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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: 242
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
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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
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Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2720
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 Online   content
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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: 242
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
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Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 242
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
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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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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: 242
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
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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
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Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 242
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
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Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 242
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 Online   content
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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: 242
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: 6070
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
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Registered: 01/10/12
Posts: 160
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
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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
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Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3749
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
_________________________
Beethoven: op.109, 110, 111

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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
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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
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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 Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
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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
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Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 1478
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 Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19708
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
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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
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Registered: 09/21/09
Posts: 875
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.
_________________________
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Published:
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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
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Registered: 09/21/09
Posts: 875
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.

Published:
Waltz Op. 36 No. 1 in G-flat major,
2 Preludes, Op. 12 in D-flat major.

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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 Online   content
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Posts: 19708
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
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Registered: 05/29/01
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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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#1887686 - 04/27/12 07:11 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
gooddog Offline
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Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4791
Loc: Seattle area, WA
I believe you can do (almost) anything well if you have the right tools and the right work ethic.
Edit: and the right teacher


Edited by gooddog (04/28/12 11:36 AM)
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Deborah

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#1887694 - 04/27/12 07:35 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Maechre

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."

The first thing is to ask what lessons are about. Some teachers may think it means to teach you to play certain kinds of music, so it's about the music. Sometimes it can resemble coaching: student plays, and teacher says this is the wrong note, this is too fast, this can be louder. Better: a teacher tells you that you need to know all your chords, know how to count, so you're told what to aim for and then you have something to help you play. Both of these teachers may think that a student "has" abilities that you as a student come in with. Imho, this is wrong. Skills are taught: students get developed. Since there are all kinds of teachers, this won't be happening with all teachers.

Can you imagine a child entering school, teacher plops a book in front of him and says "Oh, you have no natural reading ability." No - reading is taught methodically: alphabet, phonics, spelling, grammar, story writing, rhymes. Does this teacher know how to teach sight reading? Is she giving instructions and guidance to make it happen? (Hopefully something more than "read lots of things every day slightly below your level).

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#1887739 - 04/27/12 08:53 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: pianoloverus]
Orange Soda King Offline
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
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.


I'm not sure about that, because one of my good friends sightreads probably 50 times better than I do (okay, an exaggeration, but he really is a few leaps better than I am), but my technique is a few leaps better than his. This is also true with a few other people I know.

Although, I will agree with Batuhan that I think TECHNIQUE is the most important factor in how quickly you learn a piece (although being a great sight-reader may be close 2nd, or at least 2nd). If your technique is great, you spend less time working out technical difficulties and just learning the music. Poor sight-reading is probably a stumbling block only when first learning the piece of music.

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#1887761 - 04/27/12 09:59 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
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scrolled down. saw an ass.
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#1887762 - 04/27/12 10:00 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Mark_C]
RonaldSteinway Offline
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Originally Posted By: Mark_C

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


Mark,

I used to teach kids ( a lot of kids), I did the preview classes before they even signed up to the class. I observed hundreds of them. I taught everyday (this was during my college years and after my college year too). Imagine 4 hours a day with 8 to 10 kids in a class from Monday to Saturday many years. Therefore, I have enough samples to come up with my conclusion. I believe few people here in the forum had that much exposure to teaching kids. During my teaching years, I need to be able to detect their thinking capability so that I can adjust my speed. One thing that I find interesting is that smart kids always have their eyes on the book while they are playing. They understand what is written in the book, yet slow kids do not see the relation between what they are playing and what written on the book. That is why I said smart people are better sight readers. Sight reading ability pertains to your thinking capacity. It is totally like a computer, the CPU needs to be fast in order to execute complicated tasks. The faster the CPU, the shorter time is needed to finish the job.

Assume two people have the same note reading ability, counting ability, music theory knowledge and technical ability. What differentiate these two people if one can sight read faster than the other? Must be brain capacity.

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#1887764 - 04/27/12 10:04 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
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I think it was not a nice thing to say and teachers should be more encouraging. It is true that we are all better at certain things than others, but this does not mean that we cannot get better or even achieve satisfactory results if we make an effort.
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#1887766 - 04/27/12 10:10 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
RonaldSteinway Offline
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Originally Posted By: Maechre
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?


Your teacher was being honest. If I were the teacher I would not say that. I would find a way to help so that the students reach his or her optimum ability. Everyone's job is to practice to achieve the best he or she can do, and accept the reality.

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#1887776 - 04/27/12 10:35 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
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I am sure your teacher is wrong. The main thing that helped my sight-reading was having to read a hymn for the school chapel service every morning at school. This taught me to quickly recognize the harmonies. especially as I did not play them as written, but with an octave in the left hand, the right hand playing the melody and filling in the chords.

I also accompanied choirs and often had to read various combinations of parts at sight: this helps reading rhythm and counterpoint. It also trains you to keep going, to keep time and not drop any beats, even if you make some mistakes. You can't stop when you are accompanying a choir.

I think you are lucky to be learning jazz and improvisation. When your reading is very fluent, you can get lazy and it is sometimes an effort to play things by ear.

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#1887778 - 04/27/12 10:46 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
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Originally Posted By: Maechre
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 offer myself as proof that her statement is completely absurd. I was hideous as an undergrad. I now learn and perform about a dozen programs every year accompanying faculty and student recitals at the local university. I've also worked as a pianist for choral groups, a regional symphony, and a variety of musical theater groups.

Reading can be learned. It's not easy. Expect to disappoint yourself and others from time to time. Get over it and get back to work.

The most important thing to do? Don't expect to get better at sight-reading with solo literature. Nothing compares to having to accompany another person; you're accountable, you're sharing the musical experience, and you cannot hide.

Other things that are important:

Build technique. If you're tense, reading only makes it worse.
Become FLUENT in theory. Don't just know theory, be fluent in it.
Build a repertoire. Quantity matters. The first violin sonata you play will be very difficult. The 10th violin sonata you play will be much easier. The eight you learn in between is why.
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#1887779 - 04/27/12 10:52 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: RonaldSteinway]
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Ronaldsteinway,
- Did you teach individuals one-on-one, or did you teach students as a class in a group. I suspect the latter.
- If the students that you consider smart had their eyes in the books, can we assume that these were not beginners who had never learned a single thing, but rather students who had had enough prior instruction to know how to read?
- Is it possible that the things you taught depended on reading, so that the kids who advanced quickly (were smart) did so for that reason?
- If you had kids who did not "see the relation between what they were playing and what was written on the book", what strategies did you adopt as a teacher to give them that skill? Or did you assume that the ability displayed was the ability you had to work with, rather than to develop?

In general, teachers at more advanced levels teach the subject, while teachers at the absolute beginner level teach the student (develop the student). If you receive the previously taught students, you are also receiving the product of that teaching, and as an advanced teacher (if you are) you are less likely to take on the task of developing such abilities.

If there is a lack of ability in any area, that will translate into having difficulties. For example, I was self-taught and although I have a good instinct for music, I have major technical handicaps to overcome. I cannot demonstrate what is "in me" because of the tools I do not have. A very concrete example is that I had a clumsy way of playing chords, and for that reason my chords were harsh, uneven in sound, and had poor timing - not because I had no sense of tempo, but because my movements were jerky. In the same way, someone who has not been taught reading (including matching notes on page, music, and the instrument) will appear to be not that smart.

There's a major discussion going on about that in the teacher forum atm.

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#1887788 - 04/27/12 11:17 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: RonaldSteinway]
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Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
I used to teach kids ( a lot of kids), I did the preview classes before they even signed up to the class. I observed hundreds of them.....

