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#1775276 - 10/22/11 05:25 PM You're either a good sightreader or you're not.
Drunk3nFist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/08
Posts: 640
Loc: London
I personally am not one of those pianists with amazing sightreading. I resent this fact, and I wish I knew exactly what to do in order to improve. I have lots of books which have 'sightreading specimens', and whilst I do feel more confident after each time I successfully sightread through the mini exercises, I still feel I can't do much when it comes to the big pieces, i.e. the stuff I actually need to learn for my recitals.

A little off topic point - I just did a typing speed test online and happened to make a pretty good result (around 85 wpm). In order for me to type constant fluid sentences (especially if I'm reading off a page somewhere else and copying the text), I rely heavily on short term memory. What I wonder is if I'm able to make good use of this short term memory when I type on the computer, why can't I do the same when it comes to sightreading on the piano? Its the same principle, but I can't seem to make it work. It really frustrates me.

The statement in the title - Do you agree with me or not? Can a pianist who had bad sightreading skills improve to a point where their sightreading becomes fluid?
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#1775286 - 10/22/11 05:38 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Drunk3nFist]
PaulaPiano34 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/16/10
Posts: 1217
The only way, I think, really to get better at sightreading is to practice. Playing chamber music and hymns are really, really good for this. And when you sightread always look at the key/time signatures first...

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#1775299 - 10/22/11 06:03 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Drunk3nFist]
chrisbell Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/07
Posts: 1368
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
Originally Posted By: Drunk3nFist
. . . .The statement in the title - Do you agree with me or not? Can a pianist who had bad sightreading skills improve to a point where their sightreading becomes fluid?
Yes. They/you can. You have to first decide if you have to right to become a good sight-reader. It takes time and deliberate practice.
However, if one is Dyslexic, it takes more time - and effort. Being Dyslexic affects ones ability to read not only words/letters but also notes.
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#1775325 - 10/22/11 06:50 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Drunk3nFist]
gooddog Offline
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Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4804
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Sightreading is like math for me. If I am alone, sitting quietly, I'm pretty good at both. If I'm being watched or presenting it to others, I'm terrible.
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#1775330 - 10/22/11 07:04 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: PaulaPiano34]
rob.art Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/13/11
Posts: 187
Originally Posted By: chobeethaninov
The only way, I think, really to get better at sightreading is to practice.


don't agree, you have to to find a way to do it right otherwise no matter how much you practice you'll move forward very slow.
Practicing didn't work for me at all.

I'm very curious what can say about it guys who can sightread fast and painlessly.

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#1775333 - 10/22/11 07:06 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Drunk3nFist]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
I do think its something that certain people are naturally better at than others. If I practice I will improve my sightreading, but I will never be a great sightreader.

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#1775336 - 10/22/11 07:18 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Drunk3nFist]
rob.art Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/13/11
Posts: 187
it has to be some secret to it...

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#1775349 - 10/22/11 07:49 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Drunk3nFist]
cardguy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/17/08
Posts: 977
There's not much doubt in my mind that sight reading has an inborn talent component. Can someone improve? Of course. But those fortunate folks who can just effortlessly knock back pretty much anything you put in front of them have a definite talent for it.

