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#2290251 - 06/16/14 12:01 AM Adult Beginner needing help
ZigZiglar Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/15/14
Posts: 12
Loc: Australia
Hi. I've been playing piano casually for years - even played in a band and felt my around songs based on chord shapes.

It's time to learn how to actually play piano properly; correct my bad fingering technique, learn all the scales, theory etc That's the "easy" part. I can comprehend music theory, I can drill scale practice without guidance.

What I can't seem to do is learn how to read music. I've followed many of the links on this awesome site, however, it just seems to not stick. I know I don't have a great memory, but I've taught myself other languages before, so I don't see why my brain can't do it. There are primary schoolers out there who can read music while I keep struggling, looking over at the Grand Staff complete with A-G inscriptions to help me along, never memorising anything.

Just looking for some tips and advice for those of you who were in the same boat. I know that learning to read music will be the most important step forwards for me to improve. I will be able to actually read the Jazz books I have; even learn some songs!

Cheers


EDIT: I guess I should add; notation systems? How can I learn to read music if there are so many different language standards? What one should I invest my time in? I like the look of chromatic notation systems, but what are the chances I will ever read sheet music noted this way?


Edited by ZigZiglar (06/16/14 12:31 AM)

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#2290257 - 06/16/14 12:35 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
noobpianist90 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 07/23/13
Posts: 292
Loc: India
Treble clef: EGBDF lines and FACE spaces up. FDBGE lines and ECAF spaces down.
Bass clef: GBDFA lines and ACEG spaces up. AFDBG lines and GECA spaces down.

Don't use mnemonics. Just memorize these lines and spaces note for note, both up the staff and down. This is easier memorized by memorizing the entire sequence: EGBDFACE, GBDFACEG, etc which keeps repeating.

The reason most people have difficulty reading music (including me) is that we try to do too much initially. There are three basic things that we get from a sheet music: rhythm, pitch and fingering. When we try to do all three at the same time without knowing how to do each one properly, it is difficult, and we get frustrated and give up. The solution is to work on them separately until they are effortless by themselves. Then we can put them together more easily.

Rhythm tells us how long to hold the note, how long to rest. Practice rhythm separately by counting,clapping, etc, preferably with the help of a metronome.

Pitch tells us which key on the keyboard to play, and fingering which finger to use. Practice pitch and fingering away from the piano. Keep the sheet in front of you, and speak the notes out loud along with the finger you will use for them. For example, C=1 E-3 G-5.Then try it out at the piano without considering rhythm. That is, play the piece note by note and hold one note until you play the next without consideration as to how long each note needs to be held. This is easier said than done. Take your time, and you will see progress.

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#2290263 - 06/16/14 01:06 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1388
Loc: Australia
I have been learning to play piano for twenty months and learning to sight read has proven to be as tough as I thought it would be. Not that I have some self defeating prophecy holding me back, it seems many others share the same view. I made several mistakes along the way but I am confident I am on the right track at the moment to be a thoroughly average reader. I will quite happily settle for that. So here are a few opinions:

Unlike piano repertoire there are no short cuts. While I might be able to tackle and play a grade 6 piece with only a grade 3 experience one cannot do this with sight reading. SR seems to really depend on small incremental steps that cannot be avoided. My first lesson in humility was failing, even after much time spent, to be able to sight read harder pieces than I could comfortably play and my first revelation was sight reading is not that hard if you go to the very beginning and work your way up. So start at the beginning, with either flash cards, smart phone apps spend time everyday note naming which needs to be turned into note playing. Intervals come next and are very important, for everything I have read says that seeing patterns in the music is the key to sight reading. Intervals are the first patterns which will lead to chords and phrases. Of course rhythm has it’s part to play but I had a big breakthrough when I understood it was the glue that holds sighting reading together.
If you cannot read preliminary grade music then start there. I found this helpful as you are generally only reading treble or bass and become good at crossing one to the other. After a while I was able to start reading both staves and so my journey continues.

Note naming, note playing, interval recognition all play vital parts for when they can be done well and automatic they stop hesitations which is the killer of sight reading. So again as many have said before me, finding a tempo you can read without hesitation is key. There is no shame at reading preliminary stuff at 25bpm, how great it feels when you go to 35bpm. Staying at very easy tempo’s were a little counter intuitive to me at first but two things happened. Firstly my confidence was greatly increased for there were no crippling hesitations, but my mind and eyes were free to explore and so starting to look ahead began. I thought this would be impossible when I first read about it but slowly it is coming. So now when I look back on the “10 Golden Rules of Sight Reading” you find in any google search, I realise the rules given do sum it up. People just forget to add there might be months of work in each step.