But unless I'm missing something, now you're not talking about sight reading, are you?

You're talking about READING. (Right?)
Before, you said you meant it about sight reading.

You think the same things apply?
They don't -- not necessarily. I'm not saying that sight reading has nothing to do with "intelligence," just that they're not related to the extent that you said.

Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
[The] teacher was being honest....

No, the teacher was being wrong. smile

Originally Posted By: Kreisler
I offer myself as proof that her statement is completely absurd....

Love it!

BTW, to say something I said before but a little louder, in fairness I think we have to wonder at least a little whether she didn't quite say (or mean) what was posted. I think it's not impossible that she didn't. (Sorry for the triple negative.) ha
Sometimes if we change a word or two, it can change the meaning a lot.

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#1887793 - 04/27/12 11:30 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: keystring]
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Hi,

Here, let me answer one by one.

1. The discussion below pertains to group lesson for total beginners.

2. I taught them totally from scratch. Therefore, I know that they knew nothing when they joined the class. Even when I taught them clapping base on the value of the notes, I can tell who are smart or not smart. For example a quarter note is one count, and quater rest sign. Then show them how to do it, and show the relationship between clapping and the notes. Smart kids will see the relation, slow kids will just show a blank expression and just copy my hand movements. From just a very simple rhythm, you can tell who will be able to sight read better later.

3. The strategy is to give the slower kids more attention and give extra time after the lesson. But of course, it is impossible to concentrate all the time to help the slower kids. But again, the Yamaha method does not stress on developing the reading ability at young age. It stresses more on developing the hearing ability at young age.






Originally Posted By: keystring
Ronaldsteinway,
- Did you teach individuals one-on-one, or did you teach students as a class in a group. I suspect the latter.
- If the students that you consider smart had their eyes in the books, can we assume that these were not beginners who had never learned a single thing, but rather students who had had enough prior instruction to know how to read?
- Is it possible that the things you taught depended on reading, so that the kids who advanced quickly (were smart) did so for that reason?
- If you had kids who did not "see the relation between what they were playing and what was written on the book", what strategies did you adopt as a teacher to give them that skill? Or did you assume that the ability displayed was the ability you had to work with, rather than to develop?

In general, teachers at more advanced levels teach the subject, while teachers at the absolute beginner level teach the student (develop the student). If you receive the previously taught students, you are also receiving the product of that teaching, and as an advanced teacher (if you are) you are less likely to take on the task of developing such abilities.

If there is a lack of ability in any area, that will translate into having difficulties. For example, I was self-taught and although I have a good instinct for music, I have major technical handicaps to overcome. I cannot demonstrate what is "in me" because of the tools I do not have. A very concrete example is that I had a clumsy way of playing chords, and for that reason my chords were harsh, uneven in sound, and had poor timing - not because I had no sense of tempo, but because my movements were jerky. In the same way, someone who has not been taught reading (including matching notes on page, music, and the instrument) will appear to be not that smart.

There's a major discussion going on about that in the teacher forum atm.

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#1887797 - 04/27/12 11:37 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Mark_C]
RonaldSteinway Offline
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Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
I used to teach kids ( a lot of kids), I did the preview classes before they even signed up to the class. I observed hundreds of them.....

But unless I'm missing something, now you're not talking about sight reading, are you?

You're talking about READING. (Right?)
Before, you said you meant it about sight reading.

You think the same things apply?
They don't -- not necessarily. I'm not saying that sight reading has nothing to do with "intelligence," just that they're not related to the extent that you said.


I used sight reading and sight playing interchangeably . But what I am talking about is sight playing. In order to sight play well, one needs to have the ability to read the note fast, clap the rhythm in their mind fast, find the key to press. All these components need to be put together fast, and intelligent people who have fast thinking brain can do easier than those who are slow. Don't you agree?

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#1887801 - 04/27/12 11:47 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: RonaldSteinway]
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Sorry, you lost me. In that post where you talked about teaching, it seemed you weren't talking about music or reading music at all -- were you? -- but just about reading.

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#1887805 - 04/27/12 11:55 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Mark_C]
RonaldSteinway Offline
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Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Sorry, you lost me. In that post where you talked about teaching, it seemed you weren't talking about music or reading music at all -- were you? -- but just about reading.


When you teach a beginner, you start from teaching reading on a white board. You do not teach a complex notes. Just teach how to read and clap the rhythm written on the white board. Even this simple exercise will give me the idea who will be a good sight reader later. A smart kid will see the relation between what they clap and what written on the white board.

The next step, teach them the notes. For the first day, for example, teach only C, D, E. Smart kids can remember the notes fast. Slow one will not remember for weeks.

The next step, send them to the keyboad. Teach them where C, D, E. Again smart kids can remember this thing fast. Slow kids will not remember until several weeks.

Now combine the three components. Using simple rhythm such as :

Press(one count) -- Rest (one count) -- Press (one count) -- Rest (one count)

Instead of clapping, use the thumb to press C. OK...Smart kids will remember what C looks like, and know where the C is. Slow kids will be totally lost.

By the way, I did not teach this thing in one day. Slow kids will quit if I combine everything in one lesson.

Note : This is a group lesson format (8 to 10 kids in a class)

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#1887806 - 04/27/12 11:56 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: RonaldSteinway]
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I don't think we're communicating -- probably best to leave it at that.

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#1887817 - 04/28/12 01:21 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
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Found this on the collaborative piano blog today smile

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#1887824 - 04/28/12 02:32 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: RonaldSteinway]
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I have seen several ways of teaching reading. None of them resembled what you just described. You have described one single way. If not all students can learn from this way, it does not mean that the students are "stupid" - it means that this way of teaching is not effective for those students. In good teaching, we look at teaching strategies and methods. We don't try to figure out who is stupid and who is smart.

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#1887825 - 04/28/12 02:34 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: keystring]
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Originally Posted By: keystring
I have seen several ways of teaching reading. None of them resembled what you just described. You have described one single way. If not all students can learn from this way, it does not mean that the students are "stupid" - it means that this way of teaching is not effective for those students. In good teaching, we look at teaching strategies and methods. We don't try to figure out who is stupid and who is smart.

IMO the bigger problem is that considerations of reading and sight-reading don't overlap nearly enough for any of that to be relevant.

Including, that many excellent readers have trouble with sight reading.
And while I don't know for sure about this other side of it, I'd bet also that many people who have trouble with reading are excellent sight readers.

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#1887826 - 04/28/12 02:35 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Arghhh]
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Originally Posted By: Arghhh


Found this on the collaborative piano blog today smile



hahahahahahahahahaha
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#1887829 - 04/28/12 02:48 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: pianoloverus]
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
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.


Josef Hofmann was a poor sight-reader. In his heyday, nobody ever questioned his technique. There are great pianists who can play better by ear, and he was one of them.
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#1887837 - 04/28/12 03:31 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: RonaldSteinway]
AZNpiano Offline
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Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
Assume two people have the same note reading ability, counting ability, music theory knowledge and technical ability. What differentiate these two people if one can sight read faster than the other? Must be brain capacity.

Don't forget personality!

Kids who are less self-conscious, who aren't afraid to be wrong and make mistakes, who won't hesitate to try new things, are much better sight readers than those who are overly-cautious perfectionists, unwilling to be wrong in front of others, unwilling to try new things, and thinking "OMG, I can't do this" everytime they sight read.

