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richh

Reading skills (charts, dots)

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I'm looking to improve my sight reading skills, but would be interested to hear how useful this is likely to be in a practical situation?

Obviously it would be a good skill to have, but how often have you been asked to read a part?  And if you have, I'm guessing that the ability to read a chart is more useful, than 'reading the dots'?

Thanks - before I invest a lot of time and effort into this, I'd be curious to think how useful it is really going to be.

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I suppose it depends on the type of gig.  In my experience, I would say it's expected for functions, jazz/pick-up gigs, or shows.

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2 hours ago, richh said:

...Thanks - before I invest a lot of time and effort into this, I'd be curious to think how useful it is really going to be.

More information would be needed in order to get a coherent reply. Reading 'dots' can be a pleasure in itself, without ever having had to do it in any gig situation (it's my case...). There are equally so many manuscripts, methods and transcriptions to learn from that justify in themselves the acquisition of this skill. In many 'rock' situations, I'd say that it's rare, or even extremely rare, to have any written support given; at best a few chords. For studio work, as a session player, it would be more common, but not systematic. In theatre, show or 'pit' work, or orchestral formations, it would be much more common, and, in some cases, obligatory to be able to, not only 'read', but to 'sight read', which is a different level of skill. Which of these (and other...) objectives you may have will dictate the utility of making the 'effort' to do it. What are you intending to use this for..?

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I've always read dots, sightread & charts from nn early age. In my experience  the only times I've actually used them is working in the pits, cruises & my own teaching practice. Even doing sessions they normally use give me a chart or tell me the basic structure. It's a great skill to have, but it's use is sadly declining (for me and players I know) 

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17 minutes ago, Dad3353 said:

More information would be needed in order to get a coherent reply. Reading 'dots' can be a pleasure in itself, without ever having had to do it in any gig situation (it's my case...). There are equally so many manuscripts, methods and transcriptions to learn from that justify in themselves the acquisition of this skill. In many 'rock' situations, I'd say that it's rare, or even extremely rare, to have any written support given; at best a few chords. For studio work, as a session player, it would be more common, but not systematic. In theatre, show or 'pit' work, or orchestral formations, it would be much more common, and, in some cases, obligatory to be able to, not only 'read', but to 'sight read', which is a different level of skill. Which of these (and other...) objectives you may have will dictate the utility of making the 'effort' to do it. What are you intending to use this for..?

You've nailed it again Dad, covered the topic perfectly.I was about to post most of the ideas above but you've done a better and more thorough job. 👍

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In my band (big band) everybody reads music (except the guitarist) and basically I'd be sunk without the ability. The guitarist still has chord charts, but needs to spend a considerable amount of time familiarising themselves with the music, where everyone else can get "up to speed" fairly quickly by being able to sight read it then build/improve it as rehearsals progress.

"Sight reading" - its worth clarifying exactly what this is, and how it differs to "normal" reading music. Strictly, its being able to accurately play a piece of music first time through and without having seen (or know of, etc) that piece before. But strictly, its also really only done the first time a piece is run-through - subsequent runs through and 2nd, 3rd etc rehearsal aren't really sight reading. Its difficult - but possible if the music is marked properly with phrasing, dynamics, etc - to also convey a lot of the "feel" or musicality of the piece as intended too - I'd say you could get about 99% of the way there. The final 1%, you'd need to have played and listened (to the others, basically) a number of times to really polish it off.

Personally I'd not expect anyone to sight read at a gig - its a recipe for mistakes etc partly because whilst you can be world's best musician, you don't know if there's a mistake in the part and you can't expect someone to mindread or predict the future, if they didn't know what the piece is like, or the tempo is missing, or if it were done in a fast 4 time instead of a slow cut time and someone forgot to annotate the part given to the new guy....etc etc But good musicians could do it in one rehearsal. I've done sight reading in a gig situation, its possible but its basically a bit of a worry and fraught with traps - its very reassuring to get at least 1 run-thru. If its simple enough, then 1 is enough normally (if you're awake and alert etc...)

