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Home LJS Podcast Jazz Tips and Advice LJS 63: How to Become an Expert Sight Reader (feat. Brett Pontecorvo)

LJS 63: How to Become an Expert Sight Reader (feat. Brett Pontecorvo)

Welcome to episode 63 of the LJS Podcast where today we are talking about how to become an expert sight-reader. Sight reading is a skill that is important for all musicians to work on, and special guest Brett Pontecorvo unloads his expertise on this topic. Listen in!

Listen to episode 63

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In this episode

  1. Who Brett Pontecorvo is and what he does.

  2. A series of failures that caused Brett to get serious about sight reading.

  3. Mapping out a piece of music before you start and why that’s important.

  4. How to become a better sight reader? Read a ton of music.

  5. Recognizing rhythms: imperative for decoding musical notation.

  6. Looking for patterns, key centers, and other musical clues.

Listen to episode 62: 4 Steps for Playing What You Hear in Jazz Improv

Visit Brett Pontecorvo’s website at

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. It would be great if you could get other different instrumentalists on to discuss this issue because with piano, there is only one way to play a note, and fingering is less difficult to figure out. This is not true with guitar, for example, where I find myself stymied by figuring out what fingering works best when I am trying to learn a new piece, especially something challenging like "Freedom Jazz Dance" with lots of big intervals.

    I was surprised, too, that transcription was not mentioned once in this podcast. I know Jerry Coker recommended this in one one of his classic books about how to practice; that it should be a normal part of every jazz enthusiast's practice regimen. It seems to me the goal is to increase the number of synaptic connections in your brain, and writing stuff down as well as reading it increases the neuron firings.

    Another suggestion along these same lines: visualization. When you're away from your instrument, for example, just listen to something and try to imagine what the music looks like in your head. The more ways to can cram what music looks like into your brain, the more facile you will become.

    • Hey all great input, I appreciate it! We do have guests playing all kinds of instruments come on the show, but we probably won't likely touch on this subject.
      As a guitar player myself, I will agree it is more difficult to read than on piano, and I think that's one of the reasons many guitar players are poor readers. Both of your suggestions are great additions!

      • I think both of you may be confusing the reading issue with that of technique. I play keyboard, bass, and guitar. Reading is reading, that is identifying all of the things discussed in the podcast such as time and key signatures, rhythms, pulses and the NOTES. Figuring out where the notes are on your particular instrument, or where to play a given note when you have multiple places you can play it, is a matter of technique, that is, knowing your fret board and where those notes sit, as well as the tonal qualities at each location. Just my opinion…great site!


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