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#957182 - 11/20/07 03:23 AM Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5422
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 Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5422
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
1000 Post Club Member

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 Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11436
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: 13763
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
4000 Post Club Member

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 Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5422
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
Full Member

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
3000 Post Club Member

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
1000 Post Club Member

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
4000 Post Club Member

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 Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5422
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
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 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
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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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#957212 - 01/25/08 02:57 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Akira Offline
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: Offtopic :[/b]

Looks like you pressed the 'Add Reply' button three times, Keith. Once is all it takes, although it might seem, at times, the computer is doing nothing (just need to be patient for a few seconds). You can send a PM (personal message) a moderator to have your accidental duplicate posts above removed (you can't delete them yourself).

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#957213 - 01/25/08 03:07 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
keystring Online   content
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I see no duplicate posts. Keith has written three separate paragraphs on three different aspects of his sight reading method in three separate posts.

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#957214 - 01/25/08 03:14 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Akira Offline
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Oh, excuse me. My mistake. Sometimes the eyes see what they want to see. \:\( Never mind, Keith.

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#957215 - 01/25/08 07:45 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
Sometimes the eyes see what they want to see.
Well, it is the SIGHT reading thread. ;\)

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#957216 - 03/05/08 04:34 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Akira Offline
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New Topic[/b], but related...

Sorry to dig up an old thread, but wanted to get some additional thoughts on sight reading. I'm cringing at my comments three months ago and can clearly now see that you can sight read a piece only once.

I've been giving a lot of thought lately (maybe too much) thinking about sight reading and what I am missing in my practice routine or education that is preventing me from doing it -- or at least do it the way I am thinking about it.

I had a pretty lengthy conversation with my teacher last week, who said he has never met anyone that could sight read a piece (at their level[/b] - major caveat) cold and play it at tempo, with the correct dynamics with near-perfect note accuracy. He said even world class concert pianists can't do it.

I was deeply disturbed at why nobody can do it.

I think I've read a million times here (exaggerating), play pieces sloooowly aiming for as much accuracy (with respect to note recognition, dynamics, timing and fingering) as possible. Sacrifice speed for 'this accuracy' was the gist of the countless messages.

This, of course, leads to the obvious question, if one 'always' practice slowly, they will 'never' be able to play fast (on a cold read), as the skills to see, understand, assimilate and execute the required action at tempo will never be devloped.

To me, this is analagous to training to be a runner by practicing walking. The method suggested by nearly everyone just seems counter-intuitive to me. There's something obvious I'm missing, but I don't know what it is.

It seems that there two measurable components to sight reading; the speed and percentage of errors (which comes in the form of wrong notes played, pauses, or timing (or dynamic) errors).

So for example, if one sets an initial goal of sight reading at half tempo with 50 percent errors (I just picked an arbitrary baseline) on a cold read, how do they develop the skills to be able to play at faster tempos and reduce the amount of errors, ideally to 100% and zero errors? Is it possible? Can you do it or know anybody who can?

Or am I stuck at half tempo and 50 percent errors for the rest of my life?

I've never seen a thread on how to develop both speed and accuracy at sight reading, so I thought this would make for an interesting conversation now that the original discussion has concluded.

Any thoughts or experiences you can share would be appreciated. \:\)

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#957217 - 03/05/08 04:42 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Morodiene Online   content
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Oh, the goal of sightreading is to be able to play it at the tempo it should be. However, one generally cannot do this at their level of playing. But one sure-fire way of getting yourself to sightread faster would be to accompany singers (other instrumentalists might do, but I find accompanying voice to be the most challenging). Either that, or get yourself a job accompanying for church services.

I was never a good sightreader until I had to do both of those things. After a couple of years of that it really helped me!
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#957218 - 03/05/08 05:05 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Piano-pianist Offline
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Some common tips about piano sight reading:

1) Before you start to play analyze fast your piece (key, difficult parts...)

2) If you make a mistake do NOT you stop or repeat.

3) Do NOT look at the keyboard

3) Try to read many notes before you play it (I cannot explain better in english)

4) Practice sight reading at slow tempo (time) but without mistaking any note also if you need to play more slowly.

5) Practice at the right tempo (time) also if you need to make some mistakes or not to play some notes.

6) Study music harmony

7) Play scales and arpeggios with your eyes closed to learn playing without seeing the keyboard

7) Practice, practice, practice.

