2017 was our 20th year online!

Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums
Over 3 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers (it's free)
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!

Shop our online store for music lovers
SEARCH
Piano Forums & Piano World
(ad)
Wessell Nickel & Gross
PianoForAll
(ad)
Best of Piano Buyer
 Best of Piano Buyer
(ad)
Faust Harrison Pianos
Faust Harrison 100+ Steinway pianos
Who's Online Now
40 members (chopinetto, crooow, anotherscott, Beowulf, clothearednincompo, Colin Miles, Damyan, 12 invisible), 472 guests, and 472 robots.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
(ad)
Estonia Pianos
Estonia Pianos
Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Hop To
Page 1 of 2 1 2
Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
#1289723 10/19/09 08:37 AM
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 2,462
2000 Post Club Member
OP Offline
2000 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 2,462
Since I see sight reading coming up in a lot of different threads on the forum, I thought it might be a good thing to bring up some general thoughts on sight reading that I've developed from my own experiences and from reading comments from others on the forum.

Why I am posting this is threads like this one:
At What Point Do You Move On
where the poster is talking about going it alone until he can sight read.

First (and this will generate some discussion, as it always have), I'm clearly defining sight reading in the sense used by piano teachers. This is that it is referring to playing pieces Prima Vista (that is at first sight) without stopping to correct mistakes and at tempo. Some people on the forums refer to sight reading as just the task of being able to read music. I think the above posting is using sight reading as meaning being able to read music.

Sight reading as such is an activity that we do when playing piano. It is not a single learning step, but rather the process of putting together everything you are learning while playing piano under one of the more stressful situations you can possibly create short of performance itself. You have to get the tempo right, play the right rhythms, hit the right notes, try to achieve the right dynamics, not stop to correct notes, all while trying to make it as musical as possible. eek IMO, playing with the correct rhythm and not stopping are the most important of the above. Get as many of the notes as possible. Who cares about fingering, you don't have time to bother with that.

Conventional wisdom (whatever that is) is that the only way to get better at sight reading is to sight read. The problem with this adage is how you define "getting better at sight reading." I've read several threads of people who spend an hour or more every day and then complain that their sight reading is not improving. They have probably improved tremendously in playing the rhythm and not stopping, but because they have not improved to the point of playing a Beethoven Symphony prima vista, they don't feel they have improved. I'm sure they have improved their ability to sight read, but because their level has not changed, they are not able to sight read harder pieces.

So, since sight reading is done with pieces below your level, IMO if you want to be able to sight read harder pieces, then you need to work at improving your level. Here is where I think that you would get more value out of time spent practicing. Someone who learns 20 new pieces every year will be improving their ability to sight read more than someone who learns 5. I like Gyro's comments on his own ability here: He can play his big time concert piece at 75% of tempo but can't sight read the pieces in John Thompson level 1. Whereas I work on 40 - 50 pieces a year. I learn very few pieces that I need to work on measure by measure. In terms of level of progress, I feel that I am not pushing my level up very fast, but I am solid in my playing and my sight reading is strong.

What does everyone else think about these thoughts?

Rich


[Linked Image] [Linked Image]
(ad)
Piano & Music Accessories
piano accessories music gifts tuning and moving equipment
Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
DragonPianoPlayer #1289764 10/19/09 09:42 AM
Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,539
1000 Post Club Member
Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,539
I like your way Rich.

Since I'm not planning on taking a sight reading exam, nor do I plan to play in church or accompanying singers, the prima vista sight reading is not important to me.

However, learning to read music well is very important to me. I want to be solid at my level and move up gradually. I think that struggling through playing a piece way above my level, Gyro-style, would be pure torture. I vote for learning lots of pieces at -or a little bit above - my level.


mom3gram


[Linked Image]
Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
DragonPianoPlayer #1289818 10/19/09 11:05 AM
Joined: May 2009
Posts: 635
500 Post Club Member
Offline
500 Post Club Member
Joined: May 2009
Posts: 635
Originally Posted by DragonPianoPlayer

So, since sight reading is done with pieces below your level, IMO if you want to be able to sight read harder pieces, then you need to work at improving your level. Here is where I think that you would get more value out of time spent practicing.


