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#957182 - 11/20/07 03:23 AM Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Teachers--

Some questions about sight reading:

1) What percent of your lesson time do you devote to teaching sight reading?

2) Any clever strategies to help students improve sight reading?

3) What homework do you assign students regarding sight reading?
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#957183 - 11/20/07 03:24 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
One more question:

4) Which method book for sight reading do you find the most helpful? Least helpful?
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#957184 - 11/20/07 06:07 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Piano&Violin Offline
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Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany
Not a teacher but learning the piano in my third year. My teachers use easy piano literature for 4 hands for which we use a few minutes every lesson, and in addition their recommendation is that I take the beginner book of my piano school or any other easy piano literature and start playing, which I've integrated into my daily practice.

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#957185 - 11/20/07 06:27 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
cruiser Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/19/07
Posts: 1171
Loc: Cornwall, England
I'm not a teacher either but I'd just like to say that my teacher has assigned Bartok's Microcosmos series for sight reading practice. Each week we move onto a new piece, she gives me a minute to read it without playing and then I attempt to play - sight read - it. After I've attempted the sight reading I go on to learn each piece, 'as normal'. This approach is working well for me and the intricacies in the Bartok are particularly good for this purpose imo, with plenty of material in the six volumes, gradually increasing in difficulty.

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#957186 - 11/20/07 07:46 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Piano&Violin Offline
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Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany
As I read cruiser's message, let me add that my teacher advised me NOT to read the music first but to play it right away and try to understand it while playing, and maybe play it for a second time but not more often.

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#957187 - 11/20/07 08:47 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
sarabande Offline
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Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I've always wanted students to enjoy playing some easier pieces than their current level rather than strictly plodding ahead to the next difficult piece and the next. But students have turned their noses up at doing anything marked an easier level than what they are on. I also have always felt there is a lot of great music they have bypassed by not wanting to play something "beneath" them. So I started assigning these books as sight-reading. I assign supplemental books one or two notches below their current skill or loan easier books and assign a piece. We don't usually play it at lesson at all. I assign it as something they should be able to figure out completely without my help and be able to play it just for fun without the work.

Also, sometimes at lesson or piano group get-togethers, we play a game involving sight-reading. I get out a bunch of easy beginner books usually 5-finger, or a little harder for more advanced students. We take turns rolling a dice (I use a cloth dice I found at the dollar store). Everyone is assigned "even" or "odd" for numbers. If it lands on your own number if you are "even", for example, you get to pick any song and assign it to the next person. If it lands on an "odd" you have to pick a song and play it yourself.

I also assign simpler duets.

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#957188 - 11/20/07 10:36 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Minaku Offline
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Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
As you know I like to use Music Tree. So every lesson involves sightreading. Every time we get to a new piece, I have them sightread through it. Eventually they get so used to it that when I ask them to sightread it's not a problem.

For the students that didn't start with me, or for the ones that are a bit more advanced and require something else, I have them read duets, easier method books, ABRSM sightreading tests, or easy piano collections. I actually had a student ask me if she could do sightreading once, it was rather amazing...
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#957189 - 11/20/07 10:38 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
dumdumdiddle Offline
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Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1263
Loc: California
I have started doing sightreading at each lesson in preparation for Certificate of Merit in the spring. We spend about 5-7 minutes. I use the LingLing series that is designed to go with CM. We do maybe six 4-8 measure assignments. Before students actually play one we talk about what to look for in the piece: key sig, time sig, rhythm patterns, skips/steps, scale patterns. Then they play it.

I have always been better at playing by ear rather than by sight. My sightreading has improved over the years just by having to play more pieces that I wasn't familiar with.
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#957190 - 11/20/07 11:27 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Piano & Violin said: "As I read cruiser's message, let me add that my teacher advised me NOT to read the music first but to play it right away and try to understand it while playing, and maybe play it for a second time but not more often."

Yes, an unprepared, and instant read. Keep moving, don't correct. This is to monitor your ability to read at first sight. Yes, to maybe play it a second time, too, but don't anguish about your results. It is a product of "And Is" (reality).

