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#1993480 - 12/02/12 01:44 AM Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material?
Stryder87 Offline
Gold Level Forums Subscriber Until Aug 29 2013

Registered: 01/16/12
Posts: 88
Loc: New Westminster, BC Canada
In reading the book “Sight Reading Skills” by Faith Maydwell, she makes reference to Mikrokosmos Volumes No.1–4 by Béla Bartók. She mentions that “… they are so beautifully crafted and graded. Many manuals designed especially for sight reading are less than inspiring. In contrast, within these pieces we have ‘real’ piano music full of imaginative constructions, using a variety of compositional methods that lead to the fingers being technically independent.” I was looking up what other people had to say about those (there’s actually six) volumes, and they seem to get pretty good reviews as alternatives to the standard sight reading material as well. Comments were made on how good the progression was, from Volume 1 being excellent for true beginners to Volume 6 being a challenge for experienced players.

I was wondering if anyone had any experience with these works and could share their thoughts? I couldn’t find anything that really specified what the differences were (if any) between the ‘Pink’ books that seem to be readily available as compared to the ‘Blue’ books. Are there any differences, other than colour of course?

Much thanks.
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#1993506 - 12/02/12 03:38 AM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: WalkFar
Volume cover color =
Pink: English, French, German, Hungarian
Blue: English, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese


I recently ordered volumes 1-4 off Amazon.com (seemed like best prices) for both sight-reading practice and possibly repertoire work in the later volume(s), though I've yet to open anything other than vol. 1 thus far.

They're valuable, without a doubt, from what I can tell thus far from Bartok's atypical ingenuity, but not necessarily what I'd recommend to a beginning sight-reader if that's what you'd classify yourself as. If you work slow and methodically though, you'd be fine. I'd supplement it with a good sight-reader teacher's progressive advice and tutelage and/or texts such as Lorina Havill's You Can Sight-Read vol.'s 1&2 which provide a lot of helpful advice and [some] works through which to practice reading, in addition to something like Hannah Smith's Progressive Sight-Reading Exercises which is just a big book of sight-reading exercises and nothing else from which to get a lot of practice.

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#1993558 - 12/02/12 08:41 AM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Bobpickle]
aTallGuyNH Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/22/12
Posts: 508
Volume 1 (pink) is what my daughter's piano teacher had her use as her exercise book (in addition to scales of course). I haven't cracked it open yet... Nice to know that I have something in the house already that I could use for this that would be useful for sight reading as well. I hadn't thought of it in that way until now.
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#1993656 - 12/02/12 01:20 PM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
Stryder87 Offline
Gold Level Forums Subscriber Until Aug 29 2013

Registered: 01/16/12
Posts: 88
Loc: New Westminster, BC Canada
Thanks for the input! I'll probably pick up volume 1 & 2 to check them out, but You Can Sight-Read by Lorina Havill sounds like a good book to investigate as I definitely am a beginner to sight-reading. I just wanted something that had songs that were much more interesting than what's in Alfred's. grin

@Bobpickle - Funny, I searched the forum for 'Mikrokosmos', but never found that quote by WalkFar.
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#1993764 - 12/02/12 04:46 PM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2535
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I like Mikrokosmos, but some of the dissonance makes my errors less obvious to me than playing traditional harmony.
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#1993774 - 12/02/12 05:09 PM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
UK Paul UK Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/11
Posts: 396
Loc: Berkshire, England
Id get sight reading by hannah smith before microcosmos book 1. Im at excercise 185 of 440... i have bartoks books too but feel hannah smiths material a good beginning
..
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#1994006 - 12/03/12 07:03 AM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
Recaredo Offline
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Registered: 05/04/11
Posts: 1091
Loc: Southeast of Spain
Mikrocoskmos has become my piano method, and I’m very pleased with it. I love its music, and I find all the pieces are very helpful to develop particular techniques. The pieces are really progressive, from the very beginning to the virtuosity.

Now I’m ending up the second volume. I have to spend more and more time to learn a new piece, given the fact that the difficulty increases considerably, but worth it.
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#1994077 - 12/03/12 11:04 AM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5313
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Stryder87
Thanks for the input! I'll probably pick up volume 1 & 2 to check them out, but You Can Sight-Read by Lorina Havill sounds like a good book to investigate as I definitely am a beginner to sight-reading. I just wanted something that had songs that were much more interesting than what's in Alfred's. grin

You hit on two key concepts I was going to mention. Being a beginner, choosing a "course" or "level-based approach" to sight-reading will go a long way towards helping you understand how to sight-read. A lot of sight-reading has to do with raw learned skill and lots of practice. The more skills you put into practice, the better your sight-reading will be. That said, I went through the Mikro's over 20 years ago, and they were a fabulous help. Definitely worth the ticket price when used correctly.

The second concept you mentioned was getting bored with Alfred's. I think it's also vitally important that you be interested in what you plan to sight-read. More recently, I tried to choose between sight-reading Bach and sight-reading Mozart. In the end, I picked up two books of Mozart's sonatas, and use that for sight-reading. I did so because I find Mozart's piano music far more interesting to play and listen to, which means I will invest more of my time and effort into the process than I would if I were playing something I couldn't really connect with.