I've worked with very smart kids who can't sight read to save their lives. They are just SO careful, it slows them down.
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#1887847 - 04/28/12 04:21 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
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Elsewhere on this forum I found a blog about learning to sight read:
http://pianosightreading.blogspot.com/2008/01/background.html

The blog is a good story. It took that blogger about four years of steady work to become really good at sight reading. When he started the blog, he thought one year of two hours a day would be enough to reach the desired level of proficiency. At the end of that one year of hard work, it was not near enough time invested to get to where he wanted to be. I am sure that some others would make it there in one year at two hours a day, because they start with more natural ability.

There is hope. However, if a person identifies with the story of that blogger when he started, it might be a very long road to proficiency.

I believe that some people take to sight reading like ducks to water. Many of them are on the forum. Many are piano teachers. They might get as far as the blogger did in four years, in a few months. Others are more like frightened cats being hurled into a pond when doing sight reading. I believe that like most things related to music, talent helps, as does inclination, training, desire, and time. As an aside, the music director at my church is phenomenal at sight reading, much better than most professional musicians. He isn't so good at composition.

I am terrible at sight reading, probably in the lowest 10% percent of amateur musicians with at least two years on their instrument. I like to try new things, such as learning new instruments or composing new music, so I question that conclusion. I also question the correlation between raw intelligence and sight reading. I am very bright, very book smart, very high IQ.

I have spent some time on the sight reading project (I have over 10 years on another instrument). It gives me a headache. It is painful. It is extremely frustrating. The blogger account shows me what might be needed on my part, four years of one or two hours a day, focused just on sight reading. Again, the average student will do the task better and faster. The gifted, might get as far in a few months.

On the blog, one of the comments is about having an ear for music as being a talent and sight reading as a skill. I strongly disagree with that. There are naturals in both areas, ear and sight reading. Like I said, some students take to the dots and lines like ducks to water. Same with ear training, there is talent, inclination, and training. Anyone that does training in either area will get better, but those with natural ability have a huge head start over those that are average or below average. I believe that goes both for ear training and sight reading. Those that are below average will have a difficult road if their goal is to become a music teacher. They might become professional musicians because of blinding unbelievable talent in other musical areas.
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#1887851 - 04/28/12 04:40 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
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Franz Liszt apparently cracked open Chopin's op.10 right in front of him and sight read through the whole thing perfectly. Chopin later wrote, "I wish I could steal his way of playing my studies."


Edited by lostaccato (04/28/12 04:40 AM)
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#1887872 - 04/28/12 05:57 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Sand Tiger]
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Originally Posted By: Sand Tiger

On the blog, one of the comments is about having an ear for music as being a talent and sight reading as a skill. I strongly disagree with that. There are naturals in both areas, ear and sight reading. Like I said, some students take to the dots and lines like ducks to water. Same with ear training, there is talent, inclination, and training. Anyone that does training in either area will get better, but those with natural ability have a huge head start over those that are average or below average. I believe that goes both for ear training and sight reading. Those that are below average will have a difficult road if their goal is to become a music teacher. They might become professional musicians because of blinding unbelievable talent in other musical areas.


What I think is the one over-arching defining characteristic of good sight-readers is an insatiable curiosity about what those dots and lines sound like, and an insatiable curiosity about what composers have thought was worth putting into dots and lines. There is a kind of wonder involved - it is truly astonishing that someone in the distant past could have put instructions on paper that tell me, a person residing in their distant future, to do certain things with a keyboard, and living music will be the result.

Of course, the music could have been written just yesterday and still be just as amazing - but big temporal differences emphasize how amazing it is. At any rate, the point I am trying to make is that it's as much about really deep-seated interest and attitude that are driving the skill as anything else. And where that stuff comes from...who knows?

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#1887889 - 04/28/12 07:43 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: BDB]
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Originally Posted By: BDB
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
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.


Josef Hofmann was a poor sight-reader. In his heyday, nobody ever questioned his technique. There are great pianists who can play better by ear, and he was one of them.
I think examples like these are the exceptions to a rule that is generally true. Also, "poor" is a relative term. Perhaps Hofmann was poor compared to other great pianists, but I doubt he was poor by more ordinary standards.


Edited by pianoloverus (04/28/12 07:47 AM)

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#1887891 - 04/28/12 07:49 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
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Sight-reading/reading is linked to technique in that you need good enough technique to be able to play what you see. It's not that having good technique will make you a good reader. And your reading skill can be way beyond your technical skill. smile
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#1887913 - 04/28/12 09:25 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: keystring]
RonaldSteinway Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
I have seen several ways of teaching reading. None of them resembled what you just described. You have described one single way. If not all students can learn from this way, it does not mean that the students are "stupid" - it means that this way of teaching is not effective for those students. In good teaching, we look at teaching strategies and methods. We don't try to figure out who is stupid and who is smart.


The process that I described is the normal way how we approach sight playing. We must know how to read the rhythm, notes, and the location of the notes on a keyboard.

We cannot expect a beginner to put together three components at once. You train them one component at the time. Once they know each component well, you can combine two components and then three components. It is the most granular and practical approach.

How other methods that you have learned? Care to share?

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#1887917 - 04/28/12 09:32 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
RonaldSteinway Offline
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Originally Posted By: Maechre
Sight-reading/reading is linked to technique in that you need good enough technique to be able to play what you see. It's not that having good technique will make you a good reader. And your reading skill can be way beyond your technical skill. smile


Good technique is the third components of what I was talking about. Once you know the rhythm and the note, your fingers should be able to execute the rhythmical info and note info on the keyboard. If you have good technique, you will be able to convey the two info flawlessly so that you will be considered as a good sight playing.

Having good technique alone without the ability to read the rhythm and notes well will be fruitless.

The technique can be trained without too much brain power. You keep practicing the technique, and you will improve. However, the rhythm and notes reading ability is limited by your brain speed. If one's brain is fast, one can process the information faster. That is why intelligent people are usually a better sight player (assuming he has the technique). Again the three components determine how good your sight playing ability.

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#1887919 - 04/28/12 09:44 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Kimsie]
Copake Offline
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I have been playing the piano for six decades and I am still terrible at sightreading. While it's true that I have never made a deliberate effort to improve I sometimes wonder if there is some fundamental lack of ability involved.

What leads to me to believe this is that even when learning a new piece I make lots of mistakes. A week into the piece and I am still making the same mistakes over and over again (as well some others). Could it be a basic lack of eye-hand coordination? I was always terrible at sports and, when you think about it, being good at sports really involves responding instantly to visual cues with the appropriate physical response.

I found Kimsie's remarks interesting:

Originally Posted By: Kimsie
My son's former teacher . . . 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.


Yes, I probably try to sightread at a tempo that is too fast. Yes, I know I am not looking ahead but who has time to do that when you are struggling with the notes at hand? Yes, I probably do not force myself to concentrate as much as I need to.

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#1887962 - 04/28/12 11:27 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: RonaldSteinway]
Maechre Offline
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Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted By: keystring
I have seen several ways of teaching reading. None of them resembled what you just described. You have described one single way. If not all students can learn from this way, it does not mean that the students are "stupid" - it means that this way of teaching is not effective for those students. In good teaching, we look at teaching strategies and methods. We don't try to figure out who is stupid and who is smart.


The process that I described is the normal way how we approach sight playing. We must know how to read the rhythm, notes, and the location of the notes on a keyboard.

We cannot expect a beginner to put together three components at once. You train them one component at the time. Once they know each component well, you can combine two components and then three components. It is the most granular and practical approach.

How other methods that you have learned? Care to share?

This makes me think . . . maybe I'd be better if my keyboard orientation were better so I could keep my eyes on the music more.
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#1887982 - 04/28/12 12:42 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
1RC Offline
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I've been working on it a lot recently, just under the assumption that it can be improved. The alternative is to give up and never know, but I'm glad to read stories like Kreisler's to confirm it!

