It happens to every musician- the band leader for that new gig you’re trying to land hands you a massively complicated sheet music arrangement and says “here, just play this”. As you turn through the pages black with syncopated rhythms and 64th note glissandos, you hear the band leader say “5/8 meter at 150 bpm on my count. Ready? 1, 2, 3. . . “
If this hasn’t happened to you already, it will soon. Here are 7 ways to prepare and manage high-pressure sight-reading situations:
7. Sight read every day. Get a sight reading book and woodshed your skills for a few minutes each day, just to keep you in the habit.
6. Practice sight reading with a metronome. You can’t stop and go back to “fix” a part when you’re sight reading in a band, and using a metronome will help you stay on track when you’re by yourself.
5. Practice dropping notes. Yes, you heard me right. It’s good to practice dropping notes occasionally by playing a song too quickly, so you can prepare for a real-life scenario where that might be the only way to stick with the band.
During Band Rehearsal
4. Analyze. Take a quick view of the entire score, and try to picture the melody in your mind. It sounds crazy, but it works.
3. Take notes. Circle or highlight any sections that you need to remember, especially D.C. Al Codas and similar repeat signs.
2. Drop to right hand only. When all else fails, play with just your right hand. Most bands won’t even notice that you’re left hand is gone, since it’ll be covered by the bass and guitars.
1. Play chords in your left hand. this is a great substitute if you can’t keep up with both hands at the same time.
Worst case scenario tip: smile and look like you know what you’re doing. this works better than anything for covering mistakes.