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#1977670 - 10/23/12 06:06 PM Developing the basics for sightreading.
Barbareola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/12
Posts: 67
Loc: Germany
One of my long, long, long time goals for playing the piano is to develop decent sightreading skills. I well remember the time when I had to practise a new piece HS for a week or more before I could play it HT. And when I finally was fluent with HS, playing HT put me back on square one. Besides, I'd love to be able to play pieces outside a repertoire polished to perfection.

I have searched the forums for advice for developing sightreading skills and there was a lot of useful stuff, like for example: start with pieces well below your "normal" level, don't look at the keys or where to get sheet music from. I had about 2 years of teaching so far so I am not a total beginner anymore but neither have I progressed very far. Thus there are not many pieces below my current skill level that I'd have a fighting chance to sightread through.

What I haven't found (maybe due to my poor search skills) is what basic skills are requiered for sightreading and how to develop them.

I would assume that working on scales, chords and arpeggios until their fingering become familiar would be a big help, wouldn't it?

I also wonder if practising... how shall I put it? Not sightreading a piece, but getting familiar with a piece. Instead of learning a piece at my skill level and polish it as well as possible I would choose a piece well slightly below my current level. The idea is to practise it until the bare bones stand solid and instead of polishing it up to recital level to move to the next piece. Basically practise the aquisition of new pieces instead of the piece itself but without the requirement of "do not stop, do not repeat" that "true" sightreading excercises seem to require. Is there any merit in such an approach or is it either pointless or possibly counterproductive?

Do you have any ideas or how to develop a solid foundation for later sightreading studies?
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#1977675 - 10/23/12 06:25 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
Lain Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/11
Posts: 613
Originally Posted By: Barbareola
I would assume that working on scales, chords and arpeggios until their fingering become familiar would be a big help, wouldn't it?

Yes, it would help. You want to be able to look at a key signature and not have to think about which notes belong to that key.

Originally Posted By: Barbareola
Instead of learning a piece at my skill level and polish it as well as possible I would choose a piece well slightly below my current level. The idea is to practise it until the bare bones stand solid and instead of polishing it up to recital level to move to the next piece.... Is there any merit in such an approach or is it either pointless or possibly counterproductive?

There is merit to this approach. I highly recommend it.
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"You are the music while the music lasts" - T.S. Eliot

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#1977677 - 10/23/12 06:30 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
TromboneAl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 781
Loc: Northern, Northern California
Barb,

You seem to be like me, in that we are both surprised at how slowly we are improving. Whether it's because we're adults, or because we are just not naturally gifted sight-readers, we need to accept slower progress.

I would say that getting used to fingering won't help that much. Arpeggios will help to the extent that they help you find the keys without looking.

Learning to instantly identify intervals and chords will help, as will learning about harmony (so that you know what chords to expect).

I like to read through pieces multiple times, since it seems easier to implement the sight-reading strategies that I've learned. However, actual first-sight sight-reading is probably the best way to practice.

I have a lot of tips on my blog.
_________________________
- Al

My Book: Becoming a Great Sight-Reader -- or Not!
My Blog: The Year of Piano Sight-Reading

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#1977692 - 10/23/12 07:21 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 219
I'm a decent sight reader for my present skill level.

One thing that helped me was practicing scales. I play mainly classical, and I think that the scales helped me to develop the muscle memory to easily do the long runs that sometimes show up in that sort of thing. The thumb under thing that used to hang me up doesn't slow me down now.

Try looking for the types of things that are common in whatever music you play and practice doing them until it is easy. Then when you find them in sight reading you won't have to focus as much on your hands, you'll be able to focus on the reading. That is, develop the muscle memory for common movements and that will give you the ability to focus on the sheet of music when you're reading something new.

my 2 cents


Edited by Oongawa (10/23/12 07:22 PM)
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#1977827 - 10/24/12 02:22 AM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
justpin Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 504
Loc: Holmes Chapel
Scales didn't help.

What helped my own sight reading was just going over it 100s of times with those online flash cards.

Along with using the visual clues.

Like the double cleff is a G. The 2nd to top line is a C, the top is an E

Bottom line is an F. At which you can figure out the ones in between, was slow at first then it sort of became second nature.


I still have trouble with when arrangers don't use the 8va notation and decide to stick it really high on the staves or really low. But for the middle octaves I manage.

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#1977846 - 10/24/12 03:45 AM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: justpin]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1371
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: justpin
Along with using the visual clues.

