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Sight Reading


desertbluesman
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I never tried to understand reading notes musically. I have a rudimentary understanding of musical theory. I decided early on that I did not really want to be an educated musician ((I had kids to feed at the time so I needed a day job). I chose to find out how to play simple stuff using the Nashville style of communicating music. Using numbers instead of note/chord names, and playing by ear using pentatonic and major, and minor scales. I did take some lessons from two accomplished and nationally known jazz players, Bob Aslanian (who taught Al Di Meola), and from Emily Remler. Both of whom reinforced the idea of learning sight reading (I tried but to no avail ). I did get a rudimentary understanding of theory, enough to pursue my interest in playing and composing blues, and blues based rock, with a smattering of country thrown in.

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1 hour ago, desertbluesman said:

I never tried to understand reading notes musically. I have a rudimentary understanding of musical theory. I decided early on that I did not really want to be an educated musician ((I had kids to feed at the time so I needed a day job). I chose to find out how to play simple stuff using the Nashville style of communicating music. Using numbers instead of note/chord names, and playing by ear using pentatonic and major, and minor scales. I did take some lessons from two accomplished and nationally known jazz players, Bob Aslanian (who taught Al Di Meola), and from Emily Remler. Both of whom reinforced the idea of learning sight reading (I tried but to no avail ). I did get a rudimentary understanding of theory, enough to pursue my interest in playing and composing blues, and blues based rock, with a smattering of country thrown in.

Hi, is there a question here, or just introducing yourself?  Sharing? 
 

It does make me think, however, what do we mean by an educated musician?  There are many paths to competence in playing/making/writing music.  All of them have one thing in common, which is time spent.  There’s no short cut for # of hours spent in any field or endeavor.  

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Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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38 minutes ago, ElmerJFudd said:

Hi, is there a question here, or just introducing yourself?  Sharing? 
 

It does make me think, however, what do we mean by an educated musician?  There are many paths to competence in playing/making/writing music.  All of them have one thing in common, which is time spent.  There’s no short cut for # of hours spent in any field or endeavor.  

An educated musician is one who studies theory in an education facility, or with a fully educated teacher. That is what I meant in the post above. Secondly I have been here many many years, and have no need to introduce myself, I was just commenting. No big deal.....

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My friend Tim Carmon once told me that he got a chance to audition for Stevie Wonder a while back.  Tim asked what material to prepare, and was told Stevie calls whichever one of his tunes he’s feeling in auditions, but they could get Tim sheet music if he wanted.  Tim responded that he doesn’t really read music, and was told “That’s okay - neither does Stevie”. 😊

 

I’ve always relied heavily on my ear, and learning what the guitar tab on my sheet music was - as a keyboard player - and how the numbers system worked with it was pretty much where I stopped working on reading music.  I can read slowly, but really wish I could do it better.

 

I just got a mandolin recently, and a n00b book to go with it.  I’m telling myself I’m gonna use the new instrument to try and work on the reading a bit. 🤔

 

dB

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Sight reading for me is being able to read and play from the sheets. Usually meant for sheet music using the bass and treble clef.  I can read and play from Tab but not on sight.  It may take me 8 weeks to learn 8 measures LoL!  But, I can take a sheet of chords and lyrics and play and sing a tune I know on sight without practicing first.  I would consider this as a form of sight reading and playing even though I can't do the same with sheet music for guitar.  You'll see a lot of players using music stands while performing so they can remember the notes, chords, lyrics, arrangements, etc.  I have known talented pianists, guitarists, violinists, bassists, etc., unable to play without their sheet music.  😎

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Guitar notation would be tricky to read correctly. European notation was intended for keyboards, which have one of each note so it's easy to know where you are at any time.

A Strat has 5 different places (and strings) on the neck that will play Middle C. Now what?

 

I spent 9 years in Fresno playing guitar and bass with a friend who knows so many songs it is impossible to keep track. But he does. We practiced a dozen times in that 9 years, maybe. We never had a set list and we never knew what Roger was going to play next. Luckily for me, he played guitar and I could get where we were at a glance and dive in. We took requests all the time as well. There were certainly some troubling moments but eventually I earned a PhD in Bar Band. That and $2 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. 

 

But it has come in handy, I've played in other bands where they had charts, not notation, just chords. I can do that. I was in the last band for 6 years and 3 times we had a set list. We would play one or two songs and then Falcon would push the set list behind him with his feet and just go, he knows a buttload of songs too. He wondered where I came from when I showed up and started jamming with him but I already know a ton of his material and just jumped right in. 

 

I do know where every note is on the guitar neck, I know lots of chord inversions and patterns for playing melody. You can tell me a song is in Bb minor 9th and I'm there. There isn't really much need for sheet music  playing popular rock, country, blues, folk, funk etc...

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It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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2 hours ago, KuruPrionz said:

I do know where every note is on the guitar neck, I know lots of chord inversions and patterns for playing melody. You can tell me a song is in Bb minor 9th and I'm there. There isn't really much need for sheet music  playing popular rock, country, blues, folk, funk etc...

