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#2036966 - 02/21/13 01:19 PM Sight reading approach?
90abyss Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/22/13
Posts: 11
I'm currently going through Alfred's adult series book 1. I started playing the piano about 6 weeks ago.
Can anyone please tell me how is your approach when you sight read?
1) Do you say the name of the notation out loud in the back of your mind after you read it from the sheet and then play it?
2) Do you keep track of intervals while reading notes comparing the distances between notes?
3) You pay attention to your finger position first and memorize them and later sight read? I mean lets say you are playing on a G position then you memorize that thumb is on G, pinky is on D and so on? So anytime you see a "D" you immediately press keys with your pinky?

I am just not getting the right approach. Sight reading is so so difficult! And I don't have a private tutor to help me out either so I'm all by myself.

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#2036993 - 02/21/13 02:14 PM Re: Sight reading approach? [Re: 90abyss]
Fate Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/23/11
Posts: 52
Loc: Kansas City
My teacher has me do all three.

Work through SLOWLY (take what you think is slow, then go slower), and say the note names as you strike the keys - concentrate here on even tone / volume while striking.

Play again, slowly still. Pay attention to fingering. Say the number of each fingering when striking the key. Again concentrate on even tone / volumne.

Use a metronome, playing slowly. Count everything (1 & 2 & 3 & 4), try counting the rhythm as written (1...3.&.4.&.), group counts (1...3...)

When you are comfortable with all the above at slow speed, use a metronome to play faster. Metronome might cause "mechanical" sound - but remember the key to varying rhythm is to know it's there in first place.

If you don't have a teacher to listen & provide feedback, try a taperecorder. I was fairly stagnate until I started recording & playing back, getting a really good teacher helped even more though smile

#2037095 - 02/21/13 05:19 PM Re: Sight reading approach? [Re: 90abyss]
fizikisto Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/13/12
Posts: 1532
Loc: Hernando, MS
1) Absolutely not (if I'm understanding you). I think it's a mistake to try to associate the Letter names of the notes with what's on the score when you're playing. Of course you should learn the letter names of all the notes and where they are on the score, but you should not use that as a part of playing.

It's an extra mental step that slows you down. I'm going to exaggerate the thought process that some beginners use: "O.k., the note is on a line, that means I use every good boy deserves.....oh, it's a D, that means it's next to a C....only it's near the C above middle C....so that means I press this key here." Instead, what you want is to set up a sort of signal and response between your brain and your fingers. *See note on score here, finger goes there* No naming of notes is needed for that.

2) That's the right idea in my view. Memorizing the location of every note is of course an onerous task. What you can do instead is memorize the location of a few landmark notes. I suggest memorizing the locations of all the C's to start with, and also the G and F that are marked by the treble and bass clefs respectively. The C's are placed symmetrically on the score so they're easy to memorize, and as I said the G and F are marked by their respective clefs so they are easy to find as well. Once you have those locations solidly burned into your nervous system (you see the note on the score and know immediately where to put your finger without thinking about it), then you can use intervals to play the other notes.

Intervals are all written the same way on the score. A 2nd is a note on a line and the adjacent space (or vice verse). A third (on the score) is a note on a line and another on the adjacent line (or on a space and the adjacent space), etc... Once you get familiar with the intervals, it becomes easier. You see a note on the score, you move your hand to your nearest landmark note, then measure up (or down) the appropriate interval. It does take time (and work) to learn 1) how to recognize the intervals on the music and 2) what each interval distance feels like. But it's effort worth making.

I agree wholeheartedly with Fate's suggestion of recording your playing and listening to it. If you have a digital piano it may have an option to record what you're playing directly. If not, get a tape recorder or a sound recording ap on your smart phone (or whatever). When you're in the middle of playing, you're mind is distracted (especially if you're a beginner) So it can be hard to recognize that you're distorting the rhythm, or screwing up the dynamics, or playing notes too staccato, etc... When you're just listening to yourself play after the fact, it can be much easier to spot areas of weakness.

