When I was doing a session with Will Lee, who was the bass player on the Letterman Show and on countless recordings, we were talking about reading. He said, “You have to know what’s going to happen in the music before it happens. You have to be looking ahead.”
I was like, wow, how can you do that? It sounds kind of impossible. I was having enough trouble reading the notes right when they passed by, but I unfortunately had a feeling that he was right and this was really the way to go. He said you have to play what’s written, and at the same time you have to scan the bars ahead to see what’s going to happen, so you’re always ahead of the game. I realized I couldn’t play each note separately and then quickly go on to the next note. Not enough time! I could see that I had to have my reading down well enough that I could scan ahead and figure out the music in phrases.
After this, I got busy and really started working hard on my reading in my East Village basement apartment. After all, we’re drummers, and we basically have to read one line of music, not many multiple melodic notes, so it’s not all that hard.
And of course most important, we have to follow the form of the song.