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#1979022 - 10/26/12 05:28 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: landorrano]
Veelo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/12
Posts: 24
Loc: Germany
Hi Barbareola,

I have started a thread on sight reading here:
Let's sight read - material and tips

- I found that using a metronome helped me the most. Not only does it force you to keep playing because it emulates an ensemble, but it also helps you to "open" your ears and listen to the beat.

- Regarding hands together (HT) or hands separate (HS):
When you are a beginner and you are still learning, use HS. But if you have some experience like yourself, always HT when you are sight reading.

- If you have a digital piano you can try a duet with "yourself". Search for a piano piece that is meant to be played in a duet. Record the first voice and replay it while sight reading the second voice. Instead of first and second voice you can also try this with bass and treble clef.








Edited by Veelo (10/26/12 05:29 PM)
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I started playing the piano 2010. I enjoy sight reading.
My blog: http://pianobeginner.wordpress.com/

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#1979138 - 10/26/12 11:27 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: LoPresti]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11656
Loc: Canada
This gives pause for thought:
Originally Posted By: LoPresti

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.

Some years ago, written music was sound for me in the way it is for many singers, and I played the sound that I heard. It was almost like playing by ear with the melody coming out of the paper instead of a recording. For some instruments you actually have to be able to do that, pre-hearing the notes. I think that brass instruments go that way. There were weaknesses in how I read piano music.

Since then I learned a different way of reading music. You see the notes on the page and this matches to a location on the piano and sensations in the hand. An A chord feels like two low white keys on the outside, and a raised black key in the middle. The sound of a major chord - or even A major if you have those kinds of ears - combined with this. For playing dense music of a more unpredictable kind, you might rely more on this than any pre-hearing of music from the page.

I have the feeling that this is very important. Should people aspire to being able to have sound and playing mesh instantly, or just be happy when that does kick in? As we learn to sight read piano music, do we aim to go from page to sound, or do we aim to go form page to piano keys? For the beginning stages, which is the most effective? Should we also develop the ear? For this I imagine playing with chords and notes without notation, listening and inventing, and then maybe going back to written music and hearing the same thing.

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#1979815 - 10/28/12 07:46 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
Barbareola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/12
Posts: 67
Loc: Germany
landorrano@ *Reading* music is being taught. In regular school as well as in the piano lessons that I have been taking. However, in my two years of taking piano lessons, sight-reading has not been an issue. There was only one tiny booklet in a whole store of sheet music and that was in English, thus imported. The rest was related to me by the shop clerk - I can only pass that on, since my own experience is limited. Regrettably, I'm pretty far from the French border. frown

Veelo> Thanks for the advice. We have an acoustic piano as well as an entry-level keyboard, but it does have MIDI and some part of my mind has been thinking about how to employ it best in the quest to learn music.

keystring@ I am not far enough to really have an idea of how a piece of music sounds when I read it. I'm getting closer, but there is a long way to go. I had a couple of glorious moments when I read some notes on the sheets and I moved my hands in reaction to the intervals, knowing by feel and instinct how I'd need to place down the fingers without having to think about it. I hope I am making sense of this, it is hard to explain. The moment immediately shattered when I had to concentrate on a more difficult passage, but I see it as an important step in getting a feel for the piano that I have been lacking so far. As for the questions you're asking: they are both valid and interesting, but I am a far cry away from being able to answer them...
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#1981071 - 10/31/12 07:04 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
Barbareola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/12
Posts: 67
Loc: Germany
I have been reading over everything you wrote as well as other posts on the forum and I am mulling over some issues.

I have noticed that there is a lot of debate about learning a new piece HS or HT and I am not sure that I correctly understood the terms.

Does "learning HT" mean that you don't try the hands seperately at all and play both hands together from the start? If so - then how does it differ from sight reading? Only in the speed with which the piece is played?

Or does learning HT mean that you play a hand a couple of times HS, then combine them at the first possible instance, even though seperately the hands are still not optimized? If so - then how long would one practise HS in a truly HS way?

