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Sight reading abilities #2805637
01/23/19 06:55 PM
01/23/19 06:55 PM
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Cuphead Offline OP
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Are there any of you guys being able to sight read , or to generally read pieces very fast? I know its relative, but in my case, whenever I learn a piece, its usually my memory which saves me, its a bit difficult to play a piece while looking at the notes

Do top pianists rely on their memory? or are they capable of reading and mastering a new difficult piece very fast?

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Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Cuphead] #2805790
01/24/19 07:47 AM
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I guess there are some that have great memories but who are not great sight readers, and so they only need to stumble through a piece few times to have it memorized... or vice versa... but every professional pianist obviously relies on their memory to a great extent. Not just the top ones.

I'm kind of in the middle. I'm a good (but nothing special) sight reader, and I have a good memory. Perhaps slightly better than my sight reading capabilities.

And yeah, you often have to learn new works very fast. Smaller pieces in a couple days, large works sometimes in weeks... Due to my laziness, I recently had around 3 and a half weeks to get Berg's op. 1 sonata up to performance standard from scratch. Hours of daily hard labour on a depressing piece of music. Not recommended. Mephisto waltz took me 3-4 weeks, because I had lots of new technical challenges to overcome.

Probably nothing special for some; though it's one of my greatest efforts so far. Save perhaps the 1st mvt of Prok 2 which I also procrastinated on... one whole section ALMOST slipped from my memory in performance.

But there are people out there who can sight read Ligeti etudes and/or literally look through scores of difficult music ONCE, then put said score away and proceed to play it to near-perfection from memory, right then and there. And still remember it just as well, weeks or months later. Though I'm not sure if any current top pianists possess the afromentioned abilities of perfect eidetic memory and perfect recall. Would be cool to find out, though.

I've butchered a few things as well, though, when I procrastinated too much and miscalculated my time. So, yeah, while learning fast and obtaining new techniques quickly is a valuable skill to have, and a few panic-filled periods (preferably caused by outside factors and not your own procrastination...) of practice to meet deadlines are good ways to develop that skill, it's not an excuse to become lazy. I'm definitely trying to steer myself away from that...


I need SOME sort of help; I have yet to figure out what kind.
Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Cuphead] #2805837
01/24/19 09:55 AM
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My teacher used to observe that people tend to either be naturally good at sight reading, or at memorising pieces, but rarely both.

Both skills can be trained, of course, but like with everything else, there's a natural aptitude that some have, without trying.


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Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Cuphead] #2805848
01/24/19 10:10 AM
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Sight reading well comes with practice and experience. Skills required include the ability to have good time, proprioception (knowing where your hands are and ability to hit a note quickly without looking or with a quick glance), experience with different keys, sharps and flats, chords and inversions, scale runs and arpeggios. After 5 years without specifically working on sight reading I’m getting better but far from fluent. If I had focused on this more I’m sure id be better. But it’s the culmination of a variety of skills that makes this happen.


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Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Cuphead] #2805865
01/24/19 10:43 AM
01/24/19 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Cuphead
Are there any of you guys being able to sight read , or to generally read pieces very fast?

I am diligently working through this 12-workbook series doing two exercises every day. Just graduated from the 2nd of the 12 workbooks yesterday! Woot! smile

Originally Posted by Cuphead
I know its relative, but in my case, whenever I learn a piece, its usually my memory which saves me, its a bit difficult to play a piece while looking at the notes

Yeah, I know what you mean. I remember pieces after I play for a while, whether I try to or not, and it's such a crutch. If I try to, I can memorize about a page in an hour or two. But if I don't try to and diligently look at the score, it still happens by itself after a few days. That's probably why my sight-reading is so poor. But I am having to make a special effort on working this issue of mine - see above!


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Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2805871
01/24/19 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
I am diligently working through this 12-workbook series doing two exercises every day. Just graduated from the 2nd of the 12 workbooks yesterday! Woot! smile

I'm once again amazed by your dedication!!


Sibylle

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Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Cuphead] #2806953
01/26/19 01:04 PM
01/26/19 01:04 PM
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I am a slow reader. Can read at a lower level but working on it.


Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Cuphead] #2806971
01/26/19 01:41 PM
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John Ogdon was legendary for his sight reading ability. Josef Hofmann supposedly was not a great sight reader but had an incredible ear and of course technical ability that made it easy for him to learn. There is a story of him hearing Josef Lhevinne play Liszt's Die Loreley a piece he has never heard or known at a early concert and later that night shocking Lhevinne playing it as an encore at his own recital from memory.

Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Cuphead] #2809728
02/02/19 06:12 AM
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It is different from person to person, but I really think this has to do with how one starts learning to play the piano. Reading and playing at the same time is a very complex skill with so much multi-tasking, and as soon as one gets away with learning by ear in the first few years, sight-reading suffers (and with it, I truly believe, the ability to learn music faithfully and to treat the score seriously). As a teacher I feel very strongly about this, and right from the very first 3-finger pieces I give students a series of specific steps they need to follow to make sure that they develop the ability to read (always starting mentally- surveying the score, marking phrases and breath marks, sometimes also circling beats if necessary, then for each phrase clapping rhythm while counting to the smallest subdivision, clapping rhythm while counting pulse, naming notes while clapping rhythm then pulse, singing notes while clapping pulse then rhythm, speaking words (if they are there) while clapping pulse then rhythm, singing words while clapping rhythm then pulse, finding hand position, playing while counting to the smallest subdivision, playing while counting pulse, playing while singing notes, playing while singing words. This is for single-melody pieces- there are more steps when hands starts playing together and one is reading two lines at once). It can sound long but eventually becomes quick and automatic, and it makes sure that eyes are always faster than fingers, that the mind can always name a note and sing it and see the next one before one presses the key down. The key, after getting to the last step where one does everything together (i.e. playing), is going slowly enough for the mind to assimilate everything- a slow-enough tempo is not one where you are not making mistakes, but one where you feel calm, where your mind and your eyes are in control.

It goes way too slowly for most students in the first two years, and I've faced lots of issues with impatient parents, and it's a sad waste of time with students who never practice. But I've had a couple who had the discipline to follow it faithfully (and to not resort to shortcuts or to youtube) and became fluent sight-readers and independent learners, mastering at least two new pieces a week besides their busy school schedule and enjoying the ability to go through music scores for fun.




“Love has to be the starting point – love of music. It is one of my firmest convictions that love always produces some knowledge, while knowledge only rarely produces something similar to love.”
Arthur Schnabel

Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2810243
02/03/19 02:51 PM
02/03/19 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Cuphead
Are there any of you guys being able to sight read , or to generally read pieces very fast?

I am diligently working through this 12-workbook series doing two exercises every day. Just graduated from the 2nd of the 12 workbooks yesterday! Woot!


I'm just stating to work through these. 😊

It's weird. I have no problem sightreading certain pieces, and others I find really difficult. As per usual with me, Bach is often difficult, but Chopin I find so much easier. I think there's something wrong with my brain. 🙃


Lisa

Currently working on Bach 2 part inventions, Chopin mazurkas, and some Keith Snell Level 5 stuffs, lol. smile
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Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: cmb13] #2810300
02/03/19 06:06 PM
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I use the Online Sight Reading Factory. I believe it is free for a trial period. It was like $35 for the year. It generates different sight reading exercises as different levels and key signatures. My teacher told me about this, I try to do a few a day and we work on it at lessons. I just bring my tablet to my lessons.


Deb
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Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Cuphead] #2810350
02/03/19 09:24 PM
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I'm less than a year into lessons and a poor reader. What has been helping me is to do two things;

1. Follow the score and avoid watching hands. With poor reading skills I find myself memorizing and stop looking at the score constantly, but I have been working at this and following the music until I am fluent enough to move on to something else.

2. Buy a book of easy hymns and "easy piano" stuff. Make it a goal to work through a piece and don't look at the hands. Go straight through as slow as you need to be at least moderately proficient. Again, for me that is a reading exercise not so much learning a piece so I try and just focus on playing fluidly and slow enough to avoid any mistakes.

This seems so intuitive, but I avoid it habitually; to learn to read music well one has to....read music...a lot.

Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: spartan928] #2810487
02/04/19 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by spartan928

This seems so intuitive, but I avoid it habitually; to learn to read music well one has to....read music...a lot.

This is so obvious that many learners (apparently) prefer not to do it, and instead go for 'sight-reading apps' and other techie (and useless) stuff that involves naming notes that a computer generates randomly. Which has about as much relevance to real music as football has to Argentine tango. (Yes, both require kicking the legs.....).

I've never met a good sight-reader who didn't sight-read through lots and lots of real music (good, bad or indifferent), and spent a lot of time doing so, usually just for the sheer enjoyment (and sense of discovery) of it.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: bennevis] #2810557
02/04/19 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by spartan928

This seems so intuitive, but I avoid it habitually; to learn to read music well one has to....read music...a lot.

