Jazz Trumpet Player Rich Szabo and his Big Band

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Sight Reading

I get a lot of questions regarding how to become a better sight reader.

Sight reading skills are developed over time.

True Story: I went in to sub on a Broadway Show several years ago for a very well known trumpet player. When I sat down and opened his book, what hit me was every downbeat was marked, every fingering was written in, and every articulation was marked. I couldn't believe it! I called him the next day and asked why all the markings in his book. His response was "You didn't make any mistakes did you?"

One of the exercises I used to do with Jimmy Maxwell was thus:

1) Find a piece you are having difficulty with

2) Set the metronome to a ridiculously slow speed.

3) Sing the phrase out loud and finger the notes on the horn as you sing

4) Play the phrase with the metronome (make sure you are with the clicks, if you're not on the beat you'll hear the clicks.)

5) Once you get it, increase the speed one click at a time until you reach the correct speed.

On a new piece of music, look it over for any potential trouble spots. Mark in the downbeats. Sing the phrase and finger the notes. Look for patterns (scales, arpeggios, 3rds, 5ths, etc.) Look for repeating phrases and patterns. Usually, you wil find the same lick repeated throughout the piece (or a variation of it)

Another exercise you can use is to put a newspaper on your music stand. Play your scales and read the paper. Then recall as much of the article as possible. You will see how difficult this is to do both. With practice you will get better at doing both. This will actually help you with your sight reading.

And when you practice, practice SLOWLY!!!!! We all have a habit of practicing too fast, practicing mistakes instead of nailing it.

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