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#957219 - 03/05/08 05:25 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
currawong Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Akira:
I had a pretty lengthy conversation with my teacher last week, who said he has never met anyone that could sight read a piece (at their level[/b] - major caveat) cold and play it at tempo, with the correct dynamics with near-perfect note accuracy. He said even world class concert pianists can't do it.

I was deeply disturbed at why nobody can do it.
[/b]
First of all, I don't happen to think your teacher is right that nobody[/b] can do it.

"At their level". Hmmm. What do you mean by that? Because I can play a few Chopin etudes, does that mean that that is my level? Does it follow that I should be able to sightread with near perfect speed and accuracy (at first sight) the rest of them? And that if I can't I should be "deeply disturbed"?? I don't think so \:\) . If the best pianists who play the most advanced repertoire could play it all perfectly at first sight, why would they ever practise?

No, btb, this is not a cop-out \:\)

I can play quite advanced pieces at tempo on first sight with only the number of slips anyone might make in a performance which they'd practised. I know many pianists (mostly those who accompany, as Morodiene says) who can do the same. But these skills have been developed over years. There is no quick fix. You just get better at it as you do it. And I'm sure there are "world-class concert pianists" who aren't very good at it because they don't do a lot of first-time reading!

I think, and this is just my personal opinion, that the many people here who agonise over their lack of sightreading skills, who want to map their progress down to the last percentage, are just beating themselves around too much. Just play easy music which you enjoy. Read something new every day. Don't critique your every effort! Just play for the music's sake and go easy on the navel-gazing. Reflect on your progress in about a year's time. You may well be surprised.

Analogies are not always valid, but just think about learning a language. You read up on the theory, you learn your lists of strong verbs and adjective endings, you try to master your cases and your subjunctives, you even manage to write a polished piece of prose correctly ... but it's not until you start speaking with a native speaker that you begin to feel at home in the language, and to do this you just have to start doing it, without fear of making mistakes, and without mapping your progress and becoming deeply disturbed that you're not immediately fluent. \:\)

Akira, I think your teacher is wrong that nobody can sightread at an advanced level with good accuracy. Lots can. Those who could play at first sight something extremely difficult, complex and technically demanding would be very very rare. And I'm not sure why anyone would expect that any pianist could do this. But to be able to pick up your average piece of music and play it at first sight? Piece of cake. As long as you have been doing it, and not just wishing you could.
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#957220 - 03/05/08 05:59 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Betty Patnude Offline
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Akira,

That is not a statement from your teacher that represents what happens when trained musicians sightread - even at a complex level. Why would he would say that? If he cannot do it, how could he teach his students to do it?

The reason why we do slow practice, and repetitive practice is to assist the brain and motor system by patterning the thinking and the moves of a piece - this trains responses for the next time - until a huge repertoire of thoughts and moves are together in mental and physical coordination. "Our moves". Over time, an achieving pianist will be able to do his level more quickly, then moving up to another level, might slow down again to get the "new moves".

Morodiene has touched on some comments that you would appreciate.

The outcome of music is that you have prepared well and trained your brain and body - that takes time - it cannot be rushed - it happens when it happens - it cannot be demanded. It is a gift that is given to you because you have put everything you need into place.

I can't wait until you find yourself piano powerful!

Betty

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#957221 - 03/06/08 12:04 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Keith W Offline
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Isn't there sort of a flaw to the whole "at one's level" concept?

It seems like playing a well-rehearsed piece is a somewhat different set of skills from sightreading. Just as improvisation is. And teaching, for that matter. One might be at different "levels" for all those activities...
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#957222 - 03/06/08 03:20 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
AZNpiano Offline
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Wow, thanks for reviving my old thread!

Since my original post, I started teaching sight reading aggressively at lessons. I use Bastien's "A Line a Day" books, and make my students do a page a day, playing each line at least five times, or until perfect.

Then I test students at every lesson from November until January. I write down their sight reading "grade" on a chart and let them see their progress (or lack thereof). I also took notes on what each student could improve upon (e.g., not slowing down for difficult passages, maintaining a steady beat, not going back to fix mistakes).

My students just took their exams. One student got "average" in sight reading because he didn't do any of the assignments, and his only practice time is his weekly lesson. We spent a good 10-15 minutes per lesson on sight reading alone. The two students who got "good minus" bought the Bastien books, but never used them at home. Everybody else got "good" or "excellent" in sight reading.
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#957223 - 03/06/08 05:11 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
btb Offline
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AZNpiano has obviously not resolved his hash ... and is now turning the harsh sight-reading spotlight on his unfortunate school ...
the new inquisition involves regular spot checks ... what ghastly torture.