Last point is the material itself, you need to have a daily regime set aside just for sight reading practice. Most posts I have read recommend 20 – 30mins, the average time a brain can stay focused and open to learning. Even in this fairly short duration you need lots of material but the material has to be at a level specific to your ability.
A couple of things I find useful.

Denes Agay books Joy of First Classics 1 & 2. (Probably preliminary grade)
Any Big Note Books eg 100 Best Loved Piano Solos
Denes Agay books Easy Classics to Moderns Vols 17, 27 (grade 2 to 3 is my estimate)

I also use a program to be found at sightreadngfactory.com but I always stress this is not a substitute just an aid. In saying that it covers a few levels of the early stages and is unlimited material plus great to play along with.
_________________________
I thought I understood endurance sport; then I took up piano
XXXIV-5-XXX

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#2290266 - 06/16/14 01:13 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
Sand Tiger Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 990
Loc: Southern California
For some of us, learning basic sight reading is a long and difficult road. There are websites, apps, that help with drilling and memorization. Some use flash cards or index cards. Many suggest spending some time every day on the task.

Many beginners use very easy music, new music every day to practice their sight reading. For some, even this was too much. I resorted to reading scores out loud, note by note.

I'll never be a good sight reader. However, with some effort, I have learned enough to transcribe some of my original music and notate my arrangements of popular tunes, and sound out music from lead sheets. Combine poor sight reading with my flunking out of basic ear training (see other recent thread), it is a wonder I can play at all. It does explain why I spend so much time on original music and so relatively little on learning covers.

I suggest at least learning enough sight reading to use lead sheets which have the treble clef notes on the top and chords in letter form on the bottom.
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#2290273 - 06/16/14 01:44 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
ZigZiglar Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/15/14
Posts: 12
Loc: Australia
Thanks so much for all the input! You guys are very generous taking so much time to write such detailed responses.

I guess even logical people can benefit from having someone else tell them things they should already know. In other words, I just need to accept that there are no short cuts or drastically easier ways to learn.

I can look at "twinkle twinkle little star" and, (assuming I didn't already know how to play it), I would find myself staring at the staff and working my way slowly up from E. 25bmp for any random sequence equally as basic would be beyond my current ability!

So I need to grind through the monotony of moving these individual notes into long term memory by exposing myself to them day in, day out. Flash cards sound good - perhaps there is an iphone app that will make this a more portable task.

Having composed and played music in a jazz/funk band before (believe it or not), I think the hardest thing for me is slowing down and not letting my current ability and desire for improvisation interfere with re-learning the basics.

Cheers

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#2290305 - 06/16/14 03:22 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1388
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: ZigZiglar

I can look at "twinkle twinkle little star" and, (assuming I didn't already know how to play it), I would find myself staring at the staff and working my way slowly up from E. 25bmp for any random sequence equally as basic would be beyond my current ability!


Something we can all be caught out on. However an experienced sight reader will do a quick analysis of a score before beginning. Something we all have to learn to do.

here is a link to printable flash cards.
_________________________
I thought I understood endurance sport; then I took up piano
XXXIV-5-XXX

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#2290313 - 06/16/14 03:57 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: earlofmar]
noobpianist90 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 07/23/13
Posts: 292
Loc: India
Originally Posted By: earlofmar
an experienced sight reader will do a quick analysis of a score before beginning.
Can you elaborate on what this analysis involves?

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#2290320 - 06/16/14 04:48 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
Gadzar Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/15/06
Posts: 1589
Loc: Mexico City
See this site. There is a really useful and free online tutorial on sight reading:

Jane Sight Reading Lessons

I wish it helps.
_________________________
Rafael Melo
Piano Technician
rafaelmelo@afinacionpianos.com.mx

Serving Mexico City and suburbs.

http://www.afinacionpianos.com.mx

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#2290401 - 06/16/14 09:17 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
musicalinfinity Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/20/14
Posts: 22
Loc: Singapore
Hey ZigZiglar, I have the same problem and I've been learning for almost 16 months now and it's still slow going on the sight reading for me. I find it helps to pick lots of pieces and just try them out without listening to them first. This is because I find that when I play familiar pieces or pieces I've heard before, I tend to use my ears rather than my eyes and I don't really read the notes properly.

