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#2311028 - 08/04/14 03:06 PM Performing from the score vs. memorizing pieces
piano_dk Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/03/14
Posts: 3
Hi All

Hope you can help me out here with my question / considerations.

I have now been playing the piano for about a year or so, self-taught. In that year I have been following the Alfred All-in-one level 1 book and has started to play from the Masterworks Classic series level 3 for the last couple of months. I feel that I am progressing really well on my piano skills but my score reading skills seems - at least to me - to be a different story.

I would like some guidance on whether or not I am approaching pieces in the correct way or not - meaning so that I both learn the piano skills but also the score reading skills. A normal procedure for me when starting a new piece is to learn right hand first and then left hand and then combine them afterwards, usually around 8 measures per practice session. I usually starts out with following the score quite well playing and reading at the same time - very slowly of course until my muscle memory in my fingers starts to build up. When it gets more and more in my fingers i tend not to follow the score that well anymore, I still look at the sheet but much more glancing and not following the individual nodes anymore - meaning that I can easily get lost in the nodes so to say. I can more precisely express it as my fingers memory more or less just takes over and therefore there are no need to look in details to the score. I know this is probably a very good thing and that I should be glad that it comes so easy to my memory (at least the short term), but I am also concerned if I am doing it wrongly regarding improving my score reading skills?

It is often so that when I return back to a piece after some time I lean towards my finger memory, which may be somewhat lacking. I then try to follow the score but that really does not help me much as I cannot easily connect and follow the nodes at the tempo that I used / want to play the song at.

All in all do you think am I doing it in the right way, or should I do something different to improve my score reading?

Hope someone can give me some hints?

Thx. in advance


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#2311043 - 08/04/14 03:34 PM Re: Performing from the score vs. memorizing pieces [Re: piano_dk]
fizikisto Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/13/12
Posts: 1517
Loc: Hernando, MS
Your approach seems reasonable to me, and you seem to be making good progress with it. So I'd say you are doing fine. Sight reading practice should be done on pieces that are at a much lower level of complexity than you are able to work out and play as you describe above. Reading music (which you are doing) and sight reading (playing by sight a piece you've never played before) are different skills. You're actually building skills now that will help you with sight reading later on. A few things you can focus on in your playing is to learn intervals -- that is learn to recognize all the intervals on the written music and what the distance between the notes for those intervals feels like on the keyboard. You can do a lot of stuff away from the piano. Just get all the scores you can play and, find all the 4ths, find all the 3rds, etc... just scan the scores looking for them.

Also, focus on learning chord shapes. Rather than reading C-E-G....just see the shape and know by sight that it's a C chord, root position. First learn to recognize the chords as block chords, but then break them up (arpeggios) and learn to recognize them that way too. A lot of that comes just from lots and lots and lots of practice/experience. But it can be helpful to know what you're looking for.

One very cool service that might be worth looking into is sightreadingfactory.com. It's a membership site that costs like $20/year. At the click of a button, it generates computer generated scores for sight reading practice. It might be a stretch to call the generated scores musical, but they follow the rules of harmony and composition so they're at least playable. smile

You can generate as many as you want, and there's an embedded midi track with adjustable tempo that you can play along with. You can print the scores out or display them on a tablet or computer. Right now, their piano scores are relatively low in their complexity level, but that might be exactly what you need. They claim to be working on their algorithms to generate more advanced scores in the future. So it might be able to grow with you as you learn.

The main way to get good at sight reading is to practice it a lot. Also be patient. It's a skill that takes a considerable amount of time and skill to develop. Finally, as you might imagine, this topic comes up quite a lot. You might search this forum for old threads on sight reading, you can find a lot of wisdom and good suggestions in them. smile
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#2311093 - 08/04/14 05:35 PM Re: Performing from the score vs. memorizing pieces [Re: fizikisto]
JohnSprung Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 2985
Loc: Reseda, California
If you want material for sight reading practice, there's a huge source available for free, the Lester S. Levy collection at Johns Hopkins University. This is all American popular music from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They've scanned old public domain scores, and you can download them as PDF's. There are over 60,000 pieces.
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#2311153 - 08/04/14 07:30 PM Re: Performing from the score vs. memorizing pieces [Re: piano_dk]
dmd Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 2498
Loc: Pennsylvania
In my opinion, in your early development years with piano playing ... I would encourage you to do as much playing while paying attention to where you are in the printed page of music. Playing without focusing on each and every note is to be encouraged also.

I would discourage simply playing the piece from memory. This will happen to some degree naturally as you play the piece numerous times ... but keep that music in front of you and keep track of where you are.

On the other hand, memorizing a piece for a performance is another matter. If that is what is expected, then do it. Eventually you may have reason to do more memorization but I would stay away from it as much as possible early on.

Just my opinion ... others may have a different one.

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#2311156 - 08/04/14 07:36 PM Re: Performing from the score vs. memorizing pieces [Re: piano_dk]
8 Octaves Offline

Gold Supporter until July 22 2015

Registered: 04/20/14
Posts: 1197
Loc: USA
It is normal to forget a memorized piece of music after being a way from it for some time. You can relearn the music fairly quickly, so it is not a worry.
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#2311207 - 08/04/14 09:22 PM Re: Performing from the score vs. memorizing pieces [Re: piano_dk]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1298
Loc: Southern California
A lot of people separate sight reading practice from learning pieces. Many do prima vista (first time only) sight reading on easy material for 10 to 15 minutes a day. This is completely separate from learning pieces. There is no intention to learn the sight reading material or even to play it more than once or twice. This time is focused on the skill.

The way you are learning pieces sounds fine. However, some separate sight reading practice may jump start that skill development.
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#2311271 - 08/05/14 01:38 AM Re: Performing from the score vs. memorizing pieces [Re: dmd]
JohnSprung Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 2985
Loc: Reseda, California
+1 on following the chart as you practice. With practice, you'll get better at not looking at your hands. You'll also get better at finding your place again after looking away to check a long leap.
-- J.S.

I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body.
Then I realized who was telling me this.

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690

#2313329 - 08/09/14 08:40 AM Re: Performing from the score vs. memorizing pieces [Re: piano_dk]
piano_dk Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/03/14
Posts: 3
Thx for the advice, that helped me a lot.

I do feel based on the responses that I am on the right path and more or less should keep doing what I am already doing. What I will keep an eye on is that I keep being on track with where I am in the score when I play, even though I have it already memorized + add some sight reading practices.

Thx again.


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