Pages 28-29 of Crescendo, November 1962, Vol.1, No.4. Both pages feature an article on sight-reading music. An advert for Ampeg amplifiers appears at the top of page 29.
|Catalogue Reference Number|
|Creator||Tony Brown [ed], Leslie Evans|
|Title or Caption||Out for the count.|
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ï»¿Out for the count
sight-readingâthe sensible way by LESLIE EVANS
N my vast experience of teaching and coaching I find that the most persistent trouble-maker in sight-reading lies in handling long notes, or more particularly, rests. In other words, not where the part is moving along in a variety of rhythmic patterns, but where it stops.
To appreciate this article it must be assumed that you do read your note-values in blocks or patterns, not as individual units. This is essential, and you should build up a personal vocabulary of all the rhythmic shapes which are met over and over again, and which are played without any mental counting. To read by separate note-value would be just as laborious, and pointless, as reading this article letter by letter.
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My aim this month is to deal with just one very important factor in readingâwhen and how to start counting.
I believe that even experienced readers would agree that it is easier to read constantly moving parts, rather than a series of stops and starts with all sorts of rests thrown in.
I suggest that about 70 per cent, of reading can be done without any mental count, and that about 30 per cent, lies in picking up your mental counting in the right places. The following principles, once mastered, will cover any time-signature, but for simplicity I have shown all the examples in ordinary 4/4 time.
The system can be divided into three broad rules, as follows:
(1) ON-BEATS. Do not attempt to count any beat on which you commence a long note.
Now I maintain that when you strike a note, your mind is already occupied with telling you which note to play. Therefore, to allow some relaxation do not lumber it up with trying to count as you strike. Pick up your mental counting on the next clear beat of this long note.
In Example I you will see that I deal with simple on-beat long notes, and all the mental counts are shown. I do feel, however, that a minim on its own is so easily played that the count should be ignored, hence the bracket.
There is one tied-over note which always feels strange and which needs careful attention. That is when beat 4 is tied over to something long in the next bar. The natural stress for a long note in a melody arrives at either beat I, or beat 3. As shown in Example II, a melody which arrives at a long note on beat 4 tends to feel against the natural stress. Make sureâquite sureâthat you pick up your count strongly on beat I of the next bar. (If the melody in Example 2 seems unlikely, try playing âThe Lady is a Tramp,â which uses exactly the same note-values.â)
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(2) Now we come to notes which always give far more trouble than ordinary on-beats. This section deals with off-beat quaver notes (Quavers on the second half of a beat).
Do not attempt to count any beat which comes directly after an offbeat quaver note. This applies whether the off-beat quaver note is tied over or not.
In Examples 3, 4, 5 and 6, I am referring to off-beat quavers which come at the ends of phrases: that is to say, when they are tied over to a longer note, or when they are followed by any type of rest.
At this point it must be agreed that the end of one beat must be simultaneous with the start of the next beat. Therefore when starting to play an off-beat quaver you are almost on the next beat, and certainly by the time you have given the quaver its value your foot is already on the ground to start the next beat. It is neither comfortable nor necessary to count this next beat. Once again pick up on any clear beats which follow.
Usually the most awkward type of phrases to master are those which employ short-phrasing as showm in Examples 5 and 6. Just because the rests look clear, the tendency is to try to count all of them, instead of ignoring the first beat of any rests which follow
off-beat quavers. Once again all your counts are shown in these examples.
(3) Do not attempt to count an off-beat quaver rest at all.
In Example 7, the rests marked with a little cross are all off-beat quaver rests, and it doesnât take much working out to realise that the beat has already gone down, and the rest is just completing the beat each time. Some arrangers write quavers and quaver rests to achieve short crotchets. Therefore, allow the gap but do not try to count it. This type of rest is always a âthrow-away.â
One small extension of these principles, to simplify matters still further. When there is only one beat to be counted, do not trouble to give it a specific mental number. Just allow one clear beat. I have put rings around these single number counts. But if there is more than one beat to be counted, then do give them their correct numbers in the bar.
With greater experience you may well cut down your mental counting still further by quick recognition of oft-used gaps. But, at least, master these principles beforehand.
Even in practice at home, observe all your gaps and long notes correctly. I
know only too well that the tendency for my pupils is to worry about the next flow of actual notes, because these are more interesting than observing silence. But you must form the constant habit of coming in correctly. It is useless playing the next phrase brilliantly if it is a beat or so out of place either way!
Do not get mixed-up between foot-tapping and mental counting. Foot-tapping is only an external expression of the basic beat which you should be feeling internally anyway. However I do believe that a beginner should tap, because it helps to consolidate the appreciation of steady tempo. This is not countingâonly your mind is capable of giving numbers to certain of those foot-taps, as required.
By the way, in case you did not know, the method of counting large numbers of bars rest, say 10 bars, would be: t,2,3,4 2,2,3,4 3i^,3,4 etc. up to
Borrow plenty of orchestrations, solos, etc. and watch out for all the long notes and gaps. The application of these principles may well be a little slow at first, but will pay dividends in all your later and more advanced reading. When you feel more confident, utilise all really long notes or gaps to glance ahead in preparation for the next passage.
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