I'm on a lake right now. Part of its charm is that no one knows about it. So I'm not saying where it is, only that I spend 51 weeks a year wishing I were here. My family stays in floating cabins, and we hike, swim, fish, eat, and drink all week. There's no internet and no cell coverage. I wrote this post last week.

I recently learned that my audition date for SDSU's MM program in jazz studies is August 31. My first try in February didn't go so well, due to poor sight reading. I've been working on it in the months since, and I've made improvements, but I'm not confident about it yet. So I'm reserving an hour or two for it every day while I'm here.

I'm using several resources for sight reading practice, primarily The Real Book. That's the kind of stuff I'll be asked to play in the audition, both melody and comping, so I'm spending the most time with it. For more challenging tunes, and snail-pace tempi, I use the Charlie Parker Omnibook. I won't have to read anything that difficult, but it helps to be familiar with the rhythmic and melodic vocabulary Bird used, because it's everywhere. And it's always good to practice more challenging material than what I'm preparing for. 1001 Jazz Licks is also fun. I can stick to short strings of notes and look up specific progressions, but everything's in the key of C or Am, so I don't get any key signature workouts unless I imagine them.

In the second tier are materials designed specifically for sight reading. While this stuff might isolate and exercise specific elements, it must take a back seat to the real music. A few months ago, I worked through Sight to Sound. I recommend it, but it's meant for those new to sight reading, so I ripped through it pretty quickly, gleaning a number of helpful tips and exercises. I'm currently working through Jazz Guitar Sight-Reading. It's filled with etudes emphasizing different positions and techniques. It's completely appropriate to my skill level. Next in the queue is Music Reading for Guitar, a more complete (and thick) reference for guitar music reading in general, not just sight reading, and not just jazz. I imagine I'll skim the first half of the book, reviewing some fundamentals and funny Italian musical terms.

I wrote a sight reading program in Python nearly two years ago. My intent is to release it on this site, but I've never made time to clean it up. (If you're interested, email me, and I'll send you the dirty source code.) The program allows me to choose a range of notes, key signature, and ratio of interval leaps, and it generates a string of eighth notes with LilyPond. I've printed out a bunch of challenging chromatic stuff in every key. This is third-tier (colloquially known as "the way-back" to the second tier's "back seat"), as it's not human-composed music, just random notes from a few rules. I like to warm up with it before tackling real tunes, as it makes my eyes and brain work harder.