I've only recently started piano after an almost a non-musical background, but I agree with you completely here. One of my goals is to be a good sight reader - the prima vista kind. My teacher is one. I've been meaning to work on sight-reading pieces from the collection of beginner pieces I've amassed but never get around to doing it (too many other stuff in my plate). Suffice to say that I haven't been able to work on specific sight-reading drills yet. And yet I've noticed a big improvement in my general music reading skills, to the point that I was nearly sight-reading two new pieces during my last lesson. My teacher even asked me if I looked ahead in the book, but I didn't. I believe it's due to the higher-level pieces assigned by my teacher. The pieces she assigns are beyond my comfort level, probably intermediate though I would rate myself as mid to late beginner based from where on I am in the method book. Trying to play them is very frustrating and takes a lot time and mental effort just trying to decode the notes. So after this harrowing ordeal, I guess it's no surprise that I would find the method book pieces simple enough (much easier compared to my other pieces) to the point that I am able to read them fast enough to qualify as sight-reading.

At my level, though, the kinds of pieces I can sight-read are quite limited!


Working on: Schumann Album for the Young, Clementi Op 36 No. 1 (all movements), Various Bach, Czerny 599
+ CASIO PX-720 and PX-730 +
Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
marimorimo #1290114 10/19/09 07:15 PM
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 6,716
J
Gold Level
6000 Post Club Member
Offline
Gold Level
6000 Post Club Member
J
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 6,716
I basically agree with you, Rich. Improving your overall level gives you the "chops" you need in your fingers and your mind. Actually sight reading gives you the practice of plowing on through a piece, mistakes and all, but keeping it going. And both those skills are needed to sight read.

And, for me, I prefer using the term "sight reading" as you do - reading it through the first time, and using "reading" for reading and learning pieces beyond the first time.

Cathy


Cathy
[Linked Image][Linked Image]
Perhaps "more music" is always the answer, no matter what the question might be! - Qwerty53
Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
jotur #1290600 10/20/09 01:30 PM
Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 4,534
M
4000 Post Club Member
Offline
4000 Post Club Member
M
Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 4,534
As you practice and develop, over time your sight reading improves, but I feel sight reading cold material correctly takes many, many years of study. as in minimum of 10 years and up.

This is fine by me, I'm happy doing the work of playing and developing pieces as best as possible. And when I have the years and years of this practice, the advanced sight reading will come too.

At least this is my theory...

Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
Mark... #1290639 10/20/09 02:32 PM
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 18,356

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 18,356
I agree with much, maybe all, of what you said, Rich. From my own experience, I devote roughly 0% of my practice time to improving sight-reading. Pretty much the only time I sight-read, as a matter of fact, is when I'm starting a new piece and try to play it through on an initial run-through. Good sight-reading is not a skill I'm particularly eager to develop, as I don't anticipate ever needing to sit down and play a piece accurately prima vista.

However, I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that my sight-reading skills are nonetheless improving, despite not consciously working on sight-reading. Every few months I'll drag out one of my easy sheet music collections of pop/rock songs and play through a couple, just for kicks. And when I do, I notice that I'm much better at maintaining tempo and getting more of the notes right.

So I'm very much in the camp that sight-reading skills progress in tandem with overall playing skills.

Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
Monica K. #1290658 10/20/09 03:00 PM
Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 1,275
1000 Post Club Member
Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 1,275
I'm not really concerned with being able to truly sight read, I just want to be able to read quicker than I do. I want to get over the need to "translate" things before I play them. I want to be able to spot intervals and that sort of thing, but I don't really care if I ever do it at tempo. It's just not that important to me.


I'll figure it out eventually.
Until then you may want to keep a safe distance.
[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]
Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
Little_Blue_Engine #1291040 10/21/09 04:11 AM
Joined: Aug 2009
Posts: 114
Full Member
Offline
Full Member
Joined: Aug 2009
Posts: 114
When I started playing (all of nearly a year ago...) I thought that you just 'sight read'. However, I feel that this will be a long-term thing (5years upwards) and even then, you probably have to be playing for decades to be really good. Just enjoy playing. The sight-reading 'thang' just aint gonna happen for ages. I can 'sight-read' really simple stuff now, but stick in a chord, and I've gotta think about it!


