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#1887425 - 04/27/12 11:20 AM "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 254
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
I'm not a jazz pianist. The piano lessons in my course are focused on jazz. I want to work on my sight-reading and music reading.

I'm not a great sight-reader, but I'm working on it and it's getting better. I'd love to be a great sight-reader. And if we're going to get into the definitions here, I do also mean to be able to accompany a singer so-so at first sight, but better after reading one or more times before a performance.

My piano teacher in this course thinks I'm going to be doing things that don't involve sight-reading (playing in jazz bands with lead sheets - comping and improvising), but I want to accompany singers with sheet music and play in bands for musicals. I'll work on the jazz stuff, but I want to work on my own stuff too. I want to be able to play classical pieces (and I can, when sight-reading easy pieces slowly). So I'll work on my sight-reading/reading on my own.

But she said to me today: "If you're not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be a good one. It's just how your brain works."

I'm sure that's true in some respects, but can't I improve -- can't I become at least decent, maybe to be able to do the things I want? The brain is malleable. I'm 19 years old. I've got a lot of years behind me, and I've only been playing seriously for about 3 years. But I've also got a lot of years ahead of me.

I won't give up on this, but I'm interested to hear all your thoughts.

Can I become a decent/good/great sight-reader/reader? What about in ten years?
_________________________
I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee

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#1887435 - 04/27/12 11:35 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York City
Just like most things I think it's part natural ability and part practice. Your sight reading will improve as your other piano skills and knowledge of theory improves. The most important thing is to practice your sight reading by playing music you like that is at the appropriate level.

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#1887439 - 04/27/12 11:40 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2790
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Becoming a good sight reader is I believe do-able. It takes substantial practice. That means 10-15 minutes of prima vista sight reading every day. Prima Vista means at first sight, the implication being you've never seen the music before. Obviously to practice sight reading you'll need a lot of music you've never seen before so warm up the printer and get busy on IMSLP.

Your teacher may have a point that being an excellent sight reader may involve a natural ability that only develops at a certain time of life. I honestly don't know. I'm also a suboptimal sight reader and have tried to train my brain with limited success, but I haven't invested the time that I'm suggesting for you because I'd rather write the music than read it. Think about this, people learn to read words, but learning a language does become more difficult with age (>8 - 10 years old), but people can learn a language at any time though older folks will always speak with an accent. So take heart that you can at least beciome a good sight reader with practice, but you may play with an accent.

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#1887441 - 04/27/12 11:42 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: pianoloverus]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19873
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Just like most things I think it's part natural ability and part practice. Your sight reading will improve as your other piano skills and knowledge of theory improves. The most important thing is to practice your sight reading by playing music you like that is at the appropriate level.

+1

Maechre: It depends a lot on experience and practice, and you can get better, even much better. I can't believe that a teacher would have said what she did. It's good that you wondered if it's really so.

BTW, isn't it a whole lot like learning a language??
I think it's almost identical. Some people have better facility with it than others, but basically anybody can learn a language, and will get better and better at it if they keep working on it.
[edit: I see that Steve said the same thing!] thumb


Edited by Mark_C (04/27/12 11:47 AM)

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#1887446 - 04/27/12 11:45 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 254
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Haha, very well put, Steve, and encouraging. I don't need to be amazing -- I think I can settle with playing with an accent, just like I'm happy speaking French with an accent because I'm just over the moon that I can communicate with French speakers in a language not my own.
_________________________
I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee

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#1887449 - 04/27/12 11:49 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 254
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Thanks, Mark, that's also very encouraging. I will definitely keep working on it. My teacher really disappointed me today.
_________________________
I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee

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#1887458 - 04/27/12 11:57 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
ZoeCalgary Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/01/11
Posts: 748
Loc: Calgary Alberta
I believe you can improve your sight reading greatly through pure hard work and daily practice. Get your hands on as much music as possible and do some every day for 5-10 minutes or every practice session if you do more than one per day. Starting out on music that is well below your current ability is not a bad idea as you will quickly discover your limit when you start slowing down dramatically.

I am more than double your age and started daily sight reading exercises in September. I think my sight reading skills have grown drastically by going through the Four Star Sight Reading and Ear Tests series by Boris Berlin and Andrew Markow. And, by going through all the music I have from beginning to intermediate to advanced and reading the music. I did have some experience with treble cleff but bass cleff was really hard for me to the point I had to figure out the notes and write some in. Now though I am able to read bass cleff more readily and when doing easier music for the first time can put hands together and get through it with more ease than even I imagined.

