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#972830 - 11/08/04 12:24 PM sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
I'm getting VERY irritated and more than just a little frustrated. Sight-playing either the left hand or right hand parts independently on almost any new piece at my level seems to come with little trouble. Even if the seperate parts are too difficult to play by sight, it is usually only a short period of time before I have it down.

Unfortunately as soon as I try to play both hands together, everything comes unglued. It gets so bad that even note reading becomes a challenge. Then begins the arduous task of working through the piece bar-by-bar, phrase-by-phrase until I have it memorized.

I just don't understand why I can play each hand on sight seperately but both hands together can take hours, days or even weeks to perfect.

Any suggestions besides practice, practice practice. (I do that already) ;-)

Rodney

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#972831 - 11/08/04 12:45 PM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
I wish I could offer something useful, but all I can do is tell you that you're not alone! ;\)

Seriously, I have the same problem, and I'm trying to work through it by learning new pieces hands together from the get-go. I just go very, very slowly. I try not to do hands separate at all unless I am working on memory or solving some other sort of specific problem (e.g. fingering).

I've also heard that you should try to force yourself to read rather than memorize.

One thing that can be helpful is get yourself some *very* easy music ("easy" being defined as something below your current level). Play these pieces through hands together once or twice, then put them away so you can't memorize.

Don't worry. Things do get better!
_________________________
Vote For Cindy!!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post...QvjrL_blog.html

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#972832 - 11/08/04 12:48 PM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
Axtremus Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 6168
Just curious -- when you sight-read and play one hand separately, do you find yourself keep glancing down at the keyboard?
_________________________
www.PianoRecital.org -- my piano recordings

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#972833 - 11/08/04 12:52 PM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
Don't get irritated or frustrated, as this is absolutely natural. Somebody once said "hands together is 37 times more difficult than hands together". I'm not sure where that number comes from or if it's exact, but the premise is true. Alone, you can train one hand to do one thing with relative ease. This is why it's important to learn passages hands seperate first. But coordinating both hands (which normally work together to accomplish something) to do two seperate things at the same time, is a much more difficult task for your brain to manage, and this is absolutely natural and should not be something that causes you frustration.

There is nothing wrong with memorization or with working bar-by-bar, phrase-by-phrase. After all, if you can't do one bar, of course you can't do the whole piece, so rather than get frustrated, accept where you are and eagerly move forward. What other choice do you have? Try memorizing passages with hands seperate, and then put them together small pieces at a time using an exercise called "dropped notes." It works like this:

Learn each hand seperately as you are doing, so that you have it totally memorized and can play the seperate hands fluently (not necesarilly the whole piece, unless you're doing counterpoint, but a modest passage size.) Then, start playing a phrase with your right hand, looping it over and over through the passage you are trying to learn. When the RH is going flawlessly "drop in" the first note of the LH passage. Just play the first note of the LH, no others, but make sure it is at exactly the right time, and DO NOT allow your right hand to falter. If it does, just try again. Do that a few times untill you can "drop in" the first LH note with absolutely no mistakes in the right hand. Then keep the RH going and "drop in" the next note of the LH so now the LH is playing two notes. When you can repeat that a few times flawlessly, add the next and so on. Keep doing that until you've gotten all of the LH notes mixed in the RH notes w/o any flubs. You may think you are done, but you are in fact only halfway there. This might seem stupid, but it is equally as important. Switch it around.. This time start playing your LH part fluently and alone just as you were with the right hand. Begin by "dropping in" the first note in the RH, making sure[/b] that you do not let your LH falter. Repeat that a few times until it's perfect, and add one note at a time.

Make sure before you start that you have time in your practice to complete the entire exercise in one sitting. By the time you've finished this exercise I can pretty much guarantee you that you won't have any problems playing this passage hands together any more because you have systematically and methodically taken your brain through the necessary steps, in the right order, needed to learn the coordination. The next day, try to play this same passage HT straight away. You'll probably get it right away, but if you can't get it right away, or after only two or three tries simply repeat your "dropped note exercise" (it won't take nearly as long)

Then move on to the next passage, being sure that you overlap passages with at least one beat or measure to ensure continuity.


I hope this helps!
-Paul
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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#972834 - 11/08/04 01:07 PM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
Bob331 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/11/04
Posts: 135
Loc: NY
I'm a member of that club. I've got to play a new piece with hands separately for a while before I tackle it with both hands.

What helps me at the very beginning of playing hands together is to play v..e..r..y... s..l..o..w..l..y......

That gives me enough time to think about what each hand is doing.

