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#2314721 - 08/12/14 09:17 PM Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice)
shin_mitsugi Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/12/14
Posts: 1
I am 29 years old. My technical and interpretative level at the piano is very advance, but my sight reading sucks. I have played Un Sospiro, Liebestraum, Liszt Sonnetto, Chopin Scherzo No.2, Brahm's Rhapsody No. 1, half of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, etc...

However, I need advice. When I learn piano pieces I basically just sit and memorize them, committing them to memory one line at a time. This is nice later on when you need to perform in front of people and you blow them away without the piano score but really it limits the amount of enjoyment I can get out of piano because of the time requirement to play anything new.

I can READ music since I am doing it line by line but I have to stop and analyze every chord etc...I can't just sit, look at it, and play it. I want to be there though.

Is it possible for a person at my age to be able to learn a skill like sight reading or is it much like learning your first language? It must be tackled early? If there is hope for me, can anyone recommend a course of action for me whether it be special exercises, sight reading books etc...? Piano teachers are probably out of the question since its sorta hard to find somebody willing to teach somebody playing Chopin Scherzo No. 2....unfortunate but true.

Any advice? Please and thank you!

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#2314726 - 08/12/14 09:32 PM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
AndrewJCW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/10/14
Posts: 45
Loc: Middle of nowhere, Australia
You've come to the wrong place buddy if you want sympathy for being 29. Many here start after retiring from scratch.

Why an earth would a teacher not be willing to teach a student? Maybe if it was a new and inexperienced teacher they might be intimidated but I'd have thought the vast majority of teachers would be willing to teach you if you were willing to learn.


Edited by AndrewJCW (08/12/14 10:15 PM)
_________________________
Beginner working through Alfred's Book One My youtube channel

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#2314731 - 08/12/14 09:56 PM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1423
Why don't you try playing some of the pieces you already know, but while following the score as you go? Like you're reading to yourself. Do it until you can read along as you play. After a while you'll be making connections between familiar chord patterns and how those things look on the page. I'm not an advanced pianist, but I do read music like I read words. And reading words is a lot of chunking of information, instant pattern recognition, etc. One builds that recognition yes by reading, but also by following along while someone else reads and your brain starts to make connections between what you're hearing and what is on the page. Because you already know the pieces, you can do that for yourself, basically.

I also usually recommend that folks who know music well but whose notation skills are not up to snuff listen to complex pieces (say, symphonies) while following a complex score. The necessity to quickly orient and follow and not get lost makes your eyes really scan quickly for patterns just to stay afloat. After a while you get really good at just recognizing things.
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suite BWV 814 No. 3
Chopin, Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. post. 66
Tchaikovsky, Mars: Chante de l'alouette Op. 37a No. 3

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#2314732 - 08/12/14 10:15 PM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
noobpianist90 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/23/13
Posts: 412
Loc: India
It is possible as long as you believe it's possible. All it takes is patience and persistence. Here are some links to help you out:

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=1871.0

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,2577.msg22247.html#msg22247

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,2713.msg23282.html#msg23282

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,2406.msg20820.html#msg20820

These are the some of the links that really helped me when I started sight reading. Refer to some more links from here.

Also Check out the thread on "Super Sight Reading Secrets":

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2296450/1.html

There's a lot of good advice in there. The best way to become good at sight reading is to understand the sight reading process, and then to read a lot of simple music, single staff single voice melodies if you need to, that's what I did for a long time. The progress to more complex music happens slowly over time. Good luck.

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#2314738 - 08/12/14 11:09 PM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3515
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Shin, welcome to PW!

You are definitely not too old to learn how to sight read. But because you already know how to play and have developed your own way of interacting with a musical score, you have to first overcome that habit. This will be very hard at first because the tendency is to fall back on what you already know how to do. But, as you mention, developing your sight-reading skills will vastly improve the enjoyment you can get from music.

I recommend that you get the Super Sight-reading Secrets book. It's linked in the thread Noobpianist90 linked, but here's the link again:

Super Sight-reading Secrets

And read through the book, following the instructions very careful and not skipping any steps.

I also recommend that you visit those PianoStreet sites linked as well. And you might want to read Trombone Al's book: Becoming a Great Sight-Reader -- or Not!: Learn from my Quest for Piano Sight-Reading Nirvana

Treat learning how to sight-read as its own project, separate from other piano practice activities.

Definitely start with music that is waaaaay below your current playing level, and try to start with music you are not super familiar with. Some recommend Mikrokosmos for sight-reading, I decided not to use that, so now I'm using the Agay books (From Classics to Moderns? I think I linked it in the other thread) and Bach Chorales. These pieces are all far below my regular playing ability, but the goal is to read and play what's on the score, first time through, with a decent tempo, not to memorize it line by line.