One point that has been stressed again and again in the threads about sight reading is that you should practise it with pieces with a lower grade than you are currently on. If that is the case, then grade 1 students would not have a level to go lower to. So should they practise with grade one pieces? Or should they wait before they advance to grade 2 before they even consider the skill of sight reading?

In other ways: is sight reading a skill you nurture from day one? Do you start HS with a beginner, then wean her from it quickly to go to HT or sight reading (whatever the exact difference there is)?

I guess what I'm trying to find out wether sight reading is a skill that I should have been trained on long ago, that I should really start to work on now after 2 years of lessons or wether that is a skill for somebody far advanced.
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Currently working on: Venetian Gondola song by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

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#1981106 - 10/31/12 08:28 PM Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

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

Sight-reading is rarely (if ever) necessary when one is starting out. The best teachers emphasize it eventually, but typically it is developed more from necessity, or implied requirements.
>For instance, if one plays in an ensemble, s/he never wants to be THE ONE who is holding everyone else back from learning new selections.
>Other “outside stimului” to learning to sight-read exceptionally well, would be the desire to accompany, perhaps a chorus, where there is rarely any lead-time to “read-throughs”.
>If one were the pianist for auditions for, say, a musical, where each applicant brought in their own sheet music.
>If one were playing in a studio orchestra, where there is frequently a quick run-through before a performance or recording session. (This scene sometimes requires on-the-spot transposition expertise as well as excellent sight-reading.)

There are probably others. The important thing is that the skill is not usually called upon until the player is somewhat advanced. However, those who do possess such skill at an advanced level are highly regarded by their peers and are in demand.
Ed
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1981118 - 10/31/12 08:52 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: Barbareola
I have noticed that there is a lot of debate about learning a new piece HS or HT and I am not sure that I correctly understood the terms.

Does "learning HT" mean that you don't try the hands seperately at all and play both hands together from the start?


It doesn't necessarily exclude the act of playing hands separate at all, no. For a further explanation, read on.

Originally Posted By: Barbareola
If so - then how does it differ from sight reading? Only in the speed with which the piece is played?


Pieces are learned hands together from the get-go when one is able to do so, or in other words, when the technique for playing each part individually has already been mastered (technique is largely acquired practicing hands separate). The reason for doing this instead of doing 1)left hand 2)right hand 3)both hands is because it saves time, for one, and because when you memorize a piece of music and more specifically the act of playing a piece of music, you do so under the pretense of "hands together." That being said, though, each hand should arguably be thoroughly memorized both separately and together to better enhance memorization.

Sight-reading is different and is an endeavor all its own and should be practiced regularly and separately from learning new pieces.

Originally Posted By: Barbareola
Or does learning HT mean that you play a hand a couple of times HS, then combine them at the first possible instance, even though seperately the hands are still not optimized? If so - then how long would one practise HS in a truly HS way?


It certainly could mean this, yes. It all depends on whether or not you can already play the hands separately both musically and at, or a little faster than, speed.

Originally Posted By: Barbareola
One point that has been stressed again and again in the threads about sight reading is that you should practise it with pieces with a lower grade than you are currently on. If that is the case, then grade 1 students would not have a level to go lower to. So should they practise with grade one pieces? Or should they wait before they advance to grade 2 before they even consider the skill of sight reading?


It's not so much that you should practice sight-reading with lower level pieces than what you're currently learning as it is you have to. Try picking up a piece of music at the level of your current repertoire pieces. Unless you are the best of sight-readers (if that's the case, you wouldn't be on these forums with the rest of us wink ), this isn't the case. The reason for these decisions (http://www.music.sc.edu/ea/keyboard/ppf/1.2/1.2.PPFke.html great article) revolves around establishing an ideal, well-rounded classical pianist. Ideally, a player will be capable of sight-reading material close to what they're learning (or their pieces themselves slowly), but so long as you give attention to practicing the skill properly and regularly as all other skills at the piano, that's what's important.

