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you guys who can sight read, do you sometimes cheat at it?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by on1ne, Sep 2, 2008.


  1. on1ne

    on1ne

    Dec 21, 2004
    NYC
    I'm trying to train myself to read music. I'm working out of a book of bass training exercises.

    My problem is that I have an extremely good ear and within a few bars I pretty much know how the thing is supposed to be played.

    Plus, as they are exercises, they are often repetitive. If I see a pattern of notes, once I figure out how to play that sequence the repeat of those same notes is obvious and there is no need to "read" it.




    When you "read music" is it common to recognize patterns and phrases to the point where you don't really need to decipher every note on the page?
     
  2. I admit, I do that too and 'cheat' sometimes (especially when playing piano\keyboards). However, for bass, I only do it when learning covers. If it's original music or an original arrangement of a cover, I read it note for note to learn it the way the composer\arranger wants to hear it.
    For training exercises, I play note for note b\c that's what it's for...to train myself to read it and play it.
     
  3. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Cincinnati
    Yes. As you get better at reading you'll stop thinking of the names of the notes and your fingers will just go to where the notes are as you read. That said, depending on the music it can be fairly easy to see what the harmony is, or hear what the harmony is and fake your own part.

    I'm talking about sight reading and by that I mean playing the music without having seen it before or practicing it. That's common in a lot of professional playing situations especially studio work. Experience will show when you have to play a part note for note perfectly as its written and when you can take some liberties with the part. Some of that is the style of music, what the music is written for, and who is in charge of the group and their musical experience and expectations.
     
  4. Scottgun

    Scottgun

    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    It's not cheating if nobody notices that it isn't what's on the page. To put it simply, the goal is to make music, not merely play notes. So my wife section leading in orchestra and they were sight-reading a chart and she told the section not to worry about the notes in a particularly difficult passage, just get it in rhythm. When they played it in full orchestra, I doubt if any of them got all the notes right, but the conducter said it was excellent and praised the Mrs. how she was able to get everyone to tackle that difficult passage.
     
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I agree with what's been said, but also be prepared for the occasional bandleader who catches every little note and wants the chart played as written.
     
  6. Ed Goode

    Ed Goode Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    If it's my first read-through I'll play it note-for-note as written. If it's a chart or something that I'll be playing over and over (local theatre, summer stock, etc) I'll start to take liberties here and there.

    But, as Jimmy M said, there are those conductors/MD's that expect you to play what's written, no more and no less. Best to be prepared to play exactly what's there 1st if you're getting paid for the gig ... :cool:
     
  7. GassieBall

    GassieBall

    Oct 15, 2006
    IMO, I think if you're starting out learning how to read music, you should take the time to look at every note and play every note. After all, it is an exercise you're doing. The more you do that, the more it becomes automatic.

    It's sort of like my teaching my 4-year old how to read. He's a smart kid, and often, he knows the gist of a story so he starts to "make the story up" along the lines of what he remembers. But he knows I know that he's bluffing and I ask him to read every word.

    If you're doing exercises or playing the blues, for example, you can get away with it. If you want to play Rush or Dream Theater, it would be cool to read every note. :)
     
  8. on1ne

    on1ne

    Dec 21, 2004
    NYC
    I'm trying to force myself to read the notes even tho I often know what's coming based on the line. It's hard because I've been playing by ear for so long that I'm used to faking it thru.

    Of course I know it's not really "cheating" but in a way i may be cheating myself because when I do it, I'm not reading. At this stage I think it's better to try not to do that.

    I"m also finding that I tend to figure out groups of notes first and then go back and try to get the timing after memorizing the note sequence. I'm not sure if this is a good habit or not. In a way I'm sort of still playing by "ear."
     
  9. HaVIC5

    HaVIC5

    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    It's not cheating if you play it correctly. It's only cheating if you don't.

    Eventually, you start to recognize simple "chunks" of music like you would a word of english. You don't read words letter by letter, you read them as a whole. You'll start to find this happen with music as well. When you have a dizzying flurry of sixteenth notes, often times you can simplify this into a "word" that your brain can understand, like "12 diatonic notes moving stepwise starting on the dominant." That way, you're not worrying about every individual note, but what the entire line represents.
     