I'll link the Chorales book (and add the link to other thread, which I forgot to do).

If you want to use Bach Chorales for sightreading, this is the book to get, because it's actually readable:

J.S. Bach 413 Chorales

And no, I don't get a commission for the sales of any of these books! laugh

Now, having thrown a whole bunch of ideas about things you do on your own, I would also recommend that you reconsider getting a teacher. After all, you're not getting a teacher to teach you advanced music, you're looking for someone who's a specialist in sight-reading. This person might almost end up being something of a coach.

Good luck and let us know what you decide to try and how it goes!
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#2314779 - 08/13/14 12:57 AM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
leel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/07/13
Posts: 73
Loc: Lacey WA
I cannot add anything of substance to the foregoing, except to emphasize the age point. I have a lot more wear on me than you have & started taking lessons de novo, having never had any music instruction in my life. It's taken me a while but sight reading is coming along--not fast, but improving all the time. I began to think it wasn't going to happen when suddenly it started to click in. So be of good cheer laugh and dive in!

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#2314784 - 08/13/14 01:21 AM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
Charles Cohen Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 1540
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
FWIW (I don't teach) --

The best -- maybe the only -- way to learn to sightread, is to sightread.

Don't bother "reading" music that you already know -- no benefit, there.

Instead, take something you _don't_ know -- maybe a piano reduction of an opera score, or something by Bach that you haven't learned. Slow down the tempo, and start sight-reading and playing it.

IF you can't do that, even at a slow tempo, pick something simpler. Go down to the Anna Magdalena book, or find some pop piano transcriptions.

The definition of sightreading:

. . . To play something from written score _for the first time_.

Once you've played it (especially with your deep background), the "second time through" isn't sightreading any more.

It's not a simple learning process. You're going to be developing new brain linkages, from eyes to fingers. It won't be easy. It will be frustrating.

But it _is_ possible.

Just remember:

. . . Don't cheat.

. Charles

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#2314789 - 08/13/14 02:02 AM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
MALDI_ToF Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/25/14
Posts: 73
Loc: Vancouver
Originally Posted By: shin_mitsugi
Piano teachers are probably out of the question since its sorta hard to find somebody willing to teach somebody playing Chopin Scherzo No. 2....unfortunate but true.


Hard to find, or too expensive? Where I am there are plenty of teachers who could teach someone at your level, but you are looking at having to pay $70/hr or more (some professors at the university music department will charge $150/hr for private lessons). It ain't cheap. Most teachers charge more for advanced students, and those who can teach advanced students usually have better credentials and experience allowing them to charge even more.

As for sight-reading, I think it is just a lot of practice. The unfortunate thing is that once you try to sight-read a line you can't do it again! Knowing music theory can help - at least it helps me. Just start with material that is well below your playing ability and work your way up.

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#2315089 - 08/13/14 05:16 PM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
hreichgott Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1278
Loc: western MA, USA
Sight reading is great practice of course.

Another great way to improve reading is to learn pieces that you can learn in a week or two. You use reading more that way. As your reading ability improves, you'll find that the level of pieces learnable by you in a week or two increases sharply, and that's quite rewarding too.
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Working on: Schumann/Kinderszenen
Daily 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 2, Pischna
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2315172 - 08/13/14 09:13 PM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3515
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Quote:
The best -- maybe the only -- way to learn to sightread, is to sightread


Well, yes. But I have come to think that just "brute force" sight reading isn't the most efficient, although a lot of practice reading is essential, and as Heather mentions, playing lots of new pieces is important.

But since I've drunk the SSRS kool-aid laugh I've come to think that adding certain exercises is a key piece, especially if you're not a beginner and already have a way of interacting with the written score.

There are several discrete (but related) skills that need to all be working simultaneously in order to sight-read a new piece of music: understanding of keyboard geography, ability to play without looking at your hands, ability to follow the two staves simultaneously, immediate recognition of notes within, and above and below the staff and ability to translate that recognition into where the hands go on the keyboard, interval and chord recognition and understanding of the rhythm and timing info contained in the score. That's a lot of stuff to attend to all at once on a never-before seen piece of music.

The SSRS exercises break down these skills and helps you work on them one by one. I've only been working on the SSRS exercises for maybe 2 months (whenever the other thread was started) but I already feel like it's making a huge difference in how I relate to the score.
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#2315232 - 08/13/14 11:47 PM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
FarmGirl Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 09/14/10
Posts: 2036
Loc: Scottsdale, AZ
Doing chamber music or duet will help. It will help you to read quicker without looking at your hand that much.
_________________________
Solo - Rachmaninoff Elegie Op 3 #1, Schumann Op 12 Warum, Grillen and a few short pieces by various composers
Collaboration - Concerto in C for Oboe and orchestra attributed to Haydn edited by Evelyn Rosewell and some duets


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#2315362 - 08/14/14 09:11 AM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
Loc: Canada
Addressing this part:
Originally Posted By: shin_mitsugi
Piano teachers are probably out of the question since its sorta hard to find somebody willing to teach somebody playing Chopin Scherzo No. 2....unfortunate but true.