Do your own sight reading, but be diligent about doing it every day. Then you will start to see the difference in makes in your ability. Yes, it may be easier for some than other but I think is something that can be learned and improved upon by anybody.

Good Luck!
_________________________
Preparing Grade 6 RCM.


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#1887460 - 04/27/12 12:04 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: ZoeCalgary]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: ZoeCalgary
I believe you can improve your sight reading greatly through pure hard work and daily practice.
IMO it's much better to practice sight reading by using great music you enjoy playing and NOT think of it as work. I think I'm a very good sight reader for an amateur but haven't "practiced" sight reading for even one minute.


Edited by pianoloverus (04/27/12 12:06 PM)

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#1887462 - 04/27/12 12:06 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 254
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
I've been working on my sight-reading for a year, though not as consistently as I should be, and made it almost all the way through the eight Improve Your Sight-Reading books as well as the Joy of First Classics and Easy Classics to Moderns series. So I'm not bad, I just have a long way to go. I'll see if I can find anything at a good level on IMSLP. It's probably time I learnt how to use it. wink
_________________________
I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee

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#1887466 - 04/27/12 12:09 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Kimsie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/08
Posts: 95
Loc: Arlington, WA
My son's former teacher forces every student to learn to sight read by making them play every piece right from the start with both hands and with the metronome set slow enough so that they can play it in time without more than one or two mistakes per page. She says that there are 3 reasons why you make mistakes while you are doing this. 1. You are trying to play too fast. 2. You are not looking ahead while you play. 3. You are letting your mind wander instead of concentrating on what you are doing. So if you make mistakes, ask yourself which of these three is the reason and make adjustments accordingly.

This trains the brain to sight read. Even later readings besides the first one help to train the brain in the skills for sight reading, so they have to keep playing it that way and gradually speed up the metronome, but never going faster than they can play with an accuracy of no more than one or two mistakes per page. If you have to go ridiculously slowly then you are trying to read pieces that are too difficult. You might need to start with easier pieces than you are used to playing.

This worked great for my son and now sight reading all levels of music is relaxing and fun for him. My guess is that your teacher doesn't know how to teach sight reading.

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#1887467 - 04/27/12 12:09 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: pianoloverus]
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 254
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: ZoeCalgary
I believe you can improve your sight reading greatly through pure hard work and daily practice.
IMO it's much better to practice sight reading by using great music you enjoy playing and NOT think of it as work. I think I'm a very good sight reader for an amateur but haven't "practiced" sight reading for even one minute.

It's a good thing I enjoy sight-reading pretty much anything, then, because I get so much satisfaction from it!
_________________________
I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee

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#1887469 - 04/27/12 12:12 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Kimsie]
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 254
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: Kimsie
This worked great for my son and now sight reading all levels of music is relaxing and fun for him. My guess is that your teacher doesn't know how to teach sight reading.

Thanks, Kimsie. I'd love to find a teacher who can focus on my sight-reading.
_________________________
I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee

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#1887472 - 04/27/12 12:15 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Kimsie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/08
Posts: 95
Loc: Arlington, WA
Even without a teacher, you can follow the instructions I wrote and make a lot of progress on your own.

It would be good to have a better teacher, though.

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#1887482 - 04/27/12 12:28 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Kimsie]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19873
Loc: New York
I'd be hesitant to suggest that someone get a new teacher. There's often much more than meets the eye -- including that in this case, the teacher just happened to have a bad moment, or even that what she said was misunderstood a little. I don't think that Maechre should base the decision very much on this thing about sight reading. If there are other issues too, that's a different story.

Also, you're right that doing what we're suggesting doesn't require any particular kind of teacher -- and BTW I don't think most teachers focus much on how to sight read, or how to practice sight reading. I think usually they just say that sight reading is important and that the way to get better is to just do it, and I think usually it doesn't particularly require more than this from the teacher. Although.... my first teacher (when I was a kid) always had me sight-read something at the end of every lesson, which not only gave me experience at it but also emphasized the importance of it. It was good. smile

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#1887484 - 04/27/12 12:33 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 254
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
That's my thoughts on it. I'd just like some guidance so I know I'm heading in the right direction.