Originally Posted By: Barbareola
In other ways: is sight reading a skill you nurture from day one? Do you start HS with a beginner, then wean her from it quickly to go to HT or sight reading (whatever the exact difference there is)?

I guess what I'm trying to find out wether sight reading is a skill that I should have been trained on long ago, that I should really start to work on now after 2 years of lessons or wether that is a skill for somebody far advanced.


This question is a difficult one. Sight-reading in my experience is a separate, but at the same time, not separate pianistic skill. Obviously you must already know how to interpret different notes and symbols, as well as any and all rhythms, but does knowing these things inside and out necessarily mean you can sight-read like the best? Not really.

In conclusion, does knowing all the above pre-requisites combined with regular practice build a competent sight-reader? This is what I believe to be the case. Of course with anything to do with learning piano, you'll hit bumps and roadblocks along the way, but with good methods and a good teacher, these will be overcome with resolve.

I think the reason I put so much into this is because this is a sensitive topic which I've been reading so much about hoping to improve, myself. Good luck and practice much.

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#1981351 - 11/01/12 01:48 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: TromboneAl]
nicolakirwan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/14/09
Posts: 37
Loc: midwest
Originally Posted By: TromboneAl
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 do a few of these, and then when I play in the written key, I pay more attention to intervals.


Honestly, having a teacher may not have helped you. The important thing is that you figured out the better way. I took lessons with various teachers over a number of years and none of them talked about intervals. The last one asked me to identify key signatures, but that was about it. So many piano teachers focus on technique over anything; and if most of their students start as kids, they can take it for granted that the kid will eventually learn intervals and whatnot intuitively and at least have the requisite physical response to seeing them.

In fact, in pulling out an old book of Alfred's Chords, Scales, and Arpeggios, I'm a little taken aback by the fact that my old piano teacher had me working through scales, parallel 6ths, cadences, and such, but never went into detail about what a cadence was, or its significance! (She was a good teacher in many ways, and I and others definitely learned from her; I think that just illustrates that teaching styles are very different and unless you know what you are looking for from a teacher, you won't really know the significance of what you're not learning.) By paying attention to these things now, I'm learning in short order things that took much longer when I was younger.

But even in the case of people who start young and play for years, stories of advanced players knowing no theory or not being able to identify an interval are not uncommon. When I was in college, a classmate would impress us all and the professor by playing Liszt...sitting down and running off into seemingly amazing technical feats at the grand at the back of the lecture room. Well, one day a friend and I were singing an old choral arrangement called "River in Judea," and he was around. Seemed like a perfect opportunity to make use of such a talented pianist and we asked him to accompany us. He started, got through about 8 measures, and then stopped, saying that he was a terrible sight reader. The arrangement wasn't anything special...pretty standard.

I'm not saying he was a bad pianist--clearly he was very good; and maybe he just didn't want to play for us. But it's very easy to have had lots of piano instruction and come out of it with "advanced" technical skills but still sub-par musicianship--which is what interval recognition and sight reading are a part of.

On the other hand, I know voice teachers who likely couldn't play Liszt, but who can accompany well enough on the piano. It's been my vocal studies that have launched me on a quest to shore up my musicianship skills, and in so doing, I've had a lot of revelations about piano study and pedagogy.

In my life outside of music, I've learned that oftentimes brilliance comes from being able to see things from a different angle and how to figure out how it all comes together rather than just memorizing, learning by rote, and regurgitating what one has absorbed. Real learning is about figuring out how something works and engaging it in a way that makes it all make sense to you--breaking things down until they "click". The ability to do this, I believe, is very much a part of that amorphous concept of "talent" or "giftedness".


Edited by nicolakirwan (11/01/12 02:11 PM)
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#1981385 - 11/01/12 02:59 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: nicolakirwan]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11656
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: nicolakirwan

In my life outside of music, I've learned that oftentimes brilliance comes from being able to see things from a different angle and how to figure out how it all comes together rather than just memorizing, learning by rote, and regurgitating what one has absorbed. Real learning is about figuring out how something works and engaging it in a way that makes it all make sense to you--breaking things down until they "click". The ability to do this, I believe, is very much a part of that amorphous concept of "talent" or "giftedness".

