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Trumpet Discussion Discuss On sight reading in the General forums; Sight reading was always one of my biggest weaknesses. Not that I could not read the sheet music and tell ...
  1. #1
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    Feb 2008

    On sight reading

    Sight reading was always one of my biggest weaknesses. Not that I could not read the sheet music and tell you what it was supposed to do, but in actually translating that into executed sound - mostly with regard to timing.

    As a kid, we mostly played in groups, even as a lead in drum corps, there were other lead players, and it was easy to check/adjust with a new piece of music. Once I'd heard it a few times, then reading the music and then memorizing (almost everything was memorized) hid the problem for the most part.

    When I took piano some years back, I improved some, but there was always the issue in the background - often rectified by asking someone else to play the piece.

    Now, on to the question. To become better at this, should I just stay away from listening to a piece played entirely (and wait to see my teacher to see where I've gone wrong), try it some, and then compare to someone or a sound file, or just keep at it, and it will get better? (It did get somewhat better when I was taking piano, but it went back away with non-use). It might be really that we never played that many different pieces that I didn't already know, so I never had to do much reading and never developed.

    Related to that, suppose we're looking at sheet music that is mostly 16th notes, the time sig is for example 3/4, I want to stay in time, for me it is easiest to practice with the metronome at 4 times the speed of the quarter notes, that way I don't have to try to divide each beat into 4 and keep it even. This probably is more a question about solo practice, because practicing with a group there are other 'queues' etc. I digress.
    Am I shooting myself in the foot by giving myself the crutch of setting the metronome at 4 times the beat? I surely can't tap my foot that fast, suppose I set the metronome at the higher rate and tap the foot at the correct rate?

    And finally, syncopation . . . as yo can see, all of my questions relate to timing. How do you develop a good understanding of what that should sound like . . . ?

    I've always found ways to shore up this weakness by listening, etc, but would like to be able to just pick up the book, see what's there, and start working on it.


  2. #2
    Pianissimo User Blazing Asian's Avatar
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    Nov 2006

    Re: On sight reading

    I am not expert but, obviously listening to a lot of music helps...listening to music while look at the music helps your brain. (Just take your Arban's book, open to a random page and listen to a recording of it).

    Sight reading is like every other aspect, you just have to practice.
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  3. #3
    Forte User Patric_Bernard's Avatar
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    Oct 2007

    Re: On sight reading

    Dont just read music and practice it like that if your not sure how the rhythm goes. One good thing that really strong sight readers know is rhythm. I was lucky because i was in our winterdrumline throughout highschool, so I know alot of rhythms. But if your not good at them, one good, and somewhat fun, way to learn new rhythms is to experiment. Keep it in 4/4 now just for simplicity. Now play 4 quarter notes, understand what that looks like and how it will look in music. Then Play quarter eight eight, quarter eight eight. and Understand how That looks on paper. Then do maybe all eight notes. again, visualize how that looks on paper. You can even write it down if your not sure. Just keep changing the rhythm up, add in syncopated stuff. You can learn alot more rhythms like this than you will reading a few pieces of music. Plus you'll be better prepared for sight reading.

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  4. #4
    Forte User Jimi Michiel's Avatar
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    Re: On sight reading


    Everything comes down to how you learn. We have a trumpet skill set that we're constantly trying to improve--we learn scales, arpeggios, double tonguing, legato playing, etc. Nearly all the music we play can be assembled from combinations of exercises in the Arban's book. The more comprehensive your skill set, the quicker you will learn music and the more you will be able to learn in VERY short periods of time (site reading).

    There are two ways to attack your site reading problem--

    1) Practice your fundamentals. This means Arbans, as well as site singing and rhythmic exercises. Set up your metronome and just play with it. Learn every scale you can possibly imagine, and then invent a few. Same with arpeggios. Combine exercises--practice your octatonic scales on offbeats. The better vocabulary you have, the less you will be surprised when something comes up while site reading.

