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#2008760 - 01/03/13 10:13 PM Sight Reading Tips
DkCHoPSUEY Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/06/09
Posts: 21
Loc: Chicago
Hi guys,

I was wondering if you guys could give me some sight reading advice. My sight reading level is not really that high (I am really slow at sight reading...I guess the problem for me is looking at two staves at the same time). I am proficient at reading individual staves, but it's reading hands together that is getting me right now.

When I study pieces of music, I usually do so in a hands separate method where I play both hands separately and while playing with one hand, I hear the other hand in my ear. Eventually when both hands are proficient, I put them together (usually takes 3-4 days for 2 pages of advanced music) which is how my teacher taught me to study pieces of music. This probably explains my difficulty with sight reading hands together (I can still sight read stuff like sonatinas, beginner music, and early intermediate stuff, but I really want to sight read Pop sheet music better and early-mid advanced music like Chopin Preludes/Nocturnes better)

Any good tips or approaches to this task?

Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!


Edited by DkCHoPSUEY (01/03/13 10:15 PM)
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#2008767 - 01/03/13 10:29 PM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
Orange Soda King Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/09
Posts: 6070
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky, United S...
Keep doing it. Do it a lot every day. Anything and everything.

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#2008769 - 01/03/13 10:42 PM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1300
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
DITTO. Don't be embarrassed to sight read the easiest music you can get your hands on. If you try hard music it will only discourage you. Sight reading is a skill and it can be developed. Some people are just gifted with the ability, others like us have to work at it. Also, do it slowly. I'm always reading the music when I practise and I also practise very slowly. It's amazing how many things the composer wrote down that we miss over and over again.
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#2008771 - 01/03/13 10:48 PM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
gooddog Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4806
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Make sure you are looking well ahead of where you are playing.
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Deborah

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#2008795 - 01/04/13 12:11 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
Adam Coleman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/10
Posts: 132
I think the best method to learning a piece is hands together first. This will help your sight reading and give you a better idea of the overall structure and how the piece fits together. And then later you can break it down into separate hands to really solidify it and iron out any issues.

Hands together!
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"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." - S. Rachmaninoff

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#2008807 - 01/04/13 12:45 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
I understand sight reading as reading and play music for the first time.

From what others have said: Keeping doing it; do it all the time, etc.

My experience is when I started playing reading from my music book, it was all I could do to read the music and play it slowly. Reading, play and reviewing all the music I have learned in my 1 year of music has resulted in me reading, playing and reviewing without a problem and I suspect it will continue. When I moved to John Thompson from my beginner book when I finished it, I could read the music and play very slowly. Now, more recently reading both the staves is fine whereas initially I had to struggle between the two staves.
Also I am reading, usually before I go to bed, the up-coming pieces and that is also helping to keep me reading the music. It is away from the piano, but it is something you or I or anyone can do anywhere and anytime. I have lots of scales to learn, too, so soon I will be reading those, too.

I guess we are all learning that it is everything about piano that is practice, practice and practice. It is all about spending your lifetime sitting on the bench - which is cool!

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#2008827 - 01/04/13 02:37 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
Pop music is a lot easier to tackle than Chopin. Skill sets are different. For pop music, memorize the chord progression, and then just follow along. Chopin is more about recognizing chord changes and patterns within the music.. much more demanding. The better your technique, the more you'll recognize these. But if you can sightread well what you say you can, you're probably not a slouch at the keys. smile
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Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2008852 - 01/04/13 05:33 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
Beethoven747-400 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/24/11
Posts: 126
Loc: Perth, Australia
like gooddog said, always look ahead! Also don't be afraid to miss out notes so you can keep the tempo even.
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#2008859 - 01/04/13 06:22 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5279
Originally Posted By: DkCHoPSUEY
... but it's reading hands together that is getting me right now.

When I study pieces of music, I usually do so in a hands separate method where I play both hands separately and while playing with one hand, I hear the other hand in my ear. Eventually when both hands are proficient, I put them together (usually takes 3-4 days for 2 pages of advanced music) which is how my teacher taught me to study pieces of music. This probably explains my difficulty with sight reading hands together (I can still sight read stuff like sonatinas, beginner music, and early intermediate stuff, but I really want to sight read Pop sheet music better and early-mid advanced music like Chopin Preludes/Nocturnes better)

Any good tips or approaches to this task?

Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!


I think you've hit the proverbial nail on the head already: to become proficient at sight-reading with both hands together, you must practise sight-reading with both hands together - whatever you've been taught by your teacher. For pop music, you'll find that you make gains very rapidly because you soon get a feel of the chord progressions in the LH accompaniment (most pop music use very basic harmonies), and often you'll be able to improvise more elaborate accompaniments for yourself rather than just repeated chords in LH.

