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#1022754 - 12/31/08 02:16 PM Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Magz Offline
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Greetings,

I am an early intermediate level student. One of my goals for 2009 is to work on my sight reading abilities. I am thinking the best way to do this is just to sit down for 15 - 20 minutes, each day, and sight read various short pieces by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. A new piece or section every day. Of course, this is in conjunction with my lessons. Any better suggestions from those who have already crossed this bridge?

Thanks

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#1022755 - 12/31/08 05:16 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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signa Offline
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that's what my teacher had suggested to me: sight reading 10-15 minutes a day, if only i had followed the suggestion (but i didn't).

the point is sight reading as many pieces as possible and regularly. don't worry about mistakes when you read, just keep going until you finish reading the piece and then get another one to do the same. also, another thing is to read only those at or below your playing level, which would encourage you to keep going without stopping in frustration.

i'm thinking of starting to do this regularly myself, now that i don't have to worry about teacher or lessons.

#1022756 - 12/31/08 07:06 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Ditto! Yes read any kind of music you have around the house. If you don't rust will develop, I guarantee. E-Z Big Notes, whatever it takes.

#1022757 - 01/01/09 03:00 AM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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I'm not that good in sight reading. But what I do is read both long almost at the same time and play it taking my time to get the notes right even if I have to slowwwwwwww doooownnnn. ahhhhh

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#1022758 - 01/01/09 07:07 AM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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I have been doing this lately. Not long enough to feel the big difference but patience will probably pay off. The hardest part is to forget my pride and choose pieces of the appropriate level.

#1022759 - 01/01/09 04:56 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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http://www.fjhmusic.com/piano/sightreading.htm

I use these books, I do it 5 minutes a day. I just finish book 2A.
At 5 minutes a day the progress is very slow.

Serge



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#1022760 - 01/01/09 05:14 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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I too have a goal this year of improving my sight reading and am also at the early intermediate level. Thanks for posting this question. With these suggestions, I am planning to go through some of the Alfred books and other pieces of sheet music and drill books that I have. I also like to periodically play through the older material that I have covered in lessons, especially the pieces in the Faber Adult Piano Adventures book 2 that I'm working through.

As a side note, I purchased a lot of 12 or 14 used late beginner, early intermediate and intermediate level lesson books on ebay for about $30 including shipping. I've also found inexpensive lesson books and sheet music at our local Salvation Army store.


"Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here!" J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 1997.

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#1022761 - 01/01/09 05:20 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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I'm just getting back to the piano as well. I probably sight read on a low intermediate level. Lots of times I'm making educated guesses as the notes get ever more distant from the printed staff, but somehow often find myself guessing correctly.

The funny thing is that while I can play the notes when sitting at the piano, if I'm presented with notes to verbally identify, I often can't do it. This goes for even basic notes on the bass cleff, notes that give me no trouble at all while playing...It's actually very interesting to me, that I've obviously learned this stuff, but via some motor pathway rather than an intellectual or cognitive one...

#1022762 - 01/01/09 05:22 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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One thing that I think is underappreciated by teachers is that sight reading is helped a lot by internalizing the intervals and chord structures, so that you sight read less by looking at the individual notes and more by recognizing patterns. Then the notes are automatic.

What has helped me immensely - I really can't overstate it - is playing each song I learn in all twelve keys, after learning it more or less in the original key.

I say 'more or less' because I find that once I've played the song in all twelve keys I understand it on such a deeper level that I can only really then say that I can really play it well in the original key.

This sounds like it's not connected to sight reading, since most of the time doing this isn't spent reading notes at all but rather transposing passages (painstakingly) into other keys (it gets easier after the first few believe me). But I find that it removes roadblocks to my sightreading that I didn't even know were there. It's like it sheds light on the whole system for me.

Another thing is that it's important *how* you practice sight reading. It's good to go through a lot of material, but it wastes time if you allow yourself too many mistakes. Make sure you always feel like you're learning and not spinning your wheels.

