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#2702612 - 01/06/18 11:04 AM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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Started my more structured sight reading program again yesterday… I have tried this in the past, but have never been able to go beyond three weeks at a time!

There are three parts, and I set the timer for each:
Easy classical (literally classical style), no thorny key signatures, no complicated patterns.
Bach chorales.
Ad lib.

I think it's a great system, the only drawback is that it just has that disciplined, virtuous feeling of doing something that you have to *make* yourself do. However, I don't know if sight reading will ever be just a normal part of my musical life, the way playing by ear is. It requires such a massive rethinking & reworking of how I take in musical information… and that goes beyond the simple fact of "just doing it."

Nevertheless, this thread and just doing it is an excellent resource,… Which I keep saying.

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#2702615 - 01/06/18 11:27 AM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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One of the things that has really helped my sight reading, is to do a quick analysis of the piece before I begin. I answer the following questions:

-What key is it in? Sometimes I play a one octave scale to lock in the key.
-What is the smallest note value, and how am I going to count the piece?
-What patterns do I recognize? (Scales, arpeggios, dotted rhythms)
- Any clef changes?
-Where are the tricky parts?
- What are the dynamics?

After a little practice, this only takes about 30 seconds for a one page piece. While analyzing the piece I try to hear it in my head. Then I count in two bars and begin. I keep going no matter what, and try to keep the rhythm constant. A metronome is very helpful for this. If something goes wrong, I analyze the problem and play the piece again. This system has really helped my sight reading improve.

I have been sight reading from three books- Paul Harris, Join the Dots, and the ABRSM Sight Reading specimen book, as well as RCM and ABRSM books 2-3 grades below my current level. I really like these books because they have a mix of musical types from baroque, classical, Romantic, and modern.

#2702627 - 01/06/18 12:13 PM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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I use the RCM books, but another thing that has helped is the 40 piece challenge. I'm always looking for something new to try. I may not try the whole piece, but maybe some part of it. If I like it, I'll work through it more and use it as a piece for the 40 piece challenge. This morning I looked at Black Forest Polka in the Alfreds 2 book. I was able to get through it pretty easy, but it's not a hard piece. Basic chords in the left, and an inversions exercise for the right hand.


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#2702882 - 01/07/18 01:07 PM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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Drat. Already missed a day on January 5th. Changing habits is hard. frown

I had my piano lesson on the 6th but then felt ill the rest of the day, so I didn't sight-read either of those days.

Also, a tweak to the rules if it's not obvious: sight-reading means reading a piece you've never read before. After you've read through a piece the first time, revisiting it means you're "practicing" instead of "sight-reading." smile

Today I'm back to it with two more Greg Maroney pieces: "Beside Still Waters" and "Breathe." The latter was another long one, 330 measures.

Last edited by Colin Dunn; 01/07/18 01:21 PM.

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#2703214 - 01/08/18 01:59 PM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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Got in more sight-reading today. Two more Greg Maroney pieces: "Brookdale" and "Castle of Wonders."

I think I will update the thread weekly with my sight-reading log, or report if I miss another day.


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#2703248 - 01/08/18 03:51 PM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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Originally Posted by Colin Dunn

The three pieces I read yesterday would be around Grade 6-7 difficulty.


I had understood that this section of the forum was for adult beginners - e.g. ppl such as myself who have been learning for a year or two.
Have I got it wrong?

#2703275 - 01/08/18 05:39 PM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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IMO almost all of the best sight readers never forced themselves to practice sight reading. They did a lot of it because they loved music and wanted to hear/play it as much as they could. They never thought of it as practicing sight reading.

I also think they spent most of their time sight reading the highest quality examples of whatever kind of music they loved. If that was classical music, it would be music by the great classical composers. I don't think sight reading mediocre music is very rewarding or motivating.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 01/08/18 05:40 PM.
#2703286 - 01/08/18 06:14 PM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
IMO almost all of the best sight readers never forced themselves to practice sight reading. They did a lot of it because they loved music and wanted to hear/play it as much as they could. They never thought of it as practicing sight reading..


Don't you think their great sight-reading ability is what *caused* their great enjoyment of the activity? ... that's what I think when I hear people say blithely, Oh, I just love sight reading, I can sight read for hours and just lose myself in it…
It's a case of success breeding success.

#2703293 - 01/08/18 06:47 PM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: cefinow]  
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Originally Posted by cefinow
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
IMO almost all of the best sight readers never forced themselves to practice sight reading. They did a lot of it because they loved music and wanted to hear/play it as much as they could. They never thought of it as practicing sight reading..


