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Question for the great sightreaders.. #1968860
10/04/12 08:01 PM
10/04/12 08:01 PM
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CebuKid Offline OP
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Much like most of us can still read this silly poster, is this pretty much how great sight-readers "read" musical notation too? smile



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Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: CebuKid] #1968876
10/04/12 08:54 PM
10/04/12 08:54 PM
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Rainy England
EdwardianPiano Offline
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I have seen this analogy before- I have no trouble reading that passage but am not a good sight reader yet- being a beginner. However I have been reading about sight reading online and it seems sight readers don't read every note - they read as a whole. I can't explain it very well as I am getting to grips with all this.


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Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.
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Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: CebuKid] #1968883
10/04/12 09:40 PM
10/04/12 09:40 PM
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The poster is a good illustration of the concept of coding redundancy in language. By some information-theoretic measures, only 30% of the text of ordinary written English actually encodes the message. The redundant coding allows us to recognize sensible patterns in the presence of considerable amounts of "noise". This doesn't literally mean that 70% of the individual letters are redundant, but that some letters are more statistically important than others in suggesting the semantic patterns of the text to a fluent reader.

It's seems pretty clear that sight readers in music use cues in the score to recognize larger patterns too (i.e. they don't proceed note by note just as we don't consciously read letter by letter). But there is surprisingly little empirical research into the ways that printed music notation works as a written language or the ways that musicians learn to "read" it. There are some eye-tracking studies that I am aware of, but it seems like an interesting problem that could bear a great deal more study.


Paul Buchanan
Estonia L168 #1718
Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: CebuKid] #1968891
10/04/12 10:14 PM
10/04/12 10:14 PM
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LadyChen Offline
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When I sightread, I think I read the "shape" of groups of notes. This is apparent to me when I'm sightreading something that was notated by hand, the the spaces between the notes aren't exact like on a printed page.

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Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: LadyChen] #1968921
10/05/12 12:03 AM
10/05/12 12:03 AM
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I have never seen anything like this poster before. That was really interesting. Especially since this is a foreign language for me. I could read the text fine except certain single "words". These are probably words that I am not so familiar with so my brain could not reorganize the letters. If I would make an analogy to sight reading, I guess it means I would need to know the elements I see in notation before I can efficiently read complicated music.

Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: CebuKid] #1968938
10/05/12 01:03 AM
10/05/12 01:03 AM
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EJR Offline
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Interesting. I thought atfirst it was just written in Scots! But perhaps if you can read this with ease you are a poor sight reader since you not actually reading what is written?

Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: EJR] #1968943
10/05/12 01:19 AM
10/05/12 01:19 AM
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outo Offline
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Originally Posted by EJR
But perhaps if you can read this with ease you are a poor sight reader since you not actually reading what is written?


Good point grin

But no, as with reading text as long as you need to read every charachter you will remain mediocre reader. Fast and efficient reading means not reading all details, but taking in clues to let your brain figure out a lot of the stuff from them. Fast readers don't even have to read every word in a sentence and they still understand everything. I believe the same goes for notation: You instantly recognize patterns and structures in music and don't have to read every single element. You could recognize a scale for example and play it fluently without the need to read every single note. It just takes a long time and a lot of practice to get to this level...

Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: CebuKid] #1968956
10/05/12 02:29 AM
10/05/12 02:29 AM
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Derulux Offline
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I've found, over the years, that most of my sight-reading issues are due to technical facility and not due to my inability to read the score fast enough. I can pick up a score and "hear" the music in relative time in my head, read and recognize all the notes, so what I lack is the pure and raw technical ability to instantly translate that to the keys. I wonder if anyone else shares in this "handicap"?


Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: Derulux] #1968966
10/05/12 03:05 AM
10/05/12 03:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Derulux
I've found, over the years, that most of my sight-reading issues are due to technical facility and not due to my inability to read the score fast enough. I can pick up a score and "hear" the music in relative time in my head, read and recognize all the notes, so what I lack is the pure and raw technical ability to instantly translate that to the keys. I wonder if anyone else shares in this "handicap"?


I guess that's because you already can sight read so well. I have an opposite problem. Apart from streches I usually don't have any trouble excecuting something, it's the "knowing what to do" part that is giving me the trouble...

Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: CebuKid] #1968998
10/05/12 07:43 AM
10/05/12 07:43 AM
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Although the use of context aids greatly in sightreading there is a large difference between music and words and that is the basic finite possibilities of words. Take the example given - we all know those words; they can be picked out fine.

Take a simple musical example though. To follow the word analogy, I will keep the start and end letters the same. Now, we have five notes. Are these the same thing:

C - D - E - F - G
C - F - E - D - G
C - E - D - F - G


All of those (and more) are musically possible, no one of them is "more correct".


None of this is to say that we can't / shouldn't use musical context and clues - of course we should. But I think sightreading music is harder than reading text for the above reason. The ordering of individual "letters" is actually more important.


  • Debussy - Le Petit Nègre, L. 114
  • Haydn - Sonata in Gm, Hob. XVI/44

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Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: Andy Platt] #1969016
10/05/12 08:53 AM
10/05/12 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy Platt
Although the use of context aids greatly in sightreading there is a large difference between music and words and that is the basic finite possibilities of words. Take the example given - we all know those words; they can be picked out fine.
Take a simple musical example though. To follow the word analogy, I will keep the start and end letters the same. Now, we have five notes. Are these the same thing:

C - D - E - F - G
C - F - E - D - G
C - E - D - F - G


All of those (and more) are musically possible, no one of them is "more correct".


None of this is to say that we can't / shouldn't use musical context and clues - of course we should. But I think sightreading music is harder than reading text for the above reason. The ordering of individual "letters" is actually more important.

One cannot really make that conclusion. The ordering of the letters is just as important if you do not know the word beforehand. We just use language and text everyday so we do not realize it anymore. For those people who cannot read properly using context is just as difficult as sight-reading is for beginning piano players. If you had been practicing sight-reading as much as you have been reading text in your life, you could probably just glance at the sheet and know immediately what to play.

Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: Andy Platt] #1969027
10/05/12 09:21 AM
10/05/12 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy Platt
Although the use of context aids greatly in sightreading there is a large difference between music and words and that is the basic finite possibilities of words. Take the example given - we all know those words; they can be picked out fine.

Take a simple musical example though. To follow the word analogy, I will keep the start and end letters the same. Now, we have five notes. Are these the same thing:

C - D - E - F - G
C - F - E - D - G
C - E - D - F - G


All of those (and more) are musically possible, no one of them is "more correct".


None of this is to say that we can't / shouldn't use musical context and clues - of course we should. But I think sightreading music is harder than reading text for the above reason. The ordering of individual "letters" is actually more important.

The problem with this analogy is that we don't sight-read sequences of letters. We see spatially arranged glyphs and I suspect that the visual differences of these sequences are more easily recognized in score form than letter form. On the other hand, I also suspect there is less coding redundancy in printed music than in ordinary language.

Also, it may be true that all sequences are "musically possible", but that doesn't mean that all sequences are equally probable within a particular musical style. There is a fair amount of research looking at people's ability to predict the next element in musical motives or harmonies, and it is fairly easy to demonstrate that people do predict patterns based on a learned response that all sequences are not equally likely. The qualification here is that the prediction is based on familiarity with the musical tradition from which the example is constructed. I suspect that some kinds of music (e.g. atonal) are harder for many musicians to sight read than diachronic tonality. This doesn't mean that atonal music doesn't have an underlying "system" that selects certain patterns with higher probabilities than others. But coding theory and predictability depend on the knowledge state of the receiver as well as the structure of the message itself.


Paul Buchanan
Estonia L168 #1718
Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: CebuKid] #1969066
10/05/12 11:11 AM
10/05/12 11:11 AM
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Posts: 75
Toronto, ON, Canada
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I'm not a fluent sight reader, but I've always thought that, for people who are really skilled in it, it must be similar to reading written language. But while music does have patterns, it doesn't really have words like a language, so I think reading music is much more complex.

