As a non-professional, intermediate-level guitarist interested in playing jazz, I wonder how important it is for me to be able to sight read music (and I mean standard music notation, not guitar tablature, etc.) in order to "take it to the next level".
While I can certainly think of many situations where reading may be required/helpful (e.g. some gigs, recording sessions, etc.), I also suspect that there are many highly skilled guitarists that do not know how to read.
I assume that it certainly "wouldn't hurt" to have this skill, but I'm not convinced that it's worth the significant investment. My current thinking is that it is more important to spend that time practicing in other ways, e.g. learning many scales, chord voicings, existing songs, working on rhythm, etc. However, I'm worried that I may be making a mistake.
Will not learning to sight read make it significantly more difficult for me to become a competent jazz guitarist in the long run?
Thanks for all the awesome feedback. I think there are a few take-away points from the answers (please correct me if I didn't interpret them correctly):
- There's a difference between being able to read in "real time" (e.g. good enough to work from a sheet I'm not familiar with at a gig) and being proficient enough to read in less demanding situations (e.g. I'm learning new songs/melodies on my own time.
- The amount of skill necessary depends on the type of gigs one wants to play (e.g. required for big band, not necessary for small 3-4-5tets because they work more from improv over the standards.)
I should have been clear that I'm more interested in informally playing in 3-4-5tets, but regardless, all the answers are really helpful. I think that what I'm going to do is try to invest a small amount of time to be able to read well enough to figure out new melodies/songs when I'm on my own, but I probably won't be investing the significant amount of time necessary to read and play unfamiliar music "in real time".