Akira’s teacher is right
"he has never met anyone that could sight read a piece (at their level- major caveat) cold and play it at tempo, with the correct dynamics with near-perfect note accuracy. He said even world class concert pianists can't do it."

If sight-reading as above can’t be done by the best ... and needs time to complete the process of note identity, fingering and practice (to develop the support of muscle and aural memory) ... why harass the golden geese?

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#957224 - 03/06/08 09:24 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Morodiene Online   content
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Keith W:
I think that the "At their level" comment refers to mainly the ability to play a piece at sight and have it sound as though it has been practiced. Generally speaking, sightreading to that level is a step or two lower than the level at which someone plays. A person can be sightreading and learning at an advanced level, but "advanced" has many sublevels. The tempo of the piece can also be a factor in accuracy and ability in sightreading.
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#957225 - 03/06/08 01:07 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Akira Offline
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Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Thanks for your responses.

A few additional questions and comments, if you don't mind.

 Quote:
(Morodiene)
But one sure-fire way of getting yourself to sightread faster would be to accompany singers (other instrumentalists might do, but I find accompanying voice to be the most challenging). Either that, or get yourself a job accompanying for church services.
I think the message behind this method would be to put yourself in a situation that would force you to keep going, no matter what.

I question the practicality of how this might work though.

Hypothetical conversation:

Me: Hi. I'm wondering if you are in need of a pianist to accompany your singing. I'm a beginning piano student and am trying to develop my sight reading skills and thought this would be an excellent way do just that. I wouldn't charge you a dime.

Them: Sure, sounds great. I'm interested.

Me: Oh, by the way I forgot to mention, I can only play 100-note pieces at about half the speed with 50 percent errors. Does that present a problem?

Them: Ummm. Yes.

Not to put down your idea, Morodiene, but that's the scenario I'm envisioning. I assume that by the time you were ready to accompany, you had quite a few years under your belt (whereas I only have six months \:\( ).

My teacher, who has also worked in the same capacity had said the same about how he further refined his sight reading skills, but for the beginning student, I just don't see it happening. If I'm missing something, however, please let me know.

 Quote:
(Piano-pianist) 4) Practice sight reading at slow tempo (time) but without mistaking any note also if you need to play more slowly.
If I continue to practice sight reading slowly, how will I ever more toward sight reading materials at tempo?

 Quote:
(currawong)"At their level". Hmmm. What do you mean by that?
Actually, it was a term my teacher used. However, I interpreted it to mean the following.

There are two levels (maybe more that I'm not seeing).

The first level is what you are physically able to play. You (probably) struggle through the first sight read. Practice the piece continually refining technique, dynamics, check timing, phrasing, note accuracy until it is polished. This process could take weeks, months or possibly many months of continuous daily refinement (depending on the complexity). When done, the piece is polished and ready to be performed. If you were presented with 'another' piece of equal technical difficulties, you would likely go through the above-mentioned process all over again.

The second level is a significantly lower level of difficulty (maybe even as low as what you are teaching your students). You can pick up the piece, and because of its relative simplicity compared to the pieces in the aforementioned first level, by comparison they are easy for you to play. You could probably (cold) sight read the piece, play it at tempo with almost zero errors.

When he said "at their level," I believe he was referring to the "first level." That the months of practice on a single piece will never be able to be replaced by a cold sight read. My question is why not?

 Quote:
(currawong)If the best pianists who play the most advanced repertoire could play it all perfectly at first sight, why would they ever practise?
I supposed if they could do it, they wouldn't need to practice. I think, in a roundabout way, he was saying that there is nobody in the world that doesn't need to practice. Or said another way, there is nobody that can play a piece perfectly (at their level) on the first cold sight read.

 Quote:
(currawong)No, btb, this is not a cop-out
Is there some history between you two?

 Quote:
(currawong)I can play quite advanced pieces at tempo on first sight with only the number of slips anyone might make in a performance which they'd practised...But these skills have been developed over years.
I think we're getting back to the 'levels' again. When you say you can play at tempo with minimal slips, would you characterize these pieces as equivalent to the pieces you are capable of playing (in terms of difficulty). Or would this be more similar to the second level (described above). If you can, I'd be 'very' interested in knowing how you achieved these skills. I assume there are people who have been playing for the same number of years who are very poor sight readers. What do you think is the difference between those who can and those who can't in terms of their training?