Like the double cleff is a G. The 2nd to top line is a C, the top is an E

Bottom line is an F.


you mean spaces smile
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#1977858 - 10/24/12 05:09 AM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
supertorpe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/10
Posts: 103
Loc: Spain. Cadiz.
I'm in a similar situation to yours. I will not comment on issues of methodology to address the sight reading, but I will list the material I'm following:

First, small exercises for 5 fingers (without moving your hand).

1) “Progressive Sight Reading Exercises for Piano” de Hannah Smith

Thereafter:

2) All pieces of the level 1 from MakingMusicFun
3) Introduction to Classics to Moderns
4) All pieces of the level 2 from MakingMusicFun (I'm currently here)
5) Joy of First Classics 1
6) Hymns Made Easy
7) All pieces of the level 3 from MakingMusicFun
8) All pieces of the level 4 from MakingMusicFun
9) Joy of First Classics 2
10) Easy Classics to Moderns
11) All pieces of the level 5 from MakingMusicFun
12) Open Hymnal Christmas Edition
13) Open Hymnal

I wish I had time to develop a tool that I started to do to design your own sight-reading exercises.


Edited by supertorpe (10/24/12 05:12 AM)
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#1977902 - 10/24/12 08:29 AM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
JimF Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/09
Posts: 1610
Loc: south florida
Barbareola,

I've tried a lot of things, but other than actual prima-vista playing of easier material the only thing that seems to help much is reading (while playing) something every day where the only point is to exercise your reading ability.

Unfortunately most of us would be hard pressed to assemble more than a month's worth of elementary and late elementary primal vista material....the level most of us need to be sightreading. I think the only alternative for the other 11 months is to just read and play something you are not "practcing" every day, even if it is not really sightreading and you have to haltingly hack your way through it. It is not ideal, but it may be the best we can do.
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#1977905 - 10/24/12 08:41 AM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: supertorpe]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 219
Here is another item I have found.

If your books have fingering numbers, examine them closely. In the past, students were taught to move their hands a lot - extra flourishes for visual effect. But 'flourishes' hold no interest for me, I just want to play the notes right.

So, before even sitting down at the piano, go through the music and examine what they put and evaluate if it makes sense for you. if the same note repeats, but their fingering suggests changing fingers, then that should be a flag. If you think that their suggestions are inefficient for you, them mark them out so they don't distract you, and replace them with what you want. Doing this away from the keyboard is an interesting challenge. You have to really think about it and visualize it.

I always always modify the fingering so that I have to move my fingers less. Every unnecessary finger change or unnecessary hand movement is an opportunity to make an error.

A bonus on this is that doing it doesn't require a piano, you can do it any time, and you'll be more familiar with the music when you sit down to play it.

Hope this helps!
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Presently working on:
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Bach - Musette
Attempting a little blues improv
'69 Mason & Hamlin Model A

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#1977938 - 10/24/12 09:43 AM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
1RC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/28/06
Posts: 495
Loc: Alberta
What worked for me was accepting a job playing for a church. Being basically unable to sightread I asked for advanced notice for the hymns and got VERY busy figuring it out. I wouldn't recommend such a stressful path but it worked to get me to the point where I could sightread simple hymns and simplify the more difficult ones on the spot after about 6 months.

The basics of sightreading I would say is all about reading ahead. That implies being able to quickly absorb the information and find the keys with minimal of looking. I'm sure you already knew that, and it's so easy to say! Putting it into practice however...

I agree with JimF that haltingly hacking your way can be useful. You could look at it as developing general reading abilities in preparation for sightreading. Reading through at a slow enough pace that the music has a hope of flowing and then analysing what trips you up and making corrections. To begin this may be suuuuper slow, going beat by beat. Over time what was a big jumble of notes differentiates into familiar rhythms, harmonies and melodic figures that can be taken in larger chunks and played with a more confident hand.

I want to emphasize analysing your weak spots. It might be the difference between making progress and being frustrated forever. Sometimes I was misreading a note, or would stop reading ahead when I came to a dense bar. Let you mistakes be your teachers and bring lots of patience, heheh.

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#1977940 - 10/24/12 09:47 AM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Bobpickle]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
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Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
Originally Posted By: justpin
Along with using the visual clues.

Like the double cleff is a G. The 2nd to top line is a C, the top is an E

Bottom line is an F.


you mean spaces smile


Well, if you see the lines of the staff like a bunch of shelves, then the space notes do look like they are sitting "on" the lines. A teacher pointed this out, and said he tells kids that "line notes" have the line going through the notes, and "space notes" sit totally in the space. So apparently this is more common than we may think.