Behind every successful woman is some twit who's lost the remote....
Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
angelas #1291237 10/21/09 11:19 AM
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,375

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012
1000 Post Club Member
Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012
1000 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,375
I work on (prima vista) sight-reading as one specific challenge within the larger challenge of achieving greater fluency in music reading. I use sight-reading as a benchmark, a measurable ability that I can "pressure test" and work on improving, but I don't visualize it as a necessary aspect of my goal image. When I see myself sitting down at the piano and reading from my hypothetical book of music, I'm willing to give each piece a few passes to familiarize my fingers with where they need to be and when.

Or at least that's my attempt to inject some reality into this pleasant daydream. My experience says that my hands go a bit spastic the first time they encounter new motions that require precise reproduction. (Though I wonder how much of this is just my habit of panicking and thinking "I can't do that!" -- could this issue be a signal that I need to slow down a little further and count a little louder?)

OK, so between that paragraph and this one, I went upstairs and did some of what I would call sight-reading, though I was recycling the material. I have a terrible musical memory, and this stuff is still just as unfamiliar and threatening to me as it was yesterday -- could we call it "seconda vista" sight-reading? wink In any case, I think that having actually played it once before enabled me to have a new experience -- I was reading ahead of as I played, something I'd read about but never experienced. And I think that recycling my sight-reading fodder was part of what enabled me to do that -- training wheels?

I think that the point I'm trying to get at here is that reused material, for as long as it remains somewhat unfamiliar, still continues to exert sufficient "friction" (stress of unexpectedness) against my reading apparatus that it is still beneficial to me to give it repeated attention, separated by days (or weeks, or...). And in doing so, I realize I'm sliding along a gradient from practicing pure prima vista sight reading to practicing general skill in music reading.

Speaking of gradients of familiarity with the material, I thought it was interesting how even our amazing youtube sight reader doesn't go into it cold. He definitely took some time at the beginning of the "Yoshi's Island athletic theme" video to read through the music and familiarize his left hand with the chords & patterns it was going to be playing. I always feel like I'm cheating somehow when I look too closely at sight reading material before I play it, particularly when I start gesticulating at an imaginary piano. But I feel better seeing that he does it too (even with a real piano...). It certainly makes a huge difference in the complexity of the material I'm able to play decently at "first sight".


Please step aside. You're standing in your own way.
Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
Monica K. #1324524 12/13/09 01:51 PM
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 1,235
1000 Post Club Member
Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 1,235
Originally Posted by Monica K.
I agree with much, maybe all, of what you said, Rich. From my own experience, I devote roughly 0% of my practice time to improving sight-reading. Pretty much the only time I sight-read, as a matter of fact, is when I'm starting a new piece and try to play it through on an initial run-through. Good sight-reading is not a skill I'm particularly eager to develop, as I don't anticipate ever needing to sit down and play a piece accurately prima vista.

However, I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that my sight-reading skills are nonetheless improving, despite not consciously working on sight-reading. Every few months I'll drag out one of my easy sheet music collections of pop/rock songs and play through a couple, just for kicks. And when I do, I notice that I'm much better at maintaining tempo and getting more of the notes right.

So I'm very much in the camp that sight-reading skills progress in tandem with overall playing skills.


I have the same exact philosophy as Monica.

I just found out that I am a "Grade 7" pianist... smirk ...based on my repertoire, but I am "Grade 2" at sight reading...hahaha.


YouTube Channel
Scott Joplin Repertoire


Music washes away from the soul
the dust of everyday life.
- Berthold Auerbach


[Linked Image]
Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
CebuKid #1324544 12/13/09 02:18 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 28,495
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 28,495
I think the best sight readers(among ordinary people, not those who start out with some highly unusual gift) achieved most of their sight reading skill from sight reading a lot. They didn't set out to practice sight reading, they just wanted to play through the piano literature as much as possible.

