Sight Reading: So Easy A Caveman Could Do it.

Posted on September 8, 2010


Do you hate those commercials as much as I do?

This week I want to talk about sight reading.  More and more musicians claim they can’t read music.  BB King, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix even Dave Brubeck seemed to have made comfortable livings without it.

Why not learn to sight read?  Can you say the alphabet?  Then you can sight read.  A common excuse these days is, “Reading music will ruin my creativity”  If I tell you how to make a grilled cheese sandwich does that mean you’ve lost your ability to eat lunch?  Take the time to do so.  It will only increase your ability to communicate with other musicians.  (And yes I’m talking about both learning to sight read and how to make a great grilled cheese)

Here are two cheat sheets I made; one for bass and one for guitar. They show standard notation, the names of the notes and their location on the fretboard via tablature.  If you see a lowercase B next to a note, that is a flat sign.  You must lower the note 1 fret.  If you see a pound sign next to a note, that is a sharp sign.  You must raise the note 1 fret.  For simplicity I left them out, but incase you come across them, that is what they are.

If you right click on the images and either save them or open in a new window you can enlarge them.

This short blog and cheat sheet alone will not get you into the London Philharmonic, but I hope it will make you feel less alienated by sheet music.  If this interests you and you want to go further in sight reading; study up on key signatures and rhythmic notation.

The only way to get good is to sit down with a chart like this, familiarize yourself with the notes on paper and your instrument, then hit the books.  I suggest starting with something easy, a beginners piano book is great because it will have both treble and bass clefs in, but there are also plenty of books for beginners for guitar and bass.  Good Luck!

Currently Listening To: Steely Dan “Katy Lied”

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