From the Author
Well, I did that, and it didn't really work. I got good at playing jazz and reading jazz charts, but I never got good at sight-reading.
When I retired, I had lots of time and plenty of motivation. I decided I was going to crack this thing, and I started sight-reading two hours every day. I found that even with this rigorous schedule, progress was slow. I've since figured out that there were a number of things that I was doing wrong that were holding me back. The main problem was that I was reinforcing my bad habits instead of learning the right way to sight-read.
Here's an example of something I "reveal" in the book. In all of those hundreds of hours of practicing, I was trying to play every note that was written. I knew that "a good sight-reader knows what to leave out," but darn it, I wanted to learn how to read, I didn't want to learn how to "fake it." That attitude was a mistake, and it held me back. I was not learning how to leave out some of the notes when I got into trouble.
"Big deal," you might say, "how hard is it to not play notes?" Well, it turns out that it is harder than you think, and it's a skill that requires practice. If you practice leaving things out, then you'll know how to do it when you run into problems.
Here's an exercise that I describe on page 90 of the book: Play a hymn, but leave out the middle two voices. Play the next hymn, but only play the top two notes of each chord. Next, leave out the alto and bass. Play a hymn and in the middle, suddenly leave out the top and bottom. Get the idea?
That exercise helps with a skill that I hadn't learned early on. I made a mistake by not learning that skill, and it held me back.
I wrote this book so that you can avoid making some of the same the mistakes I made.
About the Author
At age nine he took up trombone, and studied it seriously until the final year of high school.
As required by the 1960s law that stated that every teenager has to play rock and roll guitar, he also took lessons in guitar, and played in a rock band. He even performed in a Simon and Garfunkel type duo, at "The Chicken Coop," once a week, getting paid $2.50 plus one piece of fried chicken.
In 1987 (age 34), his interest in jazz was rekindled, and he took formal piano lessons for a year or two, worked hard, and learned a lot. But the sight-reading just wasn't happening.
In 1992 (age 38) he picked up the trombone again, and got serious about jazz trombone. His sight-reading was better on trombone than piano, and he played with a number of small and large bands.
In 2005, he switched back to piano as his main instrument. This time he concentrated on jazz, and didn't work much on sight-reading. That is, his playing consisted of playing the chord changes, with improvisation in the right hand. That worked well, and he lead a jazz quartet, and played with many musicians around town.
But he was still unhappy with his inability to sight-read well. He was now retired, and in 2007, he started sight-reading two hours per day, the project that resulting in his book, Becoming a Great Sight-Reader--or Not!