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#1464524 - 06/28/10 04:49 PM Yet another sightreading thread...  
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sarah_elizabeth Offline
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I decided that I'd add yet another topic while everyone was still in the sightreading spirit. wink

So... after a rather embarassing sightreading rendition last Saturday with a solo instrumentalist, I've decided that I need to work ever harder at sightreading on an advanced level. What are the various methods you guys employ to gain better sightreading skills, and what do you see as the essential skills of a good sightreader?

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#1464533 - 06/28/10 04:59 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: sarah_elizabeth]  
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dolce sfogato Offline
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the way I learned it was by doing it, put the Mozart sonata's on the piano and play, the whole lot, idem with Beethoven, all the Mazurka's, the whole bunch of Nocturnes, whatever, sit down and do it, don't expect to be perfect, it'll happen one day, maybe, and if not, you'll have grown..


Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure, but not anymore!
#1464543 - 06/28/10 05:11 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: sarah_elizabeth]  
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Haha, is my thread part of that "spirit"?

Right now I'm starting from the very bottom with very elementary pieces. I read through three a day, and read through the three pieces from the day before with hands reversed. I find that doing this keeps my hands balanced and teaches proper voicing for each hand. I am planning to see how far I can get at this pace, and may find more music to read if I am reaching too advanced music too quickly.

Before reading, I analyze everything possible without touching the keys. I look at the time signature, the key signature, the dynamics and phrasing, the little details, and I imagine playing some of the harder parts in my mind. I then select a tempo that is true to the recommended one but will allow me to play at the best of my ability.

I'm hoping to do this to make it eventually to Bach Inventions, which should be a lot of fun to read and flip voices on! I also have my giant Mozart sonata book, which will definitely help my reading once my skills advance more.

I think good sight readers should:
  • have a very good feel for how the piano keys occupy physical space and be able to hardly, if ever, look down at the keyboard
  • be quick at analyzing music and forming patterns
  • have a good ear so that they can have a general idea of a piece through just looking at the sheet music and should be able to tell from the sound whether what they are playing is correct
  • be able to visualize themselves playing the piece before they even start
  • be comfortable with all different rhythm values and combinations, and be able to read rhythms they may have never seen before
  • be familiar with notes at least 4 ledger lines above and below each stave

#1464545 - 06/28/10 05:13 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: Sabre2552]  
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dolce sfogato Offline
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you pointed out exactly the things that a sightreader will learn by just sitting down and do it, no one will have that luggage, one has to gain the experience..


Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure, but not anymore!
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#1464546 - 06/28/10 05:16 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: dolce sfogato]  
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A. Learn to read ahead of where you're playing.
B. Have someone engrave the ledger lines and their pitch values on your brain.


There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians
#1464549 - 06/28/10 05:23 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: dolce sfogato]  
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Yep, I was trying to make a list of those skills that you learn through sight reading often that make you a better sight reader. smile It'll take time, but eventually you should have the skill to read most everything!

#1464558 - 06/28/10 05:31 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: Sabre2552]  
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dolce sfogato Offline
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indeed, and so we can, alas, so few of us do just that, sit down and eat notes...it's a healthy menu..


Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure, but not anymore!
#1464565 - 06/28/10 05:40 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: dolce sfogato]  
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Over the three years I've been here, there have been so many posts from people wanting a magic bullet for sight reading. When people tell them to just do it, to read unfamiliar music every day and that with patience and persistence over a reasonably long time frame they will see improvement, they seem disappointed. But it really is the way.

(Good list of what good sight readers do, Sabre2552.)


Du holde Kunst...
#1464595 - 06/28/10 06:30 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: currawong]  
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Originally Posted by currawong
Over the three years I've been here, there have been so many posts from people wanting a magic bullet for sight reading. When people tell them to just do it, to read unfamiliar music every day and that with patience and persistence over a reasonably long time frame they will see improvement, they seem disappointed. But it really is the way.
Exactly. It reminds me of many of the SAT courses that try to appeal to students by saying "beat the test" or claiming that learning a few test taking tricks will make a huge difference.