I prefer to have Elementary students do their sightreading in my presence. I prefer also that we preview the new music together before they start. I want to emphasize "analysis" - looking at the music page to see what it contains before beginning. Title, composer, era, mood, key signature, note values in the music, time signature, staccato, legato, accents, phrasing, vocabulary, Having a good understanding of what the music is about helps the first playing go a little smoother than it might without a little mental, visual preparation.

Playing it the second time would be about showing where patterns of melody, harmony, rhythm exist in the music, finding the form of the music. Breaking into practice areas if we are going to study the music.

Essential fingering would continue to be added on our first few playings of it until the piece was totally "constructed" by the student. Then it's on to polishing and memorization if memory is preferred.

I like short sight reading assignments - such as one by Allan Small which is in Parallel C position (unison playing) and helps sightread rhythms in small sections. "Basic Timing" is the name of the book.

Reading through Primos in duets once keeping a steady beat, and playing as accurately as possible (one page) is rewarded by playing through a second time with teacher accompaniment.
This provides a real sense of accomplishment.

Sarabande, your "game" is fun!

Betty

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#957191 - 11/20/07 01:14 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11422
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
AZN: I use Let's Sightplay published by FJH. I find these to be ideal. Each unit is set up with a sightreading song, followed by two "sightreading chimes" in which the student will hold down the damper pedal throughout, and ideally play iwht a metronome using only on finger in each hand, playing whole notes. The notes alternate hands and move around quite a bit on the keybaord, so that intervallic reading is not really possible. This really exercises their reading ability! Then there are theme and variations, which help students to see repeated patterns in music. I will have a student play one portion of a unti each day during the week, so that each week they complete a unit. The importance is not to learn to play these pieces well, but just by doing them they exercise the very beginning stages of learning a piece. I will do spot checks during a lesson, but I won't have them play through the entire unit unless I suspect they aren't doing the assignment.
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#957192 - 11/20/07 05:09 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13759
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I use a combination of three things:

Flash Cards, organized to use a landmark system.

Rhythm drills, which I've made myself to cover what I believe to be are the first three basic stages to rhythmic reading:

1) Syllabic counting with quarter, half, dotted-half, and whole notes and rests.

2) Numeric counting and the introduction of eighth notes.

3) Numeric counting and the introduction of dotted quarter rhythms.

I use the Eastman counting system because most of my students are also involved in music in the public schools and I want them to use a consistent system. When I taught in Lubbock, I had them count Kodaly style in elementary grades, Eastman in middle and high school. Here in El Paso, it's all Eastman.

And finally, I have them read simple classical materials. The first 2 or 3 books from the Expressive Etudes, Festival Collection, Celebration Series, and Beautiful Etudes collections, as well as other early-level anthologies of classical material.

Another excellent early-level reader is the "Step, Skip, and Repeat" series from FJH. And though I think the FJH people are brilliant, I don't like the "Sight Reading and Rhythm Every Day" series much. Too many of the examples are contrived, have odd phrase-lengths, and aren't as musically solid as I'd like. The Four Star series from Frederick Harris is better, but still falls short of the mark. (IMHO)
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#957193 - 11/20/07 05:48 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
jazzyclassical Offline
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Registered: 09/26/07
Posts: 154
Loc: California
Everything is sight reading since I use the Music Tree now. I had a student in Glover that became a good sight reader as well. Now she's in Piano Town and she is still sightreading well.

I also make sure they keep their eyes on the page. This is so important.

The Pace method has a great technique of musical braille. Where you close your eyes and find groups of two and three black keys with your 2,3 and 4 fingers. They raise their hand when they find them and then can check to see if they did it right. Then I have them find C and F with their thumb. I explain to my students we do this so we can learn where the notes are without looking at our hands all the time. They have so much fun doing this.

I also make sure they are playing a lot of music. My students are currently elementary, late elem. With my one early intermediate student, she is already a good sight reader and I try to keep it that way by making sure she is playing lots of rep in different styles, not way too advanced for her reading level. We take small steps.