@Kuru I could not tell you where every note is on the guitar neck, I know the 6th and 1st string note name on each fret as well as the octave of that note in the middle string (4th). I usually play the songs in scales, mostly major and minor pentatonic. and I may add a modal addition to that depending on the song, mode, and place in the song. I have been practicing guitar for over 58 years. I play by patterns, and by long experience, I am familiar with the major scale (Ionian), major pentatonic, the natural minor (Aolean) and minor pentatonic, and I fooled with the Dorian mode a little bit, but had no real use for any of those modal other than major and minor "flavors" (As Emily Remler called the feel of the scales)

 

Bob Aslanian (Al Di Meola teacher) taught me things like practicing the scales in thirds, and fourths across the neck, as well as triplets. Emily also emphasized the chromatic scale for extended approaches. I also fooled with the diminished scale a bit, but never found much use with that one. That was enough theory for me, because I wanted to improvise over the blues and blues based rock. I actually do not know a single song, note for note (even my own originals), and never did covers like the artist who wrote them did, nor did I ever copy a recording note for note.

 

All that said, if I was going to pursue music commercially back in the day, I would have studied those things religiously. All musical theory has value. I simply narrowed my interest in playing as a beloved hobby, so I learned as much as I needed to be a fluent improvisational player on the blues and blues based rock, and a bit of simple country. I also studied the diatonic scale (any scale in chords) so I could add more chords to any key for original chord progression writing. My first foray into the diatonic realm is https://www.soundclick.com/music/songInfo.cfm?songID=2880132  which I recorded at Circle Sound Studios in San Diego many many moons ago (Middle or late 70's) It is an improvisation on one track on an acoustic guitar, no overdubbing just a single shot at it.

 

Here is another that uses parts of the diatonic https://www.soundclick.com/music/songInfo.cfm?songID=3043523

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I have not cultivated the skill of sight-reading sheet music; I can't sit down and do it.

I can, however, make use of sheet music as a reference, slowly working from it as a guide, if I spend a little time with it. (Maybe more than a little time. ;) :D ) It doesn't have to be notation written for the guitar- going over piano/keyboard notation, or harmonized parts for horn sections, etc., can give insight. Ages ago I once went to an actual 'brick-and-mortar' published music store- their primary merchandise was reams and reams and reams of printed sheet-music and books! How the world has changed!- and got the sheet-music for Miles Davis [i]"All Blues"[/i] to work on and suss-out how I might ply it on my Strat.

I haven't done that in a very long time, though. I'll sheepishly admit that it would improve my playing and musicality to do that more often, especially if I worked toward being able to sight-read...

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Best of both worlds.  Educated as a pianist from a little kid to graduate university studies.    Also allowed me to studied classical guitar under Dr.  Wherman in college for 5 years because I could read and played guitar in a University jazz band because I could read but my solos were improvised.  I learned the mathematics of music and that has been indispensable.    Dad was a musician and didn't read.  I got an electric guitar in 6th grade and just start wanking on it and became competent.  Mom played Hawaiian style guitar and I became a steel player.   Wanking on things with strings developed my ear and with out that I may have never became a working keyboardist.  I used both a lot.   There is a huge misconception by many who don't read that those who do cannot play by ear or improvise.  Not true, especially horn players.    At the end of the day it is whatever works.  If it sounds good, it's good.

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So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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But for what it's worth, I can't sight read s*** anymore.  Sight reading is taking a piece of music cold turkey and playing it on first sight.   I worked on my sight reading about 15 years ago and the best thing for me was Bach's Chorales.  There are over 360 of them.  They are simple and harmonically rich.  You can play a new one every day for a year sight unseen.  It worked wonders but if you don't use it you lose it... at least I do.

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"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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I was a good sight reader as a trumpet playing kid. I don't even remember it being conscious,,, it just happened. Same with singing out of the hymnal as a kid... 

 

All of that atrophied with time. With  self-teaching myself guitar the ear took over and I didn't bother with trying to get into reading (learning the rock and punk and new wave hits as a kid) and as other have noted it is difficult because you have to read ahead a bit to know what position to put your hand in to fret a note based on where you have to go... I also have NEVER been presented with anything other than chord charts even when playing a few Jazz gigs on guitar. I've also given lessons on ear training and improvising (soloing) to guys older than me who'd taken years of lessons and could read better than I can.

My trombonist Stepdad - like my mother and father a music teacher - has always given me crap about not focusing on reading, though he had to admit my ear was good (when writing arrangement of songs he'd have to have me figure out chord voicings sometimes) and I had him beat at improvising and soloing... it's been a decades long argument, with a sad ending: his vision has gotten pretty bad and he's lost one eye completely to diabetic retinopathy so he can't see well enough to read that fast anymore. He's working on improvising now...

but to rehash my long point in arguments to him: music came first, transcription came later... as a way to preserve music... in the days before recordings. It is still necessary for playing classical music or anything with orchestras or large horn bands or string ensembles... the reason my reading atrophied is that in rock and pop music there's little use for it. I play with a lot of classically-trained players who are very good readers and do symphony stuff or jazz gigs that require sight-reading, and they marvel at my ability to learn and retain songs very quickly (as well as writing parts to original songs we're presented with) without any kind of cheat sheets.

The most (financially) successful composer in the history of the world is Paul McCartney, who can't read or write traditional music transcription. The second most successful composer in the history of the world is Barry Gibb, who not only can't read or write music but can only play guitar in open E tuning and piano with a few fingers... and whether you like The Bee Gees and the stuff he's written for people like Barbra Streisand or not, you have to admit it is not musically unsophisticated (I am a huge fan of The Bee Gees).

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