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#1978022 - 10/24/12 01:08 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: justpin]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: justpin
Scales didn't help. . .
What helped my own sight reading was just going over it 100s of times with those online flash cards.
Along with using the visual clues.
Like the double cleff is a G. The 2nd to top line is a C, the top is an E . . .
Bottom line is an F. At which you can figure out the ones in between, was slow at first then it sort of became second nature.
. . . But for the middle octaves I manage.

Another poster child of MIS-Information. And now you are advising others?
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#1978059 - 10/24/12 02:41 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: LoPresti]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11205
Loc: Canada
Justpin did not have the vocabulary, but the actual advice has merit and is as follows:

- The treble (G) clef and bass (F) clef indicate G above middle C and F below middle C respectively. This helps in reading music
- Drilling note names with flash cards, as suggested by Justpin, is recommended by a number of teachers in this forum. Whether or not any of us may think it's a bad idea, Justpin found it helpful.

Ed, if you are against the use of flashcards for recognizing note names, do you have a reason? Any additional or alternate suggestions for developing the basics for sightreading? smile

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#1978063 - 10/24/12 02:47 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
UK Paul UK Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/11
Posts: 396
Loc: Berkshire, England
+1 for hannah smiths book to start.
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#1978065 - 10/24/12 02:51 PM Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: keystring]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Hi KeyString,

Thank you for the Translation. You MIGHT be contributing a little more lucidity than is really there.

I do not wish to pick on anyone, so I shall attempt to put this is abstract terms.
When someone makes a blanket statement like, "Scales did not help", well . . . In studying music, EVERYTHING that is learned or performed correctly, helps EVERYTHING else.

I believe it is imperative that one learn the basics of the vocabulary. So, if we are writing about the Grand Staff, it is important to mention that, and by name if possible. In that way, everyone understands the reference. "Like the double clef is a G" doesn't actually convey that, does it?

Terminology, vocabulary, and common usage in music are typically learned from one's teacher.

While most good teachers of the young recognize the problem in using the phrase "What note is ON the third line?", by the time we are adults, and through common usage, we have come to an understanding of what this phrase means. We can certainly remove the ambiguity by rephrasing, "Through what note-head does the third line pass?"

When I was working with students who were headed for music schools, we drilled on rapid recognition of patterns. Strong sight-reading was critical to even passing their auditions for admittance. I would imagine that would work for any stage of development. So, when one is deliberately working on sight-reading, perhaps try looking at the upcoming measure, then closing the eyes while playing it. Look to verify, then look at the subsequent measure, close eyes, etc. Expand to two measures in advance, etc. Note that this is not the process of sight-reading, per se. Rather, it is a DRILL that will improve sight-reading.

I have no knowledge of on-line "flash cards". so I can not comment on them.

Lastly, I believe it is important to Know Before You Teach - really KNOW. Sharing personal experiences is nice on a forum like this. Once one starts offering technical advice, there comes a responsibility for having the information correct.

Ed
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#1978098 - 10/24/12 04:15 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
Back to the OP
Originally Posted By: Barbareola
Do you have any ideas or how to develop a solid foundation for later sightreading studies?

I found it very helpful to break sight reading down into various components which I could work on in isolation, in tandem with doing as much sight reading as I could find/afford sufficiently simplistic fodder for. Unfortunately the availability of suitable fodder can be a limiting factor, so it really does help a lot to also work on related skills.

If you read the sight reading articles over at the Piano Pedagogy Forum site (which, confusingly, is not a discussion forum like this one, but more of a web magazine), you can learn a lot about what factors have been correlated (or not) with sight reading skills in research on sight reading. There are also some academic theses and other articles on this listed in the most recent entry in my (much neglected) blog.

One thing to keep in mind is that beginners tend to focus too much on note recognition (though of course this is very helpful), and less on other skills which are just as important. One much overlooked factor is the ability to read rhythms fluently, which is fortunately a skill which is very easy to isolate and practice.

The book I recommend most often for practicing single-line rhythm reading is The Rhythm Bible by Dan Fox, since it progresses logically, and the individual exercises make much more musical sense than the exercises in most of the other rhythm practice books I explored via our library system. For practicing two-handed rhythms, the best book I've found is Studying Rhythm by Anne C. Hall. Definitely look for a used & outdated copy of this one -- new current-edition copies are ridiculously expensive.

Other skills which help with sight reading are recognition of chords and intervals. I work on this the same way I learned to recognize notes on the staff, which was to play with electronic trainers (the modern equivalent to flash cards).