Also, duets really help because the student has to try to play with your beat.
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#957194 - 11/21/07 11:12 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
pianojazz Offline
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Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 359
Loc: dearborn, mi
Developing good sight reading skills is a life-long endeavor and should be broken into three fundamental elements or sub-skills: 1. reading the printed page and hearing the music in your head; 2. feeling your hand/finger position on the keyboard over the desired keys that will produce the sound you are hearing in your head (without ever looking), and lastly; 3. hearing the note(s) actually played and recognizing them as correct or incorrect strictly by the sound itself – not by looking. And doing all of this within the allotted time. A beginning student first needs to develop some sense of the three components involved before they even attempt to put it all together by sight reading. I’d say perhaps as an intermediate student – about the time one has already started the two-part inventions, worked a few Chopin waltzes – maybe even an etude or two is the time to really concentrate on sight reading – and only with music that is well-within their grasp.
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#957195 - 11/21/07 12:43 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Sightreading successfully is a combination of sequential abilities learned as "acquired skills" and accurately transferring from symbolics from the written music page to a precise location on the keyboard of the piano (the instrument) by physical instincts of the other instrument (the piano player).

This is the order of thought that I teach. It is a slower process of controlling the sequence at first. With experience and good training, it becomes an automatic, almost simultaneous thought that allows you to play forward on the page and achieve both mechanism of physical movement and artistry of intentions of expression. Sight reading can occur at the speed of performance with great accuracy on the first reading by an accomplished musician, or it can take much longer to move through the intake-output sequence of systemized learning.

In any case, sightreading takes as long as it is going to take, depending on your ability to combine brain and execution of the continuous "seeing and doing" process.
1) Printed Music (Information in symbols)
2) Keyboard Location Destination
3) Hand and Finger Impulse (Touch - Dynamics)
4) With a Specific Duration (Note Values)

Finesse produces the wonderful results - in the meantime careful, accountable work efforts from the student create a path to accomplishment of the musician's present abilities.

When you have the break through, you have become a self-actualized musician.

I've minimized the experience to "steps", and without the diligence of the time and effort of the musician, it will remain a goal that is not yet totally accomplished.

That is why it is important to play as accurately as possible at all times - not allowing mistakes to happen - or fixing them as soon as noticed. With the best of intentions, choosing appropriate music at a possible level, the time it takes will be minimized. The longer, more difficult the piece, the longer you work toward physical and mental understanding and control.

So choosing pieces for performance and memory is best done within your frame of current ability.

Each heartbeat and blinking eye as you process your music is a measure of when you will be done so play with good intentions and accuracy and accountability will make it so.

One missing link to the process will frustrate, delay, and hinder your outcome.

You get the prize when you have done enough of the right kind of work. Wishing never makes it so. Reality really enters highly into the picture.

Sorry to be so long here, but this is what I know about the piano, piano study and it's humans.

Betty

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#957196 - 11/21/07 04:02 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Wow, thank you all very much for your helpful suggestions.
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#957197 - 11/21/07 04:11 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
pianoexcellence Offline
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Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
I do a small amount of direct, unrelated sight reading with my students as exam prep.

Other than that, I usually manage to incorporate it into the lessons. Instead of introducing a piece by playing it, I will perform a duet with my student with one hand at a time, usually with the student playing the weaker hand.

I teach sight reading this way to emphasize the rhythmic aspect of reading. I believe that sight reading is not about playing accurately, but it is about being able to cope with inaccuracies without upsetting the basic meter. Thus, I consider my student to have sight read accurately if he can end at the same time I do!!
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#957198 - 11/21/07 05:54 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Amant Offline
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Registered: 06/29/07
Posts: 310
Loc: Southwest
Which method book for sight reading do you find the most helpful?
Not method books, per se, but Czerny's exercises.

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#957199 - 11/22/07 03:29 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Piano&Violin Offline
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Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany
With sightreading of rather difficult pieces I wonder if it can be compared to the process of simultaneous translations in conferences? I come from that field and know and have done it myself, that, with the right practice and training of course, you can translate almost everything into a foreign language the moment you hear it, with the right intonation etc. to make it sound good to the hearer.

BUT, it's common for translators doing such a job, that contents of what they translated is lost to them. The translating process it's kind of processing the language bits which does take an enormous amount of concentration (which is why there are always two of them taking turns every 1/2 hour), but still it's a "flowing through the person".

