theory that it requires the be that creative. It's one of the pit falls of being classically trained. Theory is a whole different skill from execution. I know symphonic violinists that can flat out burn...until you take the sheet away.

    Jazz? thats whole different animal there. Thats all about creativity on the fly. That's why I suck at it. Unless it a jazz big band then it's back to a chart and I can hang way over my head.
     
  6. RyanHelms

    RyanHelms

    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    Yeah man. Everyone's got their own angle on the whole thing. Far as that goes, there's plenty of players out there can flat out burn until you put the sheet in front of'em..... ;)
     
  7. Sounds like youve found the solution by identifying the problem all that is needed is practicing sightreading easy said than done
    Heres some useful tips although you might know them already

    a) Memorize your rhythms and know what they sound like in every possible way
    b) Memorize your intervals on paper then progress to patterns ie appeggios , Pieces of scales etc
    c) Read new material everyday strictly by sight if you make a mistake keep going the idea of this exercise is to sightread if a mistake was made just keep practicing (a) or (b) in time youll get it

    But Just practice basically is all you have to do sounds simple but yet effective dont worry in time you,d get there if you work on it.
    Anyway Good Luck :bassist:
     
  8. RyanHelms

    RyanHelms

    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    Thanks for the encouragement, man. I'm shamed to say that I've played music for almost twenty years and never nailed sigthreading. More like mastered playing by ear, and got by in school somehow...

    My reading at this point is slower than "hunt-and-peck" typing. How I ever got by may be sad testimony to the state of public music instruction.
     
  9. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    I recently joined a Saturday jazz course at a local college, I can get the notes off the paper, but I cant sight read anything beyond 1/4 and 18th roots.

    Since joining I've really seen the need to be able to to it, especially for rhythms. Lotsof the charts we're giving in class have written b-lines - now it is jazz so eventaully you're probably supposed to play your own lines, but being able to read off the sheet like EVRYONE ELSE in the class can is 100% necessary in actually getting the tune up and running. Consequently, I'm working on my reading and writing!
     
  10. tkarter

    tkarter

    Jan 1, 2003
    kansas
    Anyone that wants to learn to really read should get Carol Kaye's sight reading DVD course. Very good stuff that helped me quickly read. IMHO

    tk
     
  11. Steve

    Steve

    Aug 10, 2001
    Yeah, I wouldn't say sight reading makes you a better player so much as it makes you a more MARKETABLE player.

    That and upright bass. If you can read and just get by on an upright along with Competant electric playing, you can earn a living playing music anywhere there's music to be played.
     
  12. RyanHelms

    RyanHelms

    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    I couldn't agree more.

    If you go to the bottom of this page, there's bass clef sightreading exercises to download for free. 40+ pages between the major *and* minor exercises. Two pages of lines in every key, arranged alphabetically. I didn't check out the etudes (or the Art of Improv downloads at the top of the page, for that matter) but it's probably all good.
     
  13. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    That's why I encourage my students to play bass without looking at the fingerboard at all. I've always thought that wind instruments' players have the advantage of having everything there, at their fingertips (and their lips, of course). Bassists, guitarists and pianists have the problem of shifting positions. In most sightreading situations, you have no time to look at your instrument to find the right position. Your eyes have to be on the sheet and your brain in your neck (the instrument's) aside from listening the whole band, of course. If someone only told me the importance of that when I was a beginner, I think I'd overcome so many problems I've had through my career faster than I did (and keep doing, BTW).
     
  14. tkarter

    tkarter

    Jan 1, 2003
    kansas
    Part of sight reading is getting the timing and over all sense of the song as well as knowing what notes are written. I would look at getting instruction if not by obtaining Carol Kaye's DVD course is sight reading.

    tk
     
  15. picknslap

    picknslap

    Sep 9, 2004
    Manteca
    I've recently taken up piano, which was my first venture into reading music, but it's a great thing to know. I made copies of some of the simpler songs in the piano book at school, so I can apply what I've learned to bass. It helps if you have a goal, like my goal is to be nominated best musician in my senior year, I have slightly less then three school years to get there, if I can read music fluently, that alone will put me a step or two above most around here.
     
  16. mattmcnewf

    mattmcnewf

    May 27, 2004
    i have noticed that sight reading gives me a better understanding of rhythm. Its amazing how when music's written seems completely different from how i picture in my head
     
  17. RyanHelms

    RyanHelms

    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    It amazes me how odd a written line can look, until I play it and end up with a big "Duh. That's how it goes"... I won't even go into what it looks like in my mind.

    For me it's a matter of laziness, playing by ear takes so much less effort. Then along comes something written out and I think, "Man, I would love to play that." I've heard of players who get their juices flowing by reading exercises written for other instruments, a guitarist practicing clarinet solos for example.

    It probably comes down to discipline, or lack thereof.
     
  18. emor

    emor

    May 16, 2004
    kcmo
    I've never been a really good reader; it is something that I'm trying to concentrate on lately. I especially need work reading things in the upper positions using string crossings rather than big jumps up and down the neck. As luck would have it, I ran across a book (Mel Bay) of Bach Preludes for bass in a used book store the other day. It is a great exercise for working across the strings in the upper positions.

    Interesting thing, though--it is written in standard notation with TAB underneath. Other than checking out some stuff online (like activebass.com), I haven't used TAB much; and I think this is the first time I have worked from a piece of music that includes both. I'm finding that having the TAB written out below the standard notation it is detrimental to the process of trying to learn to read. It is so easy to let my eye wander down and look at the string/fret#, and disregard the relationship of the written interval to the fingering.
    I've started copying the standard notation by hand (in itself, a pretty good way of familiarizing oneself with the music) and the reading seems to be progressing much better.
     
  19. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    My jazz class involves quite a lot of reading and I cant sight read -I haev to go hoem and learn it from the sheet, or, as in some cases, I just cant do it. Consequently I'm praticing reading and/or writing notation more or less everyday :)
     
  20. dodgy_ian

    dodgy_ian

    Apr 9, 2001
    Newcastle, UK
    yeah, basically u have to be able to sightread, it will sort u out. I had to play a musical in november and couldn't read before that now 9months later i'm doing musicals, playing jazz gigs etc etc cos of my sight reading. its an amazing way to access a lot of musical information v quickly+i can't agree more that it puts you head and shoulders above most other musicians and will expand your own personal creaivity and ideas when u see what ideas other peeps have had.

    Just do it basically. Seriously you will get the gig every time, over much more talented players if you can bag the reading.

    Dodge