 Quote:
(currawong)I think, and this is just my personal opinion, that the many people here who agonise over their lack of sightreading skills, who want to map their progress down to the last percentage, are just beating themselves around too much.
I wouldn't say I'm navel-gazing. Its just one of the many aspects of my education I'm interested in. The reason I take quantification (like percentage of mistakes and percentage of tempo) into consideration is because its so easy to say "Oh, I think I'm getting better at sight reading," but the problem with a statement like that is that it is too touchy-feely for my tastes, meaning it doesn't mean a great deal. Something like, I used to play at half tempo with 50% mistakes three months ago, but now I've improved to 75% tempo and 25% mistakes, makes the progress measurable, giving so much more meaning to the word 'progress.'

 Quote:
(currawong)Just play easy music which you enjoy. Read something new every day. Don't critique your every effort! Just play for the music's sake and go easy on the navel-gazing. Reflect on your progress in about a year's time. You may well be surprised.
I hope I am 'pleasantly' surprised. I try to cold read something new everyday. It is torturous and unmusical, but the price I'm willing to pay in exchange for building the skills I desire.

 Quote:
(Betty)The reason why we do slow practice, and repetitive practice is to assist the brain and motor system by patterning the thinking and the moves of a piece - this trains responses for the next time - until a huge repertoire of thoughts and moves are together in mental and physical coordination. "Our moves". Over time, an achieving pianist will be able to do his level more quickly, then moving up to another level, might slow down again to get the "new moves".
I want to be careful I'm not misunderstanding you Betty. When you use the word 'practice' are you talking about the repetitive playing of a single piece or are you talking about practicing sight reading (i.e. playing material only once)? If the latter, I'll ask the same question again. If you always practice sight reading slow, how will you ever be able to do it fast (at tempo)? I think it makes sense that the more exposure to sight reading will naturally improve the speed, but there is a natural progression to move to increasingly more difficult materials, putting you back down to a slow speed (once again). Are there no specific techniques, exercises and approach to improve speed and accuracy. I think this is the gist of my question.

Sorry for the long winded post. I just like exploring possibilities - ones that may not have been previously considered.

I'll accept the fact there may not be any shortcuts and that time and diligent work may be the only answer.

On the other hand, many might think there's also no cure for cancer. I believe there is. We just have discovered it yet... \:\)

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#957226 - 03/06/08 01:49 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
keystring Online   content
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Akira, is your teacher getting you to do anything else besides playing pieces week after week? Does he or she set any goals for you to achieve? It seems that among other things you need those kinds of goals as bench marks. some people are simply happy to play a piece well, others are not.

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#957227 - 03/06/08 02:15 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Akira Offline
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Hi keystring.

Besides the baby pieces from my Hal Leonard Method book (currently on Level 4), I have technique exercises I do.

I've covered Hanon exercises 1-20 at m.m. 60 (in the past six months). I'm currently on the second pass 1-5 working on getting them up to m.m. 80. Additionally, I do something called FingerPower , which covers other things such as triplets, legato thirds, two notes against one, inversions, interlocking hand patterns, etc.

I also practice from two supplemental books, one Jazz and the Classical (Faber & Faber) at the same level as my method book, hoping to expose myself to a variety of musical genres.

Although my teacher says that I do a ton of sight reading with my materials, my gut feeling is that I really don't. How much sight reading can you get from four new 100 note assignments (songs) each week.

I'm thinking a 'ton' means plowing your way through hundreds of songs a week, so maximize one's exposure and experience to note and interval recognition, timing, dynamics, etc. I don't know. Maybe I'm just not thinking about it right.

I'm really interested in Trombone Al\'s approach (who has sight read 700 pieces in a six week span, attempting to develop his skills), but wanted to see if exposing myself through that much new material is going to make any difference. I sort of am thinking about the process in the same way he is. All comments from the teaching community on Al's approach would be gratefully received.

I think you're right about the goal setting aspect. I'll have to further this discuss the issue with him. It almost seems like we're just following the traditional path, rather than structuring my lessons to meet these goals (although, I'll admit, I could be wrong).

From the first lesson, I told my teacher my primary goal is to be able to (eventually) pick up any (or at least 'most') popular music and be able play them decently within a few tries. I admire the technical skills required to play advanced classical pieces, but that is not my primary interest. I don't really like the idea of agonizing over a single piece for weeks or months at a time. I'd prefer to spend the time building a good foundation and the required skills.

