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#1854124 - 03/01/12 08:31 AM Easy Sight Reading Fodder
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
Having played very little piano in the past year and a half, I'm now finding it very enjoyable to re-explore my sheet music collection, and it's been bringing back a lot of memories. One thing I've been remembering is what a horribly difficult time I had finding sufficient bulk of easy-enough fodder for intensive, ongoing sight reading practice when I first started my sight reading quest. So this is an essay to help out people who find themselves in that same situation.

Now there are many series of sight reading "books" out there, but particularly at the beginner level, these are actually pretty slender little pamphlets. They maybe give the student one new sight reading piece per day. But if you're getting serious about sight reading, you'll want to be doing a minimum of 15 minutes of sight reading practice per day -- many people do half and hour or more.

As anyone knows who's actually tried this, this rapidly adds up to an impressive stack of sheet music, and at the price of those slender sight reading booklets, the quest for fluent sight reading could easily become a very expensive pursuit. That was when I began my search for nice THICK sight reading books

Now there's a lot of nice, thick Easy Piano books out there, but the buddding pianist soon learns that "Easy Piano" music isn't actually all that easy. But something I wished I'd known earlier is that there are designated levels below Easy Piano. The next one down is called Big Note, and, yes, the notation is quite annoyingly BIG. This isn't such a bad thing if you have middle aged eyes... until you find that you keep needing to turn the blasted pages. But these arrangements still have enough stuff going on in both hands not to be idiot simple.

When I was compulsively reading all the sight reading threads generated since the dawn of PianoWorld (productive procrastination can be a wonderful thing), I ran across several suggestions for Big Note books like this one. But the honest truth was that in arrangements of contemporary pop songs, the rhythms can actually be a bit too tricky to for the budding sight reader to execute on the fly. I think this level would be perfect for an intermediate pianist to use as sight reading fodder, but I wasn't an intermediate pianist yet. So I had to go in search of easier stuff.

My first recommendation for a nice thick sight reading book for the very beginning sight reader is Progressive Sight Reading Exercises by Hannah Smith. It starts with both hands playing in unison, and gets progressively more difficult. The tunelets are quite brief (and pretty inane), but they're simple enough to get you started. Don't be frightened by all the spiky looking notation the later pages -- really it's all bland little tunes normal keys, but instead of having key signatures, the sharps and flats are written in note by note. I have no idea what purpose this is supposed to serve.

After working through that one. what I needed was stuff where one hand (generally the left) did very very little, while the other did a bit more (mostly melody in right hand, left hand playing a single note or chordlet per measure, except at the ends of phrases when things get a little more busy). This turned out to be a really difficult level of music for me to find, which is really what led me to writing this whole essay, which is now going to degenerate into a list of links to the easiest music I was able to find which still had both hands playing at once.

So here's most of what I eventually found. I apologize for the fact that most of this stuff is either very very moldy oldies, bland arrangements of overplayed classical, or Christmas carols, but, uh, that's what you get, so enjoy it as best you can laugh .

Big Book of Beginners' Piano Classics (Dover)
88 Piano Classics for Beginners (Dover)
Classical Music's Greatest Hits (Hal Leonard)
Favorite Melodies the World Over, Level 1 (Bastien)
Classic Themes by the Masters (Bastien)
The Joy of First Year Piano (Denes Agay)
Bradley's Big Note Giant Christmas Piano Book (easier than most Big Note, and very THICK wink )

Here's a bunch of Dover titles that I just discovered tonight, which are similarly easy, and cheaper but not quite as thick (still mostly watered-down classical arrangements)
My First Book of Bach
A First Book of Mozart
My First Book of Beethoven
A First Book of Schumann
My First Book of Chopin
My First Book of Tchaikovsky

And if you want to be a little more modern...
A First Book of Ragtime
A First Book of Jazz
A First Book of Blues

But if you're up to Big Note Piano, there's some nice thick options (mostly moldy pop). If you want to save money, do take the time to scout around for used copies of these -- people definitely grow out of them.
Dan Coates Big Note Piano Collection
The Best Songs Ever (Big Note Version)
100 Best Loved Piano Solos
Bradley's Big Note Giant Piano Collection
The Beatles Classic Hits
(not quite so thick, but hey, it's the Beatles!)

How was that for a productive use of insomnia?


Edited by tangleweeds (03/01/12 10:01 AM)
Edit Reason: spelling, grammar
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#1854148 - 03/01/12 09:26 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
casinitaly Offline


Gold Supporter until March 1 2014


Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 5023
Loc: Italy
What a great thread. You've really pulled together a lot of info and suggestions here.