Bob

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#972835 - 11/08/04 01:08 PM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
yes, i agree with Paul. just take a small section or a not too long passage each time and try HS first and memorize the passage on each hand, then try to play HT only this passage you memorized with HS. you may feel awkward at the first try (we all do most of times), but keep trying and you will feel much better after about 5 times with hand together. on the first few times of HT, look at the sheet vertically (treble and bass clef) on the passage to see if your LH and RH are playing together on the beats. it only takes practice.

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#972836 - 11/08/04 01:14 PM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
Wow, looks like a few folks were responding while I was.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Cindysphinx:
I wish I could offer something useful, but all I can do is tell you that you're not alone! ;\)

Seriously, I have the same problem, and I'm trying to work through it by learning new pieces hands together from the get-go. I just go very, very slowly. I try not to do hands separate at all unless I am working on memory or solving some other sort of specific problem (e.g. fingering).

I've also heard that you should try to force yourself to read rather than memorize.
[/b]
Unless your goal is purely to work on sight reading (nothing wrong with that), then I'd argue that approach is totally backward. Trying to tackle something very slowly, hands together from the start is just making it so much harder on yourself than it needs to be. If you hope to perform the piece you are learning, you should absolutely seek to memorize as soon as possible. And unless you have excellent sight reading skills and well developed technique, you should absolutely work on passages hands seperate first. Why make things so much harder on yourself than they have to be? Learning the notes in one hand can be hard enough, and as I said above, the coordination problem is even more difficult, so why ever would you want to force your brain to tackle all of that at once? Instead, memorize a passage hands seperate first. Two relatively simple tasks, not trivial, but doable. You can certainly make it trivial if you find the appropriately sized passage to work on (which may only be two notes, but so what? Look for other posts of mine on these boards for more on this.)

Once you have memorized a single hand's worth of material and mastered the technique required to execute it, then you will be able to dedicate all of your mental resources to tackling the problem of coordination, as such, solving that problem will be far easier! That "dropped notes exercise" I talked about above? Not possible if each hand isn't already memorized. The reason so many folks spin their wheels for so long and get frustrated so easilly trying to learn pieces is because, for reasons I can't explain, they feel the need to tackle too much too fast and in turn, the task at hand becomes unnecessarilly overwhelming.

Piano music isn't complicated at all, it is however, very complex (I'm quoting my friend Bernhard here from pianoforum.net) - that is, a piano piece is nothing more than lots and lots of small and easy to master tasks, coming together to form a complex whole. (I don't care how virtuosic a piece is, two notes of it taken alone are incredibly easy. So are the next two, and the next two.. you get the picture..)

So if you have the option of breaking it down into tiny easilly managed tasks which you then only have to put together once you've mastered each one, why ever would you choose to go about it in a manner that is infinitely more difficult and mentally taxing? It will take you much longer and likely cause much more frustration.. (this may not be the case for everybody, but it is the case for most, and be honest with yourself in deciding if it is the case for you, I can't tell you, you'll have to try for yourself.)



-Paul
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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#972837 - 11/08/04 01:17 PM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Ah, I may have misunderstood the question. I saw this:

 Quote:
Sight-playing either the left hand or right hand parts independently on almost any new piece at my level seems to come with little trouble.
and thought the goal was to improve sight playing.

If your goal is to get better at sight reading, then what I wrote makes sense. If not -- if you're just trying to learn a difficult piece or difficult section -- then yes, hands separate is a reasonable approach.
_________________________
Vote For Cindy!!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post...QvjrL_blog.html

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#972838 - 11/08/04 01:22 PM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cindysphinx:
Ah, I may have misunderstood the question. I saw this:

 Quote:
Sight-playing either the left hand or right hand parts independently on almost any new piece at my level seems to come with little trouble.
and thought the goal was to improve sight playing.

If your goal is to get better at sight reading, then what I wrote makes sense. If not -- if you're just trying to learn a difficult piece or difficult section -- then yes, hands separate is a reasonable approach. [/b]
It's funny, I just looked back at the subject and thought that I mis-understood the question! He did say "sight-play both hands" - which is not really the question that I answered. If you are tasked with performing material you are sight reading for the first time (I dunno, church hymal or something) well then, this approach doesn't apply. To be able to sight read new material, hands together, and be able to do it in a performance setting, well, that requires years and years of using the techniques I've just talked about until you are skilled to the point where you have mastered all your technique and sight reading skills and it just comes naturally.. I'm certainly not there, not even close, but I don't expect I'll ever have to be..
But I must assume that since you asked, you aren't there, which means you have to start somewhere that will get you there and yes the answer is just "practice practice practice" - but it's more important that you are practicing properly than just aimlessly practicing.

-Paul
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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#972839 - 11/08/04 02:40 PM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
Thanks for all the advice. I guess my question was a little vague because I was referring both to sight reading/playing hands together AND learning a new piece.

