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#930620 - 12/16/03 09:04 PM Reading Help Requested
Frank58 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/30/02
Posts: 39
Loc: Canada
I have been taking piano lessons for 6 years and, for my reading practice, I have been using the“Four Star” Sight Reading and Ear Tests books by Boris Berlin.
These are a series of graduated books which I believe run from level
one to eight or nine. I am presently working at level five.

I am following the Conservatory of Music lessons and am presently in grade 6.
I have a well qualified teacher and have been with her since I began piano lessons.
I am quite contented with my progress in piano, however I feel I could be doing better
with the reading component. I really would like to be able to read music well.


I have a few questions I would like to pose to the teachers.

(1) My teacher advises that it is OK to look at the keys when practicing
reading. Actually, I think I would be better off not to look down, as I
usually lose my place on the score , and cannot find it quickly enough
when I go back to the sheet.
Any suggestions?

(2) I practice reading about 15 to 20 minutes per day, and I generally use
the “Four Star” books. I practice at a level which pushes my ability to the
limit. In other words, I generally don’t read anything that is easy for me, but
push on beyond what I am actually able to do on the first or second try. I have read that it is actually advisable to read material that is easy to play, and do a lot of it. This
is suppose to be more beneficial than grinding ahead with the more difficult material.
Somehow, this doesn”t quite make sense to me.
Comments please.

(3) Finally, can anyone recommend a reading program, or reading books which would supplement the one that I am presently following.

Appreciate any help.

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#930621 - 12/17/03 12:14 PM Re: Reading Help Requested
ebony & ivory Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/03
Posts: 30
Loc: Andover, Minnesota
Hi Frank58,

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#930622 - 12/17/03 12:38 PM Re: Reading Help Requested
ebony & ivory Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/03
Posts: 30
Loc: Andover, Minnesota
don't know what happened there, sorry! anyway, congratulations on your dedication! I wish all my students were so dedicated. :-) As for your pushing yourself, in my opinion, I don't think you should push ahead without your teacher being present. There are just too many things to master before you go on. Also, it's hard to break a habit you've been doing for a week if you should do it wrong. Sight reading is still important even if you feel it's too easy. To my students, I compare it to learning to read, you had to learn your letters and their meanings first, likewise numbers before math. You're right about looking at your hands/keyboard while you're playing, it is too easy to lose your place and throw off your rhythm. I have a heavy paper thingie with a keyboard printed on it that fits over the head and tucks under the book. It completey hides your hands and the keyboard. You could achieve the same effect by using an apron. Just tuck it under the book or clip it to the book rack and wa-la! You're good to go. I do this once in awhile, just to remind myself, it is hard to do! Good luck to you, it sounds like you're definately heading in the right direction!

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#930623 - 12/18/03 07:26 AM Re: Reading Help Requested
Frank58 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/30/02
Posts: 39
Loc: Canada
To ebony & ivory. Thanks for your input. After reading your comments, I rigged up a piece of thin cardboard to the piano to cover my hands. This actually is working quite well.

Again, thanks for your comments. Seasons greetings.

Frank58

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#930624 - 01/23/04 11:31 PM Re: Reading Help Requested
iteachlifeskills Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 23
Loc: Toronto, ON Canada
Hey, Frank;

True story: some years ago I bought a speed-reading course (not for music, but regular text reading) because there is SO MUCH I want to learn! So I spent all this money and I'm anxious to get into this speed reading stuff so I can learn more faster, right.

Chapter One

"If you want to learn to read faster....
then READ FASTER!"

Boy, was I upset after seeing that!

But, you know what? After I cooled off and gave it some thought, it makes absolutely perfect sense.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If you are weak in any area, work at that area until it becomes your strength.

And speaking of strength training...

You wouldn't go out and start lifting 100 lbs. if you were completely out of shape.

In fact, even when you ARE in shape, you STILL are well-advised to WARM UP with lighter weights until your body can handle the work.

They don't call me "ITeachLifeSkills" for nothing. Look around you and see how things work best in other areas of life. Then apply that wisdom to the things you wish to improve.

Make sense?

Did you know that the sight reading material in the Four Star books is supposed to be at least two grade levels BELOW the listed grade? Do you think this was by accident?

Sight read EVERYTHING - pop books, church hymns, jazz, music from other cultures... just for the practice. Stress CONTINUITY above all else - KEEP those eyes and fingers moving FORWARD. For this, it will be necessary that you choose material where you can do this comfortably.