One thing that helps when looking at notes above and below the lines is memorizing what you could call 'anchor notes' or 'mark notes', and then determine other notes based on the intervals from these notes. For example, for me, C above treble clef is an anchor note, and I know if there is an E above that since the interval from the C is the next note with a line through it. An octave always alternates being on the line and between the line, etc.


charlessamuellang.com
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Tuesdays 5-8:30 at Vince's West Sacramento, California
#1022763 - 01/02/09 12:31 AM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Betty Patnude Offline
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Prima Vista piano playing is playing a very secure and musical presentation of a piece of music previously unseen and unknown to the pianist before.

Accuracy in rhythm, expressiveness, and musicalness are the goals with each noted symbol on the music being played on the keyboard with good fingering, good technique, in response to what is seen on the page as written by the composer.

A gifted sight reader reads all from beginning to ending without stopping and without missing any details, and without fumbles.

A musician of this quality is a master of the instrument and a master at reading music notation regardless of key signatures or time signatures and alterations.

Prima Vista is reading for the first time with no preparation and having the piece manifest.

#1022764 - 01/02/09 09:01 AM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Betty, do you use "Sight Reading" books with your students, or do you just have them practice sight reading with a lot of different music, or is there some other method that you use to improve their sight reading?


mom3gram

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#1022765 - 01/02/09 09:52 AM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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The "Four Star Sight Reading and Ear Tests" series is recommended in this video which also discusses sight reading in general.

Andrew Furmanczyk\'s YouTube piano course, lesson on sight reading #19


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#1022766 - 01/02/09 07:55 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Betty Patnude Offline
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mom3gram,

One of the books I like a lot for Elementary level is a book called "Basic Timing" by Allan Small that combines one line examples of rhythm challenges written in 5 finger positions (Parallel C is the model) and can be transferred to all other 5 Finger Positions for additional exercise if one thinks that is helpful or important.

Reading rhythm challenges while playing in unison is a first step to brancing out in music that covers more keyboard distance and addition of altered notes (#,b, and natural signs).

A lot of elementary books have teacher accompaniments which allows the student to be part of a bigger picture (even orchestra sounding), and also to adapt to steady beats and no stopping. The songs are written fine for solo work, but are much more substantive as duets. These are usually one page or two page presentations.

Use sightreading materials in the keys that you can play in, usually the addition of one new altered note is plenty at one time. So caution about doing 3, 5 flats or 3 sharps before you have master the scales and keyboard sight reading of those scales that come before.

Learning 5 Finger Positions and I, IV, and V7 chords is helpful as a chord progression. Inversions of Root chords is helpful. Arpeggios (short and long) are helpful.

Learning chromatic mirrored D in contrary motion is a good way to learn #'s and b's from the music page to the keyboard. D is with a white key start/Ab is with a black key start, the only two ways one can play a mirrored chromatic scale.

Fingering for chromatic scales are:
black keys are played by finger number 3's
white keys are played by finger number 1's
the second adjacent white keys are played with finger number 2's.

Go slowly - slow motion when learning chromatics - it is quite the learning process! But it gives you access to the naming of alterations - up from a white note is a #, and down from a white note is a b.

I also keep a keyboard/music staff chart on the backboard of the piano (behind the keys) for all students in their first year. We remove it when it is obvious that it is no longer needed as a resource. By then, they student should be able to access any notes on the piano from a music page. (3C's) then (5 C's) and then (8 C's)including all black and white notes within the registers.

Hope something clicks with you here that you can use. I'm sure I'm forgetting something to suggest, it may come to mind later.

Enjoy your sightreading!

Betty

#1022767 - 01/02/09 08:31 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Thanks for the info, Betty. I'm printing it out for reference.


mom3gram

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#1022768 - 01/02/09 10:44 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Thank you for the details on practicing sight reading Betty. I have several of the "A Dozen A Day" technical exercises books. I imagine those would be helpful for sight reading and timing as well.


"Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here!" J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 1997.

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#1022769 - 01/04/09 01:29 AM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Darla Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by charleslang:
One thing that I think is underappreciated by teachers is that sight reading is helped a lot by internalizing the intervals and chord structures, so that you sight read less by looking at the individual notes and more by recognizing patterns. Then the notes are automatic.

What has helped me immensely - I really can't overstate it - is playing each song I learn in all twelve keys, after learning it more or less in the original key.

