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#2198266 - 12/15/13 11:12 PM Sight Reading
ryand90 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/02/13
Posts: 12
Hello,

I'm sorry to be a pain, but this keeps coming up for me. I've been practicing for about five months now and while I do seem to make progress, I still find difficulties with sight reading. Another user here recommended Sight Reading Factory, which I'm probably going to try.

I practice sight reading daily, however progress seems to come so slow, so slow that its hard to even tell If i'm getting better.

Any advice or tips from other beginners?

PS- I know you're supposed to look ahead, but it's hard to look ahead when I haven't mastered tactile sensitivity towards the keyboard. I'm currently using the Super Sight Reading Secrets program by Richman. I'm in the process of drill 1.

Thanks,
ryand90

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#2198278 - 12/15/13 11:45 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
Sweet06 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/13
Posts: 406
haha i felt the same way. Then i noticed small things like being able to call a sixth, a fifth, a seventh an octave and get the hand position correct to support what I read. Ultimately tho, just keep going wink
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#2198312 - 12/16/13 01:13 AM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
Charles Cohen Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 1233
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
I hate to put it like this:

. . . Sight-reading is _hard_ !

There's a lot of stuff going on:

. . . You must interpret the squiggles on the page;

. . . move your hands and fingers into the right position (preferably without looking!);

. . . hit the right notes (with the right velocity)

And you have to do that in "real time" -- no extra allowance, because the rhythm of the piece goes on, whether you hit the right notes or not!

So progress is likely to be slow!<g>

There's an old book I found useful, many years ago, that I think is still available (I checked Amazon -- it's there):

. . . "Guided Sight-Reading" -- Leonhard Deutsch

. CHarles

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#2198326 - 12/16/13 02:43 AM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
Do it more. You've only been at it five months. People don't get good at difficult tasks in only five months. It takes people YEARS to become competent at most musical instruments.

Go and sight read a bunch. When you're sick of it, do it again.

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#2198331 - 12/16/13 03:02 AM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
BlackForest Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/20/13
Posts: 7
Hi

I had the same experience. Progress is so slow you don't even notice. 5 months playing is very little time really because it's something incredible difficult. People take years literally. If you look at the abrsm progression first year is 1 hand only 5-fingers position. Second year 2-hands five-fingers and only in year 3 you get some hand movement. My favourite books are improve your sight reading by paul harris because I follow abrsm structured grades and builds up gradually

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#2198333 - 12/16/13 03:04 AM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1496
Loc: Australia
It was probably myself who recommended The Sight Reading Factory, right now it is my program of choice. I have been sight reading diligently everyday for a year and sometimes feel I have made little progress until I look back. While my piano ability seems to have jumped light years this skill is unbearably slow to improve but of course the true fact is my expectations are too high. Often stated as akin to learning a new language if I were doing that I would only be muttering small sentences by now so why should I expect so much from my SR practice?

There are no short cuts to good sight reading but I also feel there is little good information (and I have a teacher) on the subject which in my case managed to trip me up from the start. SR was a primary goal of mine so I treated it like any other problem, from day one of piano I researched, studied and practiced it but was finding no real improvement. Where I went wrong was I thought SR and playing piano were two different things that could be isolated. I was so wrong, SR is dependent on so much more e.g.

1. ability to see patterns including chords and the inversions
2. weak fingers, lack of hand independance
3. lack of technique,
4. poor scale knowledge,
5. poor fingering knowledge
6. sound knowledge of theory
7. sound knowledge of rhythm

Of some note I found myself going wrong for a while thinking I just needed to get the notes right while sight reading, no I was very wrong I needed to get the rhythm right and then the note reading started to fall into place. Sweet06 is also correct in saying that interval recognition is a crucial step.

I also struggle with the Super Sight Reading Secret drills and while I think the method has some merit I don't like the "stay on this drill until you master it approach". The temptation to rush through the drills and get onto the Bach Chorales is too great. While the Chorales get a lot of votes for improving sight reading it is not for the complete beginner. I also learned this the hard way, spending too much time on difficult sight reading pieces and not getting any better. I have went back to much simpler works.

In summary SR is still one of my primary goals, but I have had to learn patience and some faith that if I continue on my present course it will improve more as a consequence of my overall piano skills improving. While I still practice SR everyday as a separate exercise it is just as important to be developing all those other skills. SR simple material is a must, you have to get proficient at reading simple material and very gradually add in more challenges.

As a bonus for reading to the end your gift is here here


Edited by earlofmar (12/16/13 03:05 AM)
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#2198391 - 12/16/13 08:33 AM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3187
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: ryand90
Hello,

I'm sorry to be a pain, but this keeps coming up for me. I've been practicing for about five months now and while I do seem to make progress, I still find difficulties with sight reading.