    A) Site read! Play as much as you can. Play so much that you don't have time to "learn" every piece you put in front of you. Sit in with is many groups as possible. Jump at the chance to "fill in" for somebody who can't make the gig/rehearsal. Be the guy that everyone knows just wants to play and can always be trusted to jump at a moments notice. Eventually, it all turns into site reading.


  5. #5
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    Dec 2006

    Re: On sight reading

    Practice, practice, practice.

    I mean this in several different ways.

    First, if you want to get good at 'cold reading', then do A LOT of it. Not just at home, but try to sit in with as many bands as you can and cold read their book. There is no substitute for repetition.

    Second, practice to become a better technical player. The goal is to get to the point where 'getting the right sound out of the horn' is unconscious. This frees your conscious mind up to focus on 'playing the ink'. If you are concentrating on hitting the note, then you can't put as much attention into reading the next measure.

  6. #6
    Piano User gglassmeyer's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
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    Re: On sight reading

    My advice would be to read as much unfamiliar music as possible. This way you'll be reading the music and not have a preconceived notion of how the rhythm should be played. Start out very slow and count out the rhythm without the horn, then pick up the horn and play it.
    When I joined up with my concert band after playing by ear for 10 years without reading any music, I found it really difficult to read music. Particularly familiar tunes, because I was so used to playing by ear I would have an idea of how the song sounded, but that's not necessarily what an arranger writes. The only cure is to read a lot.
    Greg Glassmeyer

  7. #7
    Forte User bagmangood's Avatar
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    Re: On sight reading

    I will second the rhythm
    If you can play in time, its just a matter of getting the right notes,
    Make sure you should feel how it should go, and then plug in the notes.
    Also, you might wanted to try sight-singing some music so you can hear it either with the horn or purely in your head. But mostly get the rhythm
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  8. #8
    Mezzo Forte User et_mike's Avatar
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    Re: On sight reading

    Look into percussion lessons. You will be surprised how just a few lessons as a beginner percussionist will improve your undertanding of simple rythmic ties. Then, try this to help meld the right and left brain together, play your technical exercises (you have them memorized, right?) while reading the days newpaper... do this a couple of times and it is uncanney how easily your fingers will start to respond to what your mind is processing. This is what worked for me anyway...

    Good luck

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  9. #9
    Mezzo Forte User brem's Avatar
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    Re: On sight reading

    You can't play it right if you haven't done it first somehow before. This means you have to have a lot of practice and done a lot of different phrasing. That's what I think.

    If you've never done a hard passage, good luck getting it right on the first pass!
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  10. #10
    Fortissimo User veery715's Avatar
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    Re: On sight reading

    Reading music employs what is called pattern recognition. This applies to both rhythm and pitch. The more of it you do the better at it you get.
    For instance, a dotted quarter and an eighth can be counted 1, 2, 3, AND (equal beats with the AND being the eighth). The same with a dotted eighth and a sixteenth. The opposite, eighth and dotted quarter would be AND, 2, 3, 4 - the same principles apply. While this will get you started, soon you'll know just exactly what it should sound like and when you see that pattern you will play the correct rhythm automatically w/o counting.
    It's a bit like reading print. You don't read each word, but rather your brain recognizes the pattern (shape) of the word, which it has come to know over time.
    In music, scales, arpeggios, chords, accidentals, and rhythmic elements are among the patterns your brain will memorize, and as you gain experience, sight reading becomes much easier.
    Often the interpretation of rhythms, especially, varies from what is actually written. In jazz this is common. The term "swing" implies a departure from the patterns on the page. So listening is very important, not only on your own to recordings, but when you are playing in an ensemble. If the section leader drags out a dotted eighth, you had better follow along. Reading alone is insufficient, and recognizing patterns, which provide the underlying basis for that reading, must still leave room for you to follow the non-written instructions which come with the style and interpretation of the performer(s) and/or conductor.
    Last edited by veery715; 03-11-2008 at 12:13 PM.
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