Beginner Best way to learn to read music? (asking for a friend)

randulo

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#1
I lied. I'm NOT asking for a friend. But while I hope this will collect your thoughts for beginners and non-sightreaders, my query, for me, is a little different. I already know the elements of written music. I'm working in books of it now, albeit laboriously, and I assume my reading will get better through that work. However, there must be pages of simple starting exercises to develop reading skill, and mybe some of them are either free or downloadable for a reasonable fee? I could Google, but you are a "trusted source". This is the level of book I'm working on at the moment. It's simple enough that I should be able to play these with a little thought, but it's still a laborious process. How can I improve?
Photo on 30-11-2018 at 10.02.jpg

I think it would be nice for new people here, including me, if you would list and discuss resources and make your suggestions, jokes and anecdotes.
 
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Halfers

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#2
Like you, I'm a reader, but not a very good reader. Having struggled to read written music for Piano on two staves (picture a fierce look of confused concentration on my face, tongue poking out of the side of my mouth, desperately attempting to move my left hand middle finger to the correct key, but somehow moving my right hand fore finger instead!), the one stave used for the Sax is a sigh of relief.

I guess the very first step is to learn the lines and the spaces.

Every Good Boy Deserves Football (replace words as you see fit), for the lines and F A C E for the spaces. That's probably too simple a starting point, however after many Years of (casually, at least) reading music, I still find myself having to go through the above to tell me which note to attempt, especially above the stave!
 

randulo

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#3
Good advice for beginners. For me, I'm trying to find saxophone-specific exercises. I actually know the notes in the staff, though as soon as it's a few lines above or below the staff I have to think. I also understand the time notation, so it's less that, although again, all this needs to be reflex. In the end, ironically, I will not want to play written music. I only want to be better at sight-reading to go through the tunes in this and other books. They're simple, but the automatic association between a note and its fingering are lacking. To make things worse, I think in concert keys, so I have to force myself to remember the saxophone note. On the alto, they write A and I think and hear C. I need to memorize the notes on the sax and it's still an effort.

By the way, in my day it was "Every good boy deserves fudge, or does fine".
 

tenorviol

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#4
Two things. Practice reading and following music whilst listening to a piece of music. That will improve your ability to follow the music in time and also to hear it. Probably easier to use classical music. Go to imslp.org and download the score of something you like. Go to YouTube and find a performance. Pick an instrument and follow its line in the score (or download the part for the instrument and follow that).
Second just play more - it gets easier
 

Halfers

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#6
I think to make things easier it's best to always use sheet music that's been transposed for your horn. I imagine that there will be a few experienced players who can transpose on the fly from Concert pitch sheets, but I'm sure that takes some talent! I might have misread your post though, so that might not have been what you were referring to.

Personally, I think getting those fingerings memorised is the first step (not the concert pitch but the Sax notes), which is more a technical playing aspect, rather than a reading one. This might be quite difficult in itself, because I would probably struggle going the other way (telling myself a note with no fingers down on the Tenor is suddenly a B rather than a C# would take some adjusting.

When I'm playing by ear against a backing track or song, I don't think 'note name' or 'transposing the note that's being played' I just think 'fingering' if that makes sense. Once I've found the notes it's more a case of feeling the different finger positions and listening for a harmonious sound. I say this with full realisation that I'm floundering about trying to find my best method, rather than a means of improving your playing, so feel free to ignore ;)
 

Terrytoolpath

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#9
I'm in the same boat as you two, struggling to mentally match a finger pattern to a crochet, quaver or whatever for the note that I think it is, I can sometimes keep up during simple passages but all to often I'm left floundering and the group carries on unhindered whilst I'm trying to apply what little knowledge I have to finding a place where can join back in again and play a few more notes before the end.
The other members are all very friendly and reassuring telling me to stick at it, but I cant help feeling that to some extent I'm spoiling their enjoyment.
 

Halfers

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#10
@Halfers yes, it would have been easier if I hadn't spent 50+ years in concert key! I need to memorize the names on the sax, I know them well in concert from starting on my own.
Yes, understood. It's a case of finding the easiest way to do something that might not be that easy. And the old brain gets set in its way etc!
 

Clivey

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#11
In addition to all the advice given. Give yourself an advantage by using good quality printed sheets or decent font size. "Not some faded old photostat from the mid 20th Century". Lighting too is important and perhaps eye glasses specifically for the purpose , anything to help decode what's there in front of you .If you can't read it you won't be able to play it.
 
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#12
@Halfers yes, it would have been easier if I hadn't spent 50+ years in concert key! I need to memorize the names on the sax, I know them well in concert from starting on my own.
If your sax music says it's in C then it's in C.

If you're learning by ear then it still makes absolutely no difference that you're playing a transposing instrument (unless you're relearning a song you already know in concert - although it still shouldn't be a big deal. You're just learning a song you know in a different key.).

If a concert pitch musician is telling you which notes to play then you have to transpose, up a semi tone or down a tone and a half. It doesn't need to be any more complex than that.

If you have to transpose written music on the fly .... that's tricky. ;)

<edit>
Or are you saying you used a tuner/record/CD to work out which fingering produced which note and now you have to change your understanding of those fingerings because they were all concert pitch notes?
 

randulo

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#13
In addition to all the advice given. Give yourself an advantage by using good quality printed sheets or decent font size. "Not some faded old photostat from the mid 20th Century". .
Oh... you mean like this? By the way, it's concert, turnarounds from which I learned harmony. The solo was from a "Live in Europe" bootleg.