Thanks very much!
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#1854361 - 03/01/12 04:08 PM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
Sam Rose Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/11
Posts: 673
Loc: Los Angeles
I asked a question like this a while back, but didn't get nearly as comprehensive an answer as the post you wrote. Thank you very much for that information laugh

I can't even sightread Mary Had a Little Lamb at this point frown


Edited by Sam Rose (03/01/12 04:09 PM)
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#1856444 - 03/05/12 08:37 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
mom3gram Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/26/08
Posts: 1133
Loc: New Jersey
Thanks for compiling this list. It will be very helpful fo rme and others.
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#1856526 - 03/05/12 11:27 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8534
Loc: Georgia, USA
Originally Posted By: Sam Rose
I can't even sightread Mary Had a Little Lamb at this point frown

Neither can I... I can read some, but I'm as slow as molasses at it. I'd rather rip out a fast boogie-woogie with all the notes/music in my head and my hands... laugh

Guess I've got a lot to learn!

Rick
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#1856635 - 03/05/12 02:44 PM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
nikky Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/11/11
Posts: 47
Loc: Sydney, Australia
Originally Posted By: tangleweeds
How was that for a productive use of insomnia?


Excellent actually wink

I will go and bookmark those links for later.
I'm always interested to find sight reading resources, so I appreciate your detailed post.

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#1856663 - 03/05/12 04:06 PM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
Michael Steen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/26/07
Posts: 366
Loc: Sciota, Pennsylvania
Thanks for the list!! I am getting better every day at sight-reading because I'm working my way toward the end of Alfred's #1, Alfred's Greatest Hits #1, Alfred's All-Time Favorites #1, etc.
But as each page of those books turns over, the selections get just a little bit harder. I'm thrilled to find books such as these which will really hone the sight-reading skills I'm trying to develop.
In fact, I ordered the First Book of Ragtime and (which was not listed) the First Book of Classical from Dover. A total of $10.90, dozens (if not hundreds) of hours of enjoyment and instruction in them!
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#1856766 - 03/05/12 07:03 PM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: Michael Steen]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
Originally Posted By: Michael Steen
TI am getting better every day at sight-reading because I'm working my way toward the end of Alfred's #1, Alfred's Greatest Hits #1, Alfred's All-Time Favorites #1, etc.

The NON-Big-Note music (e.g. the Dover stuff) that I listed is somewhat easier than these books.

When I left off I could just barely sight read at the level of the Alfred Level 1 supplements you've mentioned (that's strictly defined sight reading, as in playing pieces at very first sight with good rhythm and at a reasonable speed). But after a year and a half with very intermittent practice, I'm no longer anywhere near that level. In fact, the Dover stuff looks a tad challenging. Sigh...

I think I didn't list the First Book of Classical because it had significant overlap with some other Dover book I already had (I've forgotten which one).
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#1856825 - 03/05/12 09:00 PM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: Sam Rose]
CebuKid Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 1176
Originally Posted By: Sam Rose
I asked a question like this a while back, but didn't get nearly as comprehensive an answer as the post you wrote. Thank you very much for that information laugh

I can't even sightread Mary Had a Little Lamb at this point frown


LOL, you're too funny Sam. You're like the only "true adult beginner" here who can play Fantasie Impromptu, but you can't sight read MHALL...lol.

Having 2 kids in piano, I have lots of what I call "baby books"...Alfreds and John Thompson that I sight read all the time when I supervise their practice. Some pieces I don't count as "sight reading" because I read them weeks or months ago...but, it's reading practice none-the-less. They are pieces that I can easily play at tempo without looking down at my hands!

Now, Tangleweeds...thanks for the wealth of material here!! thumb I will definitely go back to this thread (which is why I'm posting here) when I feel compelled to take on the daunting task of sight reading again.


Edited by CebuKid (03/05/12 09:02 PM)
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#1856842 - 03/05/12 09:37 PM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
TromboneAl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 794
Loc: Northern, Northern California
Good info Tangleweeds, I wish I'd seen a post like that a few years ago.

Here's an excerpt from my blog concerning sources:

Online: Google free easy piano music and you'll find a number of sites with printable music. Unfortunately, you'll need to download and print each piece individually.

The Library: Yay!! This is the best resource. I've found lots of music at all levels.

Hymnals: A must have for sight-reading practice. Through PaperBackSwap.com, I got a Christian Science hymnal and a Presbyterian hymnal. The first was printed in 1938 but is in great shape (they don't make books like they used to).
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My Book: Becoming a Great Sight-Reader -- or Not!
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#1978309 - 10/25/12 01:57 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
BUMP

...sorry, but just saw the thread linked in another and its too good NOT to bump

Also, as Al posted above me, hurray for the library - free sight-reading material galore

Thanks for the great list, tangle

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#1978369 - 10/25/12 06:28 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
MonkeyMark Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/17/12
Posts: 98
Loc: UK
What a great thread.
I'm not even half way through Alfred's 1, so I'm nit really trying to sight read yet but this does give me the chance to build up my collection in advance with no rush.