To a much lesser degree I would say that this happens when someone reads a text for the first time, that first time being in front of an audience, i.e. emphasis is on speaking well, right intonation and those things. As attention is focussed on that, the reader is not as much aware of the contents of the text as s/he would when reading for him/herself quietly with the focus of absorbing the information.

Is there a similar experience for pianists playing while reading the score?

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#957200 - 11/22/07 10:54 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Piano&Violin,

Yes, to play it a 2nd time would develop more of the content, more things would come to the surface. The experienced player could begin to memorize the piece, especially page turns (before the turn and after) and work just a little on any places in the music that did not feel secure while playing them.

Keeping the tempo, and supporting the performer is primary in accompanying and following him or her as being the leader. The accompanist works from the music during performance.

In piano performance, opportunities to work with the literature are very important, as you are the instrument receiving the attention. (You can't run, you can't hide". It would be important to excel in your accomplishment - not to just "play it through" accurately.

Or, the accompanist could decide that it works well as it stands. In additional practice, the accompanist would probably want to work with the soloist - instrumental or vocal.

Just as the interpreter of languages is doing, the pianist in either capacity is going to be captivated by the task at hand, focused, responsive, listening skillfully, using inflection and dynamics in the melody ("voice") while using his "powers" to convey the language of piano music. He is "on".

Good association of similar skills, in communication, languages, translating a message, pacing, inflection. Both dealing in producing sound.

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#957201 - 11/23/07 02:14 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
John Citron Offline
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Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
Betty summed this up nicely Piano&Violin.

As an avid sight reader, I can say that you don't always hear the music the on the first read because your brain is focused on getting the notes right and the time right. I use this to quickly pick some new material for working on later on.

I think of it as sight seeing in a foreign coutnry with a tour bus. You go along and can see the highlights of a country by visiting the restaurants and tourist spots, but not really get to know the residents. If you really want know the residents, or the music, you have go back and do a private tour later on. Keeping with this analaoy, you have to thn read the music carefully and do the work on it later on as Betty points out to bring the content out.

John
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#957202 - 11/28/07 02:38 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Akira Offline
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Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
In terms of developing sight reading skills, which do you believe is the better strategy?

- Playing a single piece 100 times or;
- Playing 20 pieces five times each

It seems to me that more exposure to different music exposes the student to a much wider variety of notes to play and would therefore help to accelerate the process. Of course, the 20 pieces won't sound nearly as good as single piece practiced a hundred times, but it seems to mitigate the risk of the student memorizing a piece, rathering than sight reading.

Any thoughts on this?

A previous poster mentioned "hearing the music in your head." In my method books, there are songs I know and others I don't. I seem to be able to sight read the ones I know much more easily than the ones I don't. The only connection I can make is that I'm hearing the song in my head before I play it, which I see as hurting the sight reading learning process. Seems like I'm (somewhat) cheating myself out of the sight reading lesson, as I play these familiar tunes.

Do you agree?

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#957203 - 11/28/07 03:12 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Good questions, Akira,

Strategy 1 - 100 or 20 x 5.
Can we reduce to the number of repetitions to make it more doable as a test and to give more variations.

Perhaps: (30)
10 x 3 songs
3 x 10 songs
30 x 1 song
once x 30 songs

The questions which you could answer from your personal experience after completing the test would be:
Which strategy produces progress? Which is the best progress?
Which do you enjoy doing most?

As far as the "audiation" hearing the music before you play by looking at the music page and hearing your inner voice singing is a good thing to be able to do as well as you are quite accurate and using the music. Being able to hum an already well known tune is not quite the same thing as "audiation".

You are not cheating, you are enhancing your perspective of reading. If you cannot "audiate" a song you do not know, then you are not "audiating" which requires the ability of reading new, unfamiliar tunes.

When I look at a piece of piano music, I not only hear it as piano, but I very often hear an orchestra or a dance band playing along, and if it's jazzy or pops, I hear the drummer and the combo. Or, sometimes I'm accompanying a singer (or singing style) who is not present.

You are into finding all things that would boost your learning, I like hearing your creative brain finding it's way musically.

Have you taken your music page to a table top and played it hands together and listened to the rhythms you are creating - it's kind of like dance steps or tap dancing is the piece is bouncy, and of course, ballads are more serene and slow dancing style.