It's difficult to imagine what the analogue of mixing up the letters in written language would be for sheet music. But even if sight readers don't read each individual note, each note must be identified correctly from its context - a combination of its position on the staff, the shape of notes around it, what notes are likely in the current key, etc. Music is often about repeating patterns with subtle variations, so I think assuming the pattern is the same will lead to a lot of errors. How many times have you encountered a repeated section in a piece of music thinking it was identical to something that occurred earlier, only to find out much later that there were actually many differences you ignored? Oh, just me? wink

Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: Quarkomatic] #1969081
10/05/12 11:48 AM
10/05/12 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Quarkomatic
How many times have you encountered a repeated section in a piece of music thinking it was identical to something that occurred earlier, only to find out much later that there were actually many differences you ignored? Oh, just me? wink


Hey - you've been watching me practice?! wink


  • Debussy - Le Petit Nègre, L. 114
  • Haydn - Sonata in Gm, Hob. XVI/44

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Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: outo] #1969291
10/05/12 11:58 PM
10/05/12 11:58 PM
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Derulux Offline
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Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by Derulux
I've found, over the years, that most of my sight-reading issues are due to technical facility and not due to my inability to read the score fast enough. I can pick up a score and "hear" the music in relative time in my head, read and recognize all the notes, so what I lack is the pure and raw technical ability to instantly translate that to the keys. I wonder if anyone else shares in this "handicap"?


I guess that's because you already can sight read so well. I have an opposite problem. Apart from streches I usually don't have any trouble excecuting something, it's the "knowing what to do" part that is giving me the trouble...

I don't know that I would consider myself a great sight-reader, but thank you for the kind words. smile Interestingly, a similar topic came up in another thread, and a piece of advice emerged that may help here. Consider listening to the music with score in hand. You can get a much better idea how to "sound" things when you can already hear it, and then go back later and try to do it without the music.

That might be the best I've got.. this is one of those areas where I'm as good as I am, don't know how I got there, and probably will not get any better at it. wink


Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: Derulux] #1969310
10/06/12 01:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Derulux
Interestingly, a similar topic came up in another thread, and a piece of advice emerged that may help here. Consider listening to the music with score in hand. You can get a much better idea how to "sound" things when you can already hear it, and then go back later and try to do it without the music.



I believe my problem is also that I hardly ever encounter piano music that I haven't heard before. So I already know how it should sound and I try to follow what I hear in my head and that makes me go too fast...

BTW. Have you people tried to sightread modern more atonal music? It's weird, since you never know if you make a mistake or not. And then there are composers like Shostakovich, who although not atonal wrote "wrong" notes on purpose smile

Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: CebuKid] #1969596
10/06/12 09:23 PM
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As several have noted, the context of the paragraph is important, too, to make sense of the poster text. If you scrambled the order of the words in the sentence or all of the words, period, it would be hard to read the individual words. So perhaps the sightreading analogy has to include, in addition to intervals, the key and phrases as well. And you would have to do it a LOT. Immerse yourself in it.

Once upon a time I was active in amateur radio and used Morse Code. To get really fast at “reading” Morse code, you have to learn to hear an entire word in code.

Now that I think about it, there are many similarities between sending and receiving code and playing piano. Code is actually rather musical and to send it well, you have to have a relaxed hand and correct movements.

Most people used "paddles" to send code. If you pressed one side you got a 'dit' and tapping the other side gave you a 'dah.' You could really motor with those things. No left hand harmony, though. smile




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Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: Derulux] #1969614
10/06/12 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Derulux
I've found, over the years, that most of my sight-reading issues are due to technical facility and not due to my inability to read the score fast enough. I can pick up a score and "hear" the music in relative time in my head, read and recognize all the notes, so what I lack is the pure and raw technical ability to instantly translate that to the keys. I wonder if anyone else shares in this "handicap"?

I don't think this is necessarily a handicap. It is just reality. If you auditate extremely well, you can scan music and hear all of it because you don't have to deal with the technical problems, such as working out the exact fingering you need.

I am a VERY fast sight-reader, but I can hear faster, without playing. And I think that is a good thing!


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Re: Question for the great sightreaders.. [Re: CebuKid] #1969886
10/07/12 03:02 PM
10/07/12 03:02 PM
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Yse, I thnik taht thi anaaolgy is a goood oen. Thnaks fro psotnig.


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