McCoy.jpeg
 
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randulo

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#14
If a concert pitch musician is telling you which notes to play then you have to transpose, up a semi tone or down a tone and a half. It doesn't need to be any more complex than that.
The best sax players I know can transpose in their head and read charts in concert if need be. I won't need to do that. If I'm playing with guitar bands, I just need to think in concert like I've done all along. That's why I practice all those keys in addition (Am, Cm, Dm, Em and same major) in addition to all the flat key work from sax books. To study with written materials, I have to know the "native" names of the keys. Hey, I do some, but it isn't mechanical yet. I'm not worried about that part. By the way, up a semitone?

If someone says C to me, I'd play an A (down a minor third or three half steps) and on tenor I assume they say C I'd play D though I don't have a tenor.
 

saxyjt

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#15
What remains tricky for me are accidentals. I need to translate A# into Bb or Ab into G#, but I guess that's experience. At least I play more pieces with 3 or 4 sharps/flats and it seems to be getting easier.
 

GCinCT

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#16
Check Amazon for 300 Progressive Sight Reading Exercises or Saxophone Sight-Reading 1. These books are designed to start simply and gradually add more complex rhythms. They teach you to recognize rhythms and melodic shapes.

I have been working to improve my sight reading. I do exercises from these books with a metronome daily. The idea is to read something new each day. Don’t stop if you make a mistake, just keep going with the metronome.

I also daily choose a few tunes from my Aenetsold books that I haven’t played. I am improving,
 

tenorviol

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#17
@Terrytoolpath and others... I've written previously in a resource item (about why you should join a band / group / orchestra) about some of this. No-one is born able to read and write and ditto with read and play music. It's a skill that needs developing.
You don't start learning to read by reading Tolstoy, nor playing music by playing Shostakovich.... If you're playing with others, rhythm is the most important thing - notes are actually not that critical, but playing in time is. If you're on a piece with a million quavers and semi-quavers... simplify. Just stick the note in that's on the beat, or even just the start of the bar and come back in when it's manageable. No-one will think less of you and in fact will appreciate you staying in time. As your ability improves you will stick more notes in.
Last night at orchestra, it was new music night. We played through some Grieg Lyric Pieces, Tales from the Vienna Woods by Strauss, and Mozart Symphony 39. I was the only cello on duty last night. Did I get every note? No. Was I in the right place? Most of the time, and when I went adrift, I knew I had and got myself back in - that's where experience comes in. Am I a genius? Unlikely. But I am very experienced at reading music and being able to read the dots and stay in the right place, even if you can't play them all is key.
 
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jbtsax

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#18
I have read posts on this forum from many players asking for help with regard to some aspect of reading or playing music. From their questions I think it is safe to say that the majority of those folks have not worked through the "standard" method books for the instrument. The one I learned from and is still a standard is the Rubank Method. The books are Elementary, Intermediate, Advanced Book I, and Advanced Book 2. This method and others like it are "comprehensive" and laid out in a logical learning sequence.

Those who skip over this part of the discipline needed to seriously study an instrument and go right to playing tunes often find there are serious "gaps" in their playing whether it be in technique, sight reading, counting, etc. The brief "excerpt" in the first post contains parts of scales, scale patterns, and arpeggios which are the "building blocks" of melodies. Anyone who has mastered those scales, scale patterns and arpeggios in the keys of D and G by working through method books will find playing or even sight reading that piece quite easy.

Here comes my pitch for "Smartmusic" sorry to those who are tired of reading this. :rolleyes: Smartmusic for a $40 per year subscription gives you a tuner, a metronome, solos, exercises, method books (including Rubank), sight reading exercises, concert and jazz band charts at all ability levels where the music is shown on the screen and you can play along with professional musicians.

To try it out for FREE go to Smartmusic. Select the student version and then download. When the program is installed on your computer, open it, and select "skip to demo" next to the login button. It's that easy. Now back to your regular channel. :)
 

GCinCT

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#19
I have read posts on this forum from many players asking for help with regard to some aspect of reading or playing music. From their questions I think it is safe to say that the majority of those folks have not worked through the "standard" method books for the instrument. The one I learned from and is still a standard is the Rubank Method. The books are Elementary, Intermediate, Advanced Book I, and Advanced Book 2. This method and others like it are "comprehensive" and laid out in a logical learning sequence.

Those who skip over this part of the discipline needed to seriously study an instrument and go right to playing tunes often find there are serious "gaps" in their playing whether it be in technique, sight reading, counting, etc. The brief "excerpt" in the first post contains parts of scales, scale patterns, and arpeggios which are the "building blocks" of melodies. Anyone who has mastered those scales, scale patterns and arpeggios in the keys of D and G by working through method books will find playing or even sight reading that piece quite easy.

Here comes my pitch for "Smartmusic" sorry to those who are tired of reading this. :rolleyes: Smartmusic for a $40 per year subscription gives you a tuner, a metronome, solos, exercises, method books (including Rubank), sight reading exercises, concert and jazz band charts at all ability levels where the music is shown on the screen and you can play along with professional musicians.

To try it out for FREE go to Smartmusic. Select the student version and then download. When the program is installed on your computer, open it, and select "skip to demo" next to the login button. It's that easy. Now back to your regular channel. :)
I began using SmartMusic on your recommendation and. I find it enormously helpful.
 

randulo

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#20
Thanks for all the excellent recommendations and ideas. Each of us has different goals, but I think certain common sense things are valid for everyone. Reading is a mechanical operation and it usually depends on a discipline that in its turn, depends on the desire to accomplish. This happens more easily when young and taking lessons from an adult. For the adult player, you've all chimed in with excellent suggestions, and again, many thanks!
 
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