There are lots of scores available online so sometimes I look for simpler pieces and use them to practice reading. Currently I'm also using the Alfred books for sight reading as there are some pieces there that I have not heard before and the pieces in the book are generally not too complex.

Hope this helps! smile

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#2290403 - 06/16/14 09:24 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
hreichgott Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 867
Loc: western MA, USA
Originally Posted By: ZigZiglar
staring at the staff and working my way slowly up from E

If this is the issue (you know E but have to count up for other notes) then you are in exactly the same position as my students when they are first beginning to read. We learn the first line on the staff first, then the pattern of lines and spaces. Once they understand how everything works and can get to all notes with slow counting of lines and spaces, we start memorizing a few home notes, generally the bottom middle and top lines of the staff first (treble: E B F, bass: G D A) followed by middle C.

Try memorizing a few home notes. It doesn't really matter which notes you choose, but keep it to a small number like 2-4 per staff until you are confident on those. If you spread them around the staff they will help you get to all other notes quickly, as all other notes will be very near a home note.
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Sounding the depths of small pieces: Beethoven Op. 33
Daily attempts at 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 4, Pischna
Totally loving Fauré/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2290440 - 06/16/14 10:46 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11405
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I do think mnemonic devices help (FACE, Elephants Get Big Dirty Feet, All Care Eat Gas, Good Burritos Don't Fall Apart - or whatever ones you can think of). Generally, I tell my students to use these when doing flash cards by having them written out on a piece of paper right there while they look at flash cards until they can memorize them. In the midst of playing, I only tell them to read the first note(s) for each hand using these devices, and then write it in. If there is a note that gives a student trouble in the middle of the piece, then we stop and figure out what it is and write that in, or write in the finger number.

Mostly, I tell my students that in the midst of playing, they should read the interval:
-Does the next note go up, down or repeat?
-If up or down, how far up or down (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc).

I also have them describe out loud what is happening in the piece, So for example, let's say we are playing Mary Had a Little Lamb and we figured out the starting note was B. They would describe it like this: "Start with finger 3 on B in the RH, step down, then down again, then back up, and back to where you started, play that note 3 times. Then step down and play it 3 times, then back up once, then up a 3rd play 2 times. Then it repeats like the beginning, but it changes when you return to the B, you play it 4 times, step down play 2 times, step up, then down and then down again."

Obviously for longer pieces you may want to just describe the first 4 bars and then try playing it. You also want to identify any tricky rhythms and try tapping them with counting before playing. Otherwise if the rhythm seems simple you can skip that step.

I'm not sure what you mean about different notation systems. There are some others out there, but there's really one that is taught in private and public music lessons that we are describing here and most written sheet music is using this system. If you are referring to different nomenclature for jazz chords, you will have to ignore that for now until you are a better reader and can understand what chords they are trying to describe. There are some reference books that describe what each name is referring to.
_________________________
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MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2290443 - 06/16/14 10:56 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: Morodiene]
BrianDX Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/14/14
Posts: 346
Loc: Lewes DE
The Faber series has the concept of "Guide Notes" which has really help me improve my sight reading.

Instead of learning the position of every note on the bass and treble clef, I learn a few guide notes instead.

For example, one of the guide notes on the bass clef is "F". Not only is is easy for me to recognize that note while reading it, but the notes above and below "G" and "E" are also easy to spot.

This may not work for everyone but is has helped me. Another major reason why the Faber series is by far my favorite among those I have been exposed to.
_________________________
2013 Yamaha C2X "Utsukushi kuro no piano"

Current Goal: "Teach my fingers to play what I feel"
Groucho Marx: "Now we're getting somewhere"

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#2290475 - 06/16/14 12:07 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3153
Loc: Maine
ZigZiglar, along with looking for information about guide notes as BrianDX suggests, you might find it helpful to look for information about intervallic reading.
_________________________
Ebaug(maj7)

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#2290480 - 06/16/14 12:18 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: Morodiene]
noobpianist90 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 07/23/13
Posts: 292
Loc: India
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I do think mnemonic devices help (FACE, Elephants Get Big Dirty Feet, All Care Eat Gas, Good Burritos Don't Fall Apart - or whatever ones you can think of).
I don't mean to disagree as I have no experience teaching music, but don't mnemonics make what is a 1 step process into 2 steps?