This is so obvious that many learners (apparently) prefer not to do it, and instead go for 'sight-reading apps' and other techie (and useless) stuff that involves naming notes that a computer generates randomly. Which has about as much relevance to real music as football has to Argentine tango. (Yes, both require kicking the legs.....).

I've never met a good sight-reader who didn't sight-read through lots and lots of real music (good, bad or indifferent), and spent a lot of time doing so, usually just for the sheer enjoyment (and sense of discovery) of it.
Exactly.

But not only are the apps and similar not very relevant they must be incredibly boring compared to music by the great composers. That's one reason I'm not a fan of some sight reading courses/books that(I assume) contain music by minor composers or music specifically composers for sight reading practice.

I think a fairly large number of pianists starting out make the mistake of assuming music that is sight read or played through for enjoyment must be easy enough so that one makes few mistakes or does not have to stop. But I think that's a serious error although that approach is quite often recommended on this forum. I don't mean a second year student should be playing through Liszt's Transcendental Etudes haha, but OTOH I don't think the music has to be at a level below the music they study. Some of the music that a student sight reads could be on a level below the music they study in detail but not all of it has to be at that level.

Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: bennevis] #2810781
02/04/19 09:28 PM
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Bennevis, so you think it is better to get an easy book to sight read compared to what I play now. I have the sight reading app and one of the books that have excerpts called sight reading. I have trouble keeping time as well, I can count the notes just not evenly. Thanks


Deb
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Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Cuphead] #2810796
02/04/19 10:41 PM
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I am a good memorizer and poor reader. However, as has been mentioned, sight reading skill can be improved with practice.

I diligently read through a Scarlatti sonata a day. I've been doing it almost a year, and am about halfway through the entire set of 555. It has helped a lot.

I chose Scarlatti sonatas because they have low density (if I can apply that concept to music), often only 2 notes being played at a time. Thus it's easier to process the upcoming notes and play them at a reasonable tempo then it would be for, say, some dense Brahms piece. I intend to finish the Scarlatti sonatas and then move to something more difficult to read.


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Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Cuphead] #2810826
02/05/19 02:09 AM
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I'm in a group piano class. The teacher got us to buy an exercise book for hand dexterity which involves nothing more than going up and down different music scales in repeated sequences. And then we have a "Piano Adventures" Book 1 & 2 which contains easy arrangement of Classical music for mastering sight-reading. A few pieces by Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, etc. There are melodies lines that involve playing a few notes on 1 hand then a few notes on the other hand (1 note at a time) and somewhere in the middle we get a few chords.

I've met a few Suzuki teachers & students. Their approach is play by ear (memory) first for up to a year and then learn to read. Suzuki teachers of the instruments they teach (piano, guitar, violin, flute, recorder, etc.) make their students memorize every song in Book 1 and play their first recital entirely from memory.

The discussion on playing by reading vs. by ear came up a few times already. I tend to stand in the middle. Back in my high school days when I started violin, I used to memorize a lot. During our year-end concerts for the parents, I'd play large chunks of my pieces without looking at the music and fill-in the rest by reading. When I got into piano later, I was not a good sight-reader. Today I can read faster but not at the proficiency I'm aiming for and I still memorize a lot of pieces. It's a good thing to have a good training ear so you can listen to how your music sounds instead of playing off the sheet note for note. When you're reading, to get a good flow of the music you'd read a block of notes at a time so that you know the direction the melody and the harmony is heading instead of reading 1 note, then play 1 note which can sound robotic.

Around Christmas after a Church service, the piano player left the room. A young man started playing Bach Invention #8 in F from memory. His playing wasn't perfect but you can hear what he was playing. After he was done, I played an arrangement of "O Holy Night" also from memory. Most people should be able to play a short piece that is less than 2 min. long or pieces that have a lot of repetitions like Bach Invention #1 or a church hymn from memory. I get a lot of original church hymns with 4 lines, 4-part harmonies out of the hymn book that I'd learn to play at home (2 pieces at a time) instead of getting a book with simplified arrangements of these.

Last edited by thepianoplayer416; 02/05/19 02:11 AM.
Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Cuphead] #2810850
02/05/19 04:50 AM
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I have never been able to sight read, but then I was also very bad at reading notes. In my playing I heavily relied on the distance between the notes. I tried to learn the names of the notes with Name that note, but I found it didn't generalize to the keyboard. So I started practiseing "note reading", meaning seeing a melody line of single notes, and playing and naming them at the same time.