These are easy to find on the web: here's a few examples:
http://www.emusictheory.com/practice.html
http://www.teoria.com/exercises/index.php
If you're a geek like me, you might enjoy a more expensive program like Practica Musica or Musiton. I feel that I've gotten my money's worth out of Practica Musica because it has a huge assortment of both music theory and ear training exercises, as well many exercises which let me enter my answers via my DP, which makes it even better practice for sight reading related skills.

Another thing which has helped my sight reading skills a lot, though it's not immediately obvious why, is to sight read while transposing. It's a skill which is recommended in a number of college level piano-for-non-keyboard-major textbooks, as well as other places, and I've found it strangely effective... plus it's a great way to get around the fact that much of the easy music suitable for practicing sight reading is almost always in easy keys, which perpetuates the problem of lesser familiarity with the more "bristly" key signatures.

I think that what this does is make your brain process the musical notation in terms of intervals and scale degrees, and chords in terms of their harmonic functions, instead of just the specific notes and chords written on the page. Plus it's a great way of making one's limited supply of sight reading fodder serve multiple purposes.

Speaking of sight reading fodder, here's a post I made a while back listing some sources of easier materials to read
Easy Sight Reading Fodder
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#1978146 - 10/24/12 05:40 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
Barbareola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/12
Posts: 67
Loc: Germany
Wow - so many great suggestions! shocked You folks rock! How did I ever get by without this forum?

Lain@ I'm glad you think there is merit to the approach of practicing the acquisition of pieces. Training reading skills is a good way to call it, I think. I trust my teacher to make sure that I won't derail to sloppiness through that approach. She's bound to make sure that I'll continue to work on my musical interpretation skills for example.

Al@ Truth be told, I have not tried to sightread yet. In fact, for a long time every time my teacher introduced me to a new piece I got into panic mode. I thought I was talentless because I was not able to play even a single hand fluently and rhythmically correct on the first try. The idea that this was normal for a beginner didn't really cross my mind. Only recently have I become confident enough in recognizing easy rhythmic pattern and familiar fingerings that I don't panic when we start a new piece. I have improved, but I have still way to go. Which is why I think that I should first concentrate on developing reading skills and once I can acquire a piece myself without the help of my teacher in a realistic amount of time before I even tackle true sight-reading.

So it is "allowed" to pre-read a piece you want to sightread? It is not "cheating"? In other words: the idea is not to be surprised by the notes or the music sheet?

supertorpe> Thanks for the suggestions.

Jim> Sadly enough, that is true. My home town - which is about an hour drive away - has a very excellent music section. A whole room full of scores compared to the pitiful half shelf we got here. I think it may be worth checking if they have sheet music on easy level.

Oongawa@ Interesting suggestion. Yeah, most of my books have fingering numbers. Usually, they are very efficient, but then, they are mostly rather recent editions. Teacher usually allows it if I want to use a different finger for a note than suggested, unless there is an actual reason for using a specific finger, like preparing for something a bar or two ahead. But I'm getting better at predicting which she will insist on, so I guess that counts as progress.

1RC@ I can imagine that was challenging. As a child I learned to play the recorder (didn't we all? I have yet to meet somebody who is into music who didn't laugh ). With its limited amount (in comparison to the piano) of notes it can produce at the end of the lessons I felt comfortable with it. I knew which note was where. Taking up the piano was a shock. It was not going back to my early recorder days, it was a much further throwback. In one position pressing a key with the second finger would produce a d, in another position an e. I recognized the notes that the recorder could produce, but I struggled with all the rest…. The first time I played a note on a new piece without frantically searching for it but just *knowing* what key to press. It was an awesome feeling. smile

tangleweeds@ Thanks for the suggestions, two. I definitely need to work on my rhythmic skills. Though Teacher calmed my nerves. Apparently I am doing fine when I work on a new piece, which shocked me to the core. According to her, I only need to work on my confidence… That news did not shock me.^^ Oh yes, I am very geeky. wink My piano is acoustic, but we do have an electronic keyboard that can do MIDI. Next project - once I finish this round of grading exams - is to hook it up to the computer and try programs like Earmaster with it. I'll be sure to look at your suggestions, too!

Thanks so far everybody, but don't let me stop you! wink
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#1978176 - 10/24/12 07:01 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
fizikisto Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/13/12
Posts: 214
Loc: Hernando, MS
I have a few thoughts on this issue, thought I'd share them. I don't want to suggest that these ideas are the only way (I'm still learning), but they are things that have helped, and are helping, me. Maybe some of them would be useful to others as well.

