View Full Version : Sight Reading

07-12-2002, 12:30 PM
Hi all,

well I'd like to open a new thread in an important topic which is sight reading . I think for me is the hardest thing I've found in guitar. Theory, scales, chords, ear training (well...uh maybe not this one...:eek: ), you read the theory, you understand, you apply with exercises and that's it. But seriously sight reading is for me really hard and I'd like to know what do you people think about.

My background in guitar is from classical guitar and then went recently to jazz. I spent 3 years learning classical in a non formal way (no college and not very serious at it) and I still can't read properly. I've purchased a method 2 weeks ago from the GI called Music Reading for Guitar : The Complete Method
David Oakes. This book analyses sight reading in a different level and gives you exercises in a different approach that only reading sheet music (Pic sight reading technique + sight techniques + rhythms....).

What's exactly the secret to become a great sight reader? I mean, is it really possible to read a complex sheet at speed performance without mistakes? Like when we read a novel? I spend about 5-6 hours a week for sight reading including specific exercises and different kind of music sheets (Classical, transcribed solos, rock, flamenco...), I think one day it will just "click" like a foreign language but it's really tough.

After years reading unproperly I've found some of this exercises very useful:

_ learn Rhythm separated, I mean only rhythm sheet or even without the guitar, clap, sing, accentuation of the back beat and stuff like that).

_ Look ahead wile your reading. To do that we need to train the eye to watch the sheet in a different way. Reading backwards the music, one measure ahead (for eg first measure 1 then jump to measure 3 then back to measure 2, then measure 4, 3...) and that kind of exercises.

_ Learn the notes in the Fretboard. For this I reccomend 2 books, the previous one and "Single String Studies for Guitar : Mastering the Guitar Fretboard". This book focus in sight reading in only one string for each key. It's hard but after a while you start to "get it". It teaches you how to read without watching the guitar and it trains also your ear, because the only way to know if you're doing all right is by ear.

As you see I am not new with this and I've spend quite a lot of time with this topic and yes, I have improved, but I'd love to be a better sight reader.

Well, that's it, all suggestions are welcome. At college you are suposed to great sight read from the first day or they teach you there?


07-12-2002, 12:51 PM
I am familiar with the book by Oakes, itīs a popular book at the GIT and I think he really did well with it.

The guitar IS a tough instrument to do sight-reading, mainly because almost every note appears several times. ( there are like 5 positions to play the good olīmiddle C in... )
I learned to read at the GIT ( did learn some in school too ), and I did pretty much the thing Oakes describes:

- learned rhythms separately, by clapping and singing them.
Then went on to simple melodies in one position, then expanded on that. later I got into chords ( and reading them, seeing them visualized on paper, helped me quite a bit to understand chord theory even better )

One thing I realized is that you have to both work on improving and you have to work on maintaining what you already can do. Cuz you start to lose it if you donīt do it on a regular base.
( Again: the foreign language thing )

Everyone has to decide for him/herself whether he / she wants to learn it. Some get along without it just fine. I thought its important cuz
a) It might help you to understand music a bit better
b) Itīs great to be able to just look at the notation of a piece you never heard before, and being able to play it
c) it helps to communicate. You sure can go "Drummer, play on the 2 & 4, bassist, you play A-G-F-G for one bar each"... but itīs fun to work with other musicians who can read and write stuff out for them.
I saw Jim Kelly of Berklee perform at a tradeshow a while ago. He jammed with a saxophone-player, just the two of them.
Jim wrote out the head of the tune quickly on a sheet pof paper, and then the one jammed on that. Would have been a bit harder if Jim would have to go "OK, here is the melody"... then play it to the sax-guy and hope that that guy can recognize the notes and memorize the whole long melody to be able to play it back later...

Nuff said

07-13-2002, 09:41 AM
Hi guys,

Yeah I think you pretty much mention everything. Practice, practice, practice....

I also think that it helps a lot to just do a lot with notation: notate your songs, transcribe, compose, eartraining etc... the more you see and 'feel' music on paper the more it will help with reading it. I know Jim did this and over the years notation / sightreading just became second nature.....

At college you are suposed to great sight read from the first day or they teach you there?
Well, it's not required (for some of them) but you don't wanna spend 1 to 4 years with trying to become a decent sightreader.


07-13-2002, 10:41 AM
Originally posted by Guni
I also think that it helps a lot to just do a lot with notation: notate your songs, transcribe, compose, eartraining etc... the more you see and 'feel' music on paper the more it will help with reading it.

Exactly ! Itīs the same with almost everything you work on... you have to use it in your music and your playing.
I write out each of my songs in notation for the guys in my band, and combined with the notation I do for my students, Iīm able to keep up my reading / writing notation-chops in a natural way.

I learned a lot of stuff that I kinda "forgot", meaning that I hardly ever used it and therefor it kinda went away... while being at the MI, I was able to play scales like the Enigmatic Scale all over the fretboard, same with some other rather exotic scales.
Well, since I hardly need that scale and donīt have many tunes based on those scales :) I would need a while to get back to it an dbe able to play it again...

NP: Jon Finn- Donīt Look So Serious

07-13-2002, 11:40 AM
Enigmatic scale :confused:. Never heard this term b4. Can you pls explain?



07-13-2002, 12:28 PM
Hi Guni,

the enigmatic scale is a quite exotic scale.
Formula: 1-b2-3-#4-#5-#6-7

Or, in C: C-Db- E-F#-G#-A#-B-C

and sounds like THIS (http://www.ericvandenberg.com/ibreathe/enigmatic.mid)

Pretty weird, huh ? Joe Satriani has a song called "The Enigmatic" on the "Not Of This Earth" Album. Itīs based on the scale.
Warm regards

07-13-2002, 07:00 PM
Cool, thanks Eric - quite interesting ......

It's been some time since I listened to Joe :D


07-13-2002, 08:11 PM
Well, itīs been a while since that album came out... mid 80īs.
I like "Not Of This Earth", but "The Enigmatic" is not one of my favorite tracks.
I never was sure whether this was really a song or just some weird experiment by Joe... after all it sound very weird, and if I remember right he played parts of the solo with the edge (!!!) of a slide, which was even more weird...
Warm regards

07-14-2002, 01:53 AM
I love Joe, but theres something about this song thats not right. It actually gives me a headache.... Sort of ruins the whole album!!!!:mad:

07-15-2002, 07:49 AM

thanks for the advices for sight reading. I think the key of the problem is not only to read and actually transcribe and train the ear as much as possible.

If you know how to write and what those notes sound in your head, you obviously know to read that stuff.

The hard thing is Ear training, I am quite knew in that area but I feel quite disappointed. I just don't hear the intervals easily, and that's my problem for transcribing where the intervals are essential.

Well I gess it takes some time to train your ear and it doesn't come in a few weeks.

oK I see the light at the end of the tunel.... but it's a long way....