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#1775352 - 10/22/11 08:05 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: cardguy]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5943
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: cardguy
There's not much doubt in my mind that sight reading has an inborn talent component. Can someone improve? Of course. But those fortunate folks who can just effortlessly knock back pretty much anything you put in front of them have a definite talent for it.
Perhaps, if by "talent for it" you mean a desire to play lots of music, so that they're always trying out something they haven't heard before at the piano. Because this seems to me to be the crucial thing. People who read get better at it. People who read because they actually like it will read more, and will get even better at it. I'm a good sight-reader. Am I just "fortunate"? I don't think so. I was fortunate to have lots of printed music around me that I was allowed to try out, with no-one correcting me and spoiling the joy of discovery. So much of what I played was approximation, but as time went on I became better at being accurate. I was "fortunate" I suppose in that I had time to just play around at the piano as a child, and that as I got older I had opportunities to play with others (reading hymns at church, where of course you just had to keep going; accompanying choirs; discovering classical song with a schoolfriend who was a singer).
Actually, yes, I think I was very fortunate indeed.
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#1775354 - 10/22/11 08:12 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Drunk3nFist]
musiccr8r Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/08
Posts: 268
Loc: Denver
I know this topic gets discussed a lot, but I'll weigh in to keep it on the table, since I find it fascinating and also frustrating. I do think one must practice sightreading, but I think there must be some "tricks" or shortcuts that one should be working on (rather than just "OK, I'll play this thing I've never seen before, without purpose", which is probably not a lot more effective than "running through" your repertoire without any aim or intentionality). Your typing was a good example: you type quickly, and most likely because you read fluently, in "chunks". So, for example, maybe if you were given a single letter at a time to type, you might not be lightening fast (compared to other average typists), but if you are able to visually group letters into words and phrases, you can go much much faster on a per-letter basis. I know intellectually that there is an element of this in sightreading; recognizing whole chords and larger patterns vs. just "reading" note by note. But, it doesn't translate into me always being able to DO that! So, maybe it would be good to, say, practice identifying/playing chords (like, collapsing an arpeggio) as fast as possible, as a sort of exercise. Another idea that just popped into my head might be: get someone to help you by covering your music and exposing one measure at a time. Glance at it very quickly and then see how much you can play without looking at it again (i.e., extend the distance you "suck in" mentally at a single glance, much in the way you can, when reading aloud, actually continue with several words of a sentence that you glance at instantaniously...try it, it's true!) Have you ever noticed that in simpler pop tunes (this doesn't work for me in jazz since I'm not fluent in that notation), if they have the chords written above each measure (like for guitar), you can read it much faster? It's like that chord symbol condenses the entire measure for you.
However, there are so many factors in sightreading, including familiarity with the style/genre, the simple things like page layout and such, and the "courtesy" accidentals that sometimes actually make me do worse since they start to make me mentally cancel out the key signature (after all, if they WROTE the b-flat there, it must not be in the key sig., right?? ) ha I hope others will keep weighing in on the best way to practice and improve this area.

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#1775361 - 10/22/11 08:29 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: currawong]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8898
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: currawong
Perhaps, if by "talent for it" you mean a desire to play lots of music, so that they're always trying out something they haven't heard before at the piano. Because this seems to me to be the crucial thing. People who read get better at it. People who read because they actually like it will read more, and will get even better at it. I'm a good sight-reader. Am I just "fortunate"? I don't think so. I was fortunate to have lots of printed music around me that I was allowed to try out, with no-one correcting me and spoiling the joy of discovery. So much of what I played was approximation, but as time went on I became better at being accurate. I was "fortunate" I suppose in that I had time to just play around at the piano as a child, and that as I got older I had opportunities to play with others (reading hymns at church, where of course you just had to keep going; accompanying choirs; discovering classical song with a schoolfriend who was a singer).

This is very well put, thanks currawong, I completely agree! heart

I really feel that sight reading can be learned. I'm not the most talented of pianists, but ever since a boy, I've always had a voracious appetite for reading through music. I used to go to the library and bring scores home, sometimes piles of them, simply to spend the afternoon exploring. It was really fun when my mother wasn't around to listen.

Subsequently, as I got involved with church music, that was when the TRIAL BY FIRE started. Hymns, anthems and psalm settings were thrown at me with little mercy. You sink or swim, and I think I'm a damn good sight reader because of that, and better than a few church musicians I knew back in the UK.

Unlikely I could ever properly learn the Bartok 2nd Concerto -in my dearest dreams- but I have read through it. (Hats off to anyone who can bring that nasty piece of business up to speed.)









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#1775375 - 10/22/11 09:09 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: argerichfan]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
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Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: argerichfan


Subsequently, as I got involved with church music, that was when the TRIAL BY FIRE started. Hymns, anthems and psalm settings were thrown at me with little mercy. You sink or swim, and I think I'm a damn good sight reader because of that, and better than a few church musicians I knew back in the UK.