Don't you think their great sight-reading ability is what *caused* their great enjoyment of the activity? ... that's what I think when I hear people say blithely, Oh, I just love sight reading, I can sight read for hours and just lose myself in it…
It's a case of success breeding success.

It's certainly a case of success breeding success, but it's hard-earned success involving a lot of hours of 'work'. But most of us enjoyed the process of discovery so much that it didn't feel at all like work.

Whereas if I'd been practicing sight-reading from dedicated sight-reading books, it would definitely be work.

I read from my teenage diaries, for example, when I was at Grade 3 (i.e. three years into lessons), I decided to have a go at Schubert's (easiest) Impromptu in A flat, D935/2:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gL-2Ok0zoOA (from 10:00)

It took me over half an hour to sight-read through it once (it's a seven-minute piece when you include the repeats) - with lots of mistakes along the way. I didn't care, because I was engrossed in the tune and the harmonies. Yes, I was counting the lines & spaces for many of the chords and notes.

I'd think most people here would be better sight-readers than that after three years of non-stop lessons and daily practicing.


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#2703297 - 01/08/18 07:07 PM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: cefinow]  
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Originally Posted by cefinow
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
IMO almost all of the best sight readers never forced themselves to practice sight reading. They did a lot of it because they loved music and wanted to hear/play it as much as they could. They never thought of it as practicing sight reading..


Don't you think their great sight-reading ability is what *caused* their great enjoyment of the activity? ... that's what I think when I hear people say blithely, Oh, I just love sight reading, I can sight read for hours and just lose myself in it…
It's a case of success breeding success.
It's more a case of practice breeding success. Most excellent sight readers didn't start out that way although they may have been better at it than other pianists with the same years of playing.

If one doesn't like sight reading than one may be trying to sight read pieces that are too difficult. I also think the approach of never stopping or slowing down is not such a good idea, especially in the beginning.


Last edited by pianoloverus; 01/08/18 07:11 PM.
#2703321 - 01/08/18 09:08 PM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Lillith]  
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Originally Posted by Lillith

I had understood that this section of the forum was for adult beginners - e.g. ppl such as myself who have been learning for a year or two.
Have I got it wrong?


Maybe a little bit. This forum has a lot of discussion of pieces that are not really "beginning" level - such as threads about Chopin, ragtime, etc. I wouldn't say Grade 6-7 is "beginner" level, but neither is Chopin. Even Ludovico Einadi pieces, a favorite in this forum, are more "intermediate" than "beginning" in skill level.

Everyone, regardless of their current skill level, can benefit from sight-reading more music. Better reading fluency = shorter times to learn new pieces.

So don't let this thread discourage you if you're just starting out. You can sight-read music at a level comfortable for you and work up as you progress.

I started this thread to encourage everyone to sight-read music and support me on my journey as I try to get more reading fluency and shrink the practice time required to play a piece for others.


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#2703331 - 01/08/18 10:28 PM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: cefinow]  
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Originally Posted by cefinow
Don't you think their great sight-reading ability is what *caused* their great enjoyment of the activity?


I am a very good reader but not necessarily a super proficient sight reader.

But the answer here for me is "no".

I did start as a kid. I don't have good ears and my memorization is not the best. (As a kid it was a lot of weak muscle memory. As an adult, it doesn't happen at all.)

This meant that as a kid, I literally counted each line and space from middle C to figure out what note to hit. It was pretty painstaking, but I didn't necessarily think of it that way at the time.

Probably in middleish-school to high school I didn't really have to think about individual notes, except ledger lines.

I kind of read in a 'default' key of C. Key signatures used to be pretty dodgy because I would 'forget' what was sharped and flatted. Accidentals were kind of similar in that way.

It was sometime in my late 20s when I sort of went, "oh, chords have shapes!" and that helped a lot over the next decade or so.

And it is pretty recently where I can go, "oh, chords are in keys" and that helps some, though I am still very apt to screw things up.

So, at least in my case, whatever sight reading ability I have is literally because that was the only path I had to approach doing the music. Mind you, it was always conceptually easy in that I knew what the lines and spaces meant and how key signatures should work and how accidentals should work, but it was very difficult for me to put into practice.



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#2703351 - 01/09/18 01:58 AM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
... one may be trying to sight read pieces that are too difficult.