I'm surprised by people who never try to play to piano literature for enjoyment. There is much great literature at virtually every level.

One does not have to never stop or play it in perfect time to enjoy it or benefit. Your sight reading, however you want to define it, will still improve.


Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
pianoloverus #1324594 12/13/09 03:58 PM
Joined: May 2009
Posts: 3,336
T
3000 Post Club Member
Offline
3000 Post Club Member
T
Joined: May 2009
Posts: 3,336
I always detested sight reading (prima vista). Why? Because I was bad at it. Or so I thought, but now I have a theory on this, and it would be good to hear if anyone else can relate to this.

I worked through the UK classical exam system as a kid, and sight-reading was part of the exam. I never 'practiced' sight-reading, and was never encouraged to, or shown how to. I would be 'tested' on soma piece at my weekly lesson, which I did badly, and then in the exam, which was so bad I would just blank it out.

But what was I being tested on? Real music? No way. I couldn't be given a Mozart minuet, in case a student had already played it - therefore it wouldn't be ganuine sight reading. So really I was being tested on some uninspired mush, with a bare minimum of rhythmic and harmonic coherence, dreamed up by some poor sod who had to write scores of these instruments of torture. No wonder it sounded bad. shocked

It wasn't music, it was just something to tick the box. What I've discovered lately is that perhaps I'm not the best at sight-reading. But I'm nowhere near as bad as I thought I was.

Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
ten left thumbs #1324624 12/13/09 04:29 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 28,495
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 28,495
Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
But what was I being tested on? Real music? No way. I couldn't be given a Mozart minuet, in case a student had already played it - therefore it wouldn't be ganuine sight reading. So really I was being tested on some uninspired mush, with a bare minimum of rhythmic and harmonic coherence, dreamed up by some poor sod who had to write scores of these instruments of torture. No wonder it sounded bad. shocked

It wasn't music, it was just something to tick the box. What I've discovered lately is that perhaps I'm not the best at sight-reading. But I'm nowhere near as bad as I thought I was.


You probably improved with time.

You weren't being judged on the quality of the piece you played. I don't think one sight reads a great piece any better/worse than a poor piece. One would enjoy sight reading a great piece more than a lesser one.

Why would the composer have to write many sight reading pieces? They didn't give copies to take home, I assume.

Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
pianoloverus #1324638 12/13/09 04:54 PM
Joined: Aug 2009
Posts: 6,453
6000 Post Club Member
Offline
6000 Post Club Member
Joined: Aug 2009
Posts: 6,453
I can sight-read pretty well, and I could do so from the very beginning. However, I can't memorize so well, so if I wasn't able to sight-read I would be in trouble... eek Sight-reading is a particular blessing for me...



[Linked Image]

Music is my best friend.


Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
CebuKid #1324649 12/13/09 05:05 PM
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 222
Full Member
Offline
Full Member
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 222
I was friend with a very good sightreader but he wasn't able to sightread a Beethoven symphony never seen before. Sightreading doesn't work anymore at a level where the piece is very complex and every little detail makes the difference between right and wrong. I've never met a teacher that could sightread complex long pieces either.

Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
ChopinAddict #1324667 12/13/09 05:29 PM
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 543
M
MiM Offline
500 Post Club Member
Offline
500 Post Club Member
M
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 543
Sight reading is *not* a practical skill... it's extremely rare and unnecessary to ply at first sight no matter what profession you're in. The reason people work on sight reading is to be able to read quickly,and to to be good at handling unexpected notes and dynamics when they creep up on you. Again, no reasonable profession requires this skill per se.

Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
MiM #1324672 12/13/09 05:35 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 18,155
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 18,155
Originally Posted by Music_in_Me
Sight reading is *not* a practical skill... it's extremely rare and unnecessary to ply at first sight no matter what profession you're in. The reason people work on sight reading is to be able to read quickly,and to to be good at handling unexpected notes and dynamics when they creep up on you. Again, no reasonable profession requires this skill per se.