For example, if there is a note that I'm identifying, if I had the sequence memorized, I could directly count up/down and read it, but if I use mnemonics, I would first have to recite the mnemonic and then piece together the first letter of each word and then count up to read it. Am I wrong?

Perhaps mnemonics would be useful to younger students, but for adult beginners, isn't direct memorization a better solution? If we can remember so many passwords for various online accounts, surely EGBDFACE isn't so hard :P

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#2290483 - 06/16/14 12:25 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
BrainCramp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/12
Posts: 252
Loc: USA
Zig, here's an online note drill app that may help you. It's similar to flashcards, but lets you choose from several levels of difficulty.

http://www.musicteachers.co.uk/namethatnote/?service_path=namethatnote

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#2290495 - 06/16/14 01:08 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: BrainCramp]
BrianDX Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/14/14
Posts: 346
Loc: Lewes DE
One thing about this thread that should give all of us beginners some solice; Sight reading is HARD, and it takes a lot of people quite a while to acquire proficiency.

So whatever method works best, just don't get discouraged.
_________________________
2013 Yamaha C2X "Utsukushi kuro no piano"

Current Goal: "Teach my fingers to play what I feel"
Groucho Marx: "Now we're getting somewhere"

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#2290528 - 06/16/14 02:02 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
Brian Lucas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 947
Personally I don't think memorization or mnemonics work. I think that's why it takes people forever to learn how to read music and it frustrates them. You have to say the whole saying for a note on the top of the staff. And which saying goes with which staff again? Plus, it doesn't address ledger lines. I know it's the way it's always been done, but I don't teach it and often speak out against that method of learning.

I teach a method where you know a few key notes then associate all the other notes around those main ones. I use C and G. Less notes to remember, and more real world to how I actually read. It shouldn't take you more than a month to be able to recognize a single note anywhere on the staff (including ledger lines). I've had students go through 30 flash cards perfectly in 2-3 weeks. The difficulty is in reading multiple notes at once and adding timing to the mix.

As you get better, you can not only relate notes to the main ones, but to each other as well. The more real world music you apply it to, the better. Speed comes with practice and can never be your primary goal. Go for accuracy first.
_________________________
-Brian
BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 21+ year teacher and touring musician
My Downloadable Video Piano Lessons
My Sight Reading eBook
My Music

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#2290539 - 06/16/14 02:16 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: hreichgott]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 346
Loc: UK
I could not agree more ! Take any piece of music, plainly if you are a beginer an easy piece, find the notes one at a time and then pencil in above it which finger you are going to use.

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#2290641 - 06/16/14 06:08 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: noobpianist90]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11405
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: noobpianist90
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I do think mnemonic devices help (FACE, Elephants Get Big Dirty Feet, All Care Eat Gas, Good Burritos Don't Fall Apart - or whatever ones you can think of).
I don't mean to disagree as I have no experience teaching music, but don't mnemonics make what is a 1 step process into 2 steps?

For example, if there is a note that I'm identifying, if I had the sequence memorized, I could directly count up/down and read it, but if I use mnemonics, I would first have to recite the mnemonic and then piece together the first letter of each word and then count up to read it. Am I wrong?

Perhaps mnemonics would be useful to younger students, but for adult beginners, isn't direct memorization a better solution? If we can remember so many passwords for various online accounts, surely EGBDFACE isn't so hard :P

It depends on the person. Obviously, if a person doesn't need them, then I don't use them. Mnemonics are used only as a tool for memorizing the note names in order, not to be used for the rest of one's life, but a stepping stone. Eventually, the student just reads the note, but this takes time.

Some people can just remember what the 4th line is, but what if you can't? What do you do to figure it out? Count up from a note you know? How many steps does that take?

PS: I have most of my logins and passwords written down on several post-it notes. The ones I use all the time I have memorized, but there are many that I use once a month or less. wink
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2290649 - 06/16/14 06:20 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: Goof]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11405
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Goof
I could not agree more ! Take any piece of music, plainly if you are a beginer an easy piece, find the notes one at a time and then pencil in above it which finger you are going to use.
I'm not sure if this was in reference to my comment before, but I only have students write in starting notes and once in a while when needed other notes. But if you write in note names for every note, then you're not reading anymore and it becomes a huge crutch. Just clarifying in case I was misunderstood.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2290660 - 06/16/14 06:59 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
ZigZiglar Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/15/14
Posts: 12
Loc: Australia
What an overwhelming response! Thanks everyone.

It's good to see a variety of outlooks; gives me more options.

