Sight Reading

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by JDH, Jun 9, 2006.

  1. JDH

    JDH Member

    At band practice the other night, it became clear to me that some people seem a lot better at sight reading than others.

    This is an area of my playing where I would like to get better. However, I already play lots of new music and know to try to look ahead (with varying success), so don't know what else I may do to improve.

    Do you with good sight reading skills, have any tips?
  2. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - try unfamiliar pieces of music with unusual keys, rhythms and intervals until they get internalised and automatic when coming across them again.
  3. FlugelD

    FlugelD Member

    Like he said, practice.

    (Tried it, but I'm still **** ;) ...)

    So practice more.......
  4. jingleram

    jingleram Active Member

    Scales. Sounds horrible, and I don't really enjoy them, but am finding that they are improving my sight reading no end! Simply because of the playing in every key. Liven up your scales in personal practise! Doing them in random orders, adding ornaments, making them into patterns, using odd combinations of articulation all help for me. Above all listen to your sound when you are sight reading, if you try and achieve a really smooth balanced sound when you are sight reading, then in theory the notes should fall into place!
  5. ScaryFlugel

    ScaryFlugel Member

    Start as soon as the music is in front of you. Look at it! Check the key and time signatures and any changes, repeats etc. Try and figure out any obviously tricky bars beforehand. Practice the valve movements you are going to need as you are looking at those bars.
    Write the beat notes on your music in pencil if you need to.
    Then when you are actually playing it, keep a good beat. If you mess up a bar throw it away and start on the next one at the right time. And count like unowot!
    It will come in time.
  6. dickyg

    dickyg Member

    I was taught that it's all about subdivision. Look at where the main beats in the bar are and break down all rhythms into their lowest common denominator. Mark with a pencil where the main beats if necessary when reading tricky passages.
  7. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I don't personally think there is an easy way to improve sight-reading, other than plenty of practice, and working on your concentration. Whilst fluency in scales will help, it won't necessarily be of much assistance when sight-reading, as you could fall into the trap of playing a straight scale when what is written is different. I was fortunate in that I had the opportunity very early on to play with a wide variety of groups, in various styles and on several instruments, and I know that as a result my sight-reading is pretty good.

    Two important things to remember when sight reading, especially in a group, are firstly to remember that the dynamics are as important as the lengths and pitches of the notes, and secondly not to hold things up - better to miss out a couple of notes once in a while but to keep things going. Too often sight reading is done at an even mf, and things fall apart because somebody is worrying about a wrong note two beats behind where the rest of the players have reached!
  8. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    I'm probably the world's worst sight-reader, so I shouldn't really say too much, but I think getting to know your key signatures really well through scale practice, and just doing a lot of sight reading generally, help. Looking at your part before playing it and noticing where the beats are are both good bits of advice. But I have to say that some of the publishing we get doesn't help with this - ie sycapated crotchets written as a crotchet and not two tied quavers (as they should be). This is one of my pet hates as it makes reading difficult rhythms a hell of a lot harder.

    Oh and you need to work on the art of "convincing bluffing" for those tricky runs ;)
  9. JDH

    JDH Member

    This reminds me of what one conductor I know says to their band - "it is not the rhythm the first time, key signature and accidentals the second, and dynamics the third - you should get them all first time!"

    I don't think the small printing on so many brass band parts help either. Half the problem for us without 20/20 vision is actually reading what is written it in the first place!
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2006
  10. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Though to a certain extent it can of course be learned, I believe sight reading is primarily a skill which you either have, or you don't have.

    Playing along in ones mind to everything you hear will also help i.e. to songs on the radio, adverts on the TV, tunes on your iPod. Play them all, and then when you're not listening to any of those, play a tune you already know - but in a different key. Ask your MD to run through a few hymn tunes but play them up or down a semi-tone. All this helps musical awareness and all round technical ability.

    I have found that if you are able to play any part of a piece that you know the tune of, in any key, then you stand a chance of being able to sight read much better.

    Sight reading.... one of the very best things ever!! I luv it.
  11. ScaryFlugel

    ScaryFlugel Member

    And what about those yummy split parts? And better still, flugel and rep parts on the same line when they bear NO RESEMBLANCE TO EACH OTHER!!!!! :(
  12. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    I must admit im not the best at sight reading but try to go for the basics right dynamics etc and then try to work on the piece in general
  13. toby hobson

    toby hobson Member

    Get a load of music you dont know, put a metronome on and start playing with the emphisis being on staying in the right place even if it meens playing rubbish in certain areas. Eventually you will teach your brain to be a couple of bars ahead and you will find more time will be made for you to read, compute and play the harder stuff. Its tough but its only a disiplin like martial arts or something. At least we dont have to play 2 lines at once like a piano or even 4 like a organ does!!!
  14. Bryan_sop

    Bryan_sop Active Member

    My sight-reading used to be terrible I had to work at it but now I can get by pretty well. (I depped for a show at the weekend and was sight-reading and most of it was in 6 or 7 sharps :confused: ) I try to look for patterns and phrases rather than trying to read note-by-note. I improved mine by practing lots and knowing my scales. Yes scales are dull but it makes reading so much easier if you know all of them!
  15. dixie

    dixie New Member

    Just to back up Toby's advice really.

    A full on sight-reading 'crash course'

    Get new or unknown music and spend as much time as you can (a minimum of four 10 minute sessions a day) and play through with metronome set a speeds suitable for the music. Band parts

    DON'T STOP! However bad you think you think you sound, DON'T STOP! The quality of your playing isn't important here. You're aiming to train your eye and brain to work quicker, not your sound, breathing, production or range etc...

    A good way of thinking is not to interfere and just do it. Even when the music is new and unknown there's nothing alien or new that you won't have seen before. Just have the confidence and expect to be able to play what's there.

    It's all pretty raw and you may feel like you're out of control, but improvements will be happening and if you're doing it right and not cheating, you'll notice a difference in a week.

    Hope this helps.
  16. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    I agree with what dixie says - as I suggested in my post earlier in this thread. Wherever you are, play along in your mind to anything you hear... songs on the radio, adverts on the TV, songs on your iPod etc. Doing this trains the mind, and the speed that you can respond to what you are listening to. It will most certainly help you respond more quickly and accurately when sight reading in the bandroom.
  17. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    This really helped me, my cornet teacher got me to sing through it and then conduct through a new piece before i was allowed to play it on my cornet! It really helped, the singing got the rythms into my head and the conducting made me feel the pulse and it fitted together nicely!!
    Also I'd say practise techniques that catch you out, like scales or chromatics or triplets, what ever confuses you really, however simple it may seem to other people.
    I'd also say, have confidence when sight-reading, don't get all timid cos you think you're rubbish at it, believe in yourself and you may do better than you think....

    (sorry if this sounds total rubbish lol I'm tired but can't sleep, so don't no if I makin any sense whatso ever!!!)