sight-reading-how good are you?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Rambo Chick, Aug 3, 2004.


sight-reading - a figment of our imaginations?

  1. pah! when it comes to reading music i'm a mini sibelius!

  2. depends whether my valves/slide/sticks is/are working-little beasties that they are!

    0 vote(s)
  3. its like reading japanese upside down in the dark with my uncles specs on

  4. i can read ANYTHING after a beer-im a genius!

  1. Rambo Chick

    Rambo Chick Member

    i was recently discussing the subject of sight reading with a fellow bandsman. he said there wasnt any such thing and that the information is there on paper for you to read. i thought he had a point but do others feel the same?
    i could personally do with improving my 'sight-reading' but do fellow tMPers think everything should be able to be played straight off?

    on a slightly different strain, sometimes the music is illegible and takes a while to figure out what is actually written!

    so what do you think about it?
  2. The_Eighth_Dwarf

    The_Eighth_Dwarf New Member

    Reading it not a problem, getting my fingers/lips to play it in the right place not so good! Still at leastI know I'm playing it wrong!
  3. drummergurl

    drummergurl Active Member

    i think im really bad at sight reading, especially on xylophone or glock or summat that has lots of different notes!!! snare drum im alright at, not fantastic, same with drum kit and timps (altho i was proud of my timp sight reading last night)
  4. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    This is a tricky one because you could either be accused of false modesty if you say you're no good, or arrogance if you say, 'yeah, my sight reading's really good'.

    All I shall say is that in one of my trumpet lessons at school some 25 years ago, my teacher observed that I could 'sight read pieces better than when I practised them'. It was true then, and probably still true now. That's not to say my sight reading's brilliant, but it's more a comment on a lapse in attitude and concentration that once I've sight read one piece, I wanted to try something equally or more challenging rather than stick with the piece I should have been practising. It was a way of telling me that musically, I had a low boredom threshold.

    It's probably also a refection of the orchestral scene in London, particularly amateur orchestras, quite a lot of whom book the brass on the day, irrespective of the progamme so you learn to read pretty damn quickly in situations like those!
  5. ted

    ted Member

    I am the worst sight reader in my band by a long shot. I have trouble reading ahead while executing the current sets of notes. Accidentals will throw me off completly to the point where i lose my spot on the page. Difficult key signatures I'm fine with but when it goes back to easier ones I keep playing G#, D# and other exotic sharps and flats. Also I get confused counting between 4 and 7.

    Anyone interested in signing me on a professional contract please contact my agent.
  6. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    Surely that's the ultimate goal of a musician to be able to play any piece of music as good as possible first time? I'd imagine that the very top professionals are capable of doing this?
  7. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    Your timp sight reading is very good indeed!!
    The rest, not bad, just needs more confidence and less hesitation! ;-)
    *steps off teaching box*

    With me, sight reading on the whole is pretty good... sometimes the tricky things can throw me off course... important thing (which Sarah can confirm) is to keep going....

    I demostrated to Sarah in one of her lessons 2 ways of sightreading in an audition..... one was hesitating trying to get everything 100% right, (she laughed at me doing this) ....the one which hits wrong notes most the time but kept the rhythm going would get a place in the ensemble (yea, she laughed at that too)... that's what my ol' perc teacher told me, from her experience :lol:

  8. drummergurl

    drummergurl Active Member

    yeah very true!!

    hehe i seem to laugh alot in my lessons! rhythm, then notes (i think)
  9. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    And if every player played everything straight off.... the standard of the bands all over the place would rocket overnight. Of course, it's a realistic goal to IMPROVE sight reading but play everything straight off? I wonder how many top bands sight read Tristan Encounters or Coventry Variations first off.....
  10. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I think the ability to sight-read with a reasonable amount of accuracy comes from a combination of experience and concentration, coupled with the nerve to stick to your guns regardless of what is going on around you. For me, concentration is the key, looking ahead for marks, repeats etc, so there is less chance of being caught out.