My reading was so abysmal, it's merely bad now. The method I cooked up was to read through things very slowly, then figure out what areas were tripping me up, why they tripped me up and I worked it over until I felt comfortable. Often it's a lapse of attention, often I realize I'm not reading ahead, sometimes I've simply misread it, my hands have found their way to the wrong notes or I used a wonky fingering.

Bit by bit I think this gave me some basic accuracy and flow as things tripped me up less. It's comfortable for the over-careful personality type, as I can build my confidence gradually. Then in actual accompanying situations I get my practice at just making the music happen in real time despite mistakes, heh. I'm seeing improvement, however gradual, so it's my hope that over time I will actually become good at it.

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#1887983 - 04/28/12 12:47 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
1RC Offline
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Originally Posted By: Maechre
This makes me think . . . maybe I'd be better if my keyboard orientation were better so I could keep my eyes on the music more.


The less you have to look at your hands the better. Sometimes I have to slow it right down but to me it feels as if I'm mentally picturing the notes before playing it, maybe even taking a moment to feel and confirm, and then the hands become accustomed to how it feels.

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#1887984 - 04/28/12 12:49 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
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Awesome.
Good luck 1RC. I think I'm very much in the same boat as you, except I've been working on it for over a year now (not quite daily - I've missed weeks here and there).
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#1887988 - 04/28/12 01:00 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
daviel Offline
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I retired from my day gig January 1st, and part of my new gig is to practice at least an hour a day - a "rule of life" like monks and nuns have - I usually get more than the hour in. One of the things I am working on is sight reading. My sight reading ability has been like Marian McPhartland's, slow and painful. I want to get good at it. I probably do some every day, usually at the beginning of the hour. Daily sight reading practice is a gas. I'll go 15 to 30 min. I enjoy it and the practice works - I am improving. I am sight reading some Chopin today. Love those chord changes he just drops in. I don't worry about looking at my hands - I do not look at them very much anyway. It's enough to concentrate on the notation.


Edited by daviel (04/28/12 01:03 PM)
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#1887990 - 04/28/12 01:05 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Redhead1 Offline
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I haven't read the other replies here yet, but that's crap.

I was fired from an accompanying job when I was 19. The director told me once that I "as the worst sight-reader in the world." When he let me go, he said he really liked me, but just didn't think my brain worked that way.

I specifically asked, "Is it a skill I can improve?"

His answer: "Well, that's what I had hoped, but I would think if that was possible, you would have improved by now."

Decades later: I just played for two musicals this year, Godspell and RENT. I don't think Stephen Schwartz is considered the easiest to read. The score to RENT was over 300 pages. I knew nothing about the musical until about 6-7 weeks before the performance. The MD said I was her first choice for any future musicals.

I have played for school choral festivals where the judges say during the clinics, "Your accompanist is wonderful. You are lucky to have her."

So I think I must have improved.

You work at something, you learn the skill, you get better. Good luck!

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#1887994 - 04/28/12 01:15 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
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Thanks Redhead, I'm really glad for you! That gives me hope!
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#1888016 - 04/28/12 02:12 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
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Originally Posted By: Maechre
Sight-reading/reading is linked to technique in that you need good enough technique to be able to play what you see. It's not that having good technique will make you a good reader. And your reading skill can be way beyond your technical skill. smile

Yes.
I don't see that there's more than a small relation between these things either. Our technique limits how well we can execute what we see, but.....I mean, except for what lostaccato said about Liszt, we're not much talking about sight reading things like Feux Follets or Chopin's virtuoso etudes, are we....
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#1888075 - 04/28/12 05:52 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Orange Soda King Offline
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Just keep reading through more and more and more music!!! That's not the only solution, but it SURE helps a ton!!

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#1888101 - 04/28/12 06:42 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: RonaldSteinway]
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Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted By: keystring
I have seen several ways of teaching reading. None of them resembled what you just described. You have described one single way. If not all students can learn from this way, it does not mean that the students are "stupid" - it means that this way of teaching is not effective for those students. In good teaching, we look at teaching strategies and methods. We don't try to figure out who is stupid and who is smart.


The process that I described is the normal way how we approach sight playing. We must know how to read the rhythm, notes, and the location of the notes on a keyboard.


Yes, we must be able to read rhythm, notes, and this must include the keyboard. But you described something specific:
- read notes on a white board (means what? naming them? as notation? saying them out loud?)
- teach the notes, what is C,D,E (how did they read the notes in the first part without knowing what is C,D,E? Or do you mean, on the keyboard)
- send them to the keyboard.

Going from a whiteboard to the piano is NOT how we process music. Musicians don't go from whiteboard to piano. smile It is one particular way of teaching.

Quote:

How other methods that you have learned? Care to share?
There is quite a discussion on the teacher forum on the subject presently, and a lot of different approaches have been described in the past. Rather than summarizing them it's easier to just go to the teacher forum discussion on teaching reading.

The main point is this: You used a very specific approach. It was visual oriented and abstract. Someone who is audial or tactile would do less well with this. On the other hand, if you used a tactile or audial or imaginative approach that would work with other students, you might lose your visual ones who do well with your approach. It is wrong to make a diagnosis of students based on what you see from one given approach. The only thing it tells you is that this student doesn't do well with that approach.

Additionally, I have tutored children who were deemed to be "stupid" or slow. Some were very intelligent, in fact. Their way of learning did not match the way things were taught. That is why I am cautious about quick prognoses. It is also unhealthy for someone to believe himself incapable after being told that, because this belief makes him incapable.

Addendum: There are ten pages and counting on ways of teaching reading, with a new detailed one posted today, here:
strategies & problems in teaching reading (teacher forum)


Edited by keystring (04/28/12 09:17 PM)

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#1888143 - 04/28/12 10:38 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: keystring]
RonaldSteinway Offline
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When you teach 8 to 10 kids, you need to pull them infront of the white board first to teach them to learn how to read notes. They will be taught that the note on the first line is E, the note in the first space is F, etc.

After they know this, we go to the keyboard and show them where all those notes.
Then we do some exercise, for example, I will tell them to press individual note such C, or E, or whatever. Then a combination of several notes.

As per our topic sight playing, we are using visual ability. However, we also use audio to help people who are not strong visually.

For your info, little kids do not think like grown up. If you show them on the white board E is on the first line, they will just accept. I had dealt with hundreds of kids and no kids ever asked me why you call that note E? NONE. They just accept what we tell them.

The method that I was telling you is Yamaha Music foundation method. It is NOT my method. I bet Yamaha music education people had done a lot of research on this subject, and in general works for normal kids. Of course, there are kids who are just slow and cannot be taught this way. I had used this for years, and I can attest that it works with most of my students too. In a group lesson format, we cannot adjust to one or two kids who are not capable of learning the normal way, otherwise, the normal kids will quit, because they cannot stand waiting for slow kids to catch up.



Originally Posted By: keystring

Yes, we must be able to read rhythm, notes, and this must include the keyboard. But you described something specific:
- read notes on a white board (means what? naming them? as notation? saying them out loud?)
- teach the notes, what is C,D,E (how did they read the notes in the first part without knowing what is C,D,E? Or do you mean, on the keyboard)
- send them to the keyboard.

Going from a whiteboard to the piano is NOT how we process music. Musicians don't go from whiteboard to piano. smile It is one particular way of teaching.


There is quite a discussion on the teacher forum on the subject presently, and a lot of different approaches have been described in the past. Rather than summarizing them it's easier to just go to the teacher forum discussion on teaching reading.