This is huge. Accompanying of any kind or playing lots of duets really help improvement with sight reading. I was never a good sight reader but as soon as I started playing for churches, choirs, and soloists, I really improved quite quickly. It is a trial by fire, so hopefully you're not sight reading for a "performance" like argerichfan did, but even simply accompanying someone and having to adhere to their timing (especially if it's a singer who has to breathe or wind instrument) helps tremendously. You learn to recognize patterns very quickly. Of course, the more playing you do in general, the more patterns you encounter and the less "actual" reading you have to do.
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#1775411 - 10/22/11 10:45 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Drunk3nFist]
painter55 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/17/11
Posts: 101
Loc: New Mexico
So many threads lately on sight reading! Of which I am a guilty party!

Best advice on sight reading:

1. Pick something EASY.
2. NEVER look at your hands.
3. COUNT out loud.
4. GO SLOW.
5. GO SLOW.


Edited by painter55 (10/23/11 09:54 AM)
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#1775437 - 10/22/11 11:38 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: painter55]
rob.art Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/13/11
Posts: 187
Originally Posted By: painter55
So many threads lately on sigh reading! Of which I am a guilty party!

Best advice on sight reading:

1. Pick something EASY.
2. NEVER look at your hands.
3. COUNT out loud.
4. GO SLOW.
5. GO SLOW.


6. turn off the light...

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#1775446 - 10/22/11 11:55 PM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: rob.art]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2358
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: rob.art
Originally Posted By: painter55
So many threads lately on sigh reading! Of which I am a guilty party!

Best advice on sight reading:

1. Pick something EASY.
2. NEVER look at your hands.
3. COUNT out loud.
4. GO SLOW.
5. GO SLOW.


6. turn off the light...


This isn't a memorizing thread!

Actually, I find it easiest to sight-read when I have the best possible light. The organ at church has a blazing spotlight which is awesome and ideal for sight-reading.

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#1775450 - 10/23/11 12:03 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: jeffreyjones]
rob.art Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/13/11
Posts: 187
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
Originally Posted By: rob.art
Originally Posted By: painter55
So many threads lately on sigh reading! Of which I am a guilty party!

Best advice on sight reading:

1. Pick something EASY.
2. NEVER look at your hands.
3. COUNT out loud.
4. GO SLOW.
5. GO SLOW.


6. turn off the light...


This isn't a memorizing thread!

Actually, I find it easiest to sight-read when I have the best possible light. The organ at church has a blazing spotlight which is awesome and ideal for sight-reading.


I meant you can can leave your hat on...

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#1775472 - 10/23/11 01:14 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: rob.art]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18129
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: rob.art
Originally Posted By: chobeethaninov
The only way, I think, really to get better at sightreading is to practice.


don't agree, you have to to find a way to do it right otherwise no matter how much you practice you'll move forward very slow.
Practicing didn't work for me at all.

I'm very curious what can say about it guys who can sightread fast and painlessly.


Is there some mis-communication here or just some unclear writing? Presumably what chobeet... meant was that in order to become better at sight-reading one has to practice (i.e. work on) sight-reading, not just "practice" in general.

And, it goes without saying that, like any skill, you have to "do it right" to progress. The blanket statement: "No matter how much you practice you'll move forward very slow" makes absolutely no sense to me. As experiences narrated in this thread alone have already shown, many good sight-readers have become good at it because 1) they worked at it and 2) they were often in situations where they had to do it.

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#1775506 - 10/23/11 03:37 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: currawong]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7891
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: cardguy
There's not much doubt in my mind that sight reading has an inborn talent component. Can someone improve? Of course. But those fortunate folks who can just effortlessly knock back pretty much anything you put in front of them have a definite talent for it.
Perhaps, if by "talent for it" you mean a desire to play lots of music, so that they're always trying out something they haven't heard before at the piano. Because this seems to me to be the crucial thing. People who read get better at it. People who read because they actually like it will read more, and will get even better at it. I'm a good sight-reader. Am I just "fortunate"? I don't think so. I was fortunate to have lots of printed music around me that I was allowed to try out, with no-one correcting me and spoiling the joy of discovery. So much of what I played was approximation, but as time went on I became better at being accurate. I was "fortunate" I suppose in that I had time to just play around at the piano as a child, and that as I got older I had opportunities to play with others (reading hymns at church, where of course you just had to keep going; accompanying choirs; discovering classical song with a schoolfriend who was a singer).
Actually, yes, I think I was very fortunate indeed.


Very well said. And your experiences are very similar to mine (although I am no longer as good at sightreading as I once was, in part because I am no longer in situations where I have to do it).