Just wow! thumb wow

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#1981391 - 11/01/12 03:03 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
ROMagister Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 518
Loc: Bucuresti, Romania
The need to learn intervals more than individual notes is clear, and was of some help to me so far. However, this goes very awkwardly together with different key signatures.

What was the level of mastery of different key signatures needed so that intervallic reading there is just as fluent as in A minor, say?

How does one reach that level ? Sure scales in itself are needed, but I tried, can play that _scale_ but not the black-white-black transitions needed for fluent intervals.

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#1981447 - 11/01/12 05:12 PM Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
I was not going to return to this, knowing that it will probably get lost-in-the-shuffle, just as it did on the first page of posts here.
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
. . . In studying music, EVERYTHING that is learned or performed correctly, helps EVERYTHING else.

Yet, virtually every other post from our more accomplished contributors touches on it. So, perhaps I shall risk boring you further with a small amount of elaboration.

Reading music -- In reading through many and varied pieces of music, at any level, familiar and unfamiliar, one quite naturally becomes better at reading music. It is a form of PRACTICE. Simultaneously, one is becoming a better sight-reader, through recognition of keys, notes, intervals, chords, ledger lines, harmonic shifts, etc. Also, the habitual use of the hands to form those identified notes, chords, etc, adds to one’s ability to quickly repeat the physical motions in the future.

Practicing (written) music -- In sitting to practice particular passages, one is typically focusing upon some technical problem(s), like fingering (for instance). In such an instance, one is probably fully aware of the notes involved, along with their durations, and is sorting out hand positions. Actually reading the notes is probably NOT going on here, as one works on the mechanics, and yet - simultaneously, one is becoming better at Reading music: Once the fingering of this single practice problem has been learned, it is added to the player’s “repertoire” of stuff s/he can now play. When a similar musical situation is encountered in the future, the player does not have to start from scratch. AND, simultaneously, one is becoming a better sight-reader, simply with more fingering accomplishment in her/his :bag-o-tricks.

Practicing scales -- This is much more a correct fingering and memorization process than anything involving music reading. However, if one remains mindful of their major and minor keys, scales can be magic. First of all, the fingering gets the hands “used to” being in the key in question. The fingers feel “at home” in Ab major, let us say. Scales are a great way to practice playing without looking at one’s hands. Even further, the connection from keyboard to ear becomes strengthened, as does the keyboard’s geography. Does this help music reading? I am certain everyone sees where this is heading: Whenever the player encounters scale fragments in Ab major, they are no longer a mystery or a surprise! Even better, every future piece that is in Ab major is now more familiar, because it is “under the fingers” and “in the ear”. And by extension, does scale practice ever help with sight-reading? How could it not?

Sight-reading music -- Finally to the topic of the thread. Sight-reading is a particular musical skill, and a handy one to have in many instances. It can be developed specifically. There are many techniques and drills for building sight-reading capability, and several have been discussed on this thread. Also, this is far from an exhaustive list of things-that-directly-help-other-things; the list is virtually endless. Should I close the proverbial loop here by mentioning that improving sight-reading skills also improves Reading music, Practicing music, etc., etc?

One should never overlook the cumulative power of doing everything in music correctly and well. It all adds up, and makes any player BETTER.

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

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#1981456 - 11/01/12 05:47 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
Barbareola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/12
Posts: 67
Loc: Germany
Thanks everybody for giving me more thought for food. My head is already spinning, but it has to live with it….

Bobpickle@ Nope I'm certainly not the best of sight readers. I'm hardly a reader even. When I learned the recorder and the guitar, I relied too heavily on my ear. When the music became too complex for that, I gave up. I didn't understand it then, but I think that is the reason why practicing became a chore instead of a joy and I quit, because I felt overwhelmed. I *had* progressed, but my reading skills were still on a total beginner's level. I deduced that I had no musical talent and quit. I hope that having realized what the root of a lot of problems is will help me. I love the piano more than I ever loved the recorder or the guitar. I don't want to give up again.

nicolakirwan@ I think I agree with you in that what the teacher teaches sometimes or even often is not all you need to learn. For the time being, I feel I *need* a teacher, but I also believe that I should be working on things without her help. If only to learn how to learn things without a teacher, because there will not always be one at my side.