The main point is this: You used a very specific approach. It was visual oriented and abstract. Someone who is audial or tactile would do less well with this. On the other hand, if you used a tactile or audial or imaginative approach that would work with other students, you might lose your visual ones who do well with your approach. It is wrong to make a diagnosis of students based on what you see from one given approach. The only thing it tells you is that this student doesn't do well with that approach.

Additionally, I have tutored children who were deemed to be "stupid" or slow. Some were very intelligent, in fact. Their way of learning did not match the way things were taught. That is why I am cautious about quick prognoses. It is also unhealthy for someone to believe himself incapable after being told that, because this belief makes him incapable.

Addendum: There are ten pages and counting on ways of teaching reading, with a new detailed one posted today, here:

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#1888146 - 04/28/12 11:03 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Copake]
Sand Tiger Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Copake
I have been playing the piano for six decades and I am still terrible at sightreading. While it's true that I have never made a deliberate effort to improve I sometimes wonder if there is some fundamental lack of ability involved.

...


Yes there is. Some seem to have a hard time with this, because so many on a piano forum are going to be in the average or gifted groups. Very few poor natural sight readers have any chance at becoming piano teachers. Some on the forum seem to assume that poor sight readers are either lazy or stupid. I see those comments as a big load of baloney. Many struggling sight readers may drop piano, because of the pain involved in the task, and the nature of most piano lessons.

There is hope for those that struggle at sight reading and want to make a considerable effort. It may take five times as long for those that struggle as compared to an average student, but most can likely get to a decent level, if they want to put in the extra work and get extra help.

It is funny to me, that so many seem to readily accept that there are those with naturally good ears (and average ones, and poor ones), but so many struggle with the idea that there are naturally good sight readers (and average ones, and poor ones). Hopefully, this thread can dispel some of the notions about stupidity or laziness being the primary reasons someone is bad at sight reading. It may be true in some cases, but not in all.

Some brains process language better than others. Some process music better than others. Some brains process dots and lines better than others. Those that are average can learn it with effort. Those that struggle with it, can get better, though it may take them five times as long as an average music student. Just as those that have gifted natural ears have a huge advantage, those whose brains take to the dots have a huge natural advantage. I believe many in this gifted group go on to become piano teachers.
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#1888206 - 04/29/12 02:41 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
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Considering I've been working on it for over a year and can only sight-read about grade 3 abrsm level material, I might be one of those who struggle with it. But I'm absolutely willing to put in the hard work if it will give me the results I want.
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#1888209 - 04/29/12 03:51 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: RonaldSteinway]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway

That is why I said smart people are better sight readers. Sight reading ability pertains to your thinking capacity. It is totally like a computer, the CPU needs to be fast in order to execute complicated tasks. The faster the CPU, the shorter time is needed to finish the job.

I'm a very fast sight-reader. Many people have told me that I sight-read as fast or faster than anyone they have ever worked with. I was fast at it from an early age. I got my first accompanying job at age 15 (vocal accompanist), and that job was based on lightning-fast reflexes plus that ability to follow.

Therefore I am smarter than anyone else who does not sight-read as well as I do. That would include some famous concert pianists, by the way, because no matter how well they eventually play things, if they have to depend more on memory, they aren't as smart as I am.

Smaller CPUs.

Oh, I should mention a few people who obviously are little more than functioning idiots. Dave Brubeck. Hmm. He almost didn't get his degree because he could not read.

Who else? I'm pretty sure Steven Allen only read lead-sheets. He probably knew chord symbols. So I'm smarter than him. Obviously he had a small CPU.

Who else? I have always heard the Joseph Hoffman did not read well. Obviously not as intelligent as me, right? Probably had a drinking problem because he was depressed about not being too smart.

But hey, why stop at the subject of sight-reading? How about reading, in general? Stephan King has mentioned more than once that he is not a fast reader. He's probably pretty dumb too.

And dyslexics? Well, they are the stupidest people on the planet, most likely, since they will often have huge problems reading both music and language.

Wow, I love this topic. I can feel better and better about myself with each sentence I type. It's an honor to know you, Ronald.

Now, please sing along please:

"Oh Lord it's hard to be humble
when you're perfect in every way.
I can't wait to look in the mirror
cause I get better loking each day."

But wait! Mac Davis was a musician. Maybe he was stupid too. Can someone tell me how well he sight-read?


Edited by Gary D. (04/29/12 03:55 AM)
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#1888232 - 04/29/12 07:08 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
EJR Offline
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Originally Posted By: Maechre
Considering I've been working on it for over a year and can only sight-read about grade 3 abrsm level material, I might be one of those who struggle with it. But I'm absolutely willing to put in the hard work if it will give me the results I want.


Maechre,

Sounds to me like your doing just great! Keep working away at it and I'm sure you'll be sight reading even more complex material relatively soon. Just make sure you keep plugging away daily.

As far as the comments from this teacher, ignore them, grow a tough hide and don't listen to them or take the negativity to heart (a life lesson if ever!). Do keep working your way through a couple of pieces daily.

"Grade 3 ABRSM", this seems to indicate that you are doing the right thing in trying to sight-read pieces at sensible level (i.e. a level that you can sight-read). An extension to this is to also study a piece a grade above for 1-week and 2 grades above for a month or thereabouts (grades 4 and 5 in your case). This approach is described elsewhere on the forum (search or google for the "Diagnostic Prescriptive Sight Reading Program" by Dr Dianne Hardy).

One thing suggested in this schema is to run a test every 4 months or so and play through some graded pieces or sight-reading materials and monitor the point where you aren't able to play "fluently". If the "fluency" level grade has increased, then the grades of the weekly and monthly pieces get cranked up as well. In your case that would be sight-reading Grade 4, 1-week on a Grade 5 piece and 1-month on a Grade 6.

The other thing I've found useful is to vary the amount of pre-study of the score/piece from a quick glance through (30 seconds), to several minutes for some and a 20 minute root and branch analysis for others (and particular just after cranking all the levels up).

Finally, I've found it useful is to keep a list (spreadsheet) of all the pieces I've sight-read. It's fun to be able to look back at the entries from 6 or 12 months ago and see the progress being made.


Edited by EJR (04/29/12 07:17 AM)
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#1888238 - 04/29/12 07:27 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: EJR]
Maechre Offline
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Thanks, EJR, that makes me feel much better! smile
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#1888244 - 04/29/12 07:38 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Dave Horne Offline
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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."

Is it still illegal to shoot bad teachers?

With a good teacher or mentor to guide you and with a determined will, you can do just about anything. When I started out I couldn't read very well, now I can. There are no short cuts though. One approach, and this is the approach I use, is to play anything new at the fastest (translates to a very slow) tempo that I can play without making any mistakes. In time the entire process gets faster, but it won't happen over night.
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#1888245 - 04/29/12 07:39 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
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I think the first part of what your teacher said was fine. It is the second part I don't like. Sight-reading may not come natural to you, but you are still improving and actually making good progress, and if you keep making an effort and improving you WILL be good one day...
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#1888372 - 04/29/12 01:05 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Maechre
Considering I've been working on it for over a year and can only sight-read about grade 3 abrsm level material, I might be one of those who struggle with it. But I'm absolutely willing to put in the hard work if it will give me the results I want.

Somebody in this thread described how he started isolating his weaknesses and working on them rather than just trying to practice sight reading by reading lots of things every day. That's sort of along the line of my thinking - the skills that go into sight reading.