Then there is your comment on Memory from Cats in another topic - yes that was quite fast, and a few unnecessary gestures, and a lot of unnecessary movement on the piano bench. I would prefer a deeper touch and more vocal tone and resonance over all, throughful delivering with more expressions, and articulations like speech. This would be a good one to take to the tabletop, too.

Always thinking, Akira! \:\)

Betty

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#957204 - 11/28/07 03:56 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Hmm...just some observations from amongst my own students--

I used to think that, the harder pieces the students can play, the better sight readers they are.

My recent observations lead me to believe that a student's personality may have a large influence on his or her sight reading abilities. Students who are outgoing and/or not afraid to take risks are better sight readers than those who are shy and/or overly cautious.
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#957205 - 11/29/07 02:33 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
pianojazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 359
Loc: dearborn, mi
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Akira:
In terms of developing sight reading skills, which do you believe is the better strategy?

- Playing a single piece 100 times or;
- Playing 20 pieces five times each "

Playing a piece 100 or 20 times is definitely not sight reading - that's working the piece. Some would say playing it even the 2nd time is no longer sight reading - I'm inclined to agree but I'm not quite that hard-nosed about it.

When I say "hearing the music in your head" I mean that literally. A good sight reader can look at the printed music and hear it in their "mind's ear" without having to actually play the music to know how it goes. Additionally, it is exactly that same skill they use to know if they played a wrong note - if they are expecting to hear a C, because a C is what is written, but hear a D instead, they know instantly. They don't look down at the keyboard - they hear the mistake. They can also feel the difference between playing a C and a D.

Lastly, here's a sight reading practice routine I use - I'm fortunate enough to have accumulated a huge amount of music over the years. I have a stack of obscure songs I almost never play. I pull out a book from the stack at random, open to the first page and away we go - no matter what it is. I play the song once and move to the next.
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#957206 - 11/30/07 05:50 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Piano&Violin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany
Akira,

to practice sight-reading my teacher told me:

- not to look at the music first but start playing right away
- play it once, maybe a second time but not more often.

If I play it more often, then it's because I want to go into more detail, but it's no longer sight-reading practice

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#957207 - 01/24/08 07:27 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
keithmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/18/07
Posts: 129
Loc: Atlanta, GA
I incorporate good reading into the student's pieces by making them use their eyes half on the keyboard and half on the page. I always encourage them to look ahead in the score to process new information. But it's also great to give them sightreading exercises weekly. To me it's even more important than taking lesson time for music theory. I use Dozen a Day as one source but also the Bastien Sightreading book1 (purple stripes). then also the FJH Classic Notespeller Books 1 and 2 to solidy their note recognition.


Keith
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#957208 - 01/24/08 07:29 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
keithmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/18/07
Posts: 129
Loc: Atlanta, GA
To add to the above information, give them a set number of exercises each week according to their ability and lesson time constraints. Encourage them to look over the exercises at home and to just do their best in front of the teacher the following week at the lesson. don't seek perfection in every exercise but try to get them to the point of having some master of each one.


Keith
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#957209 - 01/24/08 07:31 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
keithmusic Offline
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Registered: 04/18/07
Posts: 129
Loc: Atlanta, GA
My theoretical idea about this is for the student to master intervals of a 2nd (steps) then intervals of a 3rd (skips) and then larger and larger intervals. The Bastien sightread introduces some sharp and flat keys, nothing complex, that I like.


Keith
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#957210 - 01/24/08 08:32 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11561
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
I incorporate good reading into the student's pieces by making them use their eyes half on the keyboard and half on the page.
I thought that looking at the keyboard was a no-no. That seems to have been the consensus on this board since I started reading it a few weeks ago. (??) (writing as a student)

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#957211 - 01/25/08 02:07 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Minaku Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
I believe the general consensus is that looking at the keyboard is bad, unless you have large jumps, in which case you sort of have to glance at it to orient yourself.

Keith, there is an edit post option in every post that allows you to add to what you've written without posting multiple times. You also mentioned lessons are going for 60/hour in Atlanta. Where are you, Buckhead? Either that or I need to start raising my rates...
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