1) Sight reading isn't a specific skill, it's a global skill. It's not just about figuring out which notes to play. You also have to take in things like rhythm, dynamics, key signature changes, etc... And it's not just an intellectual skill, it's a physical skill as well. In other words, it's a complicated skill made up of lots of different parts integrated together, and it takes a long time to develop. So be patient with yourself.

2) I'm convinced (though others might disagree) that one of the impediments to good sight reading is "naming the notes." By that I mean, a some beginning students are taught to look at a note on a score and go, "O.k, every good boy does....o.k., that's a D....the D is next to the C....so let me find the two black keys, now I need to...." Yes I'm exaggerating, but hopefully you get the idea. What you want to train yourself to do is look at the notes on the score and just move your fingers to the right notes. Yeah, easier said than done smile But I hope my point is clear, you want to have the note to be a signal - hand/finger goes here. Rather than spending time "decoding the note" just play it.

Now that doesn't mean you don't learn the note names, just that you should never think about them when you're sight reading.

3) Rhythm is something that can be learned in isolation, and as someone said it's a hugely neglected aspect of sight reading. I'm a big fan of Mark Phillip's "Sight read any rhythm instantly" which has a bit of an avant-garde approach to rhythm but I like it a lot and have found much merit in his approach. The Rhythm bible by Dan Fox is a book with many different rhythm patterns for practice and I think it's a wonderful tool.

4) Another huge impediment to fluent sight reading is a tendency to look down at the hands. Every time your hands move, do you look down at them to make sure they land in the right spot? Well, that's jarring. Even if you don't lose your place in the score that's a distraction. It can distort rhythm and lead to uneven playing which can in turn lead to frustration and mistakes. You need to learn how to move your hands by touch and measurement. Again, I'm not saying NEVER glance down when you move your hands but if you can mostly avoid it you'll find your sight reading will benefit.

5) Related to #4, you need to focus on learning how to recognize patterns on the score (especially intervals, both harmonic and melodic). Then translate that to the motion of your hands. Start just in C-major (once you have a sense of measurement established for C-major the ideas are easy to adapt to other keys).

Do you know what an octave feels like? If your thumb is on middle C can you play the next C up (or down) with your pinky without looking down at the keyboard? (If so you can also quickly replace your pinky with your thumb and then move up or down another octave -- another good drill to train -- it's possible to train yourself to quickly and accurately move up and down the keyboard by octaves without looking at the keys).

Continuing on...Do you know what a second feels like? What if the notes are fingered 1-2, 1-3, 3-4, 5-4, etc...Do you know what a second feels like for those combinations/fingerings? Now do you know what a third feels like? a fourth? etc.... If you can learn how to make your fingers move in intervals, and learn how to recognize them on the score, you'll find a lot of the work of sight reading greatly reduced.

For example, You need to train yourself to recognize a third on the score (from a line to the next line or from a space to the next space) and then know how to position your fingers for that interval by feel. (one thing that helped me learn how to form the distance with my hands was to play the interval and grip the keys in between -- really paying attention to the feeling of the distance. Another good drill that helped me was "throwing" my fingers into the shape of the interval, then setting them down on the keyboard to see how close I got).

6) You're learning to build the skill. There's no such thing as cheating. Analyze the score before you try to play it. look at the fingerings and see if they make sense to you (if not, change them). Look for patterns. oh, these 6 measures are identical to the first 6 measures. Oh, these notes are the same as in measure 32 and 33 but they're played an octave lower. etc... Look for anything you can notice. As you learn more you'll be able to see more patterns (oh this is a I-IV-V chord progression). If you understand what's going on in the music you'll find sight-reading it to be easier.

Also, I can't emphasize enough how useful it is to learn the hands separately then put them together....especially when you're learning. It's not cheating. It's breaking a complicated task into manageable parts so that you can learn the skill.

And finally, don't be afraid to break the score into small chunks and just play those chunks over and over until you get them. Especially for difficult parts of the score.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth smile
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#1978199 - 10/24/12 08:23 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
keystring Online   content
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Posts: 11205
Loc: Canada
There is reading, and there is "prima vista" sight reading. The type of reading where you pick up a new piece of music and play it from beginning to end is a specialized skill. It is used by professionals who accompany soloists, choirs etc. I think that skill comes later. The first thing you want to develop is the ability to read music, and any skill related to that.

I made that decision several years ago when I planned to learn to sight read piano music and was browsing this forum for ideas. I decided against the idea of playing simple music close to tempo and skipping notes if I couldn't get them in time. Yes, you need that when learning to accompany - but would it help with reading? I figured that I wanted to associate what is in the written music with the piano keys that hold those notes. If building that, it was not the time to be approximate. I figured which things I didn't know or couldn't do, and went after them. Sometimes that meant going over the same piece several days in a row, and this was not "wrong".