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#957228 - 03/06/08 03:11 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
currawong Offline
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Originally posted by Akira:
When he said "at their level," I believe he was referring to the "first level." That the months of practice on a single piece will never be able to be replaced by a cold sight read. My question is why not?[/b]

Because these pieces are not only hard to read, they're hard to PLAY. A Liszt could probably do it, but very few of the rest of us, just as no secret magic (or training for that matter \:\) )is ever going to enable me to run a 10 second 100m.

 Quote:
(currawong)No, btb, this is not a cop-out
Is there some history between you two?[/b]
Well, we've had some silly disputes where I say I can sightread something (at first sight) and he says no you can't ... and ... let's not go there \:\)

I think we're getting back to the 'levels' again. When you say you can play at tempo with minimal slips, would you characterize these pieces as equivalent to the pieces you are capable of playing (in terms of difficulty). Or would this be more similar to the second level (described above). If you can, I'd be 'very' interested in knowing how you achieved these skills. I assume there are people who have been playing for the same number of years who are very poor sight readers. What do you think is the difference between those who can and those who can't in terms of their training?[/b]

Yes, some (but a minority) of the pieces I routinely sightread (I'm an accompanist primarily) are as difficult as many things I've performed. I achieved these skills through many years of reading a wide variety of music and studying theory and harmony, so that I became quicker at recognising patterns. The difference between those who can and those who can't probably lies in the amount of music they have played and the amount of understanding of it they have had. Just a quick summary \:\)

I'll accept the fact there may not be any shortcuts and that time and diligent work may be the only answer.[/b]

I think that's sound. And I think developing a complex skill is a bit different to a cure for cancer. The cure might seem obvious once it's found, but a lot of patient work went into the finding \:\)

I think I'd think of sightreading skill as spread out along a line. You're really doing the same things back at your end of the line as those further along, and people like Liszt will always be pretty lonely up at their end. The rest of us are scattered along it. We just hopefully keep moving along. I still "practise" sightreading. That is, if I haven't been doing any as part of my work, I pull out something and play a random couple of pages cold. It's fun, and it keeps the brain working \:\) . And most important of all, it enables you to discover all that music that you wouldn't have time to discover if you were simply working on perfecting those four pieces. Go for it!
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#957229 - 03/06/08 03:18 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Akira,

The slow is the way you practice it when you start the piece....as you get better acquainted with it, knowing what to expect, having practiced the hard parts, things begin to move at a slightly faster tempo. Continue practicing and bringing it up in tempo until you reach the tempo indicated on the piece. At all times the tempo should be a steady beat - avoid starting and stopping. At all times the reading and playing of the music should be accurate in note naming, note finding on the keyboard, fingering, and duration. That is why the slow practice in the beginning. Concentrate on building each target - look for the underdeveloped target.

Do you hear yourself thinking as you play? Are you coaching and guiding your responses with thoughts? Are you left waiting for something to happen when you look at the note on the page? Guide it in thought!

Do you hear a steady beat as you play the piece as does the note just come as it may?

I'm wondering what the problem might be that you feel is holding you back. Something that is not yet in the mix of reading? Have you ever tried speaking aloud while playing?

I'm a big believer of learning separate hands before putting hands together. The hands together (2 tracks)is a higher level thinking, and if one track does not work well, it certainly affects the other hand. (I know many teachers say hands together regardless, but that is possible only when the student has become highly accomplished already.)

Don't agonize. To make a change, you have to do something different.

\:\) Betty

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#957230 - 03/06/08 03:28 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
keystring Online   content
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Hi Akira,

First off, I'm an adult student myself, and piano is my second instrument. I've only had a few lessons here and there on the piano specifically so I'm not familiar first-hand (experience-wise) with what is routinely taught. I do have formal lessons on another instruments, and I've been exposed to things and people along the way so that I have some thoughts which may be more or else correct. I also have the perspective of an adult learner who takes her studies seriously, though I am by no means unique in that respect.

So: Right now we know that you have the music that you are working through, assigned by your teacher, and that this is a method book. Your teacher is pleased with your progress, and in fact says that you are progressing much faster than (his? her?) average student.

You have listed Hanon # 1- 20, gone through in terms of tempo at mm 60, and now you are going through it again, in terms of another tempo. There is FingerPower, and also supplemental material in Jazz and Classical. Lots of stuff.

