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#1994962 - 12/05/12 10:28 AM Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions?
HNB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 73
Loc: Australia
Now I've finished first year as a piano major, I'm drawing up practice plans for the summer. In addition to learning repertoire for next semester and some technical work, I really want to focus on sight reading. It's always been my biggest liability and something I've avoided working on methodically as I can learn & memorise music quite quickly (thank you Dr Suzuki), but it will hold me back next year as I get into accompanying and chamber music.

I have 4-5 hours daily of practice time for the next 3 months and want to devote at least an hour of it to sight reading, armed with the following:

Howard's Super Sight-Reading Secrets
Bach Chorales (complete 4-part keyboard reductions)
A big book of Schubert lieder
A bunch of "Adventures in Sight-Reading" books by Miriam Hyde that I found in the library

My strategy at the moment is to work methodically through Howard's book (which I find very interesting), and play as many of the rest each day as I can. Self-imposed rules are:
1) No stopping & no repeating
2) With metronome or counting out loud
3) No looking at hands, even for the first note (I think this may be my biggest dependency)

Can anybody offer any more suggestions or tips on how to make the most effective use of this time to improve my sight reading?

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#1994986 - 12/05/12 11:13 AM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17921
Loc: Victoria, BC
As we in the rest of the world are surrounded by the increasing darkness of shorter days at the approach of the Winter solstice, it's nice to be reminded of the larger cycle and that Summer is arriving "down under."

You seem to be on a good track. I would add that
- you should have at your sight-reading disposal a wide variety of materials.
- play whatever you sight read no faster than you think you can play it with a minimum of mistakes. I don't think - others may disagree - that trying to plow through a work at near-performance tempo refines the skills that you need to work on.

That said, I suppose there is some learning advantage to trying to sight-read the occasional piece at tempo. We are sometimes called on to accompany without much opportunity for pre-performance practice, although that is usually the fate of the accomplished accompanist rather than that of the novice sight-reader.

Whichever way you do it, however, it is of primary importance to keep the established tempo going. As you said : "no stopping or repeating" which means no "correcting" of errors or slips that are made.

As you head into the sunshine and many of us into the grey days of the year, let's remember : "This, too, will pass!"

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1994993 - 12/05/12 11:23 AM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19265
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: HNB
Now I've finished first year as a piano major, I'm drawing up practice plans for the summer. In addition to learning repertoire for next semester and some technical work, I really want to focus on sight reading. It's always been my biggest liability and something I've avoided working on methodically as I can learn & memorise music quite quickly (thank you Dr Suzuki), but it will hold me back next year as I get into accompanying and chamber music.

I have 4-5 hours daily of practice time for the next 3 months and want to devote at least an hour of it to sight reading, armed with the following:

Howard's Super Sight-Reading Secrets
Bach Chorales (complete 4-part keyboard reductions)
A big book of Schubert lieder
A bunch of "Adventures in Sight-Reading" books by Miriam Hyde that I found in the library

My strategy at the moment is to work methodically through Howard's book (which I find very interesting), and play as many of the rest each day as I can. Self-imposed rules are:
1) No stopping & no repeating
2) With metronome or counting out loud
3) No looking at hands, even for the first note (I think this may be my biggest dependency)

Can anybody offer any more suggestions or tips on how to make the most effective use of this time to improve my sight reading?
Mostly not what I would recommend doing.

1. The best way to motivate sight reading is to choose music that's worth sight reading. Except for the Schubert lieder(which seem much harder than the rest and maybe inapropriately hard) and Bach(seems very easy for a piano major), is any of the music you mentioned great enough to fall n this category? Sight reading should be enjoyable, and then it's not a chore and something you have to practice. There is a ton of music at suitable levels by the greatest composers that would make the sight reading far more enjoyable. IMO most of the best sight readers never "practiced sight reading". They just wanted to play music and did a lot of it.


2. Minimal looking at hands is far more appropriate than no looking at hands. I see no reason for not looking at you hands before starting. It's also important to practice looking a your hands and then being able to find your place back in the score, so I think avoiding looking at your hands completely is a mistake and not how even the best sight readers play.

