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Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
#2166085 10/14/13 12:33 PM
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I've gotten some great advice on the adult beginners' forum on materials for sight-reading, and slowly-slowly, by reading just a tiny bit every single day I'm getting a little-little bit better.

Right now I'm about to hit 'play' on a video of a performance for a (non-credit) class I'm taking for fun, planning to follow along with the score as I listen.

Might this also help my sight-reading? I'm imagining it could help with quicker comprehension of rhythms. But by involving only my eyes and my ears and leaving my hands out of it, do you think there's a possible 'eye-ear' connection -- maybe of the tonal shape of each passage -- I could make by doing this?

I'm reading/listening for a completely different purpose; was just thinking I could maybe be 'killing another bird' with this stone. But if it is known to be effective in some way, I wouldn't mind a recommendation of good pieces to do this with. The one I'm embarking on listening to now is a violin solo, so: treble clef only.

Thank you - !


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Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
thorn_was_taken #2166377 10/14/13 10:28 PM
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Another thing you could do is to study theory, lots of it. When you can stare at a chord and instantly know its root, quality, and inversion you will be able to read music so much faster.


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Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
thorn_was_taken #2166470 10/15/13 02:11 AM
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Sightreading involves basically two skills:

1. The intervallic reading of the music score

2. The ability to transform the visual cue into distance cue, i.e. able to know instantly the visual cue of an interval of 4th means the actual physical distance between two keys on keyboard.

When we dig deeper of two skills, many things come to mind, like your piano skill, scales, chords, theory, etc. The eye-ear connection is there, but there is one important element in between eye and ear: psychomotor.

My suggestion on sight reading is as always: sight read a lot of different music.

Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
Alan Lai #2166529 10/15/13 06:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Alan Lai
Sightreading involves basically two skills:

1. The intervallic reading of the music score

2. The ability to transform the visual cue into distance cue, i.e. able to know instantly the visual cue of an interval of 4th means the actual physical distance between two keys on keyboard.

When we dig deeper of two skills, many things come to mind, like your piano skill, scales, chords, theory, etc. The eye-ear connection is there, but there is one important element in between eye and ear: psychomotor.

My suggestion on sight reading is as always: sight read a lot of different music.

That pattern recognition (#2) is huge. Being able to recognize patterns - "Oh, that's a C major arpeggio, with the 3rd on top!" - is what sight reading is all about.

Listening to music and following along in the score is a good way of doing this. You get to hear instantly what the black stuff on the page says. Doesn't mean you'll be able to play that right away, but it does hone in on the recognition activity. So do listen to music with the score - preferably solo piano music, and it's perfectly OK if it's way above your level of playing.

Also, how long have you been doing this? You said you are slowly improving, but you don't mention for how long. Developing sight reading does take a while. Not only should you do a lot of sight reading, but you should also play a lot of music in general. You need to encounter what a first inversion minor chord feels like, or that Alberti bass, or any other number of patterns. And you need to encounter them for a long period of time like you would when you're learning new music - not just touching on it once or twice and moving on to the next piece.

Again, this takes time - year in fact. So yes, sight read some music every day. Play along with other musicians as often as you can, but learn music as best you can. Don't let a measure go by you don't understand in your regular repertoire, because chances are you will encounter the same thing or similar in another piece somewhere down the road.


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Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
Morodiene #2166542 10/15/13 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by Alan Lai
2. The ability to transform the visual cue into distance cue, i.e. able to know instantly the visual cue of an interval of 4th means the actual physical distance between two keys on keyboard.

That pattern recognition (#2) is huge. Being able to recognize patterns - "Oh, that's a C major arpeggio, with the 3rd on top!" - is what sight reading is all about.



I'm not so sure Alan was speaking of pattern recognition. But I think it is the most important element, provided the pattern you recognize has already been thoroughly learned.
Recognizing a C major arpeggion is a huge advantage, if and only if you've played it a thousand times and can squirt it out with hand memory, rather than motor coordination.


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Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
Morodiene #2166585 10/15/13 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by Alan Lai
Sightreading involves basically two skills:

1. The intervallic reading of the music score

2. The ability to transform the visual cue into distance cue, i.e. able to know instantly the visual cue of an interval of 4th means the actual physical distance between two keys on keyboard.