For classical music, it's even more important that you start learning to read two staves simultaneously, because (unlike pop music), melodic strands often have to be played in LH even in fairly easy music (e.g. Chopin's Prelude Op.28/6), and both hands are equally often important (e.g. most of Bach).
_________________________
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

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#2008921 - 01/04/13 10:30 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
bennevis doesn’t muck around when ladling a modus operandi to improve sight-reading skills ... thus

“For classical music, it’s even more important that you start learning to read two staves simultaneously”... ouch!!

It’s a bit like hearing one of the Buddhist porters at the Everest Base Camp chime the old adage ... “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Initially we all learn to play off one stave (mostly the LH) ... and once almost memorized by rote ... lace in the treble melody.

But then I could be wrong ... I watched Everest through my binoculars.

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#2008930 - 01/04/13 11:03 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: btb]
Entheo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/04
Posts: 1117
Loc: chicago, il
Originally Posted By: btb
It’s a bit like hearing one of the Buddhist porters at the Everest Base Camp chime the old adage ... “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”


that would be spoken by a taoist sherpa smile
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#2008935 - 01/04/13 11:18 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: btb]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5279
Originally Posted By: btb
bennevis doesn’t muck around when ladling a modus operandi to improve sight-reading skills ... thus

“For classical music, it’s even more important that you start learning to read two staves simultaneously”... ouch!!

It’s a bit like hearing one of the Buddhist porters at the Everest Base Camp chime the old adage ... “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”



But then I could be wrong ... I watched Everest through my binoculars.



'It's better to live one life as a tiger than a thousand lives as a sheep'.
If you were in Nepal or Tibet, didn't you trek to Everest Base Camp (in Tibet, you can drive straight to it...)? grin

I prefer to hit the nail on the head rather than beat about the bush. Life is too short to beat bushes, even with a barge pole. wink
_________________________
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

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#2008942 - 01/04/13 12:01 PM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
In the past I always read both hands together. I think I needed to hear all the harmonies from the start and one line would have been too boring.Sight-reading is a learned skill and as it gets better just imagine all the books you can open and all the music you can discover.
It helps to recognize intervals, arpeggios, broken chords, chord changes....well that can go on and on. The most important thing is to persist. I used to have a pile of books to my left on the bench and I didn't leave the piano until each book made it to the music stand and then to another pile on the right of the bench. I still love to sight-read.

rada

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#2008956 - 01/04/13 01:18 PM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
WinsomeAllegretto Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/18/10
Posts: 832
When I was younger I used to learn everything hands separately. But the best teacher I ever had held that you should never learn something hands separately at first. I'm not sure if I agree with that (for example I learn polyphonic music by playing a mix of lines separately, hands separately, and hands together), but for the most part when I learn something, I learn it hands together right from the beginning. I have to go very slowly of course, but I have found that after making a habit of this I can learn pieces so much faster (and sight read better).

Also, try reading THREE staves at once (like in choral music). After that, two staves seems much easier grin

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#2009398 - 01/05/13 11:21 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
dolce sfogato Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 2652
Loc: Netherlands
find a choir that needs a repetiteur.
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Mussorgski tableaux d'une exposition/Ravel miroirs

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#2009418 - 01/05/13 11:59 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: WinsomeAllegretto]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18137
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: WinsomeAllegretto
When I was younger I used to learn everything hands separately. But the best teacher I ever had held that you should never learn something hands separately at first. I'm not sure if I agree with that (for example I learn polyphonic music by playing a mix of lines separately, hands separately, and hands together), but for the most part when I learn something, I learn it hands together right from the beginning. I have to go very slowly of course, but I have found that after making a habit of this I can learn pieces so much faster (and sight read better).
[...]


My teacher corroborates what you say. In her experience - and some of her colleagues have the same experience - students who learn pieces hands together from the outset make much better readers - sight-readers and score-readers, in general - than students who always learn hands separately, first.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
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Estonia 190

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#2013781 - 01/13/13 04:47 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
Evan R. Murphy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/01/11
Posts: 42
Loc: Austin, Texas
There's a lot of good advice in this thread already, and you're off to a good start being able to sight read easier pieces. It's just going to take persistence, continuing to sight read a lot of material and very gradually increasing the difficulty to reach your goal of being able to sight read more advanced music.

Do work on hands together, on not stopping and on looking ahead. Be careful about advancing the difficulty too quickly because it can get you into a bad habit of stop-and-go playing; it can also frustrate one enough to practice less and thus slow overall progress. Slow and steady. Don't forget to have fun! smile

Is your teacher a strong sight reader? If so, have you expressed to them your interest in getting better at sight reading? You can get better at sight reading much faster with a good teacher.

A fellow on this forum, TromboneAl, has been on a long journey to improve his sight reading. He documents his progress in this blog, which you might enjoy: The Year of Piano Sight-reading. (He's now quite outgrown that name, having been at it for 5 years.)