Practicing piano for five months? or practicing sight reading?

You can only sightread what you can play at sight, meaning you already have all the skills necessary and there are no difficulties to work through.

That means you can only sightread a couple of levels, or more, below what you can learn to play. The pieces you work on for a lesson are likely to be 3 levels above your playing level.

So as a beginner, you're working on a level 1 piece, and you could theoretically sightread a -3 piece, but they don't exist.

You simply have to build your skills to an entry level before sightreading is going to work.

Now, it is possible to get to a high level of skill and NOT be able to sightread. But it isn't possible to sightread at a low level of skill.
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#2198407 - 12/16/13 09:30 AM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 972
Loc: Italy
TimR explained very well. It is frustrating as a beginner because there are almost no pieces below our current level. One just needs to acknowledge that and hang on, soon enough months will become years and our sight-reading practice will pay off.
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#2198568 - 12/16/13 02:35 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
ryand90 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/02/13
Posts: 12
Thank you all for your comments, very helpful. Tim R, you have an interesting point that at a beginning level it seems impossible to even have a chance at beginning to read at sight. I didn't think of it that way. I'm still going to practice, but I will keep this in mind when my confidence is low, which it sometimes is.

Earlofmar, thanks for the link and great response. I understand what you mean about Richman's book, however i'm in no hurry for chorales and am really only interested in playing pop music. I really do think I want to try sightreadingfactory as I like the leveled approach and the fact that it generates new music all the time. Do you think it has been a big factor towards your success?

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#2198577 - 12/16/13 02:55 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
ryand90 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/02/13
Posts: 12
Also, in terms of rhythm, I've been counting aloud each day, but does this eventually transfer to when I play? I'm not sure if its worth it, although I plan to stick to it.

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#2198641 - 12/16/13 04:13 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1496
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: ryand90

I really do think I want to try sightreadingfactory as I like the leveled approach and the fact that it generates new music all the time. Do you think it has been a big factor towards your success?


I began the Sight Reading Factory about two months ago when I heard it now offered piano. Before that I was using SR exercise books, and another program called Presto Keys. My daily practice would consist of using the Presto Keys, "big note" books and any pdf material I had collected. I did notice improvement but what SRF did was instantly show me I was attempting material too hard for me. I needed to go back and get the basics right which I am doing now. The program is not the end of it though, a secret of SR is to read from a wide variety of music. So SRF is just one tool, I try to read other material I have at hand.
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#2198669 - 12/16/13 04:39 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
Charles Cohen Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 1233
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
Quote:
. . . , however i'm in no hurry for chorales and am really only interested in playing pop music. . . .


FWIW --

You might want to learn to play from "lead sheets" -- melody line is written out, with chord symbols.

That's a different skill from "sight reading" (where every note is written out). It requires a really good grasp of harmony (sight-reading doesn't), and therefore not suitable for absolute beginners. But it might work well if you have a solid guitar background.

. CHarles

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#2198671 - 12/16/13 04:40 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: Charles Cohen]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7573
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Charles Cohen
It requires a really good grasp of harmony (sight-reading doesn't),

Ha! Really?
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#2198674 - 12/16/13 04:44 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
JimF Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/09
Posts: 1705
Loc: south florida
repost from another thread where I mistakenly posted it....

You might try this book of exercises . I think it works well for a beginner... it gets progressively harder, and it is 98 pages (one of its main attractions). Once you are comfortable with these you will be ready for a little more movement of the hands.
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#2198677 - 12/16/13 04:46 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: earlofmar]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7573
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: earlofmar
While the Chorales get a lot of votes for improving sight reading it is not for the complete beginner.

It is not for any beginner. Sightreading polyphony well is much, much harder than most people think.
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#2198684 - 12/16/13 04:56 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: JimF]
JimF Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/09
Posts: 1705
Loc: south florida
An added thought for Ryand90...

While exercises are good and you may need to plow through them, reading actual music is much better IMO.... because it has things like phrasing, a beginning, an ending, maybe a climax, etc., that are important parts of reading too. That said, it is really hard at first to find ENOUGH really easy material to read, so the exercises may be necessary.

