Trombones... Sightreading... WHA...???
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Tralle:
So I'm beginning to see a trend of trombones having difficulty sight reading.  Am I imagining things?  Maybe it's because I have a young bone section.  Maybe it's because I notice mistakes in my section more than others.  Maybe it's because the slide is a lot more complicated than buttons.  Maybe it's because one day we were handed an instrument capable of poking people four feet in front of you in the back of the head (and in all those years we haven't stopped).  Any thoughts?
Woolworth:
Hey, it's not just the trombones.

A lot of the blame can be placed squarely on marching programs, where three songs are performed by memory for 10 weeks.  Not much opprtunity to develop sight-reading there.  Most school bands spend two or three months preparing music for performances...again, not much sight-reading is done.

The big problem with trombone sight-reading is that the parts for concert band are usually quite simple, so the trombone players think they're doing okay.  Then they get in jazz band and whammo!  Look at all them little black dots!

I don't have a solution, other than to have students sight-read...a lot.  We have a separate folder just for sight-reading music.  I pass it out on Mondays and we read two tunes; one is always a march.

When I audition trombonists for the Army band, I am consistently frustrated by the low levels of sight-reading ability, and that counts for 50% of the audition.  I can't believe how many players (from "good" programs) can't sight-read a 6/8 march or a Sammy Nestico chart.
bickle:
I was just talking about this recently! Weird.

I mentioned elsewhere that my son has been taking music lessons of one variety or another for... eh... five years now, and has somehow managed to avoid learning how to read music. Has a great ear, can memorize really easily, but can't read music: this is an obvious detriment to sight-reading. But I brought it up to my brother, who pretty much said he did music the same way. Now he plays trumpet, so they've almost always got the melody or some melodic line, but he said more or less that he never learned how to sight read because he didn't have to; he was never in a situation where he had to have that skill.

Me, I  clammed an audition for something or other about my junior year of high school over sight reading, and decided it was time to work on it. None of my teachers ever brought it up, and I was playing at a fairly high level then. And frankly, I've gotten a couple of gigs because I can pick the music up fast. (NB: I mean, high school musicals where it'd be two rehearsals then the shows, all for punch and cookies, or church gigs where you'd show up on Sunday morning and get a Mack Wilberg song, all for treasures in heaven.) So from my point of view, it's a worthwhile skill to have.

And I've had a couple of arguments (well, mild arguments) with kids at my mom's school over sight reading: it seems a lot of them are convinced it's an innate skill that can't be practiced or developed, and at least one of those kids was auditioning at Curtis. (didn't get in..... hmmmmmm......... ) Acourse, I was just some guy waiting for his kid to be done with theory lessons, and they were some of the best young string players in the city, so what do I know?

But still, it seems to be fairly pervasive that sight reading is misunderstood and undertaught.
harmonslide:
Out of my high school's trombone section, only about 3 of us are competant sight readers. A lot of it is just practicing as much sight-reading as possible. As a band we don't do a lot of sight reading. I have my trombone quartet do a fair amount, however; a lot of it is in C treble clef.

As a band, however, I think we are better than most in our area at sight reading. The thing that separates us from them is, as Woolworth mentioned, marching band. All the bands around us are corps-style. They do the same show all year. However, we are a show style band. We have a variety of styles thrown at us: marches, funk, heavy rock. Some rhythms are basic downbeat things. Others are syncopated jazzy ordeals. We read at least one new tune a week during marching season.
wasabcl11:
My jazz band/band director at times constantly hands out and takes back ridiculously hard charts, which we usually disgrace. But after awhile, we get the hang of it. I would estimate that he spends about one month at the end of the year trying out pieces that he/we like and/or stuff that helps our sight-reading chops.
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