And all of a sudden, I discovered that I can sight read! Presently I have come towards the end of Piano Adventures 1, easy pieces of course, but I can do it! yippie


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Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: Animisha] #2810921
02/05/19 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Animisha
I have never been able to sight read...
Everyone who has learned to read music can sight read. It's only how proficient at it that's not the same for everyone.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 02/05/19 09:56 AM.
Re: Sight reading abilities [Re: DFSRN] #2810935
02/05/19 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by DFSRN
Bennevis, so you think it is better to get an easy book to sight read compared to what I play now. I have the sight reading app and one of the books that have excerpts called sight reading. I have trouble keeping time as well, I can count the notes just not evenly. Thanks

You're quite advanced as a pianist, if I remember from your posts, so why not buy volumes of Scarlatti, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert sonatas & variations, and pieces by Bach, Mendelssohn (Lieder ohne Worte), Schumann, Brahms (especially Op.117-118), Grieg (Lyric Pieces & Sonata) etc and just sight-read through them for fun? If you really don't want to splash out on them, of course you can spend lots of time printing them off one by one from IMSLP, but great classical music scores never date and are never useless once 'done', unlike trashy novels one might buy at the airport to while away the boring hours in the plane and during the vacation wink , which you'd discard once you'd finished. (Even if you never learn to play any of the music, you can still use the scores to follow the music while listening to a recording of someone else playing - and you'd also get familiar with the music that way, as well as enhance your reading skills.)

That was what I did as a teenage student (from ABRSM Grade 4 onwards) - however badly - borrowing the volumes from my high school music library. Not just piano/keyboard music from all the great composers, but also chamber, vocal and orchestral scores reduced for piano.

Previous to that, I didn't have access to such vast quantities of music scores (as I was still living in my home country), but I got through all the pieces in Denes Agay's Easy Classics to Moderns, and the volumes that I could borrow from my cousins and neighbour's kids (most of which were compilations, with some arrangements of non-piano music - Turkish March, In a Monastery Garden, La Paloma, Skater's Waltz......you get the picture). I'd read through anything and everything, no matter how difficult or dense the notes, no matter how slowly & laboriously. Sooner or later, I'd find something interesting that I'd make a note of, to learn properly later - again, purely for fun, purely for myself. I never asked my teacher's help for any of it. After all, when I was learning English (from age nine), I borrowed lots of children's books by the likes of Enid Blyton and Cpt. W.E.Johns to read for fun, with dictionary in hand, and it would never occur to me to ask my English teacher at (junior) school for help with them. Reading them was purely for my own pleasure.

Once I started working and earning money and could buy my own scores, that was what I did - lots of them, including of music that was far too difficult even to read, let alone play. I kept all of them, and am now, in my old age, discovering that I have finally developed the skills to learn and play those 'impossible' scores grin.

So, the pros of sight-reading real, proper piano/keyboard music:

1) You become familiar with many composers' keyboard styles and know how they 'tick', and that makes learning their music much easier.
2) You discover lovely pieces that you'll want to come back to, and learn properly later on. Months or even years later....
3) You get a sense of discovery that can only come from actually trying out unfamiliar music for yourself - not from listening to some whizz-kid playing it on YT. I've lost count of how many pieces I enjoyed learning for myself and kept in my rep, from discovering the music by myself this way, over the years. There has been very few such pieces that I first 'discovered' from hearing someone else played it, that made me want to learn it. And quite a number of the latter, I found when I actually started playing them, weren't such fun to play anyway, and so I never bothered to finish them. (These days, I only keep pieces that I like to play - not necessarily the same as what I like to listen to others play).
4) You rapidly improve your reading and sight-reading skills, as well as technical skills, all the while having fun doing it, because it's not a chore or an 'exercise' that you do for the sake of your health (or whatever). Like the runner who runs for the fun of it, not because he feels he has to do it for his fitness or health. You'll find that after you've become familiar with each composer's keyboard writing, you sight-read their music much more easily, because they use familiar patterns again & again, in different guises. You become very familiar with patterns of notes that each major composer use. Fluent sight-reading is all about grasping at a glance the patterns of notes you see on the page, and immediately playing the whole lot (not just the right notes, but also with the right rhythm) without having to look at each individual note. The same way you can read through a sentence on the page without having to look at each letter, or even each individual word, once you're familiar with a language. Whereas if you're trying to read Aramaic (or whatever unfamiliar language) you have to laboriously read each individual word - or even letter - and understand it to make sense.

Cons of sight-reading real, proper piano/keyboard music:

0) None. Absolutely none.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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