I have this teacher as part of my Advanced Diploma so I may as well stick with it and learn some jazz while I'm at it, but I refuse to let go of the areas I really want to be proficient in. smile
_________________________
I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee

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#1887509 - 04/27/12 01:12 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
nocturne152 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/12
Posts: 447
i wouldn't even worry too much about trying to make yourself better. just keep learning pieces by reading and eventually, just like language, you naturally get better. if you're not that patient, do what these guys say. ^^^
_________________________
"The instrument should be your needle, and the music should be your addiction."

- Oscar Peterson

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#1887510 - 04/27/12 01:12 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Orange Soda King Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/09
Posts: 6084
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky, United S...
Start reading through lots of stuff. Find yourself a big ole' book of Schubert songs, and also find some kind of church hymnal. Also, find Mozart concertos and Haydn sonatas.

Read through, read through, read through, read through!! It takes lots of time.

And don't gauge how quickly you are getting better... Just gauge how much different stuff you're reading through and exploring. smile

I don't know if this is ALL of the solution (I wouldn't think so), but it's definitely a big part of it. smile

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#1887541 - 04/27/12 02:17 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
slava_richter Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/12
Posts: 164
Loc: Providence, RI
I think one of the best things you can do to improve is to learn some harmony. Then you won't have to read the notes individually, you can look at chords and recognize them quickly. Understanding something about the harmonic structure of music will certainly help you in sight-reading.

Think about how long it would take to read a book if you read words one letter at a time, as opposed to just looking at words and recognizing them instantly because you know how they are spelled.

In addition to that, just keep reading music, you'll get better over time, just like when you learned how to read books. I've done all of these things - I used to be a horrible sight reader, now I'm just a bad one smile

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#1887549 - 04/27/12 02:33 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Gorm Laben Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/01/10
Posts: 79
Loc: Wisconsin
Spend 10,000 hours training on it. You'll be as good as anyone can be.
_________________________
--- Estonia L190 #7249 ---
My great-grandfather was an opera singer
My grandfather was a pianist
...
We'll see what my kids do

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#1887560 - 04/27/12 03:00 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
beet31425 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3836
Loc: Bay Area, CA
When I first got interested in "classical" music, at the age of 14, my parents took me to a local high-performance music school, mostly with the intention of playing in chamber groups. When I played for the head of the school, he quickly ascertained that I couldn't sight-read.

Instead of a chamber music group course, I enrolled in private sight-reading lessons with him. He taught me the basic principles. He taught me how to practice sight-reading. I practiced and got a lot better. I think your teacher is wrong. If you know what to focus on, you can get better too.


-Jason
_________________________
Schubert Immersion: Bb Impromptu; C# minor and Ab Moments Musicaux; accompanying four songs (Suleika II, Rastlose Liebe, Du Liebst Mich Nicht, Im Fruhling); listening intensely to Die Schöne Müllerin and Winterreise

Chopin: first Ballade; Mozart: D minor concerto;

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#1887577 - 04/27/12 03:33 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18292
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Maechre
[...]she said to me today: "If you're not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be a good one. It's just how your brain works."

[...]can't I become at least decent, maybe to be able to do the things I want? [...]


Whatever the reality of the situation is for you particularly or for musicians at large, I think it both discouraging and dismissive of a teacher to say that you'll never be a good sight-reader: a poor pedagogical move, in my opinion!

How much more productive it would have been for her to suggest sight-reading methods and skills - if she hasn't already done so - and then encourage you to be the best you can be. Sight-reading is a learned skill and while some may eventually get better at it than others for various reasons, it is nevertheless a skill that can be improved with diligent practice, like any skill.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1887623 - 04/27/12 05:07 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
asthecrowflies Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/11/12
Posts: 122
Loc: London, Cambridge, San Francis...
Perhaps your teacher just put the nuance wrong... With enough practice, anyone can learn to be a good sight-reader, just like anyone should be able to learn decent technique or decent musical expression. However, if you're not a "natural" at it, it will be harder for you than in other areas.

I'm a terrible sight-reader as well, and it's frustrating that it takes me two weeks to play a piece as well as my partner sight-reads it. My technique and expression are superior to his though wink.
_________________________
Currently working on: Bach Partita 4, English Suite 2, Toccata d-minor, Chopin-op 10/1, Schubert Impromptus

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#1887628 - 04/27/12 05:17 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: asthecrowflies]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19873
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: asthecrowflies
....I'm a terrible sight-reader as well, and it's frustrating that it takes me two weeks to play a piece as well as my partner sight-reads it....