Learning a new piece is extremely challenging when it comes to performing hands together. I can already sight play just about anything I come across (at my level which isn't very advanced) hands separate, yet when I try (VERY SLOWLY) I still can't seem to bring it together without enormous effort and practice.

Sight playing is a goal of mine. Not so much as a means to performing but more as a means to learning new pieces of music. To me these are essentially the same thing. I guess I would be happy if I could just bring the time down from hours-to-days, to minutes-to-hours to be able to play a new piece at close to speed.

I just can't fathom why it is sooooo difficult to perform both hands together when separate hands are sooooo easy. (Perhaps a little context: I played drums for many years and so I am very used to reading rhythm patterns and co-ordinating hands and feet across an entire percussion setup "in real time") In other words sight playing complex percussion music is second nature but this doesn't translate to the piano at all!!! :-(

I used to have a problem with constantly looking from the music to the keyboard and back again until my teacher finally had enough. I stopped looking at the keyboard cold turkey (and made MANY MANY mistakes) but eventually I was able to break the habit (almost). I think I now know what it's like for a heroin addict to kick the habit. ;-)

BTW:

I'm glad that I'm not the only one who has troubles hands together. Gives me the will to just keep trudging through it until it gets easier. It does get easier,.... DOESN'T IT???? LOL

Thanks for the inspiration!

Rodney

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#972840 - 11/08/04 08:53 PM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
sight-reading means you'd be able to read vertically from the score and play HT at the same time (or almost same time). focus on each bar at a time, check on RH notes and then LH notes (in fraction of time) and then play this bar HT, while your eyes start moving onto next bar and do the same... do it slowly and one bar at a time are the keys, i guess.

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#972841 - 11/09/04 12:36 AM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3162
Loc: Virginia, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by signa:
sight-reading means you'd be able to read vertically from the score and play HT at the same time (or almost same time). focus on each bar at a time, check on RH notes and then LH notes (in fraction of time) and then play this bar HT, while your eyes start moving onto next bar and do the same... do it slowly and one bar at a time are the keys, i guess. [/b]
That's part of it.

Sight reading means you read the score, playing HT, and getting all the right notes, while also getting all the dynamics, articulations, and expression correct. That's 10% of the work. You have to also include the 90% that is musicianship. And you can spare enough attention to be able to watch the crowd, be alert for other musicians or a conductor if present, etc. And you never, never, NEVER break the time. You keep going in perfect rhythm; if you stumble you get the next note exactly on time. No going back, no slowing down for the hard parts, etc.

And if it sounds like that's really really hard, well it is. I can't do it, yet. Someday. And yes, anything HT is 37 times as hard for us beginners, but that part of it does improve over time.

The one thing I suggest about sight reading practicing is that it absolutely has to be done in strict tempo. Otherwise you build that eternal beginner stumble-and-restart habit from the beginning. It would be better never to sight read than to practice that bad habit.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#972842 - 11/09/04 04:47 AM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
Kris10 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/03/04
Posts: 21
Loc: Ohio
I have the same problem and it is so very frustrating! I make each of my flute students sight read at every single lesson. I use a duet book that is easy for them and we start at the beginning and stop at the end no matter what happens. I play with them and they simply have to keep going. My students are all great sight readers. When they finish reading through a piece, they sign their name to the page and never have to play it again.

Translated to piano, I would get a book that is easier to play than your current level, start at the beginning of the piece at a modest tempo and just keep going until you get to the end. Then put it away and move on to the next piece. I think sight reading is very important, but I wouldn't devote more than 10 minutes a day to it.

I would sight read both hands together for the purpose of sight reading and then break it down one hand at a time as needed.

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#972843 - 11/09/04 06:06 AM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
I understand the goal of playing at an even pace, but I think it is asking way too much to insist on this from the beginning or to think that it is best not even to bother if you can't keep strict time.

I sort of figure that learning to play the piano well is like anything else you might try to learn. You should try to observe the fundamentals, of course, but there will be times when you get way off track. In that case, why not go back or slow down and try to fix your errors?

An example would be coming up to a chord in the music that you don't recognize. You have two choices -- hit any old keys and keep going, or pause and figure out what is right. I think it is better to figure out the correct chord and play it, even if you must pause. Just banging a group of keys and plowing ahead won't teach you anything, IMHO, and you'll do the exact same thing the next time you see the chord.

Frankly, I think sight reading is something we all can learn. It just takes a *huge* amount of work and devotion. Speaking for myself, my devotion comes in spurts, and I think this more than anything is why my sight reading isn't anything to write home about.

Cindy -- dreading yet another holiday season where her sight reading skills won't allow her to sight read while others sing carols
_________________________
Vote For Cindy!!