Do you have access to a good music library? You're going to constantly need new sheet music to practice sight reading diligently. There are also sight reading software programs with expansive sheet music libraries that you might find convenient for this purpose. (I work on one of them, see my signature if interested.)

I hope some of this is useful to you. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!
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SightReadingMastery is my website to help people get better at sight reading.
Piano World members get 40% off their first month using this link.

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#2013813 - 01/13/13 07:42 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: BruceD]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19472
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: WinsomeAllegretto
When I was younger I used to learn everything hands separately. But the best teacher I ever had held that you should never learn something hands separately at first. I'm not sure if I agree with that (for example I learn polyphonic music by playing a mix of lines separately, hands separately, and hands together), but for the most part when I learn something, I learn it hands together right from the beginning. I have to go very slowly of course, but I have found that after making a habit of this I can learn pieces so much faster (and sight read better).
[...]


My teacher corroborates what you say. In her experience - and some of her colleagues have the same experience - students who learn pieces hands together from the outset make much better readers - sight-readers and score-readers, in general - than students who always learn hands separately, first.

Regards,
This would seem to be obviously true. Since sight reading by definition involves reading both hands at once, the best way to learn how to do this is to practice reading both hands at once. If I wanted to improve my serve in tennis would anyone recommend working on my forehand?

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#2013974 - 01/13/13 03:43 PM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
It seems like simple advice but there is no better way to be a sight-reader than to get in there do it. Do a lot of it....and then some more....besides, it's so much fun!

rada

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#2014218 - 01/14/13 03:52 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
musicpassion Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 1045
Loc: California, USA
One idea to add to the discussion: sight read duets with a duet partner (or maybe a teacher). It's fun and it forces you to keep going, and read rhythms accurately. As has already been said about solo literature - don't pick too difficult.
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#2014355 - 01/14/13 11:06 AM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: musicpassion]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13802
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: musicpassion
...it forces you to keep going, and read rhythms accurately. As has already been said about solo literature - don't pick too difficult.


Best advice so far.

The accountability is extremely important - you have to be able to keep a rhythmic pulse despite note mistakes, and that's almost impossible to do when playing solo literature (even with a metronome, people cheat more than they think.)

And yes, I would say that 99% of people choose music that is too difficult. It particularly drives me crazy when people say that hymns and Haydn sonatas are good choices. They can be, if you're already an advanced pianist. For everyone else, grab a violinist or a flutist and read stuff like this:

http://imslp.org/wiki/Miniaturen,_Op.172_(Gurlitt,_Cornelius)
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"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#2014428 - 01/14/13 12:50 PM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5279
I don't know about others, but I don't know of any instrumentalist (string/woodwind/brass whatever) or pianist that would be willing to play with a pianist who's practising his sight-reading skills...unless you're both sight-reading grin.

In which case, it may be fun (and unless you're both already accomplished sight-readers, the results might sound like Boulez at his most intractable), but hardly a learning experience. Or else you're playing music that's so easy that it hardly improves your sight-reading skills. I used to play Mozart and Beethoven Violin Sonatas with a friend at school - we were both sight-reading, and I have to say the results were often hilarious. In some of the difficult fast movements, we often improvised our way around the dense passages, just to keep in time with each other.
_________________________
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

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#2014602 - 01/14/13 07:12 PM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: DkCHoPSUEY]
Daffodil Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/09/07
Posts: 168
Loc: In a big country
Visit secondhand and thrift stores and pick up heaps of music at cheap prices.

Don't be ashamed of sight reading pieces that are far below the level of music you learn over time.

Keep at it, and make it a part of your everyday routine.
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Daffodil - Onslow's twin.
Hailun 178

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#2014614 - 01/14/13 08:01 PM Re: Sight Reading Tips [Re: Daffodil]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5279
Originally Posted By: Daffodil
Visit secondhand and thrift stores and pick up heaps of music at cheap prices.

Don't be ashamed of sight reading pieces that are far below the level of music you learn over time.

Keep at it, and make it a part of your everyday routine.


I have a big stack of sheet music from composers as diverse as Merikanto, Palmgren, Sibelius, Nielsen, Gottschalk, Nazareth, Ginastera, Piazzolla, Barber, Copland, Kodaly, Smetana, Massenet, Ireland, Vaughan Williams.....all great for sight-reading (not to mention light relief from the heavyweight stuff I'm currently learning).

A recent 'discovery' (- it is one of the sheet music scores in 'Pianist' magazine Dec 2012-Jan 2013) is Alexander Ilyinsky's Berceuse, Op.13/7 - really easy to sight-read and saccharine sweet, totally irresistible for anyone with a sweet tooth wink .
www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-Uz_5xEy0Q
_________________________
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

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