All you need is:

1. Regular study of piano with the corresponding improvement in technique, musical understanding and knowlege of theory.

2. Enough desire to play music(or even listen to it while following the score) so that this will automaically result in "practicing" sight reading. I've never once thought "now I'll sit down and practice my sight reading" although I've done a lot of sight reading in the last 50+ years. IMO at almost every level of piano skill beyond the first few years there is an almost unlimited number of great masterpieces that one can use to "practice" sight reading.


Last edited by pianoloverus; 06/28/10 06:33 PM.
#1464610 - 06/28/10 07:00 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: pianoloverus]  
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reminds me of people asking me why I speake Italian so well, my answer is as always: go there and jump in, no, they say, I'd like to take a course first, there you have it, it can't be taught, one needs to dive in, and have no coldwaterfear...


Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure, but not anymore!
#1464648 - 06/28/10 08:50 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: dolce sfogato]  
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Thanks, guys! Keep the ideas coming.

I know full well that sightreading takes work - notice that in my OP I mentioned more advanced sightreading. I have some sightreading ability and worked on that for a number of years, but I am obviously going to need much more to eventually be able to reach the expectations of my new chamber music partner (a pro who brings Richard Strauss accompaniments, sets them on the piano, and expects me to play them at sight perfectly!!). The experience definitely opened my eyes to the need; I only have the necessary sightreading skills for working on solo rep and teaching beginner/intermediate students. So... I'm looking to devise a good plan, since I seem to have far better and more efficient results if I've got some sort of method (isn't that true for most things? :)). So I'd appreciate it if you'd share yours!

#1464759 - 06/29/10 12:01 AM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: sarah_elizabeth]  
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Originally Posted by sarah_elizabeth
I know full well that sightreading takes work - notice that in my OP I mentioned more advanced sightreading. I have some sightreading ability and worked on that for a number of years, but I am obviously going to need much more to eventually be able to reach the expectations of my new chamber music partner (a pro who brings Richard Strauss accompaniments, sets them on the piano, and expects me to play them at sight perfectly!!).
My observation wasn't directed at you, sarah, by the way. smile It was really about a whole lot of other posters. smile
Re the pro expecting you to sight read Strauss perfectly ... It's one thing to be able to do something, and another when other people expect you to do it. If he is sight reading his Strauss part, then I'd have a go too. If he's been working on his part for months but expects you to sight read Strauss at performance standard he needs a reality check. I know lots of professional accompanists who could perform something like this at sight, more or less. But they wouldn't. They'd want to practise, like anyone else. Not because they couldn't sight read through it at rehearsal, but because performance is something else again.


Du holde Kunst...
#1464782 - 06/29/10 01:11 AM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: sarah_elizabeth]  
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I can sight-read pretty well I think... whistle Of course it is also because I play other instruments beside the piano. I basically read scores for over 5 hours a day.
At the end of the day I think it is like learning to read normal letters/words.... It becomes a natural process with time... So the keyword is "practice", although you will find people who have more talent for memorizing and people who have more talent for sight-reading. In any case, practice always helps... smile thumb



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#1464857 - 06/29/10 05:11 AM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: ChopinAddict]  
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I'm praticing with Czerny op 599, it's fun : )


lear
#1464924 - 06/29/10 08:22 AM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: Lalala]  
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Many good posts here..
If you can open a page of music randomly and start playing, and then pick up the tempo, time signature, etc while you're playing - that's a good sign. You should be able to discern patterns easily, chord structures as they're revealed by runs, arpeggios, etc. You should be able to recognize almost any written note instantly and be able to translate that to the piano. Gosh, there's so many things...
It also helps if you think playing new music on the spot is a huge blast! I certainly do...
Sorry if I'm repeating other people's advice.

I play with a violinist on Sundays, and along with our normal repetoire we are learning, we sight-read new pieces every weekend. Some of the pieces she already have played, some she has not played in 20 years, and some she has never played. To give you an example - I played the Franck Violin Sonata, Mozart Violin Sonata 15, and several of the Haydn Violin Sonatas. All of these, I am unfamiliar with from either listening or playing previously. At one of our concerts the other month, we decided to take requests from the small audience and sight-read some Mozart and Dvorak - it went very well!