I wonder if reading through music because you simply enjoy it and are curious about how it sounds isn't the biggest single factor in developing sight reading, and I really don't know how people would acquire that desire if they don't already feel it.



Edited by wr (10/23/11 03:37 AM)

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#1775516 - 10/23/11 04:47 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Drunk3nFist]
Ilinca Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/19/10
Posts: 30
Loc: Chisinau, Moldova
Every pianist can become a good sightreader! It's a proven fact.

Sightreading, just like any other piano skill, can be developed by mindful, correct practice.

Let me give you an example: when I graduated the Conservatoire, I wasn't such a good sightreader. I was practicing a lot, but I was always working on the pieces until they were ready for concert performances - and I had little time for exploring the piano repertoire. Then, after graduation, I began to work in a symphony orchestra - as piano soloist. We have new programs every week!!! I work there for six years now, and my sightreading has dramatically improved! Now I can enjoy playing at first sight complicated piano works (not just the orchestral repertoire) - Bach, Chopin, Liszt etc.

I agree that accompanying singers/instrumentalists is also extremely helpful!

My advice is to practice sightreading every day - for at least 20-30 minutes. Start with easy pieces for beginners. Place the score in front of you and look at it for a minute or two before playing. Notice its tonality, its tempo, its time signature, its character, and also the main patterns used. Read the little piece slowly, mindfully, being aware of as many details as possible - including pedal and fingering. After reading the piece, don't return to it. Simply move to the next one.

When you feel that easy pieces are not a challenge anymore and you can play them very well (without stops, with expression, phrasing and dynamics), move to the next level of difficulty.

I suggest using for this purpose piano books for beginners. Start with first grade and slowly move forward, until you reach grade 7-8. Then, you can try to read anything you want! wink

One more thing: as Morodiene and musiccr8r have mentioned, recognizing patterns is a very useful skill! With practice, when looking at a new piece, you'll see a lot of patterns: certain chords and arpeggios, or maybe a scale pattern etc.

So, when you see a major-minor scale pattern, or an arpeggio, or a specific chord, you'll already know what moves/fingering are necessary for playing it!

As you see, sightreading is also about building reflexes, of creating the habit to associate the patterns in the musical text with the specific gestures necessary for playing them.

As we all know, it's impossible to create such habits and reflexes without practice! wink
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#1775518 - 10/23/11 04:50 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Drunk3nFist]
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5277
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
Every pianist can become a good sightreader! It's a proven fact.

Sightreading, just like any other piano skill, can be developed by mindful, correct practice.


+1
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#1775528 - 10/23/11 06:09 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Ilinca]
chrisbell Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/07
Posts: 1368
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
Originally Posted By: Ilinca
Every pianist can become a good sightreader! It's a proven fact. Sightreading, just like any other piano skill, can be developed by mindful, correct practice.
+1
I use the words: Deliberate Practice but same same . . .
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#1775544 - 10/23/11 07:58 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: chrisbell]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: chrisbell
Originally Posted By: Ilinca
Every pianist can become a good sightreader! It's a proven fact. Sightreading, just like any other piano skill, can be developed by mindful, correct practice.
+1
I use the words: Deliberate Practice but same same . . .


Actually, it's really not the same, because one can practise deliberately all day long and if that person isn't practising correctly (which is THE key here) then it won't matter one iota.
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#1775564 - 10/23/11 08:58 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Drunk3nFist]
pianoloverus Online   content
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The thread title is clearly wrong IMO. Sight reading doesn't come in only good or bad degrees. Like any other skill it comes in a continuum of abilities.

I'd say some of the ingredients that determine one's sight reading ability are:

1. natural talent

2. Practice. This doesn't only mean "Now I'll sit down and practice sight reading for 30 minutes". In fact, I think most good sight readers got there partly by wanting to play through music a lot and never thinking of this as practicing sight reading.

3. All the other skills that go into making one a good pianist in general(technical skill, understanding of harmony, and every other aspect of musicianship). If one sees a fast scalar passage but cannot play it(technical ability), then one's sighteading ability is lowered. If one doesn't recognize some other note pattern/chordal structure due to lack of understanding of harmony then one's sight reading ability is lowered.