I'm a very good sight reader, but even in 200 years I don't play a piece as well as some people sight read it. ha

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#1887634 - 04/27/12 05:31 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
RonaldSteinway Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 1510
Why people here are so obsessed with sight reading ability? From my personal observation over the years, I noticed that, for any reasons, the smarter the person, the better sight reader they are. But, with BIG BUT, it does not mean that the smarter people will eventually be able to play the piece well. They just can read faster. The most important thing is the final products. Who cares about the process.

One more thing I would like to mention, the more you practice sight reading, the better you will be. Therefore, don't get frustrated, and don't compare to other people. People were born with different innate ability.

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#1887640 - 04/27/12 05:41 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: RonaldSteinway]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19873
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
Why people here are so obsessed with sight reading ability?

Because it's very important. grin
It enables us to experience new pieces more easily, and therefore it enables us to experience more pieces. And yeah, other things being equal it enables us to learn pieces faster and more easily too. Also it enables us better to play with other people -- accompanying, chamber music, or just being able to sit down and play something that somebody shows you and says, "Hey, can you try this...."

Quote:
From my personal observation over the years, I noticed that, for any reasons, the smarter the person, the better sight reader they are.

Ronald pal, with all due respect I don't think there's a whole lot to that. Also I'm not sure how you think your personal observation would be capable of detecting such a thing. I mean, among other things, you'd need an accurate way of measuring intelligence, plus a larger sample size than I imagine has been possible. smile

Quote:
.....But, with BIG BUT....

I guess you mean.... ha



Quote:
....the more you practice sight reading, the better you will be. Therefore, don't get frustrated, and don't compare to other people....

Just stick with that, and you're fine. grin


[edit: Howdya like that -- Plover and I even said the same things! Except I think he's above posting big buts.] ha


Edited by Mark_C (04/27/12 05:47 PM)

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#1887642 - 04/27/12 05:43 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: RonaldSteinway]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
Why people here are so obsessed with sight reading ability? From my personal observation over the years, I noticed that, for any reasons, the smarter the person, the better sight reader they are. But, with BIG BUT, it does not mean that the smarter people will eventually be able to play the piece well. They just can read faster. The most important thing is the final products. Who cares about the process.
The better one can sight read, usually the faster one can learn a piece. One has the opportunity to be able to enjoy reading through a larger selection of pieces. Or one can read through chamber music with other musicians. For many professionals, sight reading ability is crucial since they have to learn music quickly or perform on the spot.

I don't really know what you mean by "smarter" in the post I quoted. For example, I don't think intelligence of the type measured by an IQ test has a big correlation with sight reading ability.


Edited by pianoloverus (04/27/12 05:49 PM)

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#1887656 - 04/27/12 06:16 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Batuhan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/09
Posts: 908
Loc: Istanbul
Leave your teacher, I'm serious. If she really said: "If you're not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be a good one. It's just how your brain works." Sorry but this is just bullshit. Never take lesson from her. Also why you study Jazz if you have a great passion for classical music. Hire a classical music teacher or go to courses about classical music. Sight Reading is just about practising. Maybe the piano playing wants some natural talent but Sight Reading not. It is just your teacher's foolishness.
_________________________
Sorry for my English, I know it sucks, but I'm trying to improve.


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#1887659 - 04/27/12 06:19 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: pianoloverus]
Batuhan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/09
Posts: 908
Loc: Istanbul
Quote:
The better one can sight read, usually the faster one can learn a piece.


No if he or she is a good sight reader but technically weak cant learn faster.


Edited by Batuhan (04/27/12 06:19 PM)
_________________________
Sorry for my English, I know it sucks, but I'm trying to improve.


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#1887662 - 04/27/12 06:26 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Batuhan]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19873
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Batuhan
....Sorry but this is just bullshit....

While I wouldn't be so sure that he should leave the teacher, it took restraint for me not to put this as you did.

And likewise the thing about supposed correlation between intelligence and sight reading. ha

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#1887670 - 04/27/12 06:38 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Batuhan]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Batuhan
Quote:
The better one can sight read, usually the faster one can learn a piece.


No if he or she is a good sight reader but technically weak cant learn faster.
Technical ability is directly linked to sight reading ability. One can't be a good sight reader if one has poor technique.

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