3. Repeating a piece is also of value. The only situations where playing it reasonably well the first time is critical are if one has to accompany someone and there is no practice time beforehand.

4. If you are playing relatively easy music and are a piano major, why would you have to count out loud?

There are at least a million threads at PW on sight reading so you might want to do a search.


Edited by pianoloverus (12/05/12 11:26 AM)

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#1995040 - 12/05/12 01:08 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: pianoloverus]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17921
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
[...]IMO most of the best sight readers never "practiced sight reading". They just wanted to play music and did a lot of it.

[...]


That's really splitting hairs to a degree that defies logic. If I have a skill that is lacking, then I practice to improve it. If good sight readers never "practice" sight reading but just do it, that's still a form of practicing sight-reading, isn't it?

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1995046 - 12/05/12 01:16 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
daviel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/07
Posts: 933
Loc: Waxahachie, Texas
Well, I can play by ear, and I never practice it. My sight-reading sucks, so I practice that.
_________________________
"She loves to limbo, that much is clear. She's got the right dynamic for the New Frontier"
http://roadhouseallstars.com/

David Loving, Waxahachie, Texas

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#1995052 - 12/05/12 01:35 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
DanS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/12
Posts: 553
I think Pianoloverus's point, and the point that I would make, is that you don't just need to read through a piece once, and that learning easier pieces (say, something you can get down in 30 minutes or so) helps your reading.

To that end, there's a lot of great collections of easier pieces out there... There's the Classics to Modern in 6 volumes, The Denis Agay collections (The Baroque Period, The Classical Period...), tons of these books. You could also look at Burgmuller op 100, 109 and 105, Heller, Bach Inventions, Scytte op 68. There's just so much!
_________________________
"Most pianists are poor musicians, they dissect music into bits-and-pieces, like a roast chicken" -Debussy

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#1995085 - 12/05/12 03:12 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: BruceD]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19265
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
[...]IMO most of the best sight readers never "practiced sight reading". They just wanted to play music and did a lot of it.

[...]


That's really splitting hairs to a degree that defies logic. If I have a skill that is lacking, then I practice to improve it. If good sight readers never "practice" sight reading but just do it, that's still a form of practicing sight-reading, isn't it?

Regards,
Not at all, but maybe I didn't make myself clear. I think the best sight readers never thought of it as practicing their sight reading as if it was a chore or an assignment or even thought of it as practicing sight reading. I think they did a lot of it because they wanted to play through music and that was basically 100% of the reason to do so. And I think that's the best approach to take for anyone wanting to improve their sight reading.

The whole idea of forcing oneself to sight read less than great music an hour a day while following a list of rules is not the best approach IMO.

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#1995091 - 12/05/12 03:23 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: DanS]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19265
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: DanS
I think Pianoloverus's point, and the point that I would make, is that you don't just need to read through a piece once, and that learning easier pieces (say, something you can get down in 30 minutes or so) helps your reading.

To that end, there's a lot of great collections of easier pieces out there... There's the Classics to Modern in 6 volumes, The Denis Agay collections (The Baroque Period, The Classical Period...), tons of these books. You could also look at Burgmuller op 100, 109 and 105, Heller, Bach Inventions, Scytte op 68. There's just so much!
Except I wouldn't spend time with composers like Burgmuller, Scytte, and probably not even Heller. Why play minor composers when there's an incredible amount of material at almost any level of difficulty by the greatest composers?

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#1995097 - 12/05/12 03:33 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
Copake Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/08
Posts: 255
Loc: Columbia/Westchester Counties ...
I am a very poor sight-reader and every so often I entertain the idea of a concerted effort to improve (not knowing how much improvement is possible at the age of 69).

I guess my question is: does one improve simply by reading lots of music or do you need to come to a better understanding of WHY one fails? If we can identify specific weaknesses, will we know how to overcome them? For example, I have tremendous difficulty in choosing the "optimal" fingering for a passage at first sight which usually leads to a breakdown. Assuming the music is neither simple chords, arpeggios, nor scales but something more complex, how does one do this?

