Sight Reading

 black and white uprightA lot of people ask me why they should study sight reading. They often point out, correctly, that many professional musicians working in the pop field do not sight read, and this is absolutely true. In fact, I teach bass lessons with this fact in mind.

As far as sight-reading in the world of professional music goes, we can make some generalizations. Orchestral players tend to be the best sight-readers, but generally only sightread and do not improvise.  This, of course, is a gross generalization, but this is often the case.  Musicians who make their living playing jazz and studio dates are also very strong sight-readers, and they are all strong improvisers.  Then there are musicians who play pop and rock almost exclusively, and these musicians tend to place the least emphasis on sight-reading, mostly because the tradition of pop music is such that the music is learned by ear.  However, all good pop and rock players read chord charts, and some are very good sight-readers.

We can tailor your music lessons to focus on sight-reading to the extent that it supports your goals as a player.  At a minimum, we will focus on chart reading. Any musician should be able to look at a chord chart and play through it.  Most of this will involve the reading of chords, which means you’ll have to recognize and be able to harmonically articulate triads, 7th chords, 9th, 11th and 13th chords, diminished, augmented, and altered chords. Your study of charts will also require you to understand the “road map” elements of a chart, such as repeat signs, first, second and third endings, codas, etc.

The two other important elements of sight reading are pitch and rhythm recognition.  Pitch recognition actually tends to be the easiest of the two.  It is the recognition, internalization, a deep understanding of rhythmic figures that are important. Even if someone is not an ace reader in terms of rhythmic recognition, all great players have a deep sense of rhythmic figures, much of which is learned by pouring over written rhythms, taking them apart, counting them, and so on.  This practice is critically important, and I place a fair amount of emphasis on this is my teaching sessions. When a musician plays a 16th note on the “e” of 2, they must know and feel the exact placement of that note for the music to feel right. You can always hear the difference between a player who has a deep, studied grasp of the rhythms they are attempting to execute, and a player who is essentially shooting from the hip.  This feel and understanding of time and rhythm only comes from reading music consistently, and struggling with the precise execution of the figures on the page.