I don't think (happy to be corrected though) even the best musicians, for example those who play for Hollywood filmscores, or full-time-employed band musicians of decades ago etc, would actually "sight read" - in filmscore stuff, you'd have 1 run through then the 2nd time it would be recorded and then maybe little bits here and there patched in. And in a full time band situation, over time you'd develop your repertoire and be playing jazz standards so you'd kinda know 95% of the stuff anyway.

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Thanks for the replies and suggestions!

I haven't got a specific plan to this, but would like to learn, if only for my own benefit.  But I thought that it would be interesting to know how this kind of skill might actually be used in a gig type situation - or not.  So I'll give it some thought and think how much time I can afford to spend on this.  It may be that be able to read charts is more useful as a practical skill than 'reading the dots'.  If I have loads of time I'd certainly like to practice both, but as for most of us, time is the scarce commodity.

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I’ve on,y recently started learning dots. I started because I joined the same educational trust music group my kids attend. They are grade 5 and 3 on various woodwinds and within those grades can sight read anything.

 

So when I was given sheet music I was pretty much lost. Now I’m not. Now I don’t feel like an idiot anymore.

 

However it has also opened up a massive new world for me - now I can simply look for sheet music for anything I want to play and not rely on crap web tabs. It’s not just bass music either - anything written on the bass clef is now doable. Sometimes I get tuba and piano parts instead if that is what the trust has. Tuba and piano parts don’t usually have chord boxes or similar information.

 

i can now read rhythm as well - tab does not give rhythmic information.

 

ive been dabbling for about 4 years, and seriously doing it for 1. My playing has improved and I’m more confident.

 

I started using Double bass sight reading tests and just practicing 5 or 10 minutes a day. Doesn’t need any more to really make progress. 2 hours in one sitting is a crap idea - brains don’t work like that. Little and often is far more efficient.

 

Ive also signed up for the Jeff Berlin course. It’s pretty good but it’s really just an extension of the double bass stuff I’m practising. 

 

Go go for it - my feeling is that I used to be allowed in the library but I couldn’t understand the books. Now I can read them, even if I’m really not that much further into the shelves than the hungry caterpillar! 

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I'm a drummer, and there is no 'Tab' for drum stuff, and few scores of pop stuff, too. The drum methods had to be read, and any parts I needed to learn, I had to transcribe. It becomes easy enough, if approached in a methodical way (ie: don't start by trying to read Bruckner symphonies...). Slow, steady, little and often are the keys.
One tip, for bass players (or others...): invest in a modest method book with simply rhythmic exercises. An often neglected aspect of 'dots' is the recognising the rythmes (whatever the instrument...), and the music makes sense, I found, much more quickly if one can 'hum through' the rythme, ignoring the notes at first. A lot of stuff has 'patterns' that are assimilated quite quickly; the notes can be added with more confidence with later passages. Just sayin', hope this helps.

PS: here's an excellent book to get one's motivational juices flowing; recommended...

J.S.Bach for Bass ...

It has Tab, too, but it's easy enough to ignore that (or use it at first to fumble through a few bars, as a 'teaser'...). Good Stuff. B|

Edited by Dad3353

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5 hours ago, richh said:

I haven't got a specific plan to this, but would like to learn, if only for my own benefit.  But I thought that it would be interesting to know how this kind of skill might actually be used in a gig type situation - or not. 

1

Reading is a very useful skill for accessing information quickly, not only in gig situations but also for your general musical life. It also means that music written for any instrument is now fair game, which can help you sound less like every other bass player out there.

On the subject of reading on gigs, it depends hugely on the sort of gigs that you go for - obviously, any sort of musical theatre or cruise work will require it, but there are plenty of function bands out there that use written arrangements. It definitely means that you can 'slot in' to more gigs at short notice without any prior preparation.

Another fringe benefit of getting better at reading music is that your writing skills will improve, meaning that it takes you much less time to put together decent charts. This can cut down on gig prep time massively, regardless of whether you actually use the charts on the gig or not.

When it comes to learning to read, there are a few practice strategies and books that I'd recommend:

 

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