I honesty believe that is at the heart of it. It’s not really practicing if you have to keep stopping to learn it first. Learn it well first, then you can practice it ... and if you disagree, see the quote above ... thumb


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#2703355 - 01/09/18 02:36 AM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
IMO almost all of the best sight readers never forced themselves to practice sight reading. They did a lot of it because they loved music and wanted to hear/play it as much as they could. They never thought of it as practicing sight reading.

I enjoy sight reading but I don't have time to go on for hours. As busy adults we have to prioritize piano among many other life activities and sight reading among many other piano activities and often using method books is the most efficient way to do that. It doesn't mean I have to force myself to do anything. In fact, I'm often dissapointed that my 15 minutes of sight reading is over.


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#2703633 - 01/10/18 07:27 AM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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I've been using a metronome with some of my easiest sight reading choices. However, I have to set the tempo ridiculously low so that I can stay focused, and not start randomly stabbing at notes in my anxiety to "keep pace."
Either that, or ridiculously *easy* pieces with a more moderate tempo.

There's something about keeping my eyes and attention focused on the notes, that is my biggest challenge, and it may be something that better sight readers don't even notice that they do. I don't mean looking at the notes, I mean seeing/understanding the notes.

#2704338 - 01/12/18 04:12 PM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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Missed a couple of days again on Wednesday and Thursday... frown

Today I read "Elementals" by Greg Maroney. Some tricky rhythms and another long piece.


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#2704594 - 01/13/18 12:33 PM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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Originally Posted by Colin Dunn
Missed a couple of days again on Wednesday and Thursday... frown

Today I read "Elementals" by Greg Maroney. Some tricky rhythms and another long piece.


thumb
All right, back on track...

Tbh I hadn't quite realized that "every day" implies "no weekends off" and I am allowing myself one day off a week! Brain needs vacation time sleep

#2705902 - Yesterday at 01:01 AM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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I was doing really well until this past weekend, when I had a guest staying. But I've only missed a couple of days so that's better than last year!

I've been using the "Improve Your Sightreading! A Piece a Week" books by Paul Harris. (They are included with the Tido Music iPad app.) Books for Grade 1 and 2 were simple enough, and I would do 4 or 5 a night. I'm now on Book 3, which is a bit harder. They are perfect if you are studying for an exam (I'm not), as they have obvious little trip-ups in them (like switching from bass to treble clef, or using staccato in one hand and legato in the other, and then switching hands).

I like that each piece gives you the metronome reading. I find I can play each one a little "crooked" the first time around, as I figure out the proper rhythm and hear the melody. Then I turn on the metronome and can play it at speed the second time through, which is quite satisfying. I reckon in a few months I'll be able to do them again as I can't imagine I'll remember them.

There are also lots of other easy books in the Tido app, like the series of "Little Pepper" books by Elissa Milne, that I'll try next.


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#2705932 - Yesterday at 04:23 AM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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Awesome QuinGold! I was going to give this thread a thumb soon as well. Thanks to it's motivation, I've only missed one day since New Year. The note recognition part is slowly getting a little easier, so I'm starting to be able to pay more attention to rhythm and counting now ( something else I really need to work on ). I'm not just using the hymnal anymore, I'm mixing it up with other resources I have laying around.
This has really helped me face how depending on memorisation will limit me, and how being a poor reader affects the productivity of lessons! Not to mention it's helping with the whole 'staring at my hands' thing.
Anyhoo, a long long way to go yet, but I feel good that I've started on a problem that needs to be fixed....I hope everyone is feeling the same smile

#2705937 - Yesterday at 04:35 AM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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This is a very interesting thread. MOID has really meant a difference for my growth and I like this idea for sight reading advancement. Is it too late to begin (2nd week in January already?)


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#2706070 - Yesterday at 11:23 AM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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Terry Michael: Today is always a good day to begin! This is all about self-motivation. I find just knowing that I committed to sightreading for 5 - 10 minutes a day to be a real motivator. I have a timer on top of the piano and I set it to 10 mins. That way I don't forget to practice my pieces for the 40 Pieces a Year, and I don't get too tired (sightreading is quite brain taxing).

But if you would like to be able to read faster, the only way to do it is to read every day. There are a few good YouTube videos to help as well. Read a few, as some have very good tips. The best one I found mentioned first picking out all the accidentals (like F# in the key of G), as well as seeing how much of a span your hands have to do (top note and bottom note) as this helps immediately with fingering.

