do you guys feel it is important to be a good sight reader? randy halberstadt stressed the importance of sight reading in "metaphors for the musician". he said that it was important to be able to sight read in order to accompany singers who bring sheet music to a gig.

what do you think about this? is it beneficial to work on sight reading, and if so, why?

oh and what, in your opinion, is the best way to improve sight reading? playing classical music, reading transcriptions?
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sight reading is important if you want to do what randy said or if you ever want to do studio work or if you ever want to play heavy music with heavy musicians.

if you can't read a chart and simple to moderately difficult notation and most importantly, rhythms, when someone throws something on the piano, you'll probably lose out on a lot of gigs.

sight reading is very important if you want to be a pro.  if you are an amateur and don't plan on doing anything with your music except jam with friends and play at home, then sight reading is not important.

sight reading is a skill that can be learned like anything else. the best way to do it is to simply do it.  remember as a kid when you were forced to read aloud in class back when you were learning to read?  

open up a fake book and start with page one.  read the song down.  make sure you do the rhythms right, be very meticulous about rhythms and don't worry so much about the notes. try to get the notes right, but if you miss one and have the rhythm right, just move on. but if you get a rhythm wrong, stop and work it out.  there's nothing worse, nothing worse, than playing notes in the wrong places, especially when they are on a piece of paper in front of you.

in addition to going through a fake book, go through the charlie parker omnibook.  you'll get a lot of notes and a lot of rhythms, and a lot of them will be difficult.

in addition to all of that, classical music is very good for sight reading.  get a beginner or intermediate repertoire book (cyn might have some recommendations) and work through each tune.  

the most important part of learning sight reading is to make sure you work out the hardest spots.  don't gloss over them, that will only hurt your playing.  gloss over the easy spots, work your rear end off on the hard ones.

you'll be happy that you did it in a few months when your sight reading jumps several notches.  it doesn't take long, it just takes some work.
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too me sight reading is a different skill from learning to read well - kinda like speed reading.  the most important thing is to not get lost.  

many years ago i had to shape up my sight reading skills in a hurry.  here's what worked for me.  i spent about two hours a night for about 2-3 weeks sight reading sheet music, classical, whatever, with the metronome, mistakes and all, over and over again.  occasionally i would go back after reading through a piece and work out some trouble spots, but the main goal was to read an entire piece without getting lost.  clunkers and misplayed rhythms happen from time to time, but getting lost is unacceptable.

i eventually learned how to, on the fly, read almost anything, but at the same time i learned how to skip or modify things i felt i might botch.  again, the main goal is to not get lost- as this can mess up others. in my case i was sight reading for show auditions.
i  usually play in groups that have a horn players or a singer that take care of the lead lines. i can read changes with no problem but when i have to read the changes and the melody it can get kind of hard.

last night i got my butt kicked because the singer and sax player weren't on the gig. the drummer/leader was calling all these obsure (at least to me) tunes. i had to decline a few of the tunes he called. i decided that i really need to get my reading up to speed.  

so when practicing sight reading should i play the tune slow and strive for accuracy or up to speed while just trying to keep my place?
maybe both?
another thing- i really just want to be a jazz player, so should i still work on reading both cleffs or just do lead sheets?
to me sight reading is the ability to read a piece of music with reasonable accuracy the first time, up to tempo.  you may get 30 seconds or so to scan the chart looking for possible problem spots, like repeats, dss dcs and codas, but then you just do it.

i would advise doing both.  if you only practice sight reading, you may never develop good accurate reading skills...
the way i do it is rush through something at tempo, not really worrying about the mistakes, and just trying to nail everything i can. i really concentrate hard, beads of sweat on my forehead, that sort of thing.

then i go back and work on the hardest spots until i basically have them, then do the whole tune again at tempo.

as whack says, sight reading is just one skill. you need to also know how to just be a good accurate reader.  there's no shortcut to being a good musician.  you gotta learn to play music and that includes sight reading.  

sight reading charts is important too, but that gets easier the more time you do it. sight reading notes is another story and though it gets easier, it takes some real personal practice time to do it.

being a jazz musician doesn't mean you can skip out on certain aspects of music.  being a jazz musician means you are a musician first, jazz second, so work on being the best musician you can.
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