I think note naming games is the way to go for me. I am adjusting the settings to focus on 2 octaves within the Treble Clef only. I've already noticed some notes taking shape in my "muscle memory".

The suggestion to isolate a few notes to learn at a time seems to be a good idea for me. I started using mnemonics at the very beginning to give myself at least a platform upon which to expand my memory, but I am finding that individual notes are standing out before my brain needs to access the mnemonic crutch.

I downloaded an app that is similar to the "namethatnote" game linked above, so I have the ability to make use of those free moments. A 1 minute game here and there every day and I should be able to memorise the Treble clef within a month. I guess I'll just add the Bass clef after that, then start exposing myself to entry level sheet music every day.

Thanks a lot!

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#2290676 - 06/16/14 07:25 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
Bamburg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/13
Posts: 67
My teacher used a combination of guide notes and intervals for me, and it worked pretty well.

If you look at the treble staff, that fancy treble clef sign on it is really just a g, and it circles the line of the treble staff that G is on so that's the first guide note for the treble staff and how I remembered it.

The same is true of the bass staff, the bass clef is really just an F and the line between the two dots is an F, and so that was my first guide note on that staff.

The second guide notes we used were the top line of the treble staff, which is an F, and the bottome line of the bass staff which is a G.. they're opposite the first guide note so that's how I remembered them.

Then you memorize middle C and with some experience you learn what the intervals look like, and 2nds/3rds/4ths/5ths are all pretty easily distinguishable at a glance so with a little bit of practice and those 5 guide notes you've got the entire grand staff and 2 ledger lines above/below it.

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#2290752 - 06/16/14 10:00 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: Morodiene]
Brian Lucas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 947
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Some people can just remember what the 4th line is, but what if you can't? What do you do to figure it out? Count up from a note you know? How many steps does that take?

This is always an interesting discussion, how to approach note reading. Just knowing from memory all of the notes seems an impossible task. I'm not trying to start an argument, but here's how I see it.

1. What's the 5th letter of the alphabet? (and were you singing the song?)

2. What's the letter before G?

Which took longer to answer? If you know where a few key notes are, you can associate all of the other notes around them. Just my 2 cents.
_________________________
-Brian
BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 21+ year teacher and touring musician
My Downloadable Video Piano Lessons
My Sight Reading eBook
My Music

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#2290766 - 06/16/14 10:48 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
Dave B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 1890
Loc: Philadelphia area
Reading takes time. I had to spend a few minutes everyday on it. 15 - 20 minutes per day is plenty. Read one phrase at a time, one hand at a time, then try to play hands together. Progress seems slow at first but will pick up and surprise you.

Enjoy

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#2290782 - 06/16/14 11:33 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3153
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: Brian Lucas
Just knowing from memory all of the notes seems an impossible task.

Really? I know all the notes to three ledger lines above and below both treble and bass clefs, immediately, both location on the piano and note names. When I was playing flute regularly, I recognized the notes above the treble clef to five ledger lines + a space (high high C). And it would be useful to know at least one more ledger line cold on piano at each of the four extremes. I haven't yet put in the time to practice that, but I'm sure I can do it if I decide to focus on it.

I wouldn't expect someone starting out reading to know these all right away, and I gather that for many people intervallic and guide notes seem to work better for getting started reading. But I don't think knowing all the notes in and of themselves rather than solely by reference is an impossible goal, even if the initial learning is via a matrix of guide notes and intervallic reading.

But I'm not a teacher, so I don't know what most students experience. Am I really so unusual in knowing individual notes?
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#2290783 - 06/16/14 11:37 PM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: Brian Lucas]
A443 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/12
Posts: 803
Loc: Vienna-Houston-Tokyo
Originally Posted By: Brian Lucas
Personally I don't think memorization or mnemonics work. I think that's why it takes people forever to learn how to read music and it frustrates them. You have to say the whole saying for a note on the top of the staff. And which saying goes with which staff again? Plus, it doesn't address ledger lines. I know it's the way it's always been done, but I don't teach it and often speak out against that method of learning.
+1

Since music is based on patterns and relationships, one can come up with tricks and methods to result in quick answers--tricks, however, don't encourage the learning how the system actually functions!!!