In regards to not looking at the hands: The idea is that people use the appearance of the hands on the keyboard as a crutch, and that this lets them memorize the music. The hands themselves are not a problem: the crutch and memorization is. I used to play almost entirely by feeling the notes. It was simply a habit. It gave me a stiff neck. Take any piece of advice together with a grain of salt and your own common sense.

Btw, might your teacher have any ideas for you?


Edited by keystring (10/24/12 08:24 PM)

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#1978351 - 10/25/12 05:01 AM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: LoPresti]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11205
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
Hi KeyString,

Thank you for the Translation. You MIGHT be contributing a little more lucidity than is really there.

I am rather sure that what I summarized are in fact the points that the member tried to make. I think they are quite valid, especially at the beginner stage.

Quote:
... by the time we are adults, and through common usage, we have come to an understanding of what this phrase means.

The phrase that begins "by the time we are adults" implies lengthy experience with something, so that by this stage we ought to know whatever. That is not the reality. Music is like reading in the Dark Ages, when only a few knew how to read words. Schools teach reading, writing, math., history, geography, science. For many of us music was a big fat zero in education - at best some memorized Christmas songs. By the time we are adults we haven't been taught a thing, we don't know what to look for or what is important. We are in the same situation as a small child, and it is unfair to expect that we "ought" to know things to which we had no access. And when an adult student does decide to take lessons, he or she may be taught in a trivial, superficial manner.

Quote:
I believe it is imperative that one learn the basics of the vocabulary. So, if we are writing about the Grand Staff, it is important to mention that, and by name if possible.

See above. Not everyone is there yet because of the overall situation. Not long ago I was groping for words to describe things that I sensed and used. It took me half a century to have an inkling of what was out there and that it had names. And since then I've been scrambling to catch up. Since we're all in different stages, I suggest gently giving people the vocabulary they need to enable them to express themselves, rather than chiding them for what they don't know yet.

On the other side of the coin you'll see posts full of big words and quoted information. If you ask what it means they may not be able to tell you. I would rather have something coming out of understanding and with missing vocabulary, than this. You will also see posts by people with a fair amount of knowledge, using words without defining them. Specialized words usually represent concepts, and concepts are things that are learned through practise and study. If you throw out a word without defining it, then it's a useless word.

Quote:

When someone makes a blanket statement like, "Scales did not help", well . . . In studying music, EVERYTHING that is learned or performed correctly, helps EVERYTHING else.

And there's the rub. "Correctly".

Quote:

Terminology, vocabulary, and common usage in music are typically learned from one's teacher.

Are they? Typically? It would be nice. Also, not everyone has a teacher or is able to have one.

Quote:

When I was working with students who were headed for music schools, we drilled on rapid recognition of patterns. Strong sight-reading was critical to even passing their auditions for admittance. I would imagine that would work for any stage of development. So, when one is deliberately working on sight-reading, perhaps try looking at the upcoming measure, then closing the eyes while playing it. Look to verify, then look at the subsequent measure, close eyes, etc. Expand to two measures in advance, etc. Note that this is not the process of sight-reading, per se. Rather, it is a DRILL that will improve sight-reading.


There are some good ideas here, depending on a person's level and goals.

Quote:

Lastly, I believe it is important to Know Before You Teach - really KNOW. Sharing personal experiences is nice on a forum like this. Once one starts offering technical advice, there comes a responsibility for having the information correct.


I hope that nobody in a forum thinks that the posts appearing are "teaching". Any advice, including yours if taken in the wrong context or misunderstood, can be misleading. I think it is important for people to state their backgrounds. That's why I'm not worried when someone clearly identifies him/herself as a student and says "This is what worked for me." It is more worrying when the advice is preceded by a title such as "teacher", because then the advice may be taken as gospel without examination. I do agree that it is preferable that advice given as advice have a fair amount of knowledge behind it. That said, anyone using the Internet should be aware that the Net is what it is, and I think that most of us are.

I do agree with the concept of responsibility when advising.

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#1978471 - 10/25/12 12:23 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: keystring]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Hey, KeyString, lighten up . . .

As usual, I wasn't seeking your approval or critique.
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1978473 - 10/25/12 12:24 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11205
Loc: Canada
It's a forum. People respond and correspond. Back and forth is what is done. There is nothing particularly "heavy" about my response. Do you not want your ideas to be taken seriously?