Also, does anyone know how to acquire a voluminous source of sheet music at a very reasonable price?

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#1995104 - 12/05/12 03:52 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: pianoloverus]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17921
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
[...]IMO most of the best sight readers never "practiced sight reading". They just wanted to play music and did a lot of it.

[...]


That's really splitting hairs to a degree that defies logic. If I have a skill that is lacking, then I practice to improve it. If good sight readers never "practice" sight reading but just do it, that's still a form of practicing sight-reading, isn't it?

Regards,
Not at all, but maybe I didn't make myself clear. I think the best sight readers never thought of it as practicing their sight reading as if it was a chore or an assignment or even thought of it as practicing sight reading. I think they did a lot of it because they wanted to play through music and that was basically 100% of the reason to do so. And I think that's the best approach to take for anyone wanting to improve their sight reading.

The whole idea of forcing oneself to sight read less than great music an hour a day while following a list of rules is not the best approach IMO.


Perhaps we can just agree to disagree on this point, and perhaps it is just a question of terminology.

I enjoy reading through works that I have not played before, and, in that sense, it seems obvious to me that I am working on (practicing?) my sight-reading skills even if this is not a period set aside for "practicing my sight-reading." I have never "forced" myself to sight-read for any given period of time, nor do I follow a "list of rules."

It still seems to me that I am working on my sight-reading skills - practicing them - as I go through this exercise because, at some point or another in the exercise, I may realize and/or solve a problem.

I also find it "fun" to read through works of lesser composers because quite often their works, less complex, help to more readily identify repetitive patterns and passages that may be present but less obvious in works by "great" composers.

Maybe for many of us - particularly those rather "long in the tooth," as they say, and who have spent a lifetime of listening to music - so many of the works of the greater composers are so familiar to us that it is difficult to find in their works, pieces we haven't heard or don't know to some extent even if we haven't studied them. The works of lesser composers, never having been part of our study, present myriad opportunities for true sight-reading of works we have never seen or ever heard before. One can even find some little "bonbons," inconsequential, perhaps, but useful in some lighter performance situations or for encores. I wouldn't dismiss all but the great composers as unworthy of reading and providing entertainment and (oh dear!) sight-reading practice.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1995107 - 12/05/12 04:00 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: Copake]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17921
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Copake
I am a very poor sight-reader and every so often I entertain the idea of a concerted effort to improve (not knowing how much improvement is possible at the age of 69).

I guess my question is: does one improve simply by reading lots of music or do you need to come to a better understanding of WHY one fails? If we can identify specific weaknesses, will we know how to overcome them? For example, I have tremendous difficulty in choosing the "optimal" fingering for a passage at first sight which usually leads to a breakdown. Assuming the music is neither simple chords, arpeggios, nor scales but something more complex, how does one do this?

Also, does anyone know how to acquire a voluminous source of sheet music at a very reasonable price?


The simple answer is : Yes, one improves one's sight-reading ability through sight-reading.

That said, I think it should be a pedagogically accepted view that it helps you to know what problems you have in sight-reading to more focus on ways of resolving those problems. If you don't analyze your problems to understand what they are and what might be causing them, it could take much longer to solve them.

There is a wealth of free public domain music at the Petrucci Music Library at

IMSLP

that can provide an almost endless source of music for reading through at all levels.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1995112 - 12/05/12 04:18 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: Copake]
Arghhh Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/08
Posts: 1049
Originally Posted By: Copake

I guess my question is: does one improve simply by reading lots of music or do you need to come to a better understanding of WHY one fails? If we can identify specific weaknesses, will we know how to overcome them? For example, I have tremendous difficulty in choosing the "optimal" fingering for a passage at first sight which usually leads to a breakdown. Assuming the music is neither simple chords, arpeggios, nor scales but something more complex, how does one do this?

Also, does anyone know how to acquire a voluminous source of sheet music at a very reasonable price?