Other than the method book with its pieces, which of the above things are assigned by your teacher? If they are assigned by your teacher, what goals are set within them, if any?

I don't want to go further than that question for the moment. I am also interested in your (anyone's?) definition of goal.

What you have defined as a goal you stated to your teacher is something to be kept in mind in the structuring of lessons, but it is not a workable goal in practicing. I even suspect that "sight reading piece X at level Y at tempo Z" is not a workable goal - it can be broken down further. Not sure about that part.

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#957231 - 03/06/08 04:42 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Akira Offline
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Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Thanks for the additional comments everyone.

 Quote:
(Betty) The slow is the way you practice it when you start the piece....as you get better acquainted with it...
All helpful advice, thanks Betty.

I think that slow practice might be a thread for another day. With respect to sight reading, would you agree with the idea that you can sight read something only once and that additional attempts decrease the percentage that what is actually being read, eventually culiminating with memorization (zero percent being read).

 Quote:
(Betty) Do you hear yourself thinking as you play?
With respect to note recognition, I'd say no, in the same say I don't think when I'm reading or driving, I just do. In other words, when I see C-E-G I don't 'think' to myself, "Ah ha, that's a C Chord, I know that one." I see, then I do.

Dynamics are a little different for me. I'll see a p, f, cresc., femata mark, or similar, a little voice inside my head will 'speak' to me, telling me to do the required action. Perhaps this will also go away in time and will eventually just be able to 'do,' but that's how its working for me at the moment.

 Quote:
(Betty) Are you coaching and guiding your responses with thoughts?
I find my mind racing, frantically trying to digest what I'm seeing and taking immediate action. Sometimes its too much information to digest on the fly, even at a slow tempo, so I wind up with an unsteady beat (or pause, allowing additional time to digest), trying to figure out what I did wrong. Typically, this occurs when I miss a note or come across note (time) values I've haven't encountered a lot (e.g. three notes divided equally between two beats). I know this goes against your 'quiet mind' theory, but I'm finding I have little control over this (for the time being).

 Quote:
(Betty) Are you left waiting for something to happen when you look at the note on the page?
I wouldn't say I'm waiting as I play the notes, as time is unforgivingly moving forward. I do listen to the notes being played, and although I often do not know the song I'm playing, can usually tell when something doesn't sound right (melody or bass doesn't sound right). I'll stop, look down at my fingers (I usually avoid looking at the keyboard, so I can keep my eyes on the music) and sure enough, I'll make a mental note that I've played the wrong note.

 Quote:
(Betty) Do you hear a steady beat as you play the piece as does the note just come as it may?
I can't say I 'hear' a beat. To me, I'd describe it more like a 'feeling' rather than hearing (inside your head). When I stumble or pause to more carefully see what I did wrong, of course, it destroys the 'steady' beat. Do you think its better just to keep going? I have mixed feelings about stopping. If I stop, I'll have learned what I did wrong. If I keep going, I won't notice it and fear that I wouldn't have learned from the mistake I just made.

 Quote:
(Betty) I'm wondering what the problem might be that you feel is holding you back.
My gut feel is that I am not practicing sight reading correctly or nearly enough of it. I'm just have a feeling that there's more to it than 'just keep practicing and it will come in time (years)'. Of course, this is only my own personal, unqualified and unscientific hypothesis. I keep wondering if there aren't specific exercise that build note recognition skills, for example. Maybe like a software program that will shoot 100,000 notes at you at random, then digitally measure how many you got correct (via a digital piano input). Or other exercises that just focus solely on developing rhythm skills (where hitting the correct notes are not important, allowing one to focus only on timing). It seems to me sight reading has differing components and if you could exercise each of the components separately, when you put them all together, you'd eventually have a solid foundation.

 Quote:
(Betty) Have you ever tried speaking aloud while playing?
I'm always alone when I play. Not sure who I would speak to or what I would say if I did.

 Quote:
(Betty) I'm a big believer of learning separate hands before putting hands together.
I shouldn't be disagreeing with your expertise, Betty, but forgive the question. By the time you put your hands together, you've read it more than once, haven't you. Is that really sight reading anymore?

 Quote:
(keystring) Other than the method book with its pieces, which of the above things are assigned by your teacher? If they are assigned by your teacher, what goals are set within them, if any?
They are all assigned by the teacher. I also sight read easy pieces during the week to expose myself to more than is called for, but that is not an assignment from the teacher.

