Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

6 Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises

6 Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises

Jazz guitar sight reading exercises are an important part of learning how to play jazz guitar. Not every jazz guitarist chooses to read dots, but reading music is an essential skill that anyone can learn.

As a jazz guitar student myself I found sight reading difficult and quite frustrating to begin with. Mainly because I did not know how to structure or break down jazz guitar sight reading exercises.

Other musicians used to suggest sight reading anything I could get my hands on. While this was potentially good advice, unfortunately for me the first book that I “started” with was the Charlie Parker Omnibook.

This book is great for intermediate to advanced readers, but it can certainly be overwhelming if you are new to jazz guitar sight reading exercises.

The jazz guitar sight reading exercises in this article present the varied and different jazz guitar reading styles. When learning to sight read I recommend focusing on the different elements of reading such as pitch, rhythm, and chords up as separate studies.

Because this is a jazz guitar sight reading exercise article there is no audio or tab. But if there is enough interest I will make a YouTube video demonstrating how each of the exercises should be played to use as a reference.

 

 

Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises 1 — Melodies

 

The easiest and usually most enjoyable style of sight reading for most guitar players is reading melodies.

Though it may not considered to true sight reading because you may already know the piece, sight reading melodies is still an important part of sight reading practice.

The melodies can be anything of your choice. Be it a standard from the jazz real book, a television theme, video game tune, a film title track, or even a traditional folk song.

Due to copyright reasons I can’t include specific notation for different themes in this article, but here are some fun suggestions that have worked well in my own teaching practice.

 

  • Jingle Bells — Nice and easy melody that can be played in open position
  • Happy Birthday To You — Recommended for learning 3/4 time
  • Star Wars Theme — Effective study of triplets
  • Simpsons Theme — Introduces reading one accidental

 

 

Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises 2 – Eighth Notes in Bb

 

One of the best ways to sight read in all keys is to Isolate one key at a time while keeping the same rhythmic value.

By doing this you are able to fully concentrate on recognizing pitches and not worry about rhythms.

The following sight reading exercise is in the jazz friendly key of Bb and uses continuous eighth notes.

This jazz guitar sight reading exercise was composed around the 6th position of the guitar neck. In terms of range the etude spans a two octave Bb major scale.

Pay special attention to the tricky interval patterns in bar 4 and try to notice the tetra chords and diatonic triads. Once you can play this jazz guitar sight reading exercise fluently at a reasonable tempo, have a go at either transposing this into a different key or writing your own study in 1 key with 1 rhythm.

 

Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises 2 - Eighth Notes in Bb

 

 

Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises 3 — Jazz Waltz

 

Playing in different time signatures and learning to read the low open string notes on guitar is important part of jazz guitar sight reading exercises.

Both of these challenges are presented in the following jazz waltz etude which features harmony based off “All The Things You Are” transposed into E minor to accommodate the open strings.

Keep the first two notes of every bar ringing while you play the other notes.

 

Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises 3 — Jazz Waltz


Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises 4 — Blues

 

Alongside bebop material, chords are difficult to read on guitar because there are several notes within one voicing to find.

This next jazz guitar sight reading exercise is a cyclic chord study that starts on a C13 chord which eventually resolves to a quartal C major voicing.

Once the repetitive chordal pattern of this study has been figured out, it shouldn’t be as fearsome as it looks on the dots.

 

 

Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises 4 — Blues

 

Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises 5 — Cyclic Chords

 

Alongside bebop material, chords are difficult to read on guitar because there are several notes within one voicing to find.

This next jazz guitar sight reading exercise is a cyclic chord study that starts on a C13 chord and eventually works it way to a quartal Cmajor voicing.

Once the chordal pattern of this study is stopped, it shouldn’t be as fearsome as it looks on the dots.

 

Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises 5 — Cyclic Chords

 

Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises 6 — Bebop

 

To conclude this jazz guitar sight reading exercises article I have included two bebop style lines. Like the Omnibook, neither of these licks contains key signatures.

Though this may seem strange at first, having accidentals instead of key signatures makes more sense when keys are changing so frequently.

The first study outlines the Rhythm Changes progression and the second study outlines Giant Steps.

If you wanted to pursue bebop style sight reading studies, have a go at reading John Coltrane’s solo on Giant Steps.

For further Rhythm Changes studies, Joe Pass has some excellent eighth note studies in one of his books.

Bebop themes are also recommend for sight reading jazz guitar exercises as they develop both your sight reading skills and repertoire.

 

Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Exercises 6 — Bebop

 

I hope that you have enjoyed playing and working through each of these jazz guitar sight reading exercises.

Remember to practice each of the exercises slowly and accurately first.

How do you like to practice sight reading jazz guitar exercises? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

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