I would suggest that you not sight-read for a performance unless you are so confident about your skills that it literally is nothing, a breeze, a walk in the park. And try to be realistic about your skills. They will come in time, there's no secret key to learning it. Just play, play, play lots and lots and lots of new music. Grab a book of sonatinas to help you get used to chordal and arpeggio patterns. Clementi, Kuhlau, both helped me learn to sight-read music.

#1464935 - 06/29/10 08:51 AM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: Mattardo]  
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portugal
in another post about his, a user provided this facebook app that is pretty funny : )
it kind of helps relating the notes to the keyboard.


lear
#1464986 - 06/29/10 10:16 AM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: Lalala]  
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Here is a tip that might be useful:

1)Group the pieces you know by key. Lets say we start with the key of G. Play some of these pieces paying attention to the accidentals and cadences. Look for G, C and D chords. Then look for some of the minor chords of the key (Ami, Bmi, Emi)/

You will notice how all of this is used over and over in these pieces in G. So in "G" you just know that D7 will be coming, and you will be ready for it!

Now pull out a new piece in the key of G and see how you do. I suspect the familiarity established playing in G will help with the new piece. The idea is to think in terms of key before you start playing.



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#1465189 - 06/29/10 05:02 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: Stanza]  
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Thanks so much for the great tips and detailed answers... this is all very helpful! I've made a list of everyone's suggestions and will employ them in my quest. smile

About the instrumentalist - he does sightread his part. He just does a ridiculously better job of it than I do! blush Sometimes I wonder if it's easier for a brass, wind, or string player to sightread than a pianist - they've got basically one line, whereas the pianist has to balance a number of them. It's probably not true, but I really do wonder.

#1465232 - 06/29/10 06:33 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: sarah_elizabeth]  
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Originally Posted by sarah_elizabeth
[...]Sometimes I wonder if it's easier for a brass, wind, or string player to sightread than a pianist - they've got basically one line, whereas the pianist has to balance a number of them. It's probably not true, but I really do wonder.


I think that's very much a part of it. A reasonably good string/woodwind/brass player can come to an ensemble rehearsal of standard repertoire and, in many cases, sight-read his part and be more than adequate. Expect a pianist in a piano trio/quartet to do likewise and I'm sure you'll have many fewer pianists able to do so than you have other instrumentalists. The pianist's part is considerably more complex than most other instrumentalists' or vocalists' parts.

For that reason, a moderately good pianist usually has to put in much more practice time getting his part up to a "reasonable" performance level than do other instrumentalists.

Regards,


BruceD
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#1465360 - 06/29/10 10:15 PM Re: Yet another sightreading thread... [Re: BruceD]  
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Hey, just wanted to add my experience. I've played two instruments before (clarinet and guitar), and now I'm learning to sight-read on the piano. While I played the clarinet through high school and college, I never had any problem sight-playing and sight-reading. It was just very natural to me, and there was only one line of music to follow.

With classical guitar, no one ever needs to sight-read. Not even my college teacher did it. Part of the process is playing the piece through and figuring out the fingering (since the same note can appear on multiple places on the fretboard). I felt good guitarists just takes much faster to piece together the fingering.

Which is why learning to do that on the piano is so frustrating. There are 2 staffs, in different clefs, and even though there's only one place each note is on the keyboard, the fingering is still gnarly sometimes.

Right now, I'm following "Super Sight-Reading Secrets: An Innovative, Step-By-Step Program for Musical Keyboard Players of All Levels by Howard Richman". It does not promise short practice times, and starts at the very basic (looking at the notes and saying out loud the note name). It also tries to get you to reach the notes without looking, which is what I really need help doing. Honestly, the method is long, daunting and laborious. Has anyone used this book, and can tell me if this is a good method?

There're only about 20 short lessons in this book. Each lesson is a really short description of what you need to master. One of them, Keyboard Orientation #4, is to learn to play every single major, minor, augmented and diminished chord, with both hands parallel without looking. Then in K.O. #5, to play each each of these chords in all three inversions. And this is just the 5th step!

Dio mios! This is a daunting and frightening book, but I really like it, and will stick with it. These are skills every pianist needs anyway.


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