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#2055841 - 03/28/13 07:01 PM Staff reading order ?
Jean-Luc Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/19/12
Posts: 322
Loc: France
This might be a very stupid question but I was wondering if there is a commonly accepted "reading order" for the staffs ? I ask because I tend to read the treble and then the bass (I can't read them really simultaneously yet) but I think I read once that you are always supposed to read the notes from upwards. Is it a "per staff" rule or should it (as it seems logical) be applied to the grand staff as a whole ?
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#2055849 - 03/28/13 07:14 PM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
leturn Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/27/12
Posts: 13
Loc: Alabama
Correct me if i'm wrong anybody but I would say the treble is read initially because this would be like the lead vocals of the music.

forgive me not know the proper verbage
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#2055850 - 03/28/13 07:19 PM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
Jean-Luc Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/19/12
Posts: 322
Loc: France
Thank you Leturn, it would sound logical. On the other hand, it would make sense to read from the left hand to the right (so from the bass to the treble), it just doesn't come naturally to me.
_________________________
- Please, forgive my bad English smile

Jean-Luc

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#2055886 - 03/28/13 09:24 PM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2679
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I think people who are good at it do it so quickly that it doesn't matter.
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A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2055950 - 03/28/13 11:55 PM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 815
Speaking as an experienced reader, one reads primarily where it's "hardest," regardless of clef.

When first starting, I probably focused getting hands right on treble, then bass, then play, then look at next notes in treble, then bass, then play, all excruciatingly slowly. As do most non-mutants, I suspect.
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#2056030 - 03/29/13 03:28 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
casinitaly Offline


Gold Supporter until March 1 2014


Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 5255
Loc: Italy
I think our instinct is to start with the treble, but I clearly remember my teacher telling me to start with the bass. That was in my early days, I didn't bother to ask why at the time - but I know that it wasn't natural for me to read bass clef (I could read music but only treble clef). I don't know if her advice was for me in particular or for all her students.
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Everything's too hard until you make it easy. Follow your teacher's instructions and practice wisely/much, and you'll soon wonder how you ever found it hard ;)-BobPickle
Performance anxiety: make it part of your daily routine and deal with it...Cope! zrtf90

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#2056043 - 03/29/13 06:04 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
Jean-Luc Offline
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Registered: 03/19/12
Posts: 322
Loc: France
Thank you, then apparently, with the exception of you teacher Casinitaly (who probably had good reasons, maybe related to understand the harmony behind the music), there seems to be no established rule. I was wondering because there are so many things we do instinctively on the piano and that end up being the wrong thing :-D
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Jean-Luc

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#2056050 - 03/29/13 06:37 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11801
Loc: Canada
A lot of my music reading has been as a singer and someone who plays instruments such as recorder and violin, where you are reading a melody line horizontally. When I was a teen I self-taught piano using the music at hand - most of them Clementi sonatinas which have an Alberti bass. I heard that bass like another melody, so I was still reading horizontally.

When I took up piano 35 years later I wanted to learn to read properly, and I was also following discussions on PW. People suggested Bach chorales for reading, and I happened to have the Riemenschneider people were talking about. I was following 4 melodies, like a singer. Then one day it occurred to me that the 4 melodies were built on a succession of chords, and that pianists are following the chords more than the melodies. They read vertically. I tried it, and my reading shot up.

What I've learned is that melody and chords interrelate, because most fo the time the melody note is a chord note. There are common succession of chords such as I ii IV V7 I, and the bass line gives clues about what the chords are. Also that you can learn to feel a whole chord in your hands - a cluster of notes rather than piecing together each note of the chord, even when they are spread out. It seems easier (maybe?) to get at the chords via the bass line, more so than via the melody line. So this may be the sense behind it.

I would think that we do both. We can also anticipate what the probably chords are via the melody line, but you might be in for some surprises that way. I think, though, that it keeps shifting according to what you are reading, and where you are at any moment in the piece.

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#2056121 - 03/29/13 09:52 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
landorrano Offline
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Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2472
Loc: France
In elementary-level solfège students learn to read from the bottom up, whether it be the G-clef or the F-clef alone, or the grand staff. Surely Casinitaly's teacher is trying to transmit this very structured approach to reading music.

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#2056135 - 03/29/13 10:15 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2679
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Bottoms up!

My current way of reading is to shut down in panic at the sight of more than one note on a stem.
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2056140 - 03/29/13 10:29 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
landorrano Offline
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Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2472
Loc: France
Bottom's up! I like that!

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#2056151 - 03/29/13 10:50 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: landorrano]
casinitaly Offline


Gold Supporter until March 1 2014


Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 5255
Loc: Italy
Originally Posted By: landorrano
In elementary-level solfège students learn to read from the bottom up, whether it be the G-clef or the F-clef alone, or the grand staff. Surely Casinitaly's teacher is trying to transmit this very structured approach to reading music.