I think that one needs to understand WHY one fails at sight reading too after a certain point. It's no different than learning to play a piece. There's usually a point in learning a piece where I realize that a certain passage is not getting better the way it should, and I need to stop and figure out why it's not working in order to fix it. Same with sight reading - I've gotten pretty good at sight reading because I've always done a lot of it, but now it's stalled in its progress and I need to figure out why.

There are two parts to sight reading - seeing what to play, and playing what you see.
These are my recommendations to myself for how to improve:
- sight read at slow tempos (give myself time to see exactly what to play)
- sight read at faster tempos (to play what I see and get used to seeing larger patterns)
- recognize larger structures than just a series of notes or intervals - larger structures would be things like chords, scales, arpeggios, sequences, or other patterns. I should be able to see that the coming bunch of notes is a G major arpeggio in some form, and only worry about playing Gs, Bs, and Ds instead of the exact ones written in the score.
- expand my eye focus to a measure or two measures instead of the beat I am playing
- look ahead more to be able to navigate jumps and choose better fingerings
- read through a piece, and go back to sections that caused difficulty to see where I went wrong. Then I can learn from my mistake and hopefully do better next time.

I don't think that really answers the question on how to read things that aren't simple chords, but I still think there is some way to reduce the series of notes to some sort of a pattern. As for choosing the optimal fingering - this just isn't done. If it is a series of fast notes, know where you need to start, and where you need to end, and find any way, however inelegantly, to string them together. Another skill to add is being able to switch fingers on the same key without restriking the note.

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#1995180 - 12/05/12 07:19 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: pianoloverus]
DanS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/12
Posts: 553
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: DanS
I think Pianoloverus's point, and the point that I would make, is that you don't just need to read through a piece once, and that learning easier pieces (say, something you can get down in 30 minutes or so) helps your reading.

To that end, there's a lot of great collections of easier pieces out there... There's the Classics to Modern in 6 volumes, The Denis Agay collections (The Baroque Period, The Classical Period...), tons of these books. You could also look at Burgmuller op 100, 109 and 105, Heller, Bach Inventions, Scytte op 68. There's just so much!
Except I wouldn't spend time with composers like Burgmuller, Scytte, and probably not even Heller. Why play minor composers when there's an incredible amount of material at almost any level of difficulty by the greatest composers?


I find a lot value in Burgmuller and Heller. All the difficulties that are found in larger pieces (legato vs staccato, bringing out voices, etc.) are present in this simpler music. It makes, at least for me, interesting and enjoyable reading... I can't think of any "great composer" that would be a good substitute for early Burgmuller, considering level and style. I could be wrong though, I'm no repertoire guru wink

Just to be clear, I think reading through the classics is great too.
_________________________
"Most pianists are poor musicians, they dissect music into bits-and-pieces, like a roast chicken" -Debussy

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#1995182 - 12/05/12 07:24 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: BruceD]
DanS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/12
Posts: 553
Originally Posted By: BruceD
We are sometimes called on to accompany without much opportunity for pre-performance practice, although that is usually the fate of the accomplished accompanist rather than that of the novice sight-reader.


Step 1, figure out which notes you're going to leave out ha
_________________________
"Most pianists are poor musicians, they dissect music into bits-and-pieces, like a roast chicken" -Debussy

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#1995186 - 12/05/12 07:30 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: DanS]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19265
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: DanS
I find a lot value in Burgmuller and Heller. All the difficulties that are found in larger pieces (legato vs staccato, bringing out voices, etc.) are present in this simpler music. It makes, at least for me, interesting and enjoyable reading... I can't think of any "great composer" that would be a good substitute for early Burgmuller, considering level and style. I could be wrong though, I'm no repertoire guru wink

Just to be clear, I think reading through the classics is great too.
I don't know how easy the easiest pieces by Burgmuller or Heller are. But the OP is not a beginning student. I can think of only a few great composers who haven't written many works that would be suitable for someone who was already good enough to be in a piano performance program even if they were a poor sight reader.