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#972844 - 11/09/04 07:45 AM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cindysphinx:
An example would be coming up to a chord in the music that you don't recognize. You have two choices -- hit any old keys and keep going, or pause and figure out what is right. I think it is better to figure out the correct chord and play it, even if you must pause. [/b]
This depends entirely on weather you are performing or practicing and either way, I's say you shouldn't pause. If it were alone practice, and I had to take time to figure out what the next chord was, I would not pause, rather, I would keep repeating the chord I was on, 2,3,4 whatever number of times, in rhythm, while I mentally and visually located where my fingers need to go and then move my fingers in a clean motion w/o losing time. That way I'm not inadvertantly practicing a pause, rather, I'm practicing making a good transition and just making the piece a bit longer in the process. You wouldn't of course do that in performance (though you could, I think, get away with it if you were playing solo), but it's a great way to not inadvertantly "practice stuttering". In a performance setting, it is FAR more important to keep time, do not pause, even if you totally skrew up the notes, because many people won't notice wrong notes, sure, musicians might, and folks who are listening closely who already know the music might, but "wrong notes" will generally fly right past most audience members, especially in a the type of setting where you are forced to sight read (say church or theatre or something) - everybody however, weather they are listening intently or it's just background music, will notice if the rhythm gets fumbled. Take people who don't "know music" -they just kinda bob their heads as music is playing.. Wrong notes? Whatever, they come and go, the listener probably wasn't even aware of it.. A break in time, they'll feel it.

A little story, Just the other day I was "performing" at home for extended family.. None of them are musicians or know the music I was playing. I had a cocktail earlier and so I admittadly wasn't in top form, but it was just fun at home - but anyway, I was playing Schumann's Knight Rupert, a pretty fast piece with alot of notes. There were some parts where I totally messed up the notes, but the timing was right on. (my mother was using the camcorder, and I snuck off later to see what happened, my time was right on) - absolutely nobody noticed the horrendus slippage of notes.. They all loved it.. I then played a Chopin waltz that I hadn't played in a while, pretty simple, I have no problem with these notes, but the "oom bum bum" three feel of the waltz, know music or not, you feel that.. I came to a point, had a brain fart and totally lost that rhythm. With the exception of one family member, everybody turned and looked, and most of them were talking amoung themselves even while I was playing.


-Paul
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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#972845 - 11/09/04 10:46 AM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
Kris10 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/03/04
Posts: 21
Loc: Ohio
Paul, I completely agree. The purpose of sight reading, pure sight reading, is to get used to just playing. Once sight reading becomes easier, learning any new piece is easier. While sight reading, wrong notes are ok because we aren't "practicing" notes at that point we are practicing sight reading. To read through something one time while playing a bunch of wrong notes does not reinforce wrong notes...it reinforces rhthms and eye movement and looking ahead and quick thinking on our toes and after a while, it all becomes easier.

My thought is that after reading through a piece one time, it is then time to break it down and read correct notes and practice the transitions slowly so as not to practice wrong notes or wrong pauses. It is possible to practice mistakes and it is so hard to unlearn them, but sight reading does not reinforce these kinds of mistakes.

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#972846 - 11/09/04 03:02 PM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
one has to start from somewhere, if you cannot sight read at all. so, start slowly and learn to read both treble and bass clef notes at the same time and play HT. no one could immediately know how to sight read perfectly with right tempo and dynamics, unless you practice it long enough or study the score prior to playing it.

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#972847 - 11/10/04 12:57 AM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3162
Loc: Virginia, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by signa:
one has to start from somewhere, if you cannot sight read at all. so, start slowly and learn to read both treble and bass clef notes at the same time and play HT. no one could immediately know how to sight read perfectly with right tempo and dynamics, unless you practice it long enough or study the score prior to playing it. [/b]
Of course. That's just the goal. And that's the minimum standard on a gig, but the degree of difficulty relative to your experience is less.

The wrong note at the right time is sometimes still in the harmony, or if lucky a passing tone.

The right note at the wrong time is ALWAYS wrong, and will be noticed by the least musical listener. It is better to plow on and hit the chord in strict tempo when sightreading, even if you get none of the notes right. It would be okay to start playing so slowly you are counting 32cnd notes out loud, as long as you played every note on time, right or wrong. I didn't mean you had to practice AT tempo, but IN tempo. My theory, anyway.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#972848 - 11/10/04 07:11 AM Re: sight-play both hands - How?? HELP!!!
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
I agree with everything Kris10, signa and TimR just siad.

Tim said:
 Quote:
The wrong note at the right time is sometimes still in the harmony, or if lucky a passing tone.[/b]
That's the beauty of jazz! \:\)

-Paul
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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