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#374745 - 12/16/07 01:27 PM Sight-reading Practice Fine Tuning
TromboneAl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 796
Loc: Northern, Northern California
Although I play jazz piano gigs a few times a month, my sight-reading is atrocious. I finally decided I'm going to fix that, and I'm practicing sight-reading about two hours a day. I plan to continue that at least through all of 2008.

After searches of this forum and the Internet, I'm clear on what I need to do: Read lots of material, try not to stop and correct mistakes, go through hymnals, use metronome, recognize intervals, etc.

Here are some questions to help me get the most out of my practice:

1. I figured I'd read each piece once, but I go through a lot of material that way. Do I get much sight-reading benefit from playing the piece, say, 2-5 times? As with many poor sight-readers, I'm a good memorizer, so even the second time through I'm doing a lot less reading.

2. I've found good sources of free easy piano sight-reading material (for example, www.easybyte.org), but for those you have to download a PDF of each page individually and print them out. Anyone know of a site that lets you download a whole book in one PDF file?

3. Any suggestions for books with lots of pieces? Right now I'm working through "Easy classics to moderns, Vol 17, Music for Millions".

4. Some pieces are too difficult for me to read at a normal tempo, so I set the tempo super low. For example, 50 bpm for eighth notes! Is that too slow to get good sight-reading practice from?

Thanks for your help!!
- Al

My Book: Becoming a Great Sight-Reader -- or Not!
My Blog: The Year of Piano Sight-Reading

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#374746 - 12/16/07 02:08 PM Re: Sight-reading Practice Fine Tuning
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 2462
Loc: Denver, CO
1. I think you are really close to answering your own question here. Sight reading is a mindset that I consider to be similar to speed-reading a book. Playing pieces a second or more times can be very helpful, but it is no longer sight reading per se. By the time you play a piece through the third time you are mentally performing the tasks of practicing not sight reading.

2. I'm not that big on download music. I guess I prefer to have the real thing in my hands - and my SMAS driven collection shows it! LOL ;\) (Anyone know of a 12 step program form SMAS? just kidding.)

3. Search on sight reading on sheet music plus. There are some books specifically for sight reading. Look for easy piano books with lots of songs. Czerny works well if you are advanced enough for his easier stuff (practical method for beginners and young pianist). Find a source of used sheet music. Borrow music from the library.

4. Set those aside. You should be using material that is easy enough that you can play it at (or close to) tempo. Think of this as learning to speed read. You are trying to mentally prepare yourself to view larger chunks of the music and process it while playing (or in advance of playing it). If you've ever had a speed reading course, it focuses you to read a whole word, then several words, then a portion of a line, and finally a whole line at a time.


#374747 - 12/16/07 03:44 PM Re: Sight-reading Practice Fine Tuning
LJC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/04
Posts: 1552
Loc: New York
T-Al- I'm thinking that you are a rather advanced musician to play jazz gigs but maybe you play mostly by ear? Maybe you have not had structured lessons? I think the most basic thing to be a good sight reader is that you know all major and minor scales and all the chords. Then when you see the harmonic structure of what youre reading you know what you are seeing even if its the first time and then sight reading becomes much easier. I would start with things you can read easily and then begin reading more difficult pieces.

#374748 - 12/17/07 06:10 AM Re: Sight-reading Practice Fine Tuning
Silent Thoughts Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/05
Posts: 314
I'd like to add that sightreading Bach's chorales improved my own reading quite well, and there's no better way to start a day than to read a few Bach chorales before breakfast.

The book can be purchased here:

It's some of the best eleven dollars I've ever spent. \:\)

- Silence

#374749 - 12/17/07 07:58 AM Re: Sight-reading Practice Fine Tuning
drumour Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/05
Posts: 871
Loc: Scotland
Bach chorales, I agree, and indeed any hymns from traditional hymnals are excellent materials for sight-reading; 4 voices - fairly easy to play - not so easy for a beginner to read.
One point, that few seem to take on board, is that you won't be able to sight-read if you can't read. Sight-reading is hard for the beginner to practise - how does s/he know if they've got it right? Reading practice is straight-forward - find stuff that you know (it could be old repertoire) and practise reading it. You'll know if it's right if it sounds right.
Also one very valuable thing I've read on here recently: practise technical work (scales etc and exercises) with eyes closed - it's the easiest way to get used to not looking at your hands. The one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that for good sight-reading it is essential to be able to play without looking at the hands.

It should go without saying that if you don't know your rudiments you will find reading difficult and sight-reading more difficult. Rudiments are not hard.

Vasa inania multum strepunt.

#374750 - 12/17/07 01:01 PM Re: Sight-reading Practice Fine Tuning
TromboneAl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 796
Loc: Northern, Northern California
Thanks guys. I know I'm on the right track, but it sure is hard. I'd given up on sight-reading in the past, but now I'm more determined, plus I have a good amount of theory, and can play well without looking at my hands.

I learned piano on my own as a kid, but took a year or two of formal lessons when I was 34 (now 54).

Silence, are the chorales in that book at about this level:
- Al

My Book: Becoming a Great Sight-Reader -- or Not!
My Blog: The Year of Piano Sight-Reading

#374751 - 12/17/07 01:23 PM Re: Sight-reading Practice Fine Tuning
drumour Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/05
Posts: 871
Loc: Scotland
The copy I have of complete chorales, Bach harmonisation, edited by Riemenschneider is like the above omitting the vocal scores. It tends to be written with soprano and alto on the rh stave and tenor and bass on the lh stave. That's about as hard as they get.
I think it's published by Schirmer and not very expensive.

Vasa inania multum strepunt.


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