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#1978527 - 10/25/12 02:54 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: JimF]
TromboneAl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 781
Loc: Northern, Northern California
Originally Posted By: JimF

Unfortunately most of us would be hard pressed to assemble more than a month's worth of elementary and late elementary primal vista material....the level most of us need to be sightreading.


You are right. However, in practice if you have a few hymnals and a bunch of other material, you will have forgotten the first things that you read when you cycle back to them. I've read through two hymnals 8-10 times. True, some of the hymns are now pretty familiar to me, but it still feels like sight-reading for most.


Edited by TromboneAl (10/25/12 03:01 PM)
_________________________
- Al

My Book: Becoming a Great Sight-Reader -- or Not!
My Blog: The Year of Piano Sight-Reading

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#1978530 - 10/25/12 03:01 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
TromboneAl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 781
Loc: Northern, Northern California
I think I shot myself in the foot by simply "doing it." That is, sight-reading two hours a day for several years without the guidance of a teacher. I did get advice online, but during those years I simply reinforced bad habits. The worst habit is attending to the notes rather than the intervals.

I did learn a lot and progress, but I find it very hard to not be focusing on the notes rather than the intervals.

I have an exercise that I do that helps me with this. I've never seen it described elsewhere, though I'm sure someone has thought of it.

Here it is: I take a hymn, and transpose it on sight. That is, I figure out what the notes are in the first chord (in the new key), play those, and from then on, play by recognizing the intervals from one note to the next, and between the notes of the chord.

When I do this I am forced to rely in intervals, because the notes will be wrong.

I do a few of these, and then when I play in the written key, I pay more attention to intervals.


Edited by TromboneAl (10/25/12 03:08 PM)
_________________________
- Al

My Book: Becoming a Great Sight-Reader -- or Not!
My Blog: The Year of Piano Sight-Reading

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#1978563 - 10/25/12 04:05 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: tangleweeds]
cmajornine Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/27/12
Posts: 14
Originally Posted By: tangleweeds
Back to the OP
Originally Posted By: Barbareola
Do you have any ideas or how to develop a solid foundation for later sightreading studies?

I found it very helpful to break sight reading down into various components which I could work on in isolation, in tandem with doing as much sight reading as I could find/afford sufficiently simplistic fodder for. Unfortunately the availability of suitable fodder can be a limiting factor, so it really does help a lot to also work on related skills.


Great Post Tangleweed
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cmajornine

http://www.cmajornine.webspace.virginmedia.com/

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#1978594 - 10/25/12 05:03 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: cmajornine]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
Originally Posted By: cmajornine
Originally Posted By: tangleweeds
Back to the OP
Originally Posted By: Barbareola
Do you have any ideas or how to develop a solid foundation for later sightreading studies?

I found it very helpful to break sight reading down into various components

Great Post Tangleweed

Thanks smile
_________________________
Oops... extremely distracted by mandolins at the moment... brb

neglected piano blog

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#1978615 - 10/25/12 06:03 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
Barbareola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/12
Posts: 67
Loc: Germany
fizikisto@ Thanks for the suggestions, especially about the material for developing rhythmic skills. I'm glad you feel it is something that can be trained instead of being inborn with. I'm getting better, but I still feel rhythm is my weak spot. At least it is my paranoia spot.

Funnily enough, I don't look a lot at the keyboard. Maybe it is because it is the third instrument I'm studying. Teacher had me recently play an easy menuett from Bach with a jump of over an octave and she asked me to do it. I don't hit it correctly all the time - maybe 80 to 90 % of the time, but it did wonders to help me with developing that feeling for the piano. I'm not as comfortable with it as I was with my good old recorder, but then, it is a rather different kind of instrument.

Since arriving here I was surprised that there seems to be different opinions about learning HS or HT… Teacher one had me learn HS and Teacher two continued with it, though she urges me to play HT a lot earlier than Teacher one did…

keystring@ Yeah, I think that sight-reading and reading are related but not identical skills. From my learner's POV I think I will have to sharpen my reading skills before I move on to even tackle sight reading. I think that might be a good opportunity to pick up the good old recorder between piano practices and work on my reading skills with an instrument with a limited number of notes, that plays only one voice at a time and that I have most experience with.

My teacher is very good in some areas like training me to pay more attention to the dynamics and interpretation of a piece and encouraging me when I start to doubt myself. She does not however make me play technical things like scales or arpeggios and such or explain me exactly why she chose the piece she suggests on next. When I try to ask her, she tells me to stop being too systematical…. *sigh* What can I say? I'm a systematical science teacher at heart. That kind of frustrates me and in another thread I explained that I kind of inherited her when my first teacher moved away… At present my feeling is that for the time being she still has a lot to teach me, but I will keep a wary eye out to make sure that the point to move on hasn't come yet. I once made the mistake to quit taking lessons with the guitar instead of finding a teacher more suited to my needs. But I am older now and less shy and I won't let that happen again.

