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#2051415 - 03/20/13 02:53 PM Re: Sight Reading Methods and Problems [Re: Kerry Jacobs]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta

My sight-reading background: 30 minutes every day for almost a year, still very terrible at it. Working with simple pieces for two hands with position changes and random keys, and I often struggle at 30 bpm.

you say: "30 minutes every day for almost a year, still very terrible at it"

good morning, good afternoon, good evening,

If it is note recognition, or sight reading, it is simple:
Sit at the piano looking at any scale. As you read and play the scale up or down, say the notes as you play them. Do the treble clef and the bass clef.

Remember what it said in the first piano book:

First, play and say the letter names of the notes.
Slow and even counting is essential.
Endeavour to maintain strict time in all exercises.
Correct finger as shown must be used to ensure smooth playing. Begin these exercises slowly and gradually increase speed. DON'T memorize the sound, but READ every note and play it as written with its correct time value.

"I have tried both the "intervallic" and "note recognition methods" of sight reading, but have encountered some major problems with both and so I can't figure out which one to use. I know that some advocate a mixture of both, but I can't seem to combine the two. The reason is, if I get into a part in which I am using only intervals, I cannot go back to note recognition because even though I can start reading the notes again for pitch at any time, I don't know which keys are under which fingers anymore. I'll also address the fact that it wouldn't really make sense to try to use both methods simultaneouly for every note because that would defeat the purpose of intervallic reading which is supposed to facilitate faster speed than note recognition would allow (I'm not at a level at which I would know if that's true, but that is always the reasoning I see for intervallic reading).

So now I'll explain the issues I'm running into.

Intervallic: Because of its relative nature, when you play one wrong note, all subsequent notes thrown off. First of all, how would you notice when the notes get thrown off? Second, how would you correct it once you notice it? To clarify, (assuming some position changes as well) I would at that point have no idea where my hand is (i.e. what notes it's covering). I could either look down or feel the black keys, but both would take enough time to interrupt the rhythm considerably.

Note Recognition: I am somewhat concerned about the fact that for more complex pieces this method would not work anymore (as opposed to intervallic reading), but I don't know if this is true because I'm not at that level right now. Still, thoughts on this would be appreciated. In any case, I have experienced a problem with this method already. If I were to play with hands in a fixed position, I wouldn't really have any issues with this so far. However, in playing pieces pieces that require shifting, I cannot keep track of the new keys that my fingers are covering, especially after a few shifts.

This applies to both methods: How do you account for accidentals when changing positions? I'm very familiar with playing scales, but it doesn't really help in this regard because scales place the hand in very specific points within the key that often are not helpful for songs (e.g. when the most appropriate fingering involves the thumb on something like the 2nd or 6th degree, which doesn't happen in scale fingering (most scales anyway))

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to be very specific. Also, I'm not saying that these are faults with the methods, I'm just saying that these are issues I'm having with them. I don't believe both can be used well for the reasons stated above (please enlighten me if my arguments were not valid), and would just like to use one. I'm hoping someone can provide effective solutions to the problems I'm having with one of the methods so I can go forward with that one. For those who read and respond, I really appreciate your time.


what you post is very complex.

When you sit at the piano and look a piece of music note by note, you either know what the note is or you do not. Next you must know on what keys of the piano your fingers are on. It is that simple. You have to say and play the notes, note by note when you are learning a piece and gradually build up speed over many days and weeks or months. From your description I get the impression you are trying to go way, way, way way, to fast to be able to read and say the notes on the sheet of music Of course when you switch keys or hand position you have to know what has happened, what fingers are on what the piano keys are. What would be helpful is not what you can't do or wasn't work, but take a moment and tell us what you do so we can understand you. So you would say: I sit at the piano and look at mary had a litlle lamb music. I recognize the first note and play that note on the piano. The second note I don't know what it is. It is on the middle line and I am lost, and we would tell you it is a B.

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#2051517 - 03/20/13 06:55 PM Re: Sight Reading Methods and Problems [Re: Kerry Jacobs]
Scordatura Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/12
Posts: 152
Loc: Suffolk, UK
Originally Posted By: wr

... What you are trying to do is build a certain kind of physical response to what you see on the page, and it's really just about rapid recognition of what you see, and translation into physical motion, without much thinking. In other words, you need to be able to process the visual information in such a way that most of the process is automatic - you just know. It's a little like learning how to read verbal language - you first have to start out by becoming quite fluent in sounding out letters and syllables. Then whole words, then phrases, then sentences, and on to paragraphs. The only way to get there is by becoming fluent each step of the way.

Originally Posted By: currawong

Originally Posted By: Kerry Jacobs
Could you elaborate on how to use "absolute note placement"? It sounds interesting, but I don't quite understand how to apply it.
(currawong) I just meant seeing the written note and knowing where it is on the piano (as opposed to relative note placement, as in reading by interval).

Originally Posted By: Maechre
the trick is to see the note, know where it is and play it. That's how sight-reading becomes "automatic".

Kerry and Michael99,
I'd really urge you to stop trying to get your present methods of note recognition to work and focus your thinking and practical efforts instead towards acquiring the sort of ability that wr, currawong and Maechre are describing. Partly because it's what you need to achieve - being able to land your fingers on key-targets entirely without reference to any other position on the keyboard is a fundamental prerequisite for achieving fluent performance in sight-reading; partly because your current, stated concerns and frettings are diverting your attention ever further away from acquiring that ability, and worse, from the actual purpose of recognizing notes - which is to recognize what they are intended to symbolize and mean, i.e., sounds, and the particular piano-keys needed to produce them; and partly because the methods you're struggling with simply aren't working - if they had worked for you, you would long ago have derived the limited benefit they offer and by now outgrown them. I'm saying this in the light of 40 years of specializing in coaching sight-reading and musicianship skills, during which time by far the commonest difficulty I've had to deal with is the inappropriate mindset that these seemingly straightforward but beside-the-point recognition techniques appear to foster.

If either of you would be interested in my help, please send me a PM and I'll be happy to send back details of the procedure I teach and use myself for quickly acquiring ability to recognize printed notes in terms of sound and key-target location. It's equally effective for all levels of reading ability, and given the difficulties and frustrations you've run up against to date,I think you'll be quite surprised at how quickly and straightforwardly note-recognition issues can be resolved, on a basis of little more than understanding what it is in actuality one is aiming to recognize on seeing a note.

Hoping to hear from you!

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein


#2051757 - 03/21/13 06:12 AM Re: Sight Reading Methods and Problems [Re: Scordatura]
drazh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/31/09
Posts: 69
use hand separate practice for sight reading

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