It would not be crazy to try and find 15 books of elementary level songs for sight reading (that had different pieces). Library, garage sales, or purchase online are all possiblilities, depending on your circumstances.
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Ma Mere L'Oye - Ravel
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#2198747 - 12/16/13 06:32 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
StarvingLion Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/13
Posts: 226

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#2198776 - 12/16/13 07:29 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
Sweet06 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/13
Posts: 406
yea. i do notice that. I had to stop with my sight reading books as I was progressing to quickly thru them and ultimately ran out of material at my level. The two handed sight reading (not hand-offs) was really a brick wall for me. Perhaps when i gain more hand independence I'll be able to continue with that. I can read it, I can see what needs to happen. It just doesn't happen :P
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#2199055 - 12/17/13 10:45 AM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
BlackForest Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/20/13
Posts: 7
To get the rhythm right you can try to sight read with a metronome. As slow as needed to keep on time

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#2199066 - 12/17/13 11:16 AM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 972
Loc: Italy
Talking about rhythm, I just got a cheap little ebook titled "Basic Timing for the Pianist". One hundred short exercises of all kinds, which one can also use as sight-reading material.
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Martha Argerich... is an incarnation of the artistic metaphor of the "eternal feminine" that draws us upward. (Sergio Sablich)

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#2199087 - 12/17/13 11:54 AM Re: Sight Reading [Re: JimF]
AZ_Astro Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/12
Posts: 456
Loc: Tempe, Arizona
Originally Posted By: JimF

You might try this book of exercises . I think it works well for a beginner... it gets progressively harder, and it is 98 pages (one of its main attractions). Once you are comfortable with these you will be ready for a little more movement of the hands.


This is the Hannah Smith "Progressive Sight Reading Exercises for the Piano" and I am finding it most helpful. A lot of people here on PW recommend it.
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#2199105 - 12/17/13 12:16 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
nickadams Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/02/13
Posts: 14
The BEST way I have found to sight read well is to be able to look at a measure and instantly memorize the idea of the melody line.

The next step is to look for patterns in the LH. This will allow you to not have to pay such close attention to individual notes, and it frees you up to look forward to the next measure.

If music is too complicated for me to take a memory "snapshot" of the RH or has too complex of a LH part, I consider it too difficult to sight read. Make sure you're practicing with pieces that are low enough level.



Good luck!

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#2200470 - 12/19/13 10:50 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: nickadams]
dmd Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1822
Loc: Pennsylvania
Here is my view on sight-reading ... (Perhaps a little pessimistic)

I will do it just to do it.

I have absolutely no expectations at all in terms of "getting better".

I may get better but I will never be "good at it".

Is it worth doing ? Who knows.
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Current: ES7, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio device, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Racvenscroft275, Ivory II American Concert D

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#2200478 - 12/19/13 11:22 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
TwoSnowflakes Online   blank
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1139
Quote:
That's a different skill from "sight reading" (where every note is written out). It requires a really good grasp of harmony (sight-reading doesn't), and therefore not suitable for absolute beginners. But it might work well if you have a solid guitar background.


I would venture to guess that good sight reading also requires a good grasp of harmony.

I'm a fairly decent sight reader. I was expected to read music from age 6 on and that was that.

When I read music I don't see individual notes just like when you read you don't see individual letters. When I look at a line of music, I see words of things, familiar groups of words and phrases, etc., and that includes familiar harmonies and chords and progressions. I see it and hear it and then it's fairly obvious where the hands should fall. I don't know that I would be able to do that without some kind of automatic grasp of harmonic patterns. I will see, for example, that the next couple of measures starts to look like a resolution, and then it's pretty much looking out for familiar ways things resolve, and when I see it, down go the hands in those familiar patterns.

Now, I don't know that I could always put a name to everything automatically, like be able to call it out as I play it, like I'm strumming chords, but there's an intrinsic and automatic familiarity with how things ought to go. Without that, I doubt it'd be feasible to do at all. I'm less reading and more kind of...scanning for how things are DIFFERENT from the usual. A very common chord, for example, with a dissonant tone thrown in. I kind of just see the way it's different rather than the individual notes. I know my key--home base and general patterns then kind of are executed more or less automatically. I'll see a baseline in some piece built from what's essentially arpeggios out of the home key--fingers fall right in, and I'm not surprised when we end up in the dominant or something.

I would say that generally, good sight reading comes after you've seen just a lot of music. It happens naturally. And I'm not a super advanced player. I just have seen a LOT of music. My first sweep through a piece often is a little too encouraging. My problem is then going from there to actual mastery of it. LOL!
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#2200483 - 12/19/13 11:41 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: dmd]
outo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/12
Posts: 583
Loc: Finland
I think I also need to accept that I will never be really good at it. I used to wonder why it is so hard for me to improve even with so much practice and trying to read material far below the level I normally learn. Now I know, it is related to my dyscalculia, which seems to severely affect note reading. So I will settle for any little improvement I see. I need to get more fluent in the physical side of my playing to be able to really concentrate on the sheet and I need to learn to instantly recognize more patters such as chords and motives so that I don't have to read so many details. But those silly mistakes will probably always happen because I don't see correctly where the patterns start or where the chords and notes are situated on the staff.