Regrettably, teaching sightreading here in Germany seems to be even more rare than for example in the UK. In a music store the clerk told me he had been lucky to be taught sightreading during his childhood in the UK, because here it would be even rarer. There is almost no sight-reading literature on the market and what little there is are English imports.

Back in my school days we had many years of music. Though considered a secondary subject of less importance like German, math or English I did learn a lot about the different epochs of music, starting with the middle ages and moving up to the history of rock, analyzing songs and pieces of different styles from a simple song to the notation of operas. I was astonished how much music theory had survived the black hole of time… Though my theory has some smaller and some larger holes, I at least received a foundation to build on. While for example I had to look up again to make sure where the half note steps are in a certain kind of scale, I did remember that there were those and even guessed them correctly. Still - there is a whole lot of stuff I still have to reactivate or have yet to learn at all. Point is, apart from the occasional refresher teacher didn't have to teach me any theory yet.

Al> I read your blog and found it very informative. I found especially interesting that at one time you pointed out the importance of recognizing intervals, then took it, then retracted your retrieval. I found your report on your progress both inspiring and intimidating.
_________________________
Currently working on: Venetian Gondola song by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

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#1978631 - 10/25/12 07:18 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
Ojustaboo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 155
Loc: Deleted
I'm currently learning to sight read, self teaching, cannot have a teacher for various reasons.

It occurred to me while reading this thread that I'm at the stage that if I see a three note chord, I'm saying in my head, that's C, E and G, I'm not looking at it and instantly thinking that's the chord of C.

It's like being a child learning to read.

If I take the above sentence, I don't look at the second word "like" and say in my head, that's L, I, K and E, I look at it for a micro second and see the whole word.

I presume I have to get to the same place with sight reading, and at first simple chords such as non inverted c major will be easy to spot, rather like as a child, words like "at" came first and we had to pause for longer words.

This is probably very obvious to all of you, but it just clicked in my head as to what I need to be aiming for.

Best

Joe

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#1978645 - 10/25/12 07:53 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Ojustaboo]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Ojustaboo
It's like being a child learning to read.

If I take the above sentence, I don't look at the second word "like" and say in my head, that's L, I, K and E, I look at it for a micro second and see the whole word.

Right you are, Joe, but there is even more to it than that.

Using your excellent comparison between learning to read language, and learning to sight-read music, when we, as adults, look at that sentence, we actually TRANSLATE the letters-into-words, and the words-into-meaning. Put another way, we do not "pause" as we assemble L-I-K-E into a word, but grasp the letters as a word, grasp the words as a sentence, and go straight to the meaning or idea. Getting to this stage, obviously, takes time for a beginner.

In similar fashion, when we sight-read, the notes on the page BECOME the sound of the instrument. All the intermediate steps are there: The note on the page is sub-consciously identified, and found on the keyboard, and the key is depressed. The notes sounded in succession build into the melody, and the notes sounded simultaneously assemble into chords. The rhythm is blocked into a pulse, and the written dynamics make us play louder or softer, or attack and release in certain patterns. But ultimately, these steps are not even considered. When sight-reading is at its best, we go from the page to the sound. That is the goal.

Ed

_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1978764 - 10/26/12 03:51 AM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
landorrano Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2445
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Barbareola

Regrettably, teaching sightreading here in Germany seems to be even more rare than for example in the UK. In a music store the clerk told me he had been lucky to be taught sightreading during his childhood in the UK, because here it would be even rarer. There is almost no sight-reading literature on the market and what little there is are English imports.


I do not have a close familiarity with music education in Germany, but I will permit myself to say that what you write surprises me and I cannot help but be doubtful of it's validity. I suspect that you have an idea in your mind of what and how you want to be taught, and that things are done differently in Germany.

In any case, in Germany's next-door neighbor, France, reading music is very widely taught. There is a tremendous wealth of material. Although it too may not correspond with your expectations, for example if you are looking for elementary-level prima-vista sight-reading exercises for piano. If you have the occasion to come to France, you might want to stop in a town and spend a few hours browsing in a sheetmusic shop.

Reading music is not difficult. The teaching (and learning!) of reading music is not something new, it has been going on for centuries. There really isn't any need to invent or improvise, to the contrary if you want to learn to read music music and you start by trying to invent an approach you are surely passing aside of the things that can help you the most.

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