Ah, so probably it wasn't just for me smile I can ask my new teacher what the general philosophy here is (if there is one) But Landoranno suggests that there is - and in fact my first teacher also wanted me to do solfege, but we didn't get very far on that - in part because it just got confusing working with do-re-mi and C-D-E (She didn't speak English), and in the end it was more trouble than it was helpful (for me).
_________________________
XVIII-XXXV
Everything's too hard until you make it easy. Follow your teacher's instructions and practice wisely/much, and you'll soon wonder how you ever found it hard ;)-BobPickle
Performance anxiety: make it part of your daily routine and deal with it...Cope! zrtf90

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#2056155 - 03/29/13 10:52 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
fizikisto Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/13/12
Posts: 640
Loc: Hernando, MS
I was also taught to read notes from the bottom up. I think it's probably more important to just have a consistent approach to your sight reading, but keystring's points are very well made. It may indeed be better to read from the bottom up for those reasons. But I imagine that there are probably some very good sight readers who do it the other way as well.
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#2056160 - 03/29/13 10:59 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: fizikisto]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2472
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: fizikisto
But I imagine that there are probably some very good sight readers who do it the other way as well.


I'd just like to point out that the question isn't really how to read ... but how to learn to read, how to begin reading.

At least, I think that that is the question.

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#2056184 - 03/29/13 11:34 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
Jean-Luc Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/19/12
Posts: 322
Loc: France
Thank you all of you smile Yes, it seems to make a lot more sense to read from the bottom up and I must say that keystring's approach is also intellectually more satisfying since you don't just read note but gain a better understanding of the music at the same time. The added "analyzing" gymnastic (decoding the underlying harmony) might slow down at the beginning but I am sure it helps a lot in the long run (and of course helps getting a much deeper understanding of the music).
I started working with Alfred about 7 months ago (minus about 3 months due to hands/wrist problems despite the fact that my teacher sees nothing wrong in my playing) and because I am "cursed" (joking) with a pretty good ear I tend to read a piece once or two then play it by hear. And since most of the harmony in Alfred is made of easy chord patterns, I do not read much. But now that I want to play more involved music (Bach to start with since he is probably the reason I started learning the piano in the first place) I really want to learn to read a lot better (with simple Bach pieces I can still play them by hear BUT, then if I don't remember the bass voice, I am lost because I don't really know where I am in the upper voice :P).
As for learning, I agree with you Landorrano, not easy to know where to start and while I imagine a lot of the simpler pieces by Bach might be a good starting point they are still not that easy to "sight read" (I use the word "sight read" not in the strict sense of first view reading but more as in reading a piece you know but not by heart"). My teacher (actually the replacement of my teacher since she is on maternity leave) recently started me on a book by "J.-B. Duvernoy called "Le Guide du Lecteur - Solfège du Pianiste" and I really love it (I have no clue if it's available outside from France but if you see it in a library, it's worth checking). It start with very simple two parts melodies based on 3 positions, C, G and F (not always the same position in both hands) and goes pretty far (at least it looks like it for a beginner like me, as soon as the page start to be more dark than white I scream for mercy :P)
I hope this message is readable, my English isn't much better than my piano playing and I am not used to write so much ...:) )
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- Please, forgive my bad English smile

Jean-Luc

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#2056311 - 03/29/13 03:15 PM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
fizikisto Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/13/12
Posts: 640
Loc: Hernando, MS
landoranno,
yes, good point. ultimately you want to be able to take it in "all at once." But even when you're doing that, you're probably relying on habits developed from when you first learned. One thing that's true is that when people read words, they actually pay as much attention to the shape of the words as they do the individual letters.

Thts wh mst ppl cn rd smthng tht hs th vwls rmvd frm th wrds.

I think the same is true of reading music as well. I know I read chords by understanding their shape. If you can quickly recognize the type of chord by its shape and its root, you can play it without having to mentally process the individual notes in the chord. Still, I'm sure that even when I'm analyzing the shape of a chord, I'd wager dollars to dougnuts that my eyes are scanning it from the bottom up.
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Nord Stage 2 HA88
Roland RD800

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#2056312 - 03/29/13 03:18 PM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
JimF Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/09
Posts: 1813
Loc: south florida
yep, my teacher too.

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#2056326 - 03/29/13 03:50 PM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
Jean-Luc Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/19/12
Posts: 322
Loc: France
It's funny you mention chords, recently I have been using this http://www.musictheory.net/exercises/chord/brwyryxybny a lot and now I read them by their anomaly (by anomaly I mean where the stack of thirds is "broken" - of course, if there is no inversion I simply read them from bottom to top).
Btw, it's really funny, how fast you get very proficient at reading patterns. I am also really amazed at how sometimes our fingers seems to be ahead of our brains: most of the time, when I try to play melodies by hear, "my fingers" (well, I know it's in fact the brain but it's so unconscious that it almost feels like it plays no part in the decision) choose the right interval while I know for a fact if I were asked, I would be unable to say "it's a third, or a fourth". Sometimes I really think that what makes reading so hard is the fact that we just think too much, maybe if we were able to "let go" a little more, we would be more easily on autopilot smile
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Jean-Luc

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#2056337 - 03/29/13 04:23 PM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
I can't remember exactly where I read this, but a while back I was reading all the academic research I could find about sight reading, and I'm pretty sure I remember that they found that unskilled sight readers tended to read top-down, while skilled sight readers read bottom-up.