Ed@ Piano playing feels to me like a web: reading, sight-reading, feel for the keyboard, musical theory, technique…. everything is connected. Improve one thing and the other will improve, won't it? On the other hand, I would think it would also follow that neglecting one aspect will hold you back, not only aspect, but also in regards to other, doesn't it? When I don't practice scales, I probably won't be able to recognize small scale parts in a piece or quickly practice a reasonable fingering for it and so forth. Which is the reason why it frustrates me so much that neither teacher one nor teacher two had/has me do scales, arpeggio and such exercises….
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#1981514 - 11/01/12 08:13 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
nicolakirwan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/14/09
Posts: 37
Loc: midwest
^^^Oh I didn't mean to suggest that going without a teacher is preferable, only that until you've reached a certain level, it can be difficult to know whether what is being taught is taking you where you want to go. *And* it's not uncommon for musicianship skills (of which sight reading is a part) to be overlooked by piano teachers.

It's all about the genius of the *and*. Things are rarely "either/or" but are more often "both/and".
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#1981521 - 11/01/12 08:44 PM Re: Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: ROMagister]
TromboneAl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 794
Loc: Northern, Northern California
Originally Posted By: ROMagister
The need to learn intervals more than individual notes is clear, and was of some help to me so far. However, this goes very awkwardly together with different key signatures.


What I think you're saying is that, for example, a third with a C in the bottom in the key of C feels very different from a third with a C in the bottom in the key of Bb. In other words, you are seeing the same interval but playing C and E in the first case, and C and Eb in the second.

I had the same objection, and the solution, according to my teacher, is to "think in the key." That is, you come to have this feeling for where the notes are in Bb, and your fingers will automatically go to the C-Eb when playing in that key.

That's the theory, anyway.

She also emphasizes that you may not always be concentrating on intervals, it's just one arrow in your quiver.

Another place that seeing intervals helps me is when the clefs change. I have a tendency to read the top clef as treble, and the bottom as bass, so when one clef changes, I can be in trouble. But, if I'm looking at intervals instead of notes (for example, seeing that the lower note goes down a second, and the upper note goes up a third) then a disaster can be avoided.

Believe me, I was sure that "just do it and you will get better" was the ticket, and followed that for 2-3 hours per day for years. That may work for others, but it did not work well for me.
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My Book: Becoming a Great Sight-Reader -- or Not!
My Blog: The Year of Piano Sight-Reading

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#1981526 - 11/01/12 09:02 PM Developing the basics for sightreading. [Re: Barbareola]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Barbareola
Ed@ Piano playing feels to me like a web: reading, sight-reading, feel for the keyboard, musical theory, technique…. everything is connected. Improve one thing and the other will improve, won't it? On the other hand, I would think it would also follow that neglecting one aspect will hold you back, not only aspect, but also in regards to other, doesn't it? Which is the reason why it frustrates me so much that neither teacher one nor teacher two had/has me do scales, arpeggio and such exercises….

I really like that WEB simile. Improving? Yes. Neglecting? Certainly. And of course, I have no knowledge of your teachers.

A teacher has to pick YOUR battles. During the time when I was teaching music (SOOooo long ago!), I attempted to focus on keeping the student “balanced” in development. These were not kids. In practice, this typically meant working on a student’s weak points, to bring those up to a par with her/his strengths. Frequently, there simply was not enough lesson- or practice-time to cover it all. Some things had to fall by the wayside, and, based upon the student’s goals and direction (and audition deadlines!), I had to pick-and-choose.

Perhaps - just PERHAPS - based on your mix of strengths and weaknesses at the time, your teachers felt that sight-reading was fairly low on your priority list.?.? All conjecture . . .

Ed
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