A version of St James Infirmary blues inspired by the recent Hugh Laurie cover on Let Them Talk.
I’ve always wanted to be the kind of pianist who can pick up a sheet of music, have a quick glance at it, then place it on the music stand and sight-read through it at a sensible tempo without too many mistakes.
Despite having started learning the piano about twenty years ago, this isn’t something that I’m yet able to do.
I do understand what all of the symbols on the staff mean and what sounds they should produce. I can count and I know my scales. Given an (almost) unlimited amount of time, I can eventually play just about anything on the piano to a considerably less than perfect standard but when it comes to doing it in real-time, it is just something I presently find impossible. What happens is what computing scientists would describe as a “buffer under-run” – my eyes can’t decode what is in front of me fast enough so my hands catch-up and I have to pause. There is evidently another skill to sight-reading that I don’t yet have.
There are some things that makes sight-reading a little easier for me. The first is knowing the tune already. It sounds obvious but if I can hear the tune in my head, it is far easier for me to play. I can play quite well by ear and sometimes this is a frustration as it reduces the incentive to be able to read well. Also, single lines of notes, like the bass-line in choral music, are also a little easier to read.
I’ve heard one theory that the ability to read-music depends on the dominant side of your brain. People who are right-brained (left-handed) tend to be better at playing by ear and less good at sight-reading. The more abundant left-brained (right-handed) person is usually the opposite. This is not so for me, however, as I’m right-handed.
I’d love to hear from sight-readers who have struggled in the past but who now “get it”. I know plenty of people who play by ear as a rule and have never found the need to learn to read music – I’ve just always felt that this removes a very important avenue for learning.
The BBC snooker team have tinkered with their theme music a few times in the past. I always thought the original version was really good and I feel that it is such a shame that the essence of this version has been lost in the additional sound effects and loops.
The following is my effort at recreating the drive of the original theme tune with an emphasis of minimalism:
This was played on a (customised) Jackson PS4 electric guitar using both the bridge and neck humbuckers simultaneously. The amp was Garageband’s simulated “Clean Combo” with the gain turned up to 10.