To me a goal has to be measurable and accomplished within a time frame. Loosely speaking, the goal is to be able to play the assignment to his (and my) satisfaction. If either of us think its not good enough or that I have not completely digested the 'lesson' being taught, we'll spend more time on it (usually, another week). I haven't had any assignments go for more than two weeks (with the exception of Hanon @ 80, which is currently kicking my behind).

I appreciate all your collective input. If anyone else wants to join in, please feel free. Thanks again for a fascinating discussion. \:\)

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#957232 - 03/06/08 05:57 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Akira,

Other thoughts here....

In your work, do you use systems and processes for accountability and checking for progress? Is there anything from your work that can be applied as a concept for learning for yourself at the piano?

Check lists? Priority setting? Diligence? Deadlines?

I'm just wondering if what feels natural in your working life is missing, and it does not feel like you are learning because it is so different.

If you are in Level 4 books after 6+ months, something is going well for you, do you know that?

Are you a worry wort by definition? You are certainly not a slacker!

Talking out loud would you be you talking to you as you decide things, move through instruction on the page.
Change position!
Remember the sharp!
Rest!

Good luck!

Betty

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#957233 - 03/06/08 07:01 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
I jsut saw this as part of the Practice Spot mentioned in another thread:
Sight Reading Article
It does not begin with "read as much as you can get your hands on". It begins with "Know your notes." and "Scales" which translates into familiarity with patterns. As such it also creates smaller goals.

I saw Practice Spot Ages ago. The idea of wearing "hats" to emphasize different things appealed to me even then, though at my age I don't need a physical paper hat that says "tempo".

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#957234 - 03/07/08 10:21 AM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Minaku Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
If you know your notes, and you read as much as you can get your hands on, then you are exposed to the rhythms and sequences that we use in sightreading. It's a circular argument. If you cannot read notes, you can't read music; if you know your notes but don't read as much material as you can get your hands on, you can't develop a wide musical vocabulary from which to pull during sightreading.

At lessons I use flashcards and manuscript paper. I've also begun to teach "shapes" so that my kids can begin learning chunking. Shapes like five notes ascending, three notes skipping up and down, zigzag shapes (like C D C D), and chord shapes (basically a chord progression). Then we translate this to the music. I get out something they haven't seen before, and we go over the entire piece first, looking for familiar shapes places to "be lazy". Then comes the reading.
_________________________
Pianist and teacher with a 5'8" Baldwin R and Clavi CLP-230 at home.

New website up: http://www.studioplumpiano.com. Also on Twitter @QQitsMina

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#957235 - 03/07/08 03:08 PM Re: Teaching Sight Reading at Lessons
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Akira,

My quiet mind theory approaches the music reading with an inner voice - yours - which tells you what you are seeing - what needs to happen. It is used only meaningfully as needed with the simplest words as possible.

You can say these words aloud if that helps you get a stronger declaration to what you are about to do.

Words would be to help you achieve accuracy in a steady tempo, to do good counting, to play notes accurately on the keyboard, with a specific finger called into play, having ready it carefully from the music staff.

Technically, the "prima vista" sight reading is a "for the first time" sightreading. That doesn't mean you can't approach the sight reading ("test") at a later date, or even to work on problem areas of it, to increase your "score" next time you attempt it. Bringing it to completion. (You caught me, Akira!)

You said: "To me a goal has to be measurable and accomplished within a time frame."

I wonder if you could leave it open ended without a measurement or time framel, so that you could simply play this piece when time and effort declares you met the goal. Take the heat off of yourself of perfection on the first time. That comes as a gift because you have learned and use the thinking and playing skills you have been putting into place so far.

I assume that all of my students are doing their best at all times - as they learn more about what it takes to play the piano, hopefully, their experiences and what they learn about themselves will help them enlighten and discipline themselves to meet the tasks before them.

Having a high standard is much better than shooting for perfection - they are not the same at all. Perfection has an anxiety to it and compulsive - obsessive behaviors and attitudes. Always look for enjoyment in what you are doing - and noticing your own progress needs to be celebrated. Concentrating on what is wrong needs balancing with thoughts and gratitude for the things that are right.

So what are you doing right?

Talking out loud is for yourself not for any listener. Thoughts need to be effective and simply said. They need to create the impulse to what you are recognizing on the page. Impulses do not "fire" unless you gave an "order" for the impulse.

Betty

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