Why it is hard to sight-read on mallet instruments...

I did a session the other day where I had to double a very specific part. It seemed like an easy pattern, but it changed in subtle ways over time. I was presented with 2 charts: one was a straight printout of the part - no repeats, lots of funny 16ths notes & rests, 6-pages long. The other, a chord-chart that showed the form (AAB, etc.). Even though the musicians involved were experienced pros, nobody spent much time on the chart. This is a very common situation now, as so much music originates out of computer files.

So I had no choice but to read down the midi-part printout, which was a rhodes thing I had to double. If I took my eyes off the music for even a second, I would never find my place again. It occurred to me that us vibists have no choice except to develop really GOOD peripheral vision for these situations, and then just HOPE we hit the right notes! IMHO, this is really a skill to work on if you wanna improve your site reading.

For years, I thought that I was not a very good sight-reader, compared to other musicians. Over time, doing it more I got better. However, I really think vibe players are at a disadvantage when sight-reading since we cannot FEEL our instrument. Sure, drummers use sticks also... but it is not quite so hard to hit a drum while you are looking at a page. Vibe bars are a much smaller target (and drummers don't have to worry about accidentally hitting an Eb on a Dmaj7 chord). Almost every other instrument, you touch it and don't really have to LOOK at it.

So have no fear if you are practicing hard at improving your reading - vibe players must keep at it. I suggest trying to work on "knowing" where the bars are, without looking down. I remember that in a past thread we did even talk about a blind vibes player who could do this -- but I am pretty sure that he wasn't a good sight-reader!


everything you said is true. that´s why i hate 16th notes if i don´t know them by heart :)

i play in a zappa cover band on drums. our mallet player always needs the charts to play correct. i can play most of his parts on mallets too but i only can do it by heart. that means if i would play his part i always would have to remember a 1 hour 30 programm in my head which means i have to practice that tunes everyday. we rehearse very little and play very few gigs. he says he needs 1 day preparation for a rehearse or gig the rest he reads. i could never do that...

it´s a skill you have to train but on really complicated tunes i prefer to be prepared and play by heart :)

Ha, for sure - I have nightmares about having to read Zappa!

I totaly agree with ya steve .. mallet instruments are a bitch to sight read on. Years ago i spend two weeks studying with Gordon Stout. He is an AMAZING sightreader. in one master class he demonstrated this example, " placed a book ( not of music, but of words like a novel) on the music stand in front of him. He then proceeded to read out of the book aloud while playing a complex Bach piece. The point he was making was that at any time he could feel where the bars where. he new out of peripheral vision where they were. and his body new keneticly where to find them without looking at the marimba.

one excercise i still do to this day . is look straight ahead at the wall. then pick target notes to hit. ( example, middle F.. then low F then high F. ) i pick a rhythmn so accompany the notes . eighth notes ect .. and look straight ahead .. and make my body feel where those notes are in time .. ( always with a metronome).. in this exercise also in concept is to keep your body with the least amount of motion when moving up and down .. that way the body remembers the motion easier .. and keeps a more fluid relax posture.

Ive also blind folded myself and made myself feel where the notes were .. THAT WAS ROUGH >>.