Helping an experienced player to read

How and what to teach and learn.
Post Reply
User avatar
Geordie
Posts: 237
Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:45 am
Location: UK

Helping an experienced player to read

Post by Geordie »

Our experienced sax player plays well by ear and from memory. Reading notation is a problem.
He can usually name notes, not 100% reliably, but the rest of notation is unfamiliar to him. He will write note names on music and use memory to guide durations. Works for melodies but not so much for things like harmony, variations on riffs or counter melodies.
In fairness, he’s willing to learn more but not sure how. Aiming to help him be able to do some reading and avoid writing note names on his chart, improve playing accuracy and save time.
Have made some suggestions and looking for more that would suit this committed and mature player. Any tips or resources you have found useful that we can use please?
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Life is not a rehearsal
User avatar
Wilktone
Posts: 353
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:11 pm
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Re: Helping an experienced player to read

Post by Wilktone »

Developing reading skills is like a lot of things, best practiced in shorter durations over longer time. For something like this, you can look for tunes that he's already familiar with and give him sheet music so he can learn to see that patterns that he's already familiar with. Then look for tunes that have similar rhythmic or melodic patterns and try to transfer those over.

There he can mark his music that can provide a crutch of sorts without having him rely too much on writing down note names and such. For example, if a passage has a scale fragment there's no need to write every note name down, just have him write out the first note to remind him where to start and then he should be able to see the scale pattern from that point. Marking ticks over the beats in a measure can help learn what certain rhythmic patterns look like on the page.

There are some sight reading books out there for trombone. I'm sure there must be plenty for saxophone out there too. Something that starts simple and gets progressively more challenging is what you want and something in the style of music that he's playing.

Ultimately it's going to be up to your colleague to put in the time. If he really doesn't see the value and put in the time over the longer term it's going to be slow and frustrating. If he does work at it there will probably be a hump that once he gets over it will start going better.

Dave
David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
User avatar
BGuttman
Posts: 4574
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:19 am
Location: Cow Hampshire

Re: Helping an experienced player to read

Post by BGuttman »

Another thought might be to find a basic book for his flavor of sax. He's not using it to learn the instrument --he's using it to recognize notes. To the point of "see a G, play a G".

Alan Raph's book "Dance Band Reading and Interpretation" is published in various types of treble clef (Bb and Eb) and it goes from simple rhythms to more complex ones. (It's also published in bass clef for us.) Another possible source is Pasquale Bona's "Rhythmical Articulations", which doesn't have a lot of jazz idioms, but does have complex rhythmical patterns seen in Classical music.
Bruce Guttman
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orchestra
"Almost Professional"
User avatar
soseggnchips
Posts: 65
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2021 10:28 am
Location: UK

Re: Helping an experienced player to read

Post by soseggnchips »

It's definitely one of those skills that's best learned little-but-often - a few minutes, every day, with or without the instrument.

I'd start off reading just rhythms on one note, then move on to patterns on two notes with a decent interval between them (maybe a fifth or so) so that it's hard to mix them up. Then just carry on adding notes. Unfortunately I'm not aware of any published books that follow that pattern. If anyone knows of something, please let me know!

If the goal is to become a fluent sight-reader I'd also suggest he uses a metronome to keep himself honest - starting at a slow tempo and gradually increasing as he becomes more confident.
User avatar
ithinknot
Posts: 490
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2020 3:40 pm

Re: Helping an experienced player to read

Post by ithinknot »

Serious question re someone who learned by ear/'naming notes' - does he know he's playing a transposing instrument, and are the parts in question transposing?

Doesn't change the basic skill, but obviously changes the resources.
Wilktone wrote: Mon May 09, 2022 7:16 am Ultimately it's going to be up to your colleague to put in the time. If he really doesn't see the value and put in the time over the longer term it's going to be slow and frustrating. If he does work at it there will probably be a hump that once he gets over it will start going better.
But mostly this. The 'look at sheet music of something you already know' approach is obviously a bit more humane initially, but it also provides the opportunity to 'cheat' en route. In the end, you get better at reading by reading more.

Someone who can already play their instrument may find reading Three Blind Mice from an instrument-specific beginner book quite annoying, even if the progressive introduction of notational complexity is appropriate to their situation.

It's more 'academic' and 'work'-ish but - if the motivation is there - the most efficient approach might be to get up to speed on 'dry' music theory (AB Guide/Music Theory in Practice/various online courses), playing every notated example or exercise on the instrument (or clapping/singing) as he goes, and then just continue practicing sightreading with more-or-less any musical material that's actually of interest.
OneTon
Posts: 152
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2021 11:44 am

Re: Helping an experienced player to read

Post by OneTon »

These suggestions are great. I would recommend lowering expectations. I can never predict how much anyone may improve and gave up trying to. There can be extenuating circumstances.

If someone had an astigmatism and were denied corrective lenses the memorization crutch may be hard for the player to discard. People who were used as punching bags as children may plateau out as well, or play a long, fast, difficult passage perfectly and totally screw up the easy part. This can be mystifying if they seem to be trying very hard.

Most people can improve. My task is to be of assistance if warranted, without being judgmental or impatient.
Richard Smith
Wichita, Kansas
TOPSLIDER
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu May 12, 2022 3:08 pm

Re: Helping an experienced player to read

Post by TOPSLIDER »

what if there were software or a device that would print out the note(s) they just played, including the duration and tempo? i.e. they hold a note for 4 beats, and it prints out a whole note of the pitch they were playing.
JLivi
Posts: 546
Joined: Thu May 10, 2018 4:24 pm
Location: Chicago, IL
Contact:

Re: Helping an experienced player to read

Post by JLivi »

What kind of group is this for?

I've often encountered this type player in a rock/funk type situation, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a nice compromise of having charts, but also everything by ear is the way to go. I've spent a lot of time playing with cats that can't even read music. As long as you're both willing to feel vulnerable at times, the music you put together is always special. Communication can be difficult at times, but having patience and trying to find a new way to explain things will help you in the long run too.

If this is not a horn section type situation, then I don't know how to help :-)
King 3b(f) (AR 25.10)
Conn 79h
Kanstul 1585 (Monette BT2)
Olds O-21 Marching Trombone (Flugabone)
User avatar
robcat2075
Posts: 906
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 2:58 pm

Re: Helping an experienced player to read

Post by robcat2075 »

You learn to read by practicing reading. Starting simple and slowly adding complexity with experience.

Get a beginner band sax method and regard it it as a serious sight-reading task with real counting, real subdividing and consistent tempo. Surely the first page will be within his current ability and it will slowly add complexity as it progresses.
>>Robert Holmén<<

Hear me as I play my horn

See my Spacepod movie
afugate
Posts: 494
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 5:47 am
Location: Oklahoma City

Re: Helping an experienced player to read

Post by afugate »

TOPSLIDER wrote: Fri May 13, 2022 12:50 pm what if there were software or a device that would print out the note(s) they just played, including the duration and tempo? i.e. they hold a note for 4 beats, and it prints out a whole note of the pitch they were playing.
SmartMusic does this.
https://www.smartmusic.com/

--Andy in OKC
Post Reply

Return to “Teaching & Learning”