  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    What he said. If you see a line of 16th notes ascending and they go line space line space, yes you're probably ascending stepwise through the scale in the key signature. Or as somebody said earlier, you learn to recognize certain "chunks" of notes the same way you don't see a sign on the road and see that it's a hexagon and see that it's red and see that it's got a word on it and that word is S T O P, you just see a STOP sign.
    The problem gets to be that you're learning a skill set here and what you seem to be training yourself to do is skipping sections. The guys that put this stuff together aren't generally stupid, they been doing this for a minnit and they KNOW that everybody can catch on to the "oh all this is doing is going up the scale three steps then coming back down two and starting on the next note up" and they build stuff into the exercises (as you move forward ) to keep you on your toes. if you're paying attention. If you aren't, then you are just breezing past the notes that you played that sound (to you) like "what he meant" but not what was actually written there.


    The other thing is- treat learning to read music just like you treat reading words. Read EVERYTHING in reach - trombone books, Bach two parts, Britney Spears sings songs of the Green berets Songbook - ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING.
     
  11. on1ne

    on1ne

    Dec 21, 2004
    NYC
    I am trying to force myself to read every note even when it is obvious what the next note will be. Hard to do when you have an especially good ear as I do. I'm gradually improving. Yes you are right about these exercises. There are built in tricks every now and then to keep you from assuming too much.

    Yes I do plan to start grabbing sheet music everywhere i can find if I can get past this learning curve. I'll have to look for that "Britney does the Green Berets" songbook. :bag:


    'nother question:
    Are you ever expected to read the treble clef and figure out your own part or do you always get a bass clef to follow?
     
  12. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    One thing you should do to sightread better is to always look a bar or two ahead of what you're playing so you can prepare for it a little.

    Also, I am quite often expected to read treble clef to play a part. It's not usually an entire bass part, though. Usually just a few bars here and there on a rhythm chart. Actual bass parts are almost always written in bass clef. But it takes about an additional 10 minutes to figure out how to read treble clef once you know bass clef, so it's not like brain surgery.
     
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Well that's another thing. You generally don't get a chart that just has the melody on it, you get what's called a "lead sheet". That has the melody AND the chord changes written in alphanumeric symbols (like C7 or Dmaj or Gb9#9b13) that tell you what the harmony under the melody is. But yes, generally they expect you to improvise a bass line in the idiom that's identified (rock ballad or bossa nova or Bulgarian Death Polka) with those changes. They give you the melody so that you are aware of when the changes phrase with melody (melody hits a note on the and of 4 and is tied to a note in the next measure, you're pretty sure that the chord change will be on the and of 4 too).

    Another convention is to write the changes above and then either give you a "sample" rhythm written on a little measure that's stuck somewhere else (above or below) the song or put something that looks like drum notation (diamond shaped note with the rhythmic value stuck on what would be the F clef B line) to show you what rhythm they're looking for (harmony's written above, remember) but leaving the exact note choice up to you (hey if you can make that low E work against a Bb7, more power to you).

    But learn to read treble clef too.
     
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    There's this piano player up here, Tim Harrison, who allegedly (he's never done it when I've been around) can sight sing about 8 measures ahead of where he's playing...
     
  15. Valerus

    Valerus

    Aug 4, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    I wish I could predict future notes in the pattern with more efficiency and skill. :[
     
  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Predict? How does that help with sight reading? You're not supposed to predict...you're supposed to read.
     
  17. Valerus

    Valerus

    Aug 4, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    I'm not talking sight reading, I guess my post was unrelated.

    I'm just talking being able to see what's coming next in a particular pattern.

    *bows out*
     
  18. CapnSev

    CapnSev

    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    I don't consider it "cheating" when I can hear the song first before trying to play it. I have nothing to prove to anyone by reading the chart without hearing it first.

    I only sight read when I absolutely have no choice.
     
  19. Sight reading is a skill, not everyone needs it, but many do. If you find that it's a skill you want to develop, then the only thing you can do is PRACTICE SIGHT READING. That means don't look away from the dots on the page, if you find yourself "predicting" then stop and get your focus back. Music isn't easy, if it was everyone would do it, sight reading isn't easy, if it was every musician would do it. Of course if you're in the middle of playing a song with a new chart in front of you there is a chance you'll have to cheat here and there to make the music happen. I'll also say until you CAN read every note on the page you CAN'T cheat.
     
  20. Reuben

    Reuben Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    As a teacher of mine once said, "There's no such thing as sight reading, but rather recognizing things you've seen before."

    This is only partly true, but as I gain a lot of experience (26 years of bass playing) I find that all the reading I have done contributes to whatever ability I have as a sight-reader. Composing helps my reading. Transcribing helps my reading.

    As with any practice it's good to identify your weaknesses and work on those a lot. I have had a hard time in the past with reading 16th note rhythms, so I have put in some time on those, and it's definitely getting better.
     

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