This can also partly explain why the fluency of one's sight-reading does not always correlate with the amount of practice or the amount of years one has played. A large proportion of the population have these little anomalies of brain that may not even be diagnosed, but will affect them in a very complicated task such as reading musical notation.

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#2200623 - 12/20/13 11:19 AM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
lautreamont Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/07/13
Posts: 16
It's one of those things that takes a lot of time. There are two main components of sight reading: a: interpreting the written notes, and b: executing them. Part of the problem can be with part b, even if it seems like part a.

If you don't know the topography of the keyboard all that well, it makes you have to search for the right note when you come across new music, which can throw your reading off. So it's necessary to practice--I would recommend scales, arpeggios, and chords--in order to really feel the keyboard instinctually.

Keep at it. It's a little like learning a new language, and, at first, there's a bit of a buffer, a bit of a pause, because you have to process the written note and then map it on the keyboard, and then execute that note. If you keep at it, that processing time will take less and less time. Just keep the things you are trying to play as simple as possible for the time being.

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#2200945 - 12/21/13 11:34 AM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
CarlosCC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/06/09
Posts: 1345
Loc: Lisbon, Portugal
Originally Posted By: ryand90
(...) I still find difficulties with sight reading.
+1 thumb

Originally Posted By: ryand90
(...)I practice sight reading daily
-1 frown
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#2201934 - 12/23/13 03:20 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
John_In_Montreal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/21/11
Posts: 400
Loc: Montreal Canada
Hi Ryand90,

Here's another good resource for you, it has about 70 pages of very simple (single staff, bass or treble) to more advanced (grand staff) sight reading exercises. I've been using these for a few months and find them helpful. Start at the very beginning (http://www.soundswell.co.uk/pages/s_read/FS/fst01.pdf) to estimate your proficiency level.

http://www.soundswell.co.uk/pages/swsightr.htm

I hope this may be of help to you.



Edited by John_In_Montreal (12/23/13 03:21 PM)
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#2201999 - 12/23/13 06:37 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: ryand90]
scorpio Offline
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Registered: 11/30/12
Posts: 505
Loc: Connecticut, USA
I am kind of confused about the whole sight reading issue. Are we not always sight reading material? Is it not how we practice on a daily basis? I assume everyone puts the score in front of them and plays/practices. Or do the majority memorize the score? But still, somehow you have to sight read, correct?

I am a beginner, and I have always assumed that sight reading just develops with time. Consequently, I feel that I am working on my sight reading skill during each practice session. How else is everyone doing it? Now, I must admit that my teacher does not allow me to look at my hands. So maybe it is how I am being brought up. I don't know, it just puzzles me that this can be an issue. Or at least an issue that you need exercises to develop this skill; shouldn't your current pieces be enough?
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    #2202074 - 12/23/13 11:36 PM Re: Sight Reading [Re: scorpio]
    earlofmar Online   content
    1000 Post Club Member

    Registered: 03/21/13
    Posts: 1496
    Loc: Australia
    Originally Posted By: scorpio
    I am kind of confused about the whole sight reading issue. Are we not always sight reading material? ......

    I am a beginner, and I have always assumed that sight reading just develops with time. Consequently, I feel that I am working on my sight reading skill during each practice session. How else is everyone doing it? Now, I must admit that my teacher does not allow me to look at my hands. So maybe it is how I am being brought up. I don't know, it just puzzles me that this can be an issue. Or at least an issue that you need exercises to develop this skill; shouldn't your current pieces be enough?



    Scorpio for some the holy grail of piano is to be able to sight read at tempo a piece of written music in it's entirety having never seen or played it before. This is what is referred to as sight reading.

    We all have learned the relatively simple skill of note and rhythm recognition which is how we can play music using a score. Some will be like myself who will memorize the piece over a period of time but will initially read notes. Others will be like yourself who follow the music each and every time you play it. However both these ways of playing involve muscle, aural and cognitive memory and are not considered to be sight reading. The method you use is what is called sight playing.

    To ever become good or even average at sight reading one must practice it like an other challenge of the piano. Frequency is the key and there are sight reading exercise books and programs to help. You might want to google further and see how in depth this subject goes.

    Hope this clarifies it for you.








    Edited by earlofmar (12/23/13 11:38 PM)
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