First off, we have three abilities: being able to play by ear, being able to memorize, and being able to read off the page. If a student starts with a good teacher from scratch, he will make sure that both sides get developed. Otherwise if you have a good ear and can memorize easily, you'll get at the music that way. Since you don't need to read music to play it, you won't practice it and that skill simply won't develop. Then when you get to hard music which does require reading, that skill isn't there. Plus your ear & memory habit will want to kick in because it's so handy. In this scenario you display "not being a natural sight reader" but the truth is that you never learned it. A teacher who does not systematically develop this, will have lots of students falling into one or the other camp so that's his reality.

Reading itself has different components, and if you are missing any of them then they will slow you down. If you are advanced musically and have a strong musical instinct, you may keep missing what it is you don't have because what you can do masks it:
- recognizing notes in the score. If you glance at music, can you stare at a particular note and know instantly "D".
- associating the note on the score with a piano key. knowing that all these piano keys between two black notes are D.
- knowing your chords - major/minor/seven etc. - also being able to recognize them on the page, esp. in closed position
- some knowledge of theory. Key signature. Say Eb major. When you see a chord that looks like a snowman on the E,G, and B lines, that you will automatically know that this will always be EbGBb. You have that in your knowledge as you read. You also have it in your fingers as a pianist. You mesh the two.

for starters

I had a weird way of reading because I was self-taught. I went through this a few years ago and am still patching holes. I would take one thing like "Can I actually recognize any note on the page and associate it with a piano key?" (I couldn't) and then spent 5 or 10 minutes every day just on that. I looked at what beginners are taught and started building from the bottom up.

If your teacher doesn't know how to build sight reading ability and thinks it's just a talent that you do or don't have, then you need to build it yourself (or find a teacher who gives you this). Do not believe that abilities are inborn things that either you have or you don't have and that you can't do anything about. People may be strong in one or the other thing, but there is always learning involved.

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#1888437 - 04/29/12 03:03 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Dave Horne]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
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."

Is it still illegal to shoot bad teachers?

LOL!
Quote:

With a good teacher or mentor to guide you and with a determined will, you can do just about anything. When I started out I couldn't read very well, now I can. There are no short cuts though. One approach, and this is the approach I use, is to play anything new at the fastest (translates to a very slow) tempo that I can play without making any mistakes. In time the entire process gets faster, but it won't happen over night.

That sounds like a good approach, but you also might want to divide your "reading material" into two groups:

1) Things you may want to play later, even for the rest of your life.
2) Things that you know you will not return to when you are more advanced.

The things in catetgory "2" you can be a bit looser with. And "without any mistakes"? Do you mean by that not to miss one single key? Or absolutely nail the rhythm (correct counting)? Or not forgetting to hold any tie, having a finiished fingering in place? And so on?

When I sight-read something, which I have done now for 55 years, I go for the general idea. I allow myself to miss minor details, just to get a general feeling for what I'm checking out. I make a mental note of where I run into problems, sort of "mentally circling" tricky parts.

I do a lot of such sight-reading for students who are likely to throw anything my way. One minute it is some oddball video tune posted on the Net, something I've never heard, with standard Weird-Net-Notation. The next moment it will be a Billy Joel or Elton John songbook. Then I'll get some collection of "classical to modern" pieces, and I'll want to play through this or that in it because I have not seen/heard it before.

I almost ALWAYS make mistakes somewhere. Usually they are very small, and usually my students don't catch them, though now and then a talented one will. If I run into something that throws me, I may say "Ooops" and repeat a measure or so before going on. But I also tell students what little things were slightly tricky, and I will take a moment or two to work them out, right on the spot, as a demo as to how to being working ASAP on trouble spots.

By the way, just to make sure my sarcasm from last night was not misunderstood, I don't think for a moment that we ever know, from where somene is NOW, where that person will get to LATER. Some people are lucky about stumbling onto ways of sight-reading very early that work, but most are not. Most of the good sight-readers I know say that they were only "so-so" at one time, if not downright slow, but they figured out ways to improve later.

And with the amount of horrendous teaching that is all around us at any moment, I think it's often a miracle that any of eventually experience great success in SPITE of these poor teachers.
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#1888467 - 04/29/12 04:21 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Gary D.]
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
....Therefore I am smarter than anyone else who does not sight-read as well as I do. That would include some famous concert pianists, by the way, because no matter how well they eventually play things, if they have to depend more on memory, they aren't as smart as I am.

Smaller CPUs.

Oh, I should mention a few people who obviously are little more than functioning idiots. Dave Brubeck. Hmm. He almost didn't get his degree because he could not read.

Who else? I'm pretty sure Steven Allen only read lead-sheets. He probably knew chord symbols. So I'm smarter than him. Obviously he had a small CPU.

Who else? I have always heard the Joseph Hoffman did not read well. Obviously not as intelligent as me, right? Probably had a drinking problem because he was depressed about not being too smart.

But hey, why stop at the subject of sight-reading? How about reading, in general? Stephan King has mentioned more than once that he is not a fast reader. He's probably pretty dumb too.

And dyslexics? Well, they are the stupidest people on the planet, most likely, since they will often have huge problems reading both music and language.

Wow, I love this topic. I can feel better and better about myself with each sentence I type. It's an honor to know you, Ronald.....

ha Love it!! ha

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#1888471 - 04/29/12 04:28 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
TylerNB Offline
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If 200 people in a highschool band can sightread, then you can learn how to sightread. It is like reading a book. You may stumble at the words when you first start but as you read more you will adapt and be able to read through sentences(in this case passages), quickly without much thought put into it.
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#1888643 - 04/30/12 12:20 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
RonaldSteinway Offline
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Gary D,

You and I know that people around you who play piano well are intelligent people. Those people who play piano well do not struggle with sight playing, otherwise, they would have given up to learn all of the difficult pieces. So don't just talk for the purpose of arguing.

In amateur piano competitions, most of the people who compete have degrees, many even have doctorate degree. So far in my life, I have not encountered anybody who is not smart can piano well. NONE! I do not know about you, or other people here in this forum. How many amateur piano competition finalists who are MDs or PhDs? A LOT! It shows strong correlation between brain power (CPU) and piano playing (including sight playing).

By the way, all of your examples do not pertain to sight playing ability. You just put garbage. Reading words and reading note is different. Reading word does not involve the duration (how long to press), and do not have location information (where to press). It is appear that you do not understand the process of sight playing. If you did, you would not utter those impertinent examples.

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#1888674 - 04/30/12 02:19 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
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Ronald, you asked for other methods of teaching, and I gave you the link. Have you studied the examples yet?

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#1895343 - 05/11/12 12:08 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
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I found this "levels" guide. What do you guys think of this approach?