It is very common for students to reach an advanced level in repertoire, and have gaping holes in certain skills that were not deemed important by the original teacher or were overlooked. There are good, skills-oriented teachers out there who would be willing to help you. That said, finding or even recognizing such a teacher is the hard part.

Most of the time, such teachers have the opposite problem. They get a student who is advanced, they see the holes in skills, but the student isn't aware of the problem and wants to continue "advancing". If addressing the holes means using simpler material, the student will be outraged. A student who actually comes in and says "I play advanced material, but tbh, I'm really bothered that I can't read and want to address that." - this is delightful to such a teacher's ear.

Like some people have already said, reading involves a subset of skills, and you will need to find which you are missing, and how to address that. (Or find the teacher who will do this for you). That includes
- associating written notes in the score with keys on the keyboard (not necessarily naming them i.e. memorizing back and forth)
- strategy for reading a single note or single beat in a measures, and right up to how you approach a piece you are working on

I would distinguish "reading" from "(prima vista) sight reading" which is a specialized skill. When I began to address my reading of piano music, I decided early that the ideas for "sight reading" were not right for me. To play at tempo and skip notes, did not seem conducive for forming a "map" between notation and keyboard and sound. You want to get this solid so it's there for you before you specialize into sight reading.

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#2315389 - 08/14/14 09:49 AM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
David Farley Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/27/13
Posts: 470
Loc: Illinois
For what it's worth, my approach to sight-reading has been to slowly collect a gigantic pile of music that is the "sight-reading pile." All easy pieces at or below the level I'm currently playing so the focus is on the sight-reading and not trying to decipher other technical puzzles. I'll grab something and work through 2-3 short pieces (most of the material is one or two pages and a lot of this stuff is method books and basic repertoire series) playing each one 2-3 times. There might be a few a find I want to return to again later to keep polishing, but the point is, I don't have to - it's all sight-reading. Next session I grab another book and work through a couple more. Sometimes I'm just yammering through the notes - other times it feels like it clicks. All of this is in addition to the pieces I'm working on in detail. Don't know if that makes sense, but it seems to work and it keeps my entertained. As I've recovered my skills (I'm a returning pianist) the level of what I can sight read has increased.

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#2315433 - 08/14/14 10:55 AM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3880
Loc: Northern England.
I feel for ya. I've been playing on and off for years and can still say I'm useless at sight reading. Only time it improved was when I played organ at church and we had a choir. And rehearsals where the music was chucked at me. I got to playing 3 out of the 4 parts. The tenor asked me why he never got to hear his bit. . . !
_________________________
"I'm playing all the right notes � but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

""

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#2315741 - 08/15/14 12:59 AM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: shin_mitsugi]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7777
Loc: New York City
You are not an advanced pianist if you can't sight-read.

As for a course of study, Bach Chorales are a tried and true method.
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2315808 - 08/15/14 05:38 AM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: Polyphonist]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
You are not an advanced pianist if you can't sight-read.

As for a course of study, Bach Chorales are a tried and true method.

Defining labels, even if the OP gave one, does not help at all. The OP is not trying to give herself a vaunted title, but doing her best to define her situation. It is part of the situation, because many teachers will indeed hesitate to bring a student down to a lower level if their repertoire and quality of playing are at a high level.

I disagree with the Bach Chorales as a solution, when so little is known. You start with finding addressing the weaknesses within the general problem, and a given body of music may not be the solution.

Btw, when I discovered I couldn't really read when I returned to piano, I tried the chorales. I got really good at reading Bach chorales. Unfortunately most piano music is rather unlike the chorales. Also, you get into impossible reaches for the hand, since they're written for voice.

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#2315982 - 08/15/14 03:48 PM Re: Advanced pianist but can't sight read (advice) [Re: keystring]
Greener Offline

Platinum Supporter until July 22 2014


Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 1268
Loc: Toronto
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
You are not an advanced pianist if you can't sight-read.

laugh
I see your point, kinda. There was a segment on 60 minutes I saw of a blind gentleman that as a child could naturally pick things up by ear and play it beautifully on the piano. He was fortunate to have mentors that understood the importance of him understanding what he was playing, and not just playing it. He went on to receive excellent training and later in life played many high ranking venues la la la ...

Now where was I going with this? Oh yeah, would he be any less of a musician if he were never trained but still went on to play these venues?

I guess it all depends on what we think of as advanced.

Originally Posted By: keystring

Defining labels ... does not help ...

Agree

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