When we dig deeper of two skills, many things come to mind, like your piano skill, scales, chords, theory, etc. The eye-ear connection is there, but there is one important element in between eye and ear: psychomotor.

My suggestion on sight reading is as always: sight read a lot of different music.

That pattern recognition (#2) is huge. Being able to recognize patterns - "Oh, that's a C major arpeggio, with the 3rd on top!" - is what sight reading is all about.

Listening to music and following along in the score is a good way of doing this. You get to hear instantly what the black stuff on the page says. Doesn't mean you'll be able to play that right away, but it does hone in on the recognition activity. So do listen to music with the score - preferably solo piano music, and it's perfectly OK if it's way above your level of playing.

Also, how long have you been doing this? You said you are slowly improving, but you don't mention for how long. Developing sight reading does take a while. Not only should you do a lot of sight reading, but you should also play a lot of music in general. You need to encounter what a first inversion minor chord feels like, or that Alberti bass, or any other number of patterns. And you need to encounter them for a long period of time like you would when you're learning new music - not just touching on it once or twice and moving on to the next piece.

Again, this takes time - year in fact. So yes, sight read some music every day. Play along with other musicians as often as you can, but learn music as best you can. Don't let a measure go by you don't understand in your regular repertoire, because chances are you will encounter the same thing or similar in another piece somewhere down the road.


I wasn't talking about pattern recognition. That will be in #1, instead of #2.

And listening to music with scores is only good for #1, which, relatively speaking, less people having troubles with it.

Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
TimR #2166592 10/15/13 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by Alan Lai
2. The ability to transform the visual cue into distance cue, i.e. able to know instantly the visual cue of an interval of 4th means the actual physical distance between two keys on keyboard.

That pattern recognition (#2) is huge. Being able to recognize patterns - "Oh, that's a C major arpeggio, with the 3rd on top!" - is what sight reading is all about.



I'm not so sure Alan was speaking of pattern recognition. But I think it is the most important element, provided the pattern you recognize has already been thoroughly learned.
Recognizing a C major arpeggion is a huge advantage, if and only if you've played it a thousand times and can squirt it out with hand memory, rather than motor coordination.

Pattern recognition is important. However, more people are having troubles with establishing the, how do I say it, the sense of distance between keys in relation to the pattern.

Say you see a B Major Triad arpeggio with a 3rd on top, when break down, it contains a major 3rd, minor 3rd, perfect 4th, and another major 3rd. You have to immediately know which finger responsible for which note according to your own hand size, and which finger has to go up for black keys, which finger has to go low for white keys, etc.

This is what I meant by #2. Transform the visual cue(s) into distance cue(s). Most people ignored this important aspect of sight reading.

Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
Alan Lai #2166620 10/15/13 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Alan Lai


I wasn't talking about pattern recognition. That will be in #1, instead of #2.

And listening to music with scores is only good for #1, which, relatively speaking, less people having troubles with it.
OK, I misunderstood what you meant by #2 then. However, if you weren't talking about pattern recognition, then that would not be a part of 1 or 2 wink .

I wouldn't agree that #1 is what people have less trouble with. I think it is this precisely what most people when they say they are bad sight readers mean. It's not necessarily the translation into what to do with your fingers that slows them down, but knowing what they are supposed to be playing.

Those that I've encountered who are poor sight readers will play note-to-note, i.e., C-E-G-C, rather than see it's a C major arpeggio, or read C-D-E-F-G rather than realizing it's part of a C major scale.


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Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
Morodiene #2166634 10/15/13 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by Alan Lai


I wasn't talking about pattern recognition. That will be in #1, instead of #2.

And listening to music with scores is only good for #1, which, relatively speaking, less people having troubles with it.
OK, I misunderstood what you meant by #2 then. However, if you weren't talking about pattern recognition, then that would not be a part of 1 or 2 wink .

I wouldn't agree that #1 is what people have less trouble with. I think it is this precisely what most people when they say they are bad sight readers mean. It's not necessarily the translation into what to do with your fingers that slows them down, but knowing what they are supposed to be playing.