Lines and spaces do not equal specific note names. If one learns this way, then ledger lines, alternate clefs, and transpositions become exponentially more difficult. The staff system is unit of visual measurement/distance similar to a ruler (e.g., inches vs. mm). The clef indicates a few reference notes, as too does the key signature--which is one of the many reasons why knowing key signatures and constantly referring to it is important. Side note: one should always know what key [area] you are in, and where the 1st (tonic), 4th (subdominant), and 5th (dominant) scale degrees and chord are...always!

Note reading should be judged by intervallic relationships, not by line/space 'names' (i.e., it should not be: first line is an E, third line is a B); when train properly, 'seeing' what a 5th looks like--as well as what the shape of the hand feels like--happens instantaneously, without having to process each note name first. In fact, you can practice by eliminating the staff altogether, and still read the music without major difficulties (i.e., no lines or spaces, just notes properly spaced). Lines are really only necessary for judging jumps of 8va or more.
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#2290798 - 06/17/14 12:40 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: PianoStudent88]
Brian Lucas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 947
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Originally Posted By: Brian Lucas
Just knowing from memory all of the notes seems an impossible task.

Really? I know all the notes to three ledger lines above and below both treble and bass clefs, immediately, both location on the piano and note names. When I was playing flute regularly, I recognized the notes above the treble clef to five ledger lines + a space (high high C). And it would be useful to know at least one more ledger line cold on piano at each of the four extremes. I haven't yet put in the time to practice that, but I'm sure I can do it if I decide to focus on it.

I wouldn't expect someone starting out reading to know these all right away, and I gather that for many people intervallic and guide notes seem to work better for getting started reading. But I don't think knowing all the notes in and of themselves rather than solely by reference is an impossible goal, even if the initial learning is via a matrix of guide notes and intervallic reading.

But I'm not a teacher, so I don't know what most students experience. Am I really so unusual in knowing individual notes?

I meant for a beginner. The more you play, yes, you'l recognize notes faster. I'd bet based on your flute playing that your very high ledger line reading is better than mine, just because you've read there more often.

Maybe impossible was the wrong word. How long did it take you to become proficient in reading that well, memorizing every note? Years? Most people should be able to recognize all the notes from a few ledger lines below the bass clef to a few lines above the treble in a month, 2 tops. I'm talking about seeing one note and playing it correctly, flash card style. Speed and reading multiple notes in rhythm effectively is another story and would require lots of practice to speed up the recognition.
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BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 21+ year teacher and touring musician
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#2290809 - 06/17/14 01:45 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3153
Loc: Maine
I wouldn't say I "memorized" every note. I just learned them over time. I don't know how long it took me. I started when I was eight, when we moved from an apartment to a house and got my mother's piano out of storage and I started teaching myself to read music and play piano from her old method books. I didn't have any sense of time or impatience to achieve a certain level of achievement. I learned the notes using mnemonics, and I never had any trouble remembering the mnemonics or which went with which clef, or which was for spaces and which was for lines. I also didn't stay stuck with the mnemonics, always having to count up from the bottom. I just over time learned to know the note, without having to do the counting. (Same as how I know that E is the fifth letter of the alphabet, and Q the seventeenth... they've just come up as useful facts often enough that eventually they lodged in my memory.) The notes above and below the staff I learned one by one, as they started to appear more. I never used flash cards or note spelling drills. When I read about people either teaching or learning to read music, all of this seems atypical for the approaches people typically take nowadays.

Where I think I would benefit from practicing more intervallically and by shape is in reading chords. I've gotten good at triads, and certain patterns involving fifths (do-sol-do chord), but I could do a lot more practicing this way than I currently do.

I don't necessarily recommend this to others as the way to learn; it's just the path for how things worked out for me.
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#2290811 - 06/17/14 01:49 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: PianoStudent88]
A443 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/12
Posts: 803
Loc: Vienna-Houston-Tokyo
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
[...] (Same as how I know that E is the fifth letter of the alphabet, and Q the seventeenth... they've just come up as useful facts often enough that eventually they lodged in my memory.)
That is oddly impressive...
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Klavierbaukünstler

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#2290828 - 06/17/14 03:00 AM Re: Adult Beginner needing help [Re: ZigZiglar]
Phil Greenough Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/14
Posts: 44
Loc: Liverpool
Here is my tuppence worth. When I was in primary school, the whole class had to chant out their times table and the old English pence table every morning before lessons began. Consequently, I can tell you immediately what 8 x 12 or 7 x 8 amounts to. I feel that sight reading is similar to that learning curve. Like any other part of learning to play the piano, it all takes time and effort, there are no short cuts.

Phil

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