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Sherry C 08-19-2013 04:49 PM

Sherry can now sight read sheet music :)
Howdy friends,

(This post was inspired by an inquiry I just got at the helpdesk. )

I actually used Notation Composer last year to finally learn how to sight-read music. I know that it surprises some folks that I could have worked for Notation Software for so long, and "know" so much about notation, yet have been mostly a play-by-ear musician. It just goes to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks ;)

As an encouragement to others to stretch out and do something new if you're a play-by-ear musician, here's what I did. I'm celebrating my Golden birthday soon, so if I can do it, so can you :D

I would enter my music sheets into Composer or find a .mid file of a song I wanted to learn, then use various tools that are available in Notation Composer to help me practice and learn. The more practice, the more familiar I got with what the music should sound like, and with how to play it on my bass. This season we've been able to take requests at gigs, and pull out the sheets and just play the songs, even if I'd never played them before. I could not have done this a year and a half ago (the rest of the band could - they've all been playing since high school, and many are/were music teachers/profs). At that time I could have played something that fit (eg. played by listening to what was going on around me), but it probably would not have been the little black dots on the paper ;)

Some things I did:
  • Play the file and listen as I watched - this is what I did at first for each song just to be able to hear how each note sounded both pitch-wise and duration-wise. Having the Metronome "on" during this exercise helps with learning to count notes/beats.
  • Format/ Display pitch names in noteheads - shows the letter name for each note in the notehead. This helped me associate pitch names and their location on the staff.
  • Tempo adjustments - let me play along with the file at really slow speeds to help me get comfortable with the fingerings, but keep pushing me to keep up rhythmically as well.
  • Perform/Practice setup - has a lot of features for setting up practice loops for difficult passages (with increasing tempo if you want as you get better at a passage)
  • Solo/Mute - For multi-instrument files let me either listen specifically to my line alone, or let me mute my part and play it by myself along with "the band". I do this a lot for .mid files that I find.

There are some videos available to walk you through some of the tools that are available to help with Practicing. You can find those (and more) at

If you'd like to hear the band with me playing bass (and sight reading ;) ), you can visit the Bill Denbrock Big Band's webpage at and listen to the clips there.

If you have a favorite tool in Musician or Composer, or perhaps a novel way of using one, please let us know!

Enjoy :)

If you'd like to see more about my musical endeavors, you can visit my website at
It's still under construction, but if I get questions, it may inspire me to get on with it sooner rather than later ;)

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