Those that I've encountered who are poor sight readers will play note-to-note, i.e., C-E-G-C, rather than see it's a C major arpeggio, or read C-D-E-F-G rather than realizing it's part of a C major scale.

Pattern recognition is exactly part of #1, because intervals are the basic building block of music, instead of individual notes as most people's misconception.
Each and every pianistic pattern are built by intervals.

Last edited by Alan Lai; 10/15/13 10:40 AM.
Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
Alan Lai #2166644 10/15/13 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Alan Lai
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by Alan Lai


I wasn't talking about pattern recognition. That will be in #1, instead of #2.

And listening to music with scores is only good for #1, which, relatively speaking, less people having troubles with it.
OK, I misunderstood what you meant by #2 then. However, if you weren't talking about pattern recognition, then that would not be a part of 1 or 2 wink .

I wouldn't agree that #1 is what people have less trouble with. I think it is this precisely what most people when they say they are bad sight readers mean. It's not necessarily the translation into what to do with your fingers that slows them down, but knowing what they are supposed to be playing.

Those that I've encountered who are poor sight readers will play note-to-note, i.e., C-E-G-C, rather than see it's a C major arpeggio, or read C-D-E-F-G rather than realizing it's part of a C major scale.

Pattern recognition is exactly part of #1, because intervals are the basic building block of music, instead of individual notes as most people's misconception.
Each and every pianistic pattern are built by intervals.
I was referring to your "I wasn't talking about pattern recognition. " comment.


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Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
Alan Lai #2166666 10/15/13 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Alan Lai
Pattern recognition is exactly part of #1, because intervals are the basic building block of music, instead of individual notes as most people's misconception.
Each and every pianistic pattern are built by intervals.


Technically true, but interval to interval reading is far too slow. Good sightreaders recognize much larger patterns, AND are most effective when the patterns they recognize are patterns they have previously perfected playing.

An Alberti bass is built of many small intervals. And you can sightread one that way, if you have to. But you're much better off recognizing it as an Alberti bass, a pattern that you can retrieve from memory, and one that you've practiced so thoroughly it just falls off the hand.


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Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
TimR #2166683 10/15/13 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Alan Lai
Pattern recognition is exactly part of #1, because intervals are the basic building block of music, instead of individual notes as most people's misconception.
Each and every pianistic pattern are built by intervals.


Technically true, but interval to interval reading is far too slow. Good sightreaders recognize much larger patterns, AND are most effective when the patterns they recognize are patterns they have previously perfected playing.

An Alberti bass is built of many small intervals. And you can sightread one that way, if you have to. But you're much better off recognizing it as an Alberti bass, a pattern that you can retrieve from memory, and one that you've practiced so thoroughly it just falls off the hand.
+1 That is definitely the best way to sightread - the larger the chunks you can make, the easier it is.


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Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
thorn_was_taken #2166687 10/15/13 01:20 PM
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I think, or maybe speculate wildly is more accurate, that you not only need to recognize patterns, but you have to spend some time mastering the patterns.

If you do a lot of novel sightreading, you'll see an Alberti bass, then a Bach chorale, then a broadway hit, then some block chords, etc.

You might not run into another Alberti bass until the next 100th piece.

You might want to stick with one type, and read a very large number of pieces with Alberti basses. Or, you might want to stop after sightreading the first one and identify it as a pattern to master. In the long run the time spent thoroughly learning it might be more productive than the equivalent time sightreading.

That is, if I'm correct that sightreading is not a monolithic skill, but a collection of related skills.


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Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
thorn_was_taken #2167217 10/16/13 12:47 PM
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Wow. Thank you *everyone*, for your amazing insights.

I only made the decision to learn to properly sight-read less than a year ago. I was delayed on 'jumping in' by not quite knowing where to begin; desire not to overtax my teacher on it (I don't like overusing paid lesson time for that); and fear of failure. All I can say so far about my own experience, is that it is imperative that a learner (and maybe the practiced hands as well) read a little bit every, EVERY day. I am starting very slowly, with books written by a teacher expressly for sightreading instruction, alternating with the tasty little surprises in Mikrokosmos I. In my lessons, my teacher occasionally has me play from Mikrokosmos II. So that is harder, and good for teaching me which patterns I have more trouble recognizing -- and for practice at not freaking out or allowing frustration to take over. (I try not to say my grownup mad-words during my lesson...)