Thanks very much for thus thread, great information.
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Alfred's self teaching - Book 1
Started Mid September 2012
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#2058185 - 04/02/13 08:13 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
Mete Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/13
Posts: 45
Loc: Turkey
The worst problem I'm having with sight-reading is the lack of material suitable for my level. I believe sight-reading is a continuous spectrum between

- 0: no reading ability and
- 10: ability to sight-read any material at hand(Tom Brier maybe, guy is amazing, although I haven't seen him play anything other than ragtime on Youtube)

I would put myself between 1 and 2, closer to 1 actually. As far as I know, what I need is lots of lvl 1 piano score. After that, lvl 2 and so on.. Free stuff on the Internet is scarce and you have to dig it up, find PDF, print, etc... If you order a sight-reading book from Amazon, which is mostly 100 pages or less, then you end up with 10 pages of suitable pieces for your level; assuming that book has progressing complexity on all levels.

What I really need is one The-American-Civil-War-thick sight-reading piano book for all levels.

Anyway, thanks tangleweeds for the resources. I'll check them out.

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#2058208 - 04/02/13 09:09 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
LarryShone Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/10
Posts: 793
Loc: Darlington, UK
Well im getting this book for free. No idea who the contributors are but well, its free, I'll take it:

THE CLASSIC PIANO COURSE BOOK 1 STARTING TO PLAY PF: v. 1


Edited by LarryShone (04/02/13 09:13 AM)
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#2058218 - 04/02/13 09:38 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 247
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Mete, I suggest you have a look at this page. It has a list of thick Big-Note piano books.

http://www.soundfeelings.com/products/music_instruction/sight-reading_books.htm

I used this as a starting point, but also branched out into music I was interested in such as Harry Potter and Disney. I bought "100 Best-Loved Piano Solos", "The Best Songs Ever", and "Fun-To-Play Christmas Songs" and as a result sight-read over 1,000 pages at that level, as well as later reading them again on top of that.

I've just moved myself up to "Level 3: Easy Piano" (which these days I believe means easy to learn, not so easy to sight-read), and today I finished sight-reading "100 Christmas Carols". which was 200 pages long. I'm reading slowly, and there are mistakes, but I know it'll get better with time, just like with the big-note pieces.

Over the next two days I have more easy piano music coming - "The Ultimate Pop Sheet Music Collection" as suggested on the site I linked, as well as a Lord of the Rings book and another Disney book with more recent songs. Overall that's more than 500 pages, and with the abundance of music at the "Easy Piano" level, I'm not too worried of running out of music and losing inspiration. Of course I hope to see some improvement a few books down the track.

Some other Easy Piano books I might get later on are Les Mis, The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean and Wicked, but these books are usually fairly short.

You can try doing it free, but I'm not sure how easy it'll be to find appropriate music or print out so many pages. I've accepted that this will be an expensive pursuit. Good thing I don't have any other expensive hobbies.
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#2058230 - 04/02/13 10:09 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1046
Loc: Southern California
One thing I do is borrow sheet music books from the library. The problem is that most of that music is for an intermediate level or above. The solution is to read the notes out loud, one note at a time, away from the piano. While it doesn't build up the muscle memory, it also avoids the frustration that I get from playing unfamiliar pieces that are way above my skill level.

This reading out loud is more useful if a person can automatically press the correct key when hearing the letter. I guess a person could sit and press one key at a time, but reading out loud is less frustrating for me, and saves my hands for playing music that is much more rewarding. Occasionally, I might take one of the read out loud pieces and try to work on it.
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#2058238 - 04/02/13 10:27 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: Maechre]
Mete Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/13
Posts: 45
Loc: Turkey
Originally Posted By: Maechre
Mete, I suggest you have a look at this page. It has a list of thick Big-Note piano books.

http://www.soundfeelings.com/products/music_instruction/sight-reading_books.htm

I used this as a starting point, but also branched out into music I was interested in such as Harry Potter and Disney. I bought "100 Best-Loved Piano Solos", "The Best Songs Ever", and "Fun-To-Play Christmas Songs" and as a result sight-read over 1,000 pages at that level, as well as later reading them again on top of that.

I've just moved myself up to "Level 3: Easy Piano" (which these days I believe means easy to learn, not so easy to sight-read), and today I finished sight-reading "100 Christmas Carols". which was 200 pages long. I'm reading slowly, and there are mistakes, but I know it'll get better with time, just like with the big-note pieces.