I'd say almost anyone can improve their sight reading, but it's not correct to say anyone can become "good" or "excellent". For starters, there is no agreed upon definition of those words. Also, one's natural ability might be a limiting factor no matter how one chooses to define those words.




Edited by pianoloverus (10/23/11 09:00 AM)

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#1775565 - 10/23/11 08:59 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: currawong]
lilylady Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 4977
Loc: boston north
Originally Posted By: currawong
... the joy of discovery....


I like this phrase, whether it be for sight reading or the discovery of learning a new piece.
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#1775566 - 10/23/11 09:03 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Dave Horne]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
Every pianist can become a good sightreader! It's a proven fact.

Sightreading, just like any other piano skill, can be developed by mindful, correct practice.


+1


-1
I disagree.

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#1775581 - 10/23/11 09:33 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: debrucey]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: debrucey
Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
Every pianist can become a good sightreader! It's a proven fact.

Sightreading, just like any other piano skill, can be developed by mindful, correct practice.


+1


-1
I disagree.


Care to elaborate on why you disagree? It seems that most of the posters here are pretty much saying exactly what Dave Horne said.
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#1775597 - 10/23/11 09:54 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Morodiene]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
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Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: debrucey
Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
Every pianist can become a good sightreader! It's a proven fact.

Sightreading, just like any other piano skill, can be developed by mindful, correct practice.


+1


-1
I disagree.


Care to elaborate on why you disagree? It seems that most of the posters here are pretty much saying exactly what Dave Horne said.
I'm sure Debrussy will respond but my reply would be this.

There's a big difference between saying sight reading can be developed/improved vs. saying one can become "good". For starters, everyone will have a different definition fo "good".

Just like any other activity, natural ability has some role in how far once can go. Most people can improve in tennis with practice/instruction/knowledge, but not everyone can become a Roger Federer(or choose any level of ability instead).

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#1775598 - 10/23/11 10:01 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: debrucey]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
Originally Posted By: debrucey
Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
Every pianist can become a good sightreader! It's a proven fact.

Sightreading, just like any other piano skill, can be developed by mindful, correct practice.


+1


-1
I disagree.


i agree
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#1775599 - 10/23/11 10:05 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: Drunk3nFist]
debrucey Offline
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Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
Probably couldn't have put it much better.

I would really love to see some proper research done on this. It's easy to say that if you practice you will get better, because then when someone is still finding it difficult 10 years down the line you can just tell them they didn't practice enough or in the right way.

I think some people's brains work in a particular way that it is more natural for them to take in this sort of information.

I have been reading words my entire life, but it still takes me a few weeks to get through the Count of Monte Cristo whereas some people can do it an a couple of days. Some people can come up with all sorts of anagrams in countdown in a few seconds whereas I struggle to find even a four letter one. It takes me ages to solve mazes, I've never come close to solving a rubix cube. I can't do sudoku. I can't play chess. Where's wally(waldo) gives me a headache. Sure if I practiced these things effectively I'm sure I'd improve, but I'm just not biologically fortunate enough to master them. When you've seen a 14 year old create a piano reduction of a 12 stave orchestral score (with tenor clefs and transposing instruments) in real time you realise just how much of a canyon there is between being able to fumble through chopin mazurkas and being a truly great sightreader.

That is how I see it anyway. Don't think me a pessimist, just a realist.

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#1775604 - 10/23/11 10:22 AM Re: You're either a good sightreader or you're not. [Re: stores]
chrisbell Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/07
Posts: 1368
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: chrisbell
Originally Posted By: Ilinca
Every pianist can become a good sightreader! It's a proven fact. Sightreading, just like any other piano skill, can be developed by mindful, correct practice.
+1
I use the words: Deliberate Practice but same same . . .

Actually, it's really not the same, because one can practise deliberately all day long and if that person isn't practising correctly (which is THE key here) then it won't matter one iota.
Then I have failed in my attempt to communicate, Deliberate Practice - as coined by Prof Anders Ericsson (the research behind the 10.000 hour idea) - imply's "correct" practice.
http://www.psy.fsu.edu/faculty/ericsson/ericsson.exp.perf.html
_________________________

I never play anything the same way once.

https://soundcloud.com/chrisb/sets
https://www.youtube.com/user/djboing/videos

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