Your theory-comments are all brilliant. I'd not realized the connection between music theory and music reading. But it really is the grammar, isn't it. That bit about paying special attention to how a pattern *ends* is especially helpful, and something I'd not thought of. I keep hearing 'look ahead!' and always wondered 'what am I looking *for*!?' That *has* to be at least part of it.

Re. psychomotor: I have a weird quasi-advantage in that. Not 'gifted', but good spatial sense to start with, sothe ability to learn that is in my wiring. Right now, because I'm an adult 're-learner', I am re-playing a piece I once had memorized. (Teacher: "Let's start this!" -- me: "Hey I used to play that...!") So I'm having a very interesting time using the music, working to focus on the note-patterns, and *not* looking at my hands, trying to feel the intervals. Between that, and the scales I play (all of them, every day), it may be starting to come together, but I still have not fully connected those sensations into a systematic knowledge that I can control. I'm still in the stage of saying to my teacher, "Hey this passage feels to me like this other thing in this other piece. Am I crazy?" I'm starting not to be crazy more and more.

It's a complicated set of stuff. Really rewarding, though, as things begin to (maybe - heh) fall together.


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Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
thorn_was_taken #2167234 10/16/13 01:50 PM
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It is very hard for the beginner to practice sightreading.

If you can only work on sightreading two grades below, it would seem you have to get to grade 3 before you can start.

I suspect one of the reasons people struggle with it might be they are reading music too far above their level.


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Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
TimR #2167274 10/16/13 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by TimR
It is very hard for the beginner to practice sightreading.

If you can only work on sightreading two grades below, it would seem you have to get to grade 3 before you can start.

I suspect one of the reasons people struggle with it might be they are reading music too far above their level.


I agree re. trying to read music 'above one's level'. I think what I like about my books, is that the educator who wrote them knew how to gradually increase the complexity/difficulty in a muscally logical way. Probably not something the autodidact would have the first clue about. Choosing or composing good musical examples would be hard work in the simplest circumstances, because one needs to know both the instrument and the repertoire so well.


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Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
Alan Lai #2167370 10/16/13 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Alan Lai
Sightreading involves basically two skills:

1. The intervallic reading of the music score

2. The ability to transform the visual cue into distance cue, i.e. able to know instantly the visual cue of an interval of 4th means the actual physical distance between two keys on keyboard.

When we dig deeper of two skills, many things come to mind, like your piano skill, scales, chords, theory, etc. The eye-ear connection is there, but there is one important element in between eye and ear: psychomotor.

My suggestion on sight reading is as always: sight read a lot of different music.

Alan, I would go further. If reading becomes a strong skill, you have to read a lot. It doesn't have to be sight-reading, though that is certainly part of it.

The biggest is problem is that memorization usually cuts off reading because students begin memorizing what they are trying to read long before they can play anything close to the right tempo, so they complete the learning process through memorization of some kind, often nothing more than muscle memory.

Re: Question for the Teachers re. sight-reading practice.
Gary D. #2167599 10/17/13 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by Alan Lai
Sightreading involves basically two skills:

1. The intervallic reading of the music score

2. The ability to transform the visual cue into distance cue, i.e. able to know instantly the visual cue of an interval of 4th means the actual physical distance between two keys on keyboard.

When we dig deeper of two skills, many things come to mind, like your piano skill, scales, chords, theory, etc. The eye-ear connection is there, but there is one important element in between eye and ear: psychomotor.

My suggestion on sight reading is as always: sight read a lot of different music.

Alan, I would go further. If reading becomes a strong skill, you have to read a lot. It doesn't have to be sight-reading, though that is certainly part of it.

The biggest is problem is that memorization usually cuts off reading because students begin memorizing what they are trying to read long before they can play anything close to the right tempo, so they complete the learning process through memorization of some kind, often nothing more than muscle memory.


[Muscle memory + a kind of not-excellent 'playing by ear' is my own better-worn path/childhood bad habit. (Perri Knize's book helped me figure this out, and also motivated me to quit messing around and get serious about learning to read.)]


thorn

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