I also play pieces twice. It's just not satisfying for me to play a piece badly when I know I could play it much better the second time around. I seem to remember in an exam that the examiner would say "would you like to try that again" - I think they are looking to see how well you picked it up after the first run through. It's amazing how much better it is the second time around. If it isn't, then you are trying pieces that are too hard - which is not a bad thing per se. But bear in mind that if it's at your grade level, then you are still learning to read unfamiliar notes - just don't expect to play it at tempo after one or two goes!


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#2706076 - Yesterday at 11:37 AM Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: QuinGold]  
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Originally Posted by QuinGold

I also play pieces twice. It's just not satisfying for me to play a piece badly when I know I could play it much better the second time around. I seem to remember in an exam that the examiner would say "would you like to try that again" - I think they are looking to see how well you picked it up after the first run through. It's amazing how much better it is the second time around. If it isn't, then you are trying pieces that are too hard - which is not a bad thing per se. But bear in mind that if it's at your grade level, then you are still learning to read unfamiliar notes - just don't expect to play it at tempo after one or two goes!


At least in the ABRSM exams, you only get one shot. You have 30 seconds to prepare however. At least at the lower levels that is plenty of time to play through the piece before the test begins.

In practice I always play through a second or even a third time. Practice is about correcting what one does wrong, so that the next time you encounter something similar, you will be ready for it. So the second play through the errors are fresh in my mind and I can generally fix them.

#2706460 - 6 hours ago Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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Originally Posted by SuzyUpright
Awesome QuinGold! I was going to give this thread a thumb soon as well. Thanks to it's motivation, I've only missed one day since New Year.


Me too! If a thread goes quiet, it's hard to tell if anyone is still participating, or else everybody is very happily participating and not needing to post anything! Lol...

***********

Sometimes I find it difficult just to sit down and get my brain started on sight reading… It's like that feeling when you're at the swimming pool in the summertime, lying in the sun, and you're nice and warm, and then you go to jump in the water… Just the shock of transition. And then you get used to the water, and then you get out and go lie on your towel, then you get nice and warm again, and then the next time you go to jump in the pool… It's the same thing! Another shock!

That's how I feel about sight reading… I never get used to the feeling and then *stay* used to the feeling, it's always sort of a shock.Maybe it's just brain mode switching shock. grin

There's something very right-brainy about sight reading that seems like such a change from how my brain normally works. It's fine when I'm immersed in it, but it seems like I spend a lot of time just walking around the edge of the swimming pool trying to build up my courage…

If this makes little sense to anyone else, OK!

#2706509 - 5 hours ago Re: Sight-reading challenge for 2018 [Re: Colin Dunn]  
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Because I have a digital piano, I have been using www.pianomarvel.com. I signed up for a free account 30 day trial at the end of November and have taken a sight reading test every day since then except for a few days over Christmas when I was at my daughters house and without my piano. I actually signed up for the full (paid) account at the end of the 30 days. Each day I get a score.

They say its standardized, but as far as I can work out the only place calculating the score and standardizing is Piano Marvel itself, so I don't think it is really anything standardised. The say the border between beginner and intermediate is a score of 473. When I first started I could barely climb out of the 300 range, but after a couple of Months I seem to be consistently in the 400 range and right now am hovering around this 473 mark.

The tests start out pretty simple - and you keep going with them getting harder and harder. You have to score better than 80% on a test or you loose a life, with 3 lives lost you stop the test and it remembers your score at that point. These tests are all hands together and the scoring is pretty brutal based on how many notes were accurate and on time versus those that weren't

As well as the test every day, they have a library, and one of the items I found was a mini site reading boot camp using hymns. I went through that completely a week or so ago, and when I finished that I have now found a Classical Music Bootcamp which I had done a couple of levels on (there is about 10 levels in total). On the boot camp you can choose to a starting stage - at the very simplest level you do pieces hand separately, I have chosen the intermediate starting point and with that you play each piece as right hand only 3 times, from slow to fast, then left hand 3 times slow to fast, then hands together 3 times. The intermediate starting point is at Stage 7, and stages 7, 8 and 9 are like that, When you complete that you move onto stage 10 which is the whole lot to play again hands together.

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Protek MPL-1 Grease on Grand Knuckles
by David Boyce. 01/19/18 05:20 PM
Mendelssohn Songs without words op 19
by Beemer. 01/19/18 02:18 PM
So glad I bought this book in the 1970's
by RaggedKeyPresser. 01/19/18 12:52 PM
Middle keys don't play on Kawai CN43
by flyingiguana. 01/19/18 12:13 PM
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