I say 'more or less' because I find that once I've played the song in all twelve keys I understand it on such a deeper level that I can only really then say that I can really play it well in the original key.

This sounds like it's not connected to sight reading, since most of the time doing this isn't spent reading notes at all but rather transposing passages (painstakingly) into other keys (it gets easier after the first few believe me). But I find that it removes roadblocks to my sightreading that I didn't even know were there. It's like it sheds light on the whole system for me.

Another thing is that it's important *how* you practice sight reading. It's good to go through a lot of material, but it wastes time if you allow yourself too many mistakes. Make sure you always feel like you're learning and not spinning your wheels.

One thing that helps when looking at notes above and below the lines is memorizing what you could call 'anchor notes' or 'mark notes', and then determine other notes based on the intervals from these notes. For example, for me, C above treble clef is an anchor note, and I know if there is an E above that since the interval from the C is the next note with a line through it. An octave always alternates being on the line and between the line, etc.

#1022770 - 01/04/09 01:33 AM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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(Sorry, for the double post)

Charles, Could you take some time and explain how you learned to transcribe into the different keys? I'm very interested in this topic.

Thanks,
D

#1022771 - 01/05/09 04:43 AM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Darla,

Happy to. I started with simple pieces and have moved slowly to more difficult ones, so it's not been overwhelming that way. Actually I started by doing the I, IV and V chords in all keys. I would just practice hitting them in one key, playing a few inversions, and then move on to another key. Then I did the same thing with the minors (for example, for the C major scale I would do F major chords, G major chords and C major chords, then I moved on to the relative minors, which are A minor chord, D minor chord and E minor chord.)

Then I used lead sheets to do some simple songs like 'Have you ever seen the rain', 'Bad moon rising' and so on. These songs have a melody that is easy to play and the left hand can just do chords. Since I had already played around with the positioning of all six major and minor chords in each key, the songs went faster. In the cases of several songs I have, after working on them, literally played the song straight through in all 12 keys.

The painstaking part at first is that you have to memorize the song not as a sequence of keys but as a sequence of relations. You memorize the melody not as, say, G then C, D, and E, but rather as the fifth, the root above, the second and the major third. If the chord accompanying that bit of melody is C, then A minor, you memorize that as the root major chord and then the sixth minor chord. This way you can move to whichever key you want and reproduce the song there. As you do this more it starts to feel, to me anyway, like you understand the music on a much deeper level.

I guess this method really focuses at least for the first phase on jazz and popular music, but I think what I meant in the earlier post is that after doing this I can sight read much faster than before, whether reading classical or pop. Of course reading melodies on lead sheets helps to learn rhythm markings, because they're done in standard notation. The main thing I found I needed to do special work on when I returned to Mozart was reading bass clef markings and trills. Multi-note chords have been surprisingly easy.

I started piano with no real previous musical experience when I was almost 18 so I'm convinced this method can help adult learners as well as possibly younger ones.


charlessamuellang.com
Semi-pro pianist and piano technician
Tuesdays 5-8:30 at Vince's West Sacramento, California
#1022772 - 01/05/09 10:56 AM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Akvarn Offline
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During my sight reading sessions the last few days I have discovered one (to me) new and valuable approach. Maybe it is basic to most of you but it has helped me quite a bit: I used to identify every note on the staff by its name and find the corresponding key to press. It is much easier and faster for me to read in terms of intervals, so I've been practicing how to quickly recognize interval shapes on the staff and how they feel under the fingers. (C-G feels and looks the same on the treble staff as E-B, D-G feels and looks the same as F-B etc.)

It is faster because only one note has to be identified/named in a chord, arpeggio or short phrase. The rest of the keys are found according to their distance/the interval from the preceding note or the first note in the group.

The method is very visual and may appeal to minds that think "visually", like mine. Maybe not the best description of my recent discovery, but it has taken me one step further. Hope it can help others too. smile

#1022773 - 01/05/09 03:55 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Just curious...
Does anyone read through the music first before playing? That is something I am starting to do now. I never had the patience for it before and thought I should just be able to look at it an play. But now I realize many (even advanced) musicians "study" a piece before they play it.
smile


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And finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”
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#1022774 - 01/05/09 04:43 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Hi Kymber, my teacher always recommends looking over the music before playing it. I try to make it a point to do this but sometimes find myself part way into a song and then looking back at the key signature. Not an ideal situation smile

I have started playing through some of my method and song books to get more sight reading experience. Pat


"Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here!" J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 1997.