Over the next two days I have more easy piano music coming - "The Ultimate Pop Sheet Music Collection" as suggested on the site I linked, as well as a Lord of the Rings book and another Disney book with more recent songs. Overall that's more than 500 pages, and with the abundance of music at the "Easy Piano" level, I'm not too worried of running out of music and losing inspiration. Of course I hope to see some improvement a few books down the track.

Some other Easy Piano books I might get later on are Les Mis, The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean and Wicked, but these books are usually fairly short.

You can try doing it free, but I'm not sure how easy it'll be to find appropriate music or print out so many pages. I've accepted that this will be an expensive pursuit. Good thing I don't have any other expensive hobbies.


Maechre, based on the website you mentioned, I would start at level 1. I may order some of the books, after I run out of sight-reading material at hand. It's good practice to take a peek inside the book from Amazon, so that you know what you get.

Bartok's Mikrokosmos 1 (maybe 2) is going to keep me busy for a while. Thanks a lot!

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#2058253 - 04/02/13 10:59 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 247
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
I agree, I use the look inside feature at Amazon whenever I can!

I have the first Mikrokosmos book. I think the books are too short to gain much sight-reading skill from, but due to their progressive nature, they'd probably be useful for actual learning material.

Best of luck, Mete! If you read through the Mikrokosmos first I think you'll find the level 1 quite comfortable, and you might be able to read ahead sooner. smile
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#2058260 - 04/02/13 11:13 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: Maechre]
Mete Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/13
Posts: 45
Loc: Turkey
Originally Posted By: Maechre
I agree, I use the look inside feature at Amazon whenever I can!

I have the first Mikrokosmos book. I think the books are too short to gain much sight-reading skill from, but due to their progressive nature, they'd probably be useful for actual learning material.

Best of luck, Mete! If you read through the Mikrokosmos first I think you'll find the level 1 quite comfortable, and you might be able to read ahead sooner. smile


First 10 pages of Mikrokosmos 1 is quite simple! Lock your hands and move them only in 5-finger position. No sudden jumps, no eighth notes! Let's see..

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#2058377 - 04/02/13 04:37 PM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
UK Paul UK Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/11
Posts: 396
Loc: Berkshire, England
This thread is perfect timing for me..... i have spent a few minutes every day going through the hannah smith book and tonight started the final section... 450 excercises done so far and progress is defo happening....

As much as i wish all the common advice didnt relate to me.... daily practice over months and years is the way.... its so easy to get discouraged.... and i guess if it was easy we would all be great...


Still, our acheivments are truly something to be proud of... keep up the good work fellow sight reading adventurers! :-)
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#2059037 - 04/04/13 04:35 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Mete, for affordable quality and quality for a beginning sight-reader, check out Hannah Smith's Progressive Sight Reading Exercises as mentioned in the first original post and by UK Paul UK.


Edited by Bobpickle (04/04/13 04:35 AM)

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#2059170 - 04/04/13 09:46 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
Plowboy Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/08
Posts: 2308
Loc: SoCal
I just picked up Oscar Peterson's Jazz Exercises, Minuets, Etudes and Pieces for Piano for sight reading. It's started off very simple, but that's good as it let's me look ahead more.
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#2059179 - 04/04/13 10:02 AM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: Bobpickle]
Mete Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/13
Posts: 45
Loc: Turkey
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
Mete, for affordable quality and quality for a beginning sight-reader, check out Hannah Smith's Progressive Sight Reading Exercises as mentioned in the first original post and by UK Paul UK.


That book and Four Star series has been widely recommended. I'll sure check them out. Right now I'm working on Alfred's Adult Course Book 1 and Mikrokosmos 1 for sight-reading. I'll be busy for a while.

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#2059359 - 04/04/13 03:03 PM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
UK Paul UK Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/11
Posts: 396
Loc: Berkshire, England
I think microcosmos is a step ahead of hannah smith....

There are no dynamics and all excercises are static 5 fi ger works in h.s.... though there are a few mistakes in my view. And the print isnt very clear, however i now have come to the final pages of h.s and think it was the perfect first step.

My learning process is ideal... no talent, just day in, day out practice.

To be fair, i now think what people view as talent is only a tiny bit natural.... mostly dedication and application.
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#2059366 - 04/04/13 03:15 PM Re: Easy Sight Reading Fodder [Re: tangleweeds]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
I agree. Hannah Smith is an ideal start for anyone suffering from the "Augh, I can't sight read at all" syndrome, but if you can (prima vista) sight read stuff beyond the Preparatory Level of a repertoire series, or stuff past Alfred Level 1, Hannah Smith may be a bit too basic for you.
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