Added benefit for me: I now play four different movements and one complete sonata of Mozart's that I never played before.

I hope this was helpful. smile
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#2039960 - 02/27/13 03:13 AM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 984
Loc: Italy
I thought I'd dig this up instead of opening a new thread - hope it's okay.

I read through Maydwell's “Sight Reading Skills” and a couple of weeks ago I started volume I of Mikrokosmos. The pieces look very progressive in difficulty and teach a lot of different skills, but I'm wondering if I'm learning them the right way. I have the impression that I'm using them more as technical studies than as sight-reading exercises.

Specifically, I wonder how many times am I supposed to repeat a piece so I can play it at the specified tempo, but without memorizing it? When I begin a new one I try to do as Maydwell says, i.e. take some time to analyze all the important bits, key signature, patterns, rhythm etc., and then I play it through hands together a few times. Then I add the metronome and repeat a few more times to check my tempo.

This is easy with the first ones, but as I progress I find I make mistakes here and there, maybe hit a wrong note or forget the legato or mess up the rests, and I need to stop and repeat the most difficult measures, or even play hands separate. Do you think this is okay? I'm afraid I might end up memorizing the pieces so it's no longer sight-reading. Also, I have a very hard time looking ahead in the music (but hopefully that will come with time!).
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#2039997 - 02/27/13 07:01 AM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2535
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I am using using the sightread4piano app on my ipad.

The app gives a short time to look at the selection before it disappears. Then a tap to the screen brings the image back and starts a metronome. It counts 2 measures and then at the end of each measure, that measure disappears. At the end, it all comes back again, so you can look and work it out, but for me the trick is to keep going steadily on the play through.

The selections are quite short- only 4 measures- so it is quite quick. I do not wish to "learn" any of the selections, because I imagine I will be repeating the whole lot of them at a slightly faster tempo. Right now, the only way I can keep up at all is to set the metronome at about 45.

I like it a lot, and on days when I have left my ipad at work, I miss it!
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#2040433 - 02/27/13 10:45 PM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: sinophilia]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: sinophilia
Specifically, I wonder how many times am I supposed to repeat a piece so I can play it at the specified tempo, but without memorizing it?


If you can sight-read through a piece at tempo on your first attempt, great, but that isn't what's important in practicing sight-reading. What you want to strive for is picking a tempo (as slow as necessary) at which you can not only maintain a steady rhythm/flow throughout, but at which you can look ahead and play the proper dynamics and articulations. I have come to realize lately that training the ability to look ahead of what you're playing is very important in order to take in everything on the page. This is good to practice with a teacher because they can hold a piece of paper in front of what you're playing while you're playing so you're forced to read ahead.

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#2041139 - 03/01/13 02:23 AM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 984
Loc: Italy
Thank you Bobpickle!

(and I'm now reading Graham Fitch's ebooks so thank you for the link too!)
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#2041160 - 03/01/13 03:40 AM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5261
Loc: Europe
Ok,

I know this will sound rather weird and possibly a bit offensive and off the high hill, but anyhow...

Somehow Bartoks' Mikrocosmos never appealed to me musically. Yes I understand its value, but it never clicked. On the contrary other works of his are simply masterpieces, the best of the best. So it's not that I'm not enjoying Bartoks music, on the contrary.

In any case about a year ago I published a work for intermediate pianists (so around Books 5-6 I'd say or a bit less) which consisted of 21 short works for piano. Someone commented in the youtube vids "Mikrokosmos anyone?" So perhaps there's a use in sight reading for a bit more advanced pianist in this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeTFz-6G-SY
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#2041235 - 03/01/13 08:33 AM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2535
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I don't mind Mikrocosmos, but because of my lack of sophistication I sometimes react in the same way to Bartok's dissonances and my wrong notes.
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#2041262 - 03/01/13 09:24 AM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
Andy Platt Online   content
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Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2389
Loc: Virginia, USA
One thing about the Hannah Smith book - I do like it but a lot of the exercises have the same notes in the left and right hands. So essentially you only read one line instead of two for those exercises. Like most folks, my single stave reading is orders of magnitude better than two staffs so it is quite easy.
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#2041288 - 03/01/13 10:47 AM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: malkin]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5261
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: malkin
I don't mind Mikrocosmos, but because of my lack of sophistication I sometimes react in the same way to Bartok's dissonances and my wrong notes.
Actually this stands with a lot of students, or even professionals who are not well versed in more contemporary idioms: If you don't know how it's supposed to sound and you have get used to certain tonal tendencies, you think that something sounding out of your ordinary is an error...

Based on my experience with my students I think that the above is relatively easy to overcome. Of course I don't have any adult students, so I can't comment specifically on this...
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#2041327 - 03/01/13 12:23 PM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2535
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I did better after listening to recordings of it.

Better at recognizing what it is supposed to sound like, anyway. That was much easier to fix than my sightreading.
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#2041842 - 03/02/13 12:25 PM Re: Mikrokosmos - Better sight reading material? [Re: Stryder87]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 984
Loc: Italy
I'll have to listen to recordings too, now my exercises sound really dull even if I get the notes and rhythm right. I'm so bad at identifying where accents are.
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