I dunno - I worked on sight reading because I read that it was a good thing to do. I have found two good uses for the skill so far. If I come to a new piece, I can have a quick first browse to see what it sounds like on piano and how it fits under the fingers. Unexpectedly it's also been a boon in studying harmony theory, because I can take my notes to the piano and listen to what I've done and sometimes work out new solutions.

I know that computer software does that, but it just isn't the same thing as feeling the notes take shape from a pencil, and actually playing it. When you spend hours at the computer, the last thing you want to do is spend even more time at the computer for music.

Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
keystring #1324676 12/13/09 05:41 PM
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 543
M
MiM Offline
500 Post Club Member
Offline
500 Post Club Member
M
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 543
Originally Posted by keystring
If I come to a new piece, I can have a quick first browse to see what it sounds like on piano and how it fits under the fingers.


Right, but you don't need sight reading to do that. Reading notes quickly is good enough.


Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
MiM #1324687 12/13/09 05:57 PM
Joined: May 2007
Posts: 6,275
6000 Post Club Member
Offline
6000 Post Club Member
Joined: May 2007
Posts: 6,275
Originally Posted by Music_in_Me
Sight reading is *not* a practical skill... it's extremely rare and unnecessary to ply at first sight no matter what profession you're in. The reason people work on sight reading is to be able to read quickly,and to to be good at handling unexpected notes and dynamics when they creep up on you. Again, no reasonable profession requires this skill per se.
Accompanists need good sight-reading skills. Even though people shouldn't just present you with the music and expect you to play it at first sight, they do, and if you can do it you certainly get more work than if you can't. It also takes much of the stress out of playing if you are confident of your ability to cope with the unexpected (like someone handing you the music at a competition as they walk onto the stage...).
Church musicians also frequently are required to sight read.


Du holde Kunst...
Re: Miscellaneous thoughts on sight reading.
MiM #1324690 12/13/09 06:00 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 18,155
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 18,155
Originally Posted by Music_in_Me
Originally Posted by keystring
If I come to a new piece, I can have a quick first browse to see what it sounds like on piano and how it fits under the fingers.


Right, but you don't need sight reading to do that. Reading notes quickly is good enough.


I don't understand what you mean by "reading notes quickly". Aren't you sight reading if you do that? Or do you mean something different? What exactly are you doing when you read notes quickly?

Page 1 of 2 1 2

Moderated by  BB Player 

Link Copied to Clipboard
(ad)
Pianoteq
Steinway Spiro Layering
(ad)
PianoDisc

PianoDisc
(ad)
Piano Life Saver - Dampp Chaser
Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver
(ad)
Mason & Hamlin Pianos
(ad) SWEETWATER Cyber Sale
New Topics - Multiple Forums
Roland LX706 Review
by Colin Miles - 12/04/20 06:41 AM
Best Headphones for Digital Piano - your experience
by lukasz-zsakul - 12/04/20 05:10 AM
Is the Hailun 218 solid spruce?
by Sonepica - 12/04/20 04:55 AM
Schiff talked about Bartók's style of playing
by symphonicdance - 12/04/20 01:46 AM
Download Sheet Music
Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads
Forum Statistics
Forums41
Topics203,254
Posts3,030,353
Members99,467
Most Online15,252
Mar 21st, 2010
Please Support Our Advertisers


Faust Harrison 100+ Steinways

Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver

 Best of Piano Buyer

PianoTeq Bechstein
Visit our online store for gifts for music lovers

Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads



 
Help keep the forums up and running with a donation, any amount is appreciated!
Or by becoming a Subscribing member! Thank-you.
Donate   Subscribe
 
Our Piano Related Classified Ads
| Dealers | Tuners | Lessons | Movers | Restorations | Pianos For Sale | Sell Your Piano |

Advertise on Piano World
| Subscribe | Piano World | PianoSupplies.com | Advertise on Piano World |
| |Contact | Privacy | Legal | About Us | Site Map | Free Newsletter |


copyright 1997 - 2020 Piano World ® all rights reserved
No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission
Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.4