    Generally, I reckon bands are pretty good at reading, partly probably due to the relatively large repertoire that they are expected to tackle. What I do find frustrating is that bands tend not to take so much notice of the expression marks when looking at something for the first time.

    The other thing I find, and maybe it touches on what Dave said earlier, is that the 2nd run through is often far worse than the first - maybe the flow of adrenalin has eased off by that stage. As for trying to improve sight-reading, one answer is simply playing with as many groups as possible, working on your concentration and being ready to take a few risks.
  11. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    I'd put my money on no bands being able to read Championship section test piece music straight off. Now wouldn't that be an interesting contest? :shock:

    It's interesting returning to a lower section band once more after playing in the top section: so much time in rehearsals is spent dealing with reading diffculties. Reading really is a serious difference. I'm stating the obvious here perhaps but sometimes you wonder how much better some lower section bands could be if more time was spent on other things instead of reading!
  12. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    And if you're a conductor, though it's hardly recommended, you do find yourselves in a situation sight reading scores on jobs (as I did with Yiewsley and West Drayton on Sunday - I hadn't seen the score for Steve Sykes' Harry Potter arrangement, or the flugel solo You Needed Me before the job!).

    Certainly not a good idea for conductors to be sight reading complicated test pieces in rehearsals. Best thing to do is to try and learn as much of it as poss before the first rehearsal on it, so that the conductor knows when all the tempo changes, dynamic markings etc. are coming up and can indicate them accordingly on the first rehearsal, thereby probably improving the sight reading of the band on said piece in the process. But that's just my take on it! ;-)
  13. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    A quick look at the piece when it hits your stand will do wonders for your first crack at it. Try singing yourself (in your head) the awkward looking bits and be aware of key changes, beat changes, tempo etc. You just need to scan it really.

    (There's plenty of time for this but many people don't bother these days as they prefer to chat and/or play with their mobile phones when the band is not playing :evil: )
  14. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

  15. nickjones

    nickjones Active Member

    I have played pieces like Coventry Variations with the National Youth Brass Band of Wales , some very hard a tricky tests too ( volcano , tournament for brass , of men and mountains to name a few)...with just a week to prepare and perform them.
    It improves your sight reading no end , and would recomend to any young player go for an audition with your country group , national band. will help you in the long term.
  16. drummergurl

    drummergurl Active Member

    very true actually, altho i try to look through the piece, but im not very quick at reading so i get about a quarter of the way through the piece, n then they start playing the piece.
  17. sudcornet

    sudcornet Member

    I think the better "sight-readers" are just "better prepared". As soon as the piece is on the stand you should know ...the style - from the title and any subtle hints like "alla marcia" etc. ...the tempo - crotchets equal whatever....the starting key - if any.....and the dynamic level. Then it's a case of quickly scanning the part and learning to recognize any potential "awkward bits" - high, fast, syncopated or accidentals. I've never played in a band where you are expected to sight read perfectly, but, I always work along the lines of ...if it ain't right first time it should be nearly right on the second and it better be right by next rehearsal.

  18. Phil Green

    Phil Green Supporting Member

    I'd happily take your money from you then! :)

    The level of sight reading at the top bands is incredible. First run throughs of new test pieces, although far from perfect, are normally pretty damn good - as good as some bands competition performances. That might sound far fetched, even a little arrogant, but it's the truth.

    It would be an interesting contest though I agree.
  19. A J Foad

    A J Foad Member

    Very top professionals...? Any professional. Sight reading's what sorts the men out from the boys... :D
  20. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    Phil I'd agree that it's good the first time but no way do the top bands get it right first time, not in my experience anyway, takes a few goes at least especially for soloists to get comfortable with their cadenza, get the mutes in and out, and so on.

    What I mean with 'getting it right first time' is that every single player in the band nails his/her part on the first go. I was referring to the hard test pieces, obviously you can nail the easier ones straight away.

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