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#1022775 - 01/08/09 01:55 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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I lived on a boat for seven years, and so I obviously couldn't have my piano around. I did have a cheap electronic keyboard, but didn't use it much. But, what I did do quite a bit was listen to various pieces and read along with the music (Bach WTC was/is a favorite). To my surprise, when I got back on land and re-acquired my piano, my sight reading had improved! It's still got a long way to go, but I think that listening and reading somehow gives the brain the opportunity to absorb the connection between the notation and the associated sounds.... or something like that confused


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#1022776 - 01/08/09 08:02 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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My teacher has often said that reading along is like a free music lesson


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#1022777 - 01/09/09 07:30 AM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Along the same line as this, how do you guys improve your "mental" awareness of the keys when sight reading?

I have tried this approach of just reading a piece from start to finish, regardless of the errors I make, but the biggest issue I have isn't the reading of the music but is hitting the right keys. I *know* what note(s) I should be hitting, but fingers just don't seem to "remember" where the keys are.

Any good practice tips on that? Or is that also part of the "sight reading" ability -- to learn and become intrinsically aware where the keys are?

#1022778 - 01/09/09 12:24 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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Kymber Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by charleslang:
One thing that I think is underappreciated by teachers is that sight reading is helped a lot by internalizing the intervals and chord structures, so that you sight read less by looking at the individual notes and more by recognizing patterns. Then the notes are automatic.

One thing that helps when looking at notes above and below the lines is memorizing what you could call 'anchor notes' or 'mark notes', and then determine other notes based on the intervals from these notes.
I absolutely agree 100%. I learned to do this after many years of failed attempts at reading. It has helped me tremendously! th


“The doubters said, "Man cannot fly," The doers said, "Maybe, but we'll try,"
And finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”
― Bruce Lee
#1022779 - 01/10/09 02:06 AM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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The last chappie with the reputation of being able to play prima vista was Franz Liszt ... who died in 1886 ... but then he was a legend.

It is total rot to suggest that anybody can read prima vista ... there are too many keyboard notes to identify at any one moment to meet the requisite tempo ... we all have to go through the arduous process of

1. Identifying the notes
2. Working out the fingering
3. Dedicated practice to gain the support of muscle and aural memory
4. Regular polishing to achieve optimum performance

Rather than kill all enthusiasm by routinely bashing away at sight-reading exercises ... it is far more beneficial to find a piece of music that turns you on ... use the carrot of worthwhile music to ease the strain of reading.

#1022780 - 01/16/09 10:30 AM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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I'm not sure about the reputation part, but according to Heinrich Neuhaus in the "the art of piano playing", Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997) had an incredible ability to sightread (musically) virtually any piece of music.

I've also heard that Martha Argerich also has an incredible ability to sightread any piece once or twice, and then play it from memory thereafter (I'm not sure how true that is though).

How i wish...


"You think the piano is one instrument? It is a hundred instruments!" Anton Rubenstein
#1022781 - 01/23/09 07:56 PM Re: Sight Reading Suggestions???  
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You might want to look at John Kember's books on sight reading. I consider myself a low-intermediate student. My biggest problem had always been reading notes at a comfortable pace. After completing half of Kember's material (he has three books) I feel my improvement can only be described as remarkable. Now I am able to understand what is happening on the music sheet (at my level) when I study the piece before playing it and I can concentrate on hand movement (digitation and rhythm), way past note recognition. Kember wants you to be aware of time and key signatures, rhythm, accidentals, and intervals and chords before you start playing. As a complement to the method I sight read "The joy of first classics" (Denes Agay), the "Pupil's piano album" (Hans Seifert) and "The best songs ever" (Hal Leonard). This has really been my greatest experience in piano learning since I re-started two years ago without a teacher. Of course, this is only a beginning but then, what a weight off my shoulders!


rvillate

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