Just to take a few composers as an example, I can't imagine a performance major(or even an average student after five years of study) who couldn't make a reasonable attempt at sight reading all the Chopin works that Baille lists as grades 4-5 and many of the one listed as grade 6. That list includes around 5 Preludes, 15 Mazurkas, 7 Waltzes, etc. There is no need to sight read these at performance tempo.

Schumann: Kinderscenen, Pieces for Children
Schubert: Hundreds of Waltzes
Bartok: the first book of Microcosmos
Brahms: Waltzes
Debussy: Arabesque No.1, Reverie
Bach: all the pieces in a typical collection with a title like First Book of Bach. This would be at least 30 pieces.
Scarlatti:most of the slow Sonatas

I think there are collections called something like First Book of ..... for many of the great composers. At least for me those would be much more satisfying to play and motivation is half the battle.


Edited by pianoloverus (12/05/12 07:57 PM)

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#1995216 - 12/05/12 08:36 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
DanS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/12
Posts: 553
I realize that the OPer isn't a beginner. The easiest Burgmullers are far easier than most of the stuff you listed, for sure. All the stuff you listed is great, too. Lots of good stuff to be read.

____

Yes, Microcosmos! That's a great book for sightreading. You really can't rely on what you think you know when you're reading those.


Edited by DanS (12/05/12 08:37 PM)
_________________________
"Most pianists are poor musicians, they dissect music into bits-and-pieces, like a roast chicken" -Debussy

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#1995244 - 12/05/12 10:35 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: DanS]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7782
Originally Posted By: DanS
Originally Posted By: BruceD
We are sometimes called on to accompany without much opportunity for pre-performance practice, although that is usually the fate of the accomplished accompanist rather than that of the novice sight-reader.


Step 1, figure out which notes you're going to leave out ha


That really can be the case when in a sight-reading situation with other people. I remember hearing an interview with a professional collaborative pianist (is that the correct term these days?) who said exactly that. He said the trick to successful sight-reading when working with others was in knowing how to simplify the music on the fly during the first read-through(s), and then filling in the stuff you left out when you got the chance for serious practice. You sort of approximate the music at first, and only later do you get specific about every single note.

I sometimes do that when sight-reading for my own use, too, especially if I'm just causally exploring some music to see if there might be something interesting I want to work on more carefully later.

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#1995260 - 12/06/12 12:02 AM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: wr]
DanS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/12
Posts: 553
Don't I know it! wink

Being able to improvise is a must for a busy accompanist. Having the time to fill in the missing notes later is a luxury that, depending on the type of work, sometimes never comes.
_________________________
"Most pianists are poor musicians, they dissect music into bits-and-pieces, like a roast chicken" -Debussy

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#1995279 - 12/06/12 12:45 AM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
TrueMusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/30/12
Posts: 254
Loc: San Diego, California
What's helped me the most is playing with ensembles where stopping to go back isn't an option. My biggest problem is getting caught up in mistakes and stopping! If I'm reading with someone else I can't do that. But, I plan to do some sight reading practice over my summer as well, mine just comes a few months after yours.

Today was encouraging however - I made it through a ten page piano acc. with a band & small orchestra without many mistakes...and the part had some sixteenth note runs and was NOT placed in a notebook for easy page turns, just individual sheets. I was happy! Not to long ago I would've flopped on that one.
_________________________
Piano/Composition major.

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Polish:
Liszt Petrarch Sonnet 104
Bach WTC book 1 no. 6.
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New:
Chopin op. 23
Bach WTC book 2 no. 20

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#1995285 - 12/06/12 12:56 AM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
So many suffer the delusion that blitzing a bout of sight-reading would improve the shortfall.

I’m with pianoloverus in recommending to work on
a piece of music that stirs you .

If Schumann’s Kinderscenen (as suggested by pianoloverus) doesn’t hit the mark, then ...
it might be better to think of taking up golf.

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#1995351 - 12/06/12 08:37 AM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: btb]
HNB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 73
Loc: Australia
Thank you all for the suggestions - BruceD and pianoloverus and Arghh (and others), you have all provided some thought provoking insights. Also many thanks for the repertoire suggestions - I'm fully aware that "more is better" in terms of improving sight reading.

