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How important is it, as a professional vibes player, to be a great sight-reader?

I prefer working with smaller groups, trios, quartets, etc., but i'm not opposed to working with any other kinds of groups. Right now, i'm a decent sight-reader, but i definetely wouldn't feel comfortable sight-reading a dificult chart on a gig.

I'm wondering how much time I should put aside for sight-reading, when i'm practicing. thanks for any help.


wuestentrommler Tue, 06/21/2011 - 07:57

since I'm working on Jazz, my sight-reading improved somehow without realy practicing it at the instrument.
Melodies are easy but I have a hard time memorizing the changes of all these standarts. Therefore often I read the changes out of the real book while I practice soloing. That trains to find your way around without looking to the keyboard.
Ear training has a great effect on sight reading too. The more you train your ears, the better your reading will get because the written notes will be connected to your inner sound- or pitch-imagination.
Those two things (working with the real book and eartraining) are mostly part of a jazz musicans daily program.
How much time? I can't tell. But the best time might be, when you don't have your vibes. Then you will practice sight singing. Anytime, anywhere, with any sheetmusic. I belive that this is the best exercise to become a better sight reader on what ever instrument.

VibesMontreal Mon, 07/11/2011 - 07:05

Thanks for your helpful suggestions

One practical problem I have with sight reading is that if I look up from the instrument to follow the page, I can easily hit the wrong bar or screw up my sticking. Or, if I look away from the sheet music to look at the instrument, I lose my place on the page. This happens to me alot. Any suggestions on how to solve these problems?


John Keene Mon, 07/11/2011 - 08:45

In reply to by VibesMontreal

You may already be doing this, but be sure that your music stand is positioned at bar level. If you aren't using a black conservatory stand, get one and never use a wire stand. You can position the lip of the stand at keyboard level, and that will really help you to see everything within your peripheral vision.

IndianaGlen Mon, 07/11/2011 - 10:49

Being slightly far sighted, and mildly dyslexic (honest) sight reading has and will continue to be a challenge. I think the most important thing is to do it every day. As my reading has gotten better, I am beginning to recognize patterns e.g. ascending/descending lines.

There was a lot of discussion at the Aebersold camp about Real Books. They were really big on memorizing tunes and using the Real Books for Practice tools rather than performance tools; especially the chord progressions. There are a lot of tunes that have similar changes. Did you know that the tune Girl From Ipanama has the very similar changes as take the A Train?

Since I am a lousy reader, on progressions here's what I do.
Take Lady Bird Fist line CM7 CM7 F-7 Bb-7 those 4 bars are repeated. Ok I now have half the tune memorized. The bride AM7 AM7, A-7, D7 folowed by a ii, V, I, and then the turn around, C, Eb, Ab, Db.

Finally knowing the chords helps reading too. If a chord changes, you'll get a clue to what the melody is doing. Like the F minor chord, in the third bar. You'll be hitting a Ab, Eb, and C, all chord tones and the Bb starts it all out.

It certainly doesn't hurt to have great reading skills, and as a pro, I would assume today it would be mandatory. Maybe Tony can chip in here, but if you are getting paid in the studio, they want you in and out. I am pretty sure Joe Locke and Gary Burton are excellent readers, Milt couldn't read well. Milt came from a different era, and he compensated with having perfect pitch and a near photographic memory.