Here is another suggestion: I struggled with keeping time when I first started playing. I actually have a pretty decent internal clock, but I struggled with subdividing the beat when I was trying to sight read. So I got a bunch of rhythm books and started working on sight reading rhythms and clapping them out. This was a huge help to me, because now I can break the rhythms up without too much effort. The problem is that when you're playing piano you're trying to do everything at once. By isolating things when you can and mastering each skill in turn, it will make the task of playing easier. The book I recommend for that is "basics in rhythm" by Garwood Whaley. It comes with 2 cd's that have the rhythm exercises in the book all recorded so that you can make sure that you're doing the exercises correctly.

You're probably doing this, but if not, I would suggest that you should be starting out by playing your pieces Hands Separate at first. Play just the left hand part until you can play it smoothly and properly. Then play only the right hand part until you can play it smoothly and properly. Then play both hands together. Eventually, you'll get to where you don't need to do this step on a lot of music (though for more advanced pieces you might still need it). But you should keep doing it until you don't need it.

Hope that's useful, or at least interesting.

Warm Regards
Nord Stage 2 HA88
Roland RD800

#2037261 - 02/21/13 11:11 PM Re: Sight reading approach? [Re: 90abyss]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014

Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1393
Loc: Cameron Park, California
building on Fizikisto's post: there are two forms of playing when studying a piece - they are by memory or by "sight-reading."

Playing by memory could either involve having the score/sheet consciously memorized so you remember everything on the page without having to look while playing, letting you focus on what your hands are doing or you could have the piece of music memorized on just a subconscious, physical level where you can play what's written, but to consciously remember the notes, you must have the sheet music in front of you.

Playing by sight-reading involves playing with your eyes glued to the sheet music. You aren't, however, reading the notes, but instead, you read the intervals (distances) between all of the notes and move your hands accordingly across the keyboard. The goal here is to always have your eyes ahead of where/what you're playing and to recognize patterns in advance; to never break/alter the rhythm or lose your place (you can go as slow as necessary for this to be possible); and finally, to not need to look at your hands except for large jumps (feel around for where your hands are).

Both of these two disciplines should be practiced regularly and separately.
"[The trick to life isn't] just about living forever. The trick is still living with yourself forever."

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#2037286 - 02/22/13 01:10 AM Re: Sight reading approach? [Re: 90abyss]
Okanagan Musician Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 25
Loc: British Columbia, Canada
The key to sight reading is to never stop or pause.

Most people who sight read at a high level are accompanists, in which its obviously important to be able to keep up and follow along.

The beauty is when practicing sight reading, you can go as slow as you want. So go slow. Actually, go slower than you think you should.

Obviously you aren't going to be able to read each note individually, see whether its a line or space note, use your little saying (ie "every good boy...") and then find that note under your finger and press it.

So get good at reading intervals. Mainly the difference between step motion and skips, since so much music uses chiefly those two. Leaps are less common.

Before you start the piece, look through the entire thing. If you see obviously difficult notes or sections ahead (such as multiple accidentals, awkward leaps, etc.) figure out those notes in advance. There's no shame in even jotting down a quick letter name for a note or two! Figure out what you will do for fingering at that section if need be.

Then when you get to the tough part you don't have to stress about it.

Don't use hand positions (ie G position the 5th finger plays D in RH) unless your song stays within a 5-finger range (it probably won't).

If playing hands together is too difficult, aim for the first note of each bar or if there's multiple chords, aim for bass line. This is of course not recommended but a last resort if you are accompanying someone in a pressure situation.

tl;dr GO SLOW

Edited by Okanagan Musician (02/22/13 01:13 AM)
What's the #1 Secret to learning any song on the piano? Discover how to save time practicing!


#2037319 - 02/22/13 03:10 AM Re: Sight reading approach? [Re: 90abyss]
supertorpe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/10
Posts: 117
Loc: Spain. Cadiz.
If you play only by note-names, you need to be aware of what key/note is under each finger at all times.
If you play only by intervals, you need an unbreakable knowledge of thes scales and you can lose everything from a small error (snowball effect).
I think you need a holistic approach, becoming aware of both the notes and intervals, although sometimes you need to put more attention to the intervals and sometimes put it to the notes.
Started learning piano: 01 March 2010
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