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
...I can't imagine a performance major(or even an average student after five years of study) who couldn't make a reasonable attempt at sight reading all the Chopin works that Baille lists as grades 4-5 and many of the one listed as grade 6.

I'm flattered to have stretched your imagination wink Yes, I'm a piano major, as you keep mentioning... not that it's relevant to this discussion. Yes, I suck at sight reading, and even though I've played loads of music by many great composers, my sight reading has not magically improved. So, rather than continuing to just play stuff and hope for the best, I want to figure out how to get better. Even if it feels like a "chore" - learning the foundations isn't always fun, but it's necessary for unfettered enjoyment.

Quote:
3. Repeating a piece is also of value. The only situations where playing it reasonably well the first time is critical are if one has to accompany someone and there is no practice time beforehand.

The second time I play through a piece is always 100% better than the first, because I've learned it enough that I don't need to look at the music all the time. A couple more repeats and it's mostly memorised. This is probably part of the reason I've never developed good sight reading skills.

Quote:
4. If you are playing relatively easy music and are a piano major, why would you have to count out loud?

It's been mentioned in various places, including here & also a few of the million threads on PW, that counting out loud using the smallest rhythmic subdivision in the piece, helps when sight reading. I'm not sure exactly why but it seems to work.

Your point re. looking at hands is well taken and makes good sense, thanks. In observing very good sight readers, I've noticed they seldom look at their hands, and easily negotiate jumps without looking, but I guess peripheral vision & the occasional glance is enough. The Howard's sight-reading book I mentioned places great emphasis on "keyboard orientation" and reducing reliance on vision.

Originally Posted By: wr
That really can be the case when in a sight-reading situation with other people. I remember hearing an interview with a professional collaborative pianist (is that the correct term these days?) who said exactly that. He said the trick to successful sight-reading when working with others was in knowing how to simplify the music on the fly during the first read-through(s), and then filling in the stuff you left out when you got the chance for serious practice. You sort of approximate the music at first, and only later do you get specific about every single note.

Very interesting. I wonder how one could practice that?

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#1995380 - 12/06/12 09:46 AM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: HNB

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
...I can't imagine a performance major(or even an average student after five years of study) who couldn't make a reasonable attempt at sight reading all the Chopin works that Baille lists as grades 4-5 and many of the one listed as grade 6.

I'm flattered to have stretched your imagination wink Yes, I'm a piano major, as you keep mentioning... not that it's relevant to this discussion. Yes, I suck at sight reading, and even though I've played loads of music by many great composers, my sight reading has not magically improved.
The relevance of mentioning that you're a performance major is that this would be extremely unusual if your sight reading is as horrendous as you seem to think it is. Maybe you're comparing yourself to other performance majors? Would you be able to sight read the easiest Chopin Preludes or Mazurkas? By sight reading I mean playing them at significantly less than performance tempo with some stopping but not stopping every measure. I think the idea of practicing sight reading with the goal of never stopping is not so important and highly overrated unless one wants to be a professional accompanist. The important thing for almost everyone is how fast one can learn the notes to a piece and not whether one can play it through without stopping the first time.

Originally Posted By: HNB
The second time I play through a piece is always 100% better than the first, because I've learned it enough that I don't need to look at the music all the time. A couple more repeats and it's mostly memorised. This is probably part of the reason I've never developed good sight reading skills.
If your second time through a piece improves that much and you have it memorized after a few more times, I'd say that you're note learning skills are very good and your only weakness is related to a very limited definiton of sight reading. If you think your poor sightreading is related to memorizing a piece very quickly then perhaps you should make sure to look at the music even after you've memorized the notes.

Originally Posted By: HNB
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
4. If you are playing relatively easy music and are a piano major, why would you have to count out loud?