Sight-Reading Levels

I only intend to use the levels as a guide, and to move up when I feel ready. I'm not interested in the other areas at this point, unless it would definitely speed up my improvement i.e. by reading single line right hand and left hand pieces.
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#1897585 - 05/15/12 08:46 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
HorseMom Offline
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What nonsense. You can train yourself to sight-read well as long as you don't have any problems with your vision. At the university, my piano professor was HUGE on emphasizing learning to sight-read. Not because any of us had the slightest interest in jazz, either - it's because as a pianist although your cup of tea may be solo memorized performing, your bread and butter will be accompanying. You have to sight read. And you CAN learn. Best start is to go to your nearest church and steal a hymnal (a.k.a. 3 and 4 part chorales). Look at the first hymn. STUDY it. Key, time signature. Will there be any tricky rythms? Work those out in your head before you approach the piano. Any accidentals that will sneak up on you? Note them. Think about your hand positions and fingerings. "Air play" through it a couple of times (still away from the piano). Then finally.....Sit down with the metronome PAINFULLY slow and read through one hymn. Once, and once ONLY. Then if you were able to do that flawlessly, nudge the ticker up a little and try the next one. Find the tempo at which you no longer can reliably keep the tempo (most important part for accompanying) and then every single day read through two or three hymns at that tempo. Once it becomes pretty easy for you, nudge it up. What you may never do is revisit one! Otherwise it isn't sight reading. After you have exhausted the hymnal, go buy a book of 4-part chorales and use those. Eventually as you improve (be patient, it's a slow process) you can move on to more complicated pieces. There will always be some people who are better at it than others but you can teach yourself to be amazingly proficient, just like you learned to read words and sentences competently and 'up to tempo.'
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#1897886 - 05/16/12 09:57 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
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Thanks, HorseMom. I think I'll use this tempo idea, but instead apply it to the books I have in the style I'm playing (film/popular). As TromboneAl discovered, you get better at reading/playing the style you read/play in. smile
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#1897910 - 05/16/12 11:03 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: HorseMom]
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Originally Posted By: HorseMom
Look at the first hymn. STUDY it. Key, time signature. Will there be any tricky rythms? Work those out in your head before you approach the piano. Any accidentals that will sneak up on you? Note them. Think about your hand positions and fingerings. "Air play" through it a couple of times (still away from the piano). Then finally.....Sit down with the metronome PAINFULLY slow and read through one hymn. Once, and once ONLY.
Having done all that stuff before IMO disqualifies what's done after as sight reading. And it's not at all how most good sight readers do things. Nor is it necessary, or desirable, I think, to play things painfully slowly, with complete accuracy, or only once.


Edited by pianoloverus (05/16/12 11:06 AM)

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#1898192 - 05/16/12 06:26 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
apple* Offline


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i totally disagree with your teacher. It's taken me 45 years to be a good sightreader, and every single year was important. There are so many things to think about and know.
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#1898391 - 05/17/12 12:42 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
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Thanks for your input, pianoloverus. I'll take that into account.

apple*: Good thing I've made a start. smile
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#1898475 - 05/17/12 07:32 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: nocturne152]
apple* Offline


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Originally Posted By: lostaccato
Franz Liszt apparently cracked open Chopin's op.10 right in front of him and sight read through the whole thing perfectly. Chopin later wrote, "I wish I could steal his way of playing my studies."


I can imagine Chopin's awe at Lizst's strength and finesse. on the other hand I imagine Chopin taught Liszt a lot about playing.
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#1898621 - 05/17/12 12:07 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
HorseMom Offline
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Well, pianoloverus, I guess you must know better than my conservatory professors. Moreover, you are wrong - nobody sight reads without looking over the piece first when it is handed to them. This is what I described, if you will look at what I actually suggested. Doing it (looking over it and thinking through it before playing) systematically and competently is the key, rather than just leaping into it without taking a look.


Edited by HorseMom (05/17/12 12:09 PM)
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#1898656 - 05/17/12 01:15 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
ChopinAddict Offline
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I don't know... Rereading what your teacher said, it sounds to me like your teacher is too lazy to help you. A teacher should help exactly where one is weak, and your teacher tells you "you will never be good"? I would fire her if I were you... smile
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#1898678 - 05/17/12 02:09 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: HorseMom]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: HorseMom
Well, pianoloverus, I guess you must know better than my conservatory professors. Moreover, you are wrong - nobody sight reads without looking over the piece first when it is handed to them. This is what I described, if you will look at what I actually suggested. Doing it (looking over it and thinking through it before playing) systematically and competently is the key, rather than just leaping into it without taking a look.
Maybe "look over" for 10 seconds.

What you described might apply to complete beginners(except for the part about air playing and hand position and fingering). Experienced playing wouldn't even consciously check the key signature for more than one second. If you think, as you suggested, you should air play the piece a few times, check the fingering, and think about hand positions before beginning to sight read a piece I cannot fathom you are in a conservatory.

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#1898693 - 05/17/12 02:37 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
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ChopinAddict: I'd fire her if I could in favour of someone more suited to my style and what I want to achieve. However, she's packaged in with the Advanced Diploma I'm doing. All I can do is take what I can from all the jazz I'm learning, and if anything, playing from lead sheets will be one more thing I can take away from it. At least I can play some of my video game music and popular music in my recital. smile

Pianoloverus: You're right. As a beginner, one has to spend more time looking over a piece before starting - 15 to 30 seconds. Maybe more sometimes. The advanced sight-reader sees and understands everything in a few seconds while it might take the beginner 30 seconds to understand it all.

I know I speak like I know things despite being about mid-to-late beginner with sight-reading, but with so many hours in a day, a mild case of insomnia and a huge desire to be good, I've read A LOT about the topic. I've even read a few studies.
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#1898729 - 05/17/12 03:31 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Eglantine Offline

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I came back to the keyboard last July after an absence of some 35 years. In July I was completely unable to read bass clef, and treble was pretty ropey. I can now tackle fairly confidently non-simple pieces (say ABRSM grade 4-5, to give an idea of level), with the first play-through being quite reasonable. I would say the improvement has been major.

I'm doing various things, not just reading pieces when I'm learning, or playing sight-reading pieces. I'm also reading scores as others play the pieces (two hours a week), reading and interpreting figured bass, reading lots and lots - and trying pieces out - when I'm choosing my next piece, following scores for some pieces on CD or Youtube, wading through material on IMSLP.... So I must be looking at scores at least 10 hours a week, and reading new stuff and/or trying to play it around 3-4 hours a week.

The big change I have noticed: no longer decoding individual notes in each hand, but rather seeing groups of notes, sequences, chords, in both hands. The bigger picture. And that's what we do when we, for example, learn to read in our own language, or another language. Bigger and bigger units. That allows you to speed up.



Others have said it's like learning a language, and I'd completely agree. Anyone can do it, but you do need to work at it consistently, and perhaps harder than some other people if it doesn't come easily to you.
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#1898735 - 05/17/12 03:43 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
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That's great, Eglantine! Good work!

I've read that in order for the brain to go through the right processes to develop a skill like sight-reading, it's better to do 3 shortish pieces (of a few pages) than to sit down and play through a whole book (which could overload your mind and actually be detrimental).

I've tried doing one page a day, and two pages a day. And four. Now I'm doing three pieces each session from three different books at the same level, and I usually do one or two sessions a day.

Everyone's different, but in your experience, do you have an idea which is more effective? A smaller number of pages each day, or bigger?
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#1898744 - 05/17/12 03:59 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
DottedNotes Offline
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The best thing is that you want to get better. As a blind pianist, I was often "exempted" from sight-reading requirements. Thought this was cool as a kid--I was lazy!--but now realize that, if approached differently, blind people can do something equivalent. The Associated Board, as part of their exams, administers "Braille/aural memory tests". Since I read Braille, I'm given a piece to read and memorize as best I can in a set time limit. I have taught many blind students not to freak out when handed new music--and will find out soon how my own most recent Braille memory test (ABRSM Grade 7) went.

My advice is read a lot; play a lot; challenge yourself. A teacher is only a guide. But teachers, no matter how good, can't practice for their students. Good luck!

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#1898745 - 05/17/12 04:00 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: Maechre


I've read that in order for the brain to go through the right processes to develop a skill like sight-reading, it's better to do 3 shortish pieces (of a few pages) than to sit down and play through a whole book (which could overload your mind and actually be detrimental).

I've tried doing one page a day, and two pages a day. And four. Now I'm doing three pieces each session from three different books at the same level, and I usually do one or two sessions a day.

Everyone's different, but in your experience, do you have an idea which is more effective? A smaller number of pages each day, or bigger?
Bigger number.