In time, you will see your reading skills improve dramatically, and you will have done so without stress or strain, developing strong and secure habits all along the way.

Just remember the tortoise and the hare... SLOW & STEADY WINS THE RACE!

Keep at it Frank. I'll be watching for your posts to see how you're doing!

Warmest wishes from freezing Toronto,
Russ

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#930625 - 02/07/04 01:06 AM Re: Reading Help Requested
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Hi Frank58

The experience you describe of looking away from the score and losing your place is exactly why you quite rightly think that you should learn to play without looking away at your hands. Like learning how to "touch" type, your fingers should be able to locate the keys blindfold - the piano has the advantage of the raised black notes - in sets of twos and threes - to help the tactile sense find the notes.

The advantage is obvious - no break in the music flow.
Sorry to disagree with your teacher but I use a permanent 10" masking shelf across the full length of the keyboard (handy spot for music and the tape recorder - not coffee!) to ensure that the student keeps eyes on the score. The shelf is raised just enough (4") to give the hands free reign.

It takes a fortnight or so to get use to the blinkers but once familiarized the sight-reading concentration level is greatly enhanced - heightened anticipation makes for better reading.

The best reading programme is undoubtedly the playing of a piano masterpiece that tickles your fancy. So much of the formal music fare is a pedantic regurgitation of music from the ancient past and very often by second rate composers. Anything by Chopin, Mozart or Beethoven should hit the mark for starters.

Self-advertising Russ as usual sounds off with a battery of giddy images which are about as much help as trying to catch a snowflake in hell.

Try sight-reading a piece of music that you really like.

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#930626 - 02/07/04 06:24 PM Re: Reading Help Requested
PattyP Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/07/04
Posts: 611
Loc: Texas
The advantage is obvious - no break in the music flow.[/b] Sorry to disagree with your teacher but I use a permanent 10" masking shelf across the full length of the keyboard (handy spot for music and the tape recorder - not coffee!) to ensure that the student keeps eyes on the score. The shelf is raised just enough (4") to give the hands free reign[/b] .

It takes a fortnight or so to get use to the blinkers but once familiarized the sight-reading concentration level is greatly enhanced - heightened anticipation makes for better reading[/b] .

Sounds like a great idea. I'd like to try that (but no coffee!?? ) . But, considering that I'm mechanically challanged how would one go about attaching a shelf and where would I find one? I'm just starting out (6 months of lessons now, picking up where I left off as a kid) and I'd like to be able to play without watching the keys, just like when I type (that's the old fashioned word for "keyboarding" before there were such things as computers!)
_________________________
Patty

A tired dog is a good dog.

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#930627 - 02/08/04 02:30 AM Re: Reading Help Requested
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Hi PattyP,

Your DIY challenged state must make you a menace around the house - but always a good excuse to avoid the chores and do more important things like slipping away for a game of golf - or are you Michegan-types still hemmed in by snow while we southern-types bask under Pretoria's summer sunny skies.

The shelf over the keyboard is just what you would use for a book shelf - thin enough not to sag in the middle (while carrying your cup of coffee - verboten!)

Your local store should be able to provide you with a 4'6" length of shelf ( an 8" width might suit you better) together with a couple of 4" square end-blocks say 1.5" thick.

Place the blocks at the piano ends and simply put the shelf over the blocks. Screw the shelf down to the blocks at either end to give stability.

So the US "keyboard" and don't "type" any more!

We (those who weren't confronted by Redskins or Cornwallis) always have a laugh at how the Americans switch perfectly good English words such as lift and make up a word like elevator - or replace the word braces (the things Larry King uses to hold up his pants) get quaintly called "suspenders".

But then, as Louis Armstrong so wisely observed
"you say tomaitoes and I say tomartoes".

Good luck with the piano lessons. Hope the "blinkers" help the sight-reading concentration.

Best wishes,
btb

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#930628 - 02/08/04 08:32 PM Re: Reading Help Requested
Frank58 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/30/02
Posts: 39
Loc: Canada
To btb,

Thanks for your input. For the last few days, I have been using a piece of cardboard in a similar fashion as your wood, and can already see an improvement. (Coffee remains on a table near by)

To PattyP,

Not being able to glance at the keys when I felt the urge, was awkward at first. It will take me some time to get used to it. However, this definately the way to learn. Good luck.

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