It's been mentioned in various places, including here & also a few of the million threads on PW, that counting out loud using the smallest rhythmic subdivision in the piece, helps when sight reading. I'm not sure exactly why but it seems to work.
Counting out loud using the smallest rhythmic subdvision might be useful for beginners but I don't see how how many non beginners would benefit. Using the smallest rhythmic subdivision seems especially unhelpful and extremely awkward unless possibly if the piece has some very tricky rhythm. Does it help you? What piece was it helpful on? I can't imagine, for example, that most would find it useful to count a Mozart Sonata in 16th notes.



Edited by pianoloverus (12/06/12 11:02 AM)

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#1995387 - 12/06/12 10:03 AM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
pelf Offline
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Registered: 05/20/10
Posts: 67
from my post on a previous thread (Oct. 2010, improving sight-reading):
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1540430/Re:%20What%20are%20the%20fundamentals%20.html

I'd posted this on 6/10/10, but it's still relevant advice on sight-reading:

From the Guild Musicianship Book (National Guild of Piano Teachers, ed. Lindfors; Summy-Birchard Inc., 1961; ISBN 0-87487-638-9):

"The ability to sight-read piano music depends mainly on keeping the eyes on the music and not looking down at the keyboard; on reading by groups of notes rather than one note at a time; and on looking ahead to see what is coming. Above all, it requires keeping going rhythmically even though there are mistakes.

Before starting to play, the clefs and key and time signatures should be noticed. The title and tempo mark should be looked to for clues to the idea of the piece. It may be necessary to play slower than the indicated tempo, however, to keep a steady pace."

I'd also suggest playing the piece "in your mind" (looking through it very carefully) before actually playing. Go ahead and work out the tricky fingerings and rhythms before starting to play. And yes, sight-reading material should be several levels easier than the pieces you are working to perfect. The steady pace is the most important thing. Take a slow enough tempo that you can keep the pace steady.

The more sight-reading you do, the better you will get. Best wishes!


Edited by pelf (12/06/12 10:04 AM)
Edit Reason: typo!

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#1995529 - 12/06/12 03:50 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
Arghhh Offline
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Originally Posted By: HNB

The second time I play through a piece is always 100% better than the first, because I've learned it enough that I don't need to look at the music all the time. A couple more repeats and it's mostly memorised. This is probably part of the reason I've never developed good sight reading skills.


I wonder how you do that? I'm guessing that you rely more on aural memory since muscle memory wouldn't set in that fast? If that is true, then another thing I found helpful when sight reading is to hear in my mind what I need to play before I play it.

Quote:

Originally Posted By: wr
That really can be the case when in a sight-reading situation with other people. I remember hearing an interview with a professional collaborative pianist (is that the correct term these days?) who said exactly that. He said the trick to successful sight-reading when working with others was in knowing how to simplify the music on the fly during the first read-through(s), and then filling in the stuff you left out when you got the chance for serious practice. You sort of approximate the music at first, and only later do you get specific about every single note.

Very interesting. I wonder how one could practice that?


If you don't have other people to play with, then metronomes work. The metronome can also be used as a prompt to read ahead to the next beat on each click so that you're forced to read ahead of where you are playing.

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#1995547 - 12/06/12 04:47 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5918
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: HNB
Originally Posted By: wr
That really can be the case when in a sight-reading situation with other people. I remember hearing an interview with a professional collaborative pianist (is that the correct term these days?) who said exactly that. He said the trick to successful sight-reading when working with others was in knowing how to simplify the music on the fly during the first read-through(s), and then filling in the stuff you left out when you got the chance for serious practice. You sort of approximate the music at first, and only later do you get specific about every single note.
Very interesting. I wonder how one could practice that?
[1]By doing it. Grab every chance of reading through things with other people.
[2]Know a bit about harmony and gain some experience in playing by ear. That helps you approximate the music (as wr says). And you'll find that as time goes on, the less approximation you are doing and the more detail you are able to actually play at first sight.
[3]Read music away from the piano. That develops your ability to grasp what's going on without it being just a "put your finger here" instruction.
[4]In my view, nothing really beats just being interested in exploring music you've never seen or heard before. Life's too short to explore it all, but just get cracking. smile
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#1996196 - 12/08/12 12:06 AM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: pianoloverus]
HNB Offline
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Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 73
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: Arghhh
I wonder how you do that? I'm guessing that you rely more on aural memory since muscle memory wouldn't set in that fast? If that is true, then another thing I found helpful when sight reading is to hear in my mind what I need to play before I play it.