But I think more important than any of the possibilities you listed is to find music you enjoy sight reading. IMO most of the best sight readers never even "practiced/worked on" their sight reading. They just went through a lot of music they enjoyed.

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#1898768 - 05/17/12 04:53 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: pianoloverus]
argerichfan Offline
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
IMO most of the best sight readers never even "practiced/worked on" their sight reading. They just went through a lot of music they enjoyed.

Which I would think was 'practiced/worked on'. I think I am a great sight reader, and I got that way through playing reams of music since I was a lad. I used to bring scores home from the library just to have the fun of reading through them.

Wasn't that 'practiced/worked on' even if I didn't see it that way at the time?
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#1898773 - 05/17/12 05:00 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: pianoloverus]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
[ IMO most of the best sight readers never even "practiced/worked on" their sight reading. They just went through a lot of music they enjoyed.

How would you know that?

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#1898780 - 05/17/12 05:11 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: Maechre]
Eglantine Offline

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Originally Posted By: Maechre
That's great, Eglantine! Good work!

I've read that in order for the brain to go through the right processes to develop a skill like sight-reading, it's better to do 3 shortish pieces (of a few pages) than to sit down and play through a whole book (which could overload your mind and actually be detrimental).

I've tried doing one page a day, and two pages a day. And four. Now I'm doing three pieces each session from three different books at the same level, and I usually do one or two sessions a day.

Everyone's different, but in your experience, do you have an idea which is more effective? A smaller number of pages each day, or bigger?


The more, the better, I'd say. I just read through masses. I got four books out from the library yesterday, Glassworks, a volume of Couperin, Bach's English Suites and Nyman. I will read through a lot of those, try out some of them. I've just spent half an hour going through Frescobaldi partitas, will print out some and try out. This is all music that interests me, composers I like.
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#1898782 - 05/17/12 05:15 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: argerichfan]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
IMO most of the best sight readers never even "practiced/worked on" their sight reading. They just went through a lot of music they enjoyed.

Which I would think was 'practiced/worked on'. I think I am a great sight reader, and I got that way through playing reams of music since I was a lad. I used to bring scores home from the library just to have the fun of reading through them.

Wasn't that 'practiced/worked on' even if I didn't see it that way at the time?
My thinking is that whatever it should be called you weren't thinking of it as work. That's why I always say what I said a few posts earlier when posters say they want to "work" on their sight reading.

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#1898785 - 05/17/12 05:22 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: keystring]
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Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
[ IMO most of the best sight readers never even "practiced/worked on" their sight reading. They just went through a lot of music they enjoyed.

How would you know that?
It's mostly just my opinion based on my own experience and observations. I can't really imagine that good sight readers spent most all of their time just preparing their lesson pieces for years.

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#1898791 - 05/17/12 05:33 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: pianoloverus]
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
It's mostly just my opinion based on my own experience and observations. I can't really imagine that good sight readers spent most all of their time just preparing their lesson pieces for years.

That means that you have been around people as they went from being beginners to when they became good sight readers, and/or good sight readers told you how they got there. There would have to be enough people for you to have a definite impression. If this is not the case, then this statement might needlessly discourage someone trying to learn to sight read.

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#1898807 - 05/17/12 06:02 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: keystring]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
It's mostly just my opinion based on my own experience and observations. I can't really imagine that good sight readers spent most all of their time just preparing their lesson pieces for years.

That means that you have been around people as they went from being beginners to when they became good sight readers, and/or good sight readers told you how they got there. There would have to be enough people for you to have a definite impression. If this is not the case, then this statement might needlessly discourage someone trying to learn to sight read.
The person I was "around as they went from beginners to good sight readers" was myself.

I don't think my ideas are discouraging.. It's never too late to learn how to sight read by not "practicing" sight reading. Although I'm sure good teachers can offer many good ideas to help a student's sight reading, I think depending too much on these things is similar to students who take SAT courses hoping to learn a lot of tricks instead of concentrating on learning the math.


Edited by pianoloverus (05/17/12 06:05 PM)

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#1898892 - 05/17/12 11:02 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: HorseMom]
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Originally Posted By: HorseMom
Well, pianoloverus, I guess you must know better than my conservatory professors. Moreover, you are wrong - nobody sight reads without looking over the piece first when it is handed to them. This is what I described, if you will look at what I actually suggested. Doing it (looking over it and thinking through it before playing) systematically and competently is the key, rather than just leaping into it without taking a look.

It's complicated. smile
Because we're talking about different kinds of things.

He was right, strictly speaking -- and I bet your professor was too.

Pianoloverus was talking about the degree of looking-over that you described. Sure, it's good to look over a piece before sight-reading it, if we have the opportunity. But when we do it to the degree that you described, I think most would agree that's not "sight reading" -- and I'd bet that would include your professor.

No offense intended to you or to anybody. But it's good to be clear what we're talking about. As we've seen on this site quite a bit, the term "sight reading" often gets used in every which way; people sometimes even use the term for when someone uses the score during a performance.

BUT ON THE OTHER HAND.... smile
The things you said are very useful for reading through music in general, which is a broader thing than just "sight reading" and also very important. And sometimes the line between these things can be fuzzy. Like, suppose you're told that a singer needs an accompanist in an hour, and they give you the score meanwhile (I've been in that situation a couple of times). Then, there's some time to look through it, and you can do the kinds of things that you said. When you get up there, it's not really "sight reading," but it's similar. Or, more commonly, if we pick up a score and want to be able to make the best sense of it that we can upon the first reading, we can take some time to do some of what you said, and it's not really "sight reading," but it's something, and it's good. And BTW I think it helps one become a better "sight reader."


Edited by Mark_C (05/18/12 02:35 AM)
Edit Reason: adding the "on the other hand"

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#1898897 - 05/17/12 11:11 PM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: DottedNotes]
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Originally Posted By: DottedNotes
The best thing is that you want to get better. As a blind pianist, I was often "exempted" from sight-reading requirements. Thought this was cool as a kid--I was lazy!--but now realize that, if approached differently, blind people can do something equivalent. The Associated Board, as part of their exams, administers "Braille/aural memory tests". Since I read Braille, I'm given a piece to read and memorize as best I can in a set time limit. I have taught many blind students not to freak out when handed new music--and will find out soon how my own most recent Braille memory test (ABRSM Grade 7) went.....

DottedNotes: This is beyond awesome!! What you have accomplished and what you have been doing in your teaching is just great. Reading a story like yours makes many of us feel guilty for ever complaining about any obstacles that we have had to overcome.

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#1898913 - 05/18/12 12:19 AM Re: "Not a natural sight-reader, you'll never be good." Discuss [Re: DottedNotes]
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Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: DottedNotes
The best thing is that you want to get better. As a blind pianist, I was often "exempted" from sight-reading requirements. Thought this was cool as a kid--I was lazy!--but now realize that, if approached differently, blind people can do something equivalent. The Associated Board, as part of their exams, administers "Braille/aural memory tests". Since I read Braille, I'm given a piece to read and memorize as best I can in a set time limit. I have taught many blind students not to freak out when handed new music--and will find out soon how my own most recent Braille memory test (ABRSM Grade 7) went.

My advice is read a lot; play a lot; challenge yourself. A teacher is only a guide. But teachers, no matter how good, can't practice for their students. Good luck!

thumb
What a COOL post! It is so easy to let other people define our limits, and then we are forced to live within those limits. But we can do it to ourselves too.

Each time I have made a "breakthrough" in my life, learning to do something I did not think I could do, it felt fantastic. smile
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