I think that the advantages of reading bottom up is that in many cases, the bass clef will tell you how the harmony progresses. Again, my recall is not crystal clear, but I what I took away from the articles was that expert sight readers said they first looked at the bass to get the harmonic progression, then at the top to catch the melody, and from there they often "fudged" the middle notes when necessary to suit the melody and harmony.

If you like reading reasearch on sight reading, the most recent entry in my blog (see sig below) is some academic articles and theses on sight reading. Not that that post was all that recent, but due to my blogging laziness, it's still the top entry. laugh

ETA: if you want more interesting articles on sight reading, check out the Piano Pedagogy Forum (it's an online periodical, not a discussion forum like this one). To search that site for sight reading articles, paste the following search string into google:

site:www.music.sc.edu "sight reading"


Edited by tangleweeds (03/29/13 04:27 PM)
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#2056676 - 03/30/13 05:29 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: casinitaly]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2472
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: casinitaly
my first teacher also wanted me to do solfege, but we didn't get very far on that - in part because it just got confusing working with do-re-mi and C-D-E (She didn't speak English), and in the end it was more trouble than it was helpful (for me).


I can see solfège being difficult in a situation like that, working alone with a teacher. In general it is taught in a class, and in that situation it can be great fun as well as the basis of a very palpable progress in reading.

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#2056680 - 03/30/13 05:44 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: tangleweeds]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: tangleweeds
I can't remember exactly where I read this, but a while back I was reading all the academic research I could find about sight reading, and I'm pretty sure I remember that they found that unskilled sight readers tended to read top-down, while skilled sight readers read bottom-up.

I think that the advantages of reading bottom up is that in many cases, the bass clef will tell you how the harmony progresses. Again, my recall is not crystal clear, but I what I took away from the articles was that expert sight readers said they first looked at the bass to get the harmonic progression, then at the top to catch the melody, and from there they often "fudged" the middle notes when necessary to suit the melody and harmony.

If you like reading reasearch on sight reading, the most recent entry in my blog (see sig below) is some academic articles and theses on sight reading. Not that that post was all that recent, but due to my blogging laziness, it's still the top entry. laugh

ETA: if you want more interesting articles on sight reading, check out the Piano Pedagogy Forum (it's an online periodical, not a discussion forum like this one). To search that site for sight reading articles, paste the following search string into google:

site:www.music.sc.edu "sight reading"


You're correct on all counts. The two most important notes in sight-reading are simultaneously the lowest and highest notes (one part harmony and one part melody). Eventually, reading "patterns" bottom up, you're likely to see that the way that chords move are somewhat predictable.

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#2056765 - 03/30/13 10:06 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Bobpickle]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3171
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle


You're correct on all counts. The two most important notes in sight-reading are simultaneously the lowest and highest notes (one part harmony and one part melody). Eventually, reading "patterns" bottom up, you're likely to see that the way that chords move are somewhat predictable.


I would add to this by saying that regarding the lower staff reading, the most important thing is to know/anticipate is what chord is to be played, which is not always directly indicated by the lowest note on the staff.

If you focus on the lowest note, you may be misled because you could be looking at a chord inversion, which has as a bottom note one that is a component of a chord, but not a direct indicator of the chord.

For example, if a C chord is inverted so that it is G-C-E, that is not a G chord...I cannot tell you how many times beginners, when asked, will identify that C chord inversion as a "G" chord simply because G is the bottom note.

So, concurrently with reading the lowest note, knowing what is the actual chord is important.

This knowledge becomes functional by several means...knowing what chord inversions look like, knowing common chord progressions, knowing the chord progression of the piece being played, and active listening to what is being played.

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#2056794 - 03/30/13 11:07 AM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3796
Loc: Northern England.
What a topic! There was a typist in our office where I worked. She admired musicians reading and playing music and all that. (I was the organist at the crematorium). I explained, and sdon`t think I`m wrong in this, that what she did was no different. She transferred trough the keyboard to paper what she either read, or was told. I transferred to the organ keyboard what I read from the music.
Being a perennial bad reader (I`ll never get better at my age) I can see that reading words as we do, we don`t read individual letters. The word itself is a pattern; phrases become patterns. And of course, we read ahead!
I`m still looking for musical patterns that make sense . . .then again, I guess you have to have sense to do that . . .
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#2057099 - 03/30/13 09:27 PM Re: Staff reading order ? [Re: Jean-Luc]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2679
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Thanks everybody; I love this thread!

I've been thinking about it a little bit and I really do read chords about the same way as I read a brick wall.
Bottoms up is a better way forward.
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A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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