Definitely more reliance on aural memory. I've just started experimenting with more mental practice & visualisation, as pelf and currawong suggested, and it might be working smile

Originally Posted By: Arghhh
If you don't have other people to play with, then metronomes work. The metronome can also be used as a prompt to read ahead to the next beat on each click so that you're forced to read ahead of where you are playing.

Yes, that really helps. I think that the counting-out-loud serves the same purpose, except it also seems to "disconnect" me somehow so I'm not focussed on my hands or the notes I'm playing so much and am more in "the zone". If that makes sense.

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
The relevance of mentioning that you're a performance major is that this would be extremely unusual if your sight reading is as horrendous as you seem to think it is. Maybe you're comparing yourself to other performance majors? Would you be able to sight read the easiest Chopin Preludes or Mazurkas? By sight reading I mean playing them at significantly less than performance tempo with some stopping but not stopping every measure. I think the idea of practicing sight reading with the goal of never stopping is not so important and highly overrated unless one wants to be a professional accompanist. The important thing for almost everyone is how fast one can learn the notes to a piece and not whether one can play it through without stopping the first time.

I was never asked to sight read at my audition! Yes I suppose I could manage the very easiest Chopin Preludes in the manner you describe. But I think a higher ability than that is absolutely necessary for any professional pianist, and I'm certainly below what you seem to feel is the minimum level for a piano major. It's funny though, when I'm asked to sight read something in class I am probably the worst, but if the task is to learn a piece of music and play it from memory in the next lesson, I'm way ahead!

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#1996329 - 12/08/12 09:49 AM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19265
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: HNB
I was never asked to sight read at my audition! Yes I suppose I could manage the very easiest Chopin Preludes in the manner you describe. But I think a higher ability than that is absolutely necessary for any professional pianist, and I'm certainly below what you seem to feel is the minimum level for a piano major. It's funny though, when I'm asked to sight read something in class I am probably the worst, but if the task is to learn a piece of music and play it from memory in the next lesson, I'm way ahead!
Yes, I agree that if you are planning a career as a professional pianist you should work on your sight reading skills. OTOH you are very lucky to have the ability to learn and memorize music quickly which is obviously a very important skill also. Perhaps your teacher, who knows you far better than PW posters, can offer some specific advice or understand what's holding you back as regards sight reading. For example, when you sight read in class does the teacher offer any specific suggestions?

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#1996357 - 12/08/12 10:50 AM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: HNB]
Kuanpiano Offline
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Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2137
Loc: Canada
+1 for Plover's point over here. I'm a decent reader, but I've never actually practiced sight reading, I've just gone through lots of foreign music and had a lot of fun with it. Last night I was reading through Rachmaninoff's first sonata, and a few Kapustin preludes and etudes for fun. It was severely under tempo, and sometimes there were pauses, but it's not like it was totally incoherent. But it was all just for fun and not actual practice.
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#1996556 - 12/08/12 07:03 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: Kuanpiano]
adultpianist Offline
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Registered: 12/01/12
Posts: 540
I am ok at reading music but where I fall down is where they put the sharps in the margin and not against the notes. It takes me a while to recognise which is which at speed.

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#1996643 - 12/08/12 11:18 PM Re: Summer sight reading blitz - suggestions? [Re: adultpianist]
DanS Offline
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Registered: 10/28/12
Posts: 553
Originally Posted By: adultpianist
I am ok at reading music but where I fall down is where they put the sharps in the margin and not against the notes. It takes me a while to recognise which is which at speed.


Sounds like you need some work on your scales, and maybe some chord progression work.


Edited by DanS (12/08/12 11:19 PM)
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