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How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. #2935220 01/17/20 09:16 AM
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Hello! I’m coming back to piano at age 37 after many failed attempts over the years and finding it very rewarding. I took lessons for three or four years as a child but they were spread over three separate teachers and I never made it beyond level one or so and barely learned to read the treble clef. I did lots of choral singing in college (including quite challenging Bach cantatas, etc) and just relied on memorization. Anyway, I haven’t tried to play in years but we recently almost replaced our worn out spinet (the search continues) and in the aftermath I decided to distract myself from obsessive piano searching by playing the one we have. I’m older and wise and far more self disciplined and lo and behold I can be taught. I worked through the Alfred Adult book in about a month (I’d done much of it before) and moved onto Keith Snell’s level one repertoire books and Suzuki book 2.

The two books I’m using right now are roughly the same level (I’m currently working on Minuet in G and The Village Prophet by Rousseau) but I feel like my reading has stalled a bit here. I homeschool so I’ve taught my own kids to read and know there can be a surprisingly long time between the point when they’re fully capable of reading most words and the moment when reading is comfortable and relaxed. I’m wondering if I should just stay at this level and stop plowing ahead for the moment and wait for my sight reading to become fluid and relaxed. Is that an unrealistic expectation? I have no idea how quickly I should expect myself to sight read. My husband sight reads level 5 or 6 pieces at tempo with some mistakes but perhaps that’s not a speed it’s necessary for me to reach before I move on. Does this make sense? I feel like I rambled a bit. Essential, I’m wondering how long I should pause at a particular level and wait for my sight reading to catch up. Presumably there’s plenty of technical polishing I can do in the meantime as well.

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Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935230 01/17/20 09:42 AM
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What do you care about sight-reading ?

Why not just do the lessons in the book and learn to read music by just doing it little by little, lesson by lesson, piece by piece.

If you play while looking at the musical notation and do not RELY ON MEMORIZATION …. you will learn to read naturally with no special plan.

It just happens.


Don

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Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935247 01/17/20 10:17 AM
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I don't think the pieces you study have to be related to how fast your sight reading improves. The best way to improve your sight reading is to practice it at a level you feel comfortable at. You can also read through a piece more than once to improve your sight reading because general reading ability is closely related to sight reading ability. I would just think of sight reading and study pieces as two separate paths each progressing at their own rate.

Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935256 01/17/20 10:27 AM
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The old-fashioned way since time immemorial is the best.

Bach composed one cantata (lasting half an hour) per week for his court for years. How did his musicians manage to learn his complicated vocal + instrumental works so quickly and then perform it the following week? By practically sight-reading them in performance. They had lots of practice.......

Pianists through the centuries have done the same - they got hold of any and every sheet music and just sight-read for fun. You'll find that good sight-readers in PW do exactly the same, and there's never been an easier era to get access to lots of free sheet music of all standards, thanks to IMSLP. You can also sometimes find a lot of cheap old sheet music that people want to get rid of on eBay.

This website gives you the ABRSM grades of lots of pieces which you can get off IMSLP. Start with Grade 1 and go on from there:
https://qualifications.pearson.com/...evel-Music-Difficulty-Levels-Booklet.pdf

Remember - sight-reading is fun thumb ......and if you find a piece you like, learn it properly for your own satisfaction. If you only ever read pieces that you're actually learning from your books, don't be surprised if your progress at sight-reading is slow.


"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: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935261 01/17/20 10:34 AM
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I was taught with these books as a child by paul harris.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Piano-Grade-Improve-Your-Sight-reading/dp/0571533019

We have discussed and it was something about adults using their memory for pieces so they can look at their fingers the entire time. I think it may be a slightly different thing than sight reading so it probably is not fixed with a sight reading book. Those of us who dont memorise for a difficult section have the skill of constantly looking between fingers and score. I have never memorised anything so I dont understand this problem well so cant advise how it can be fixed. The sight reading book however is excellent at teaching rhythms and to get you to up your sight reading skills especially to help prepare for an exam.

Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: bennevis] #2935265 01/17/20 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
The old-fashioned way since time immemorial is the best.

Bach composed one cantata (lasting half an hour) per week for his court for years. How did his musicians manage to learn his complicated vocal + instrumental works so quickly and then perform it the following week? By practically sight-reading them in performance. They had lots of practice.......

Pianists through the centuries have done the same - they got hold of any and every sheet music and just sight-read for fun.


I would agree but I think this works when you are experienced. It was a while before I could pick up even easy music and play it. I found a book when I was learning as a child and I am sure it was not a lesson piece. I had to put the name under every note so I could play it.

Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935270 01/17/20 10:50 AM
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I've been memorizing music since playing violin in my school days. There is a certain amount of reading and learning my performance pieces ahead of time. Depending on how much repetition is in the music such as the same L chords repeating, there are some pieces you'd read through the first time and play reasonably well. After a few years of playing, I've learned a few pieces by memory. The reading part is "work in progress" even when I'm better at it. Teachers recommend that you have a book full of unfamiliar pieces and read through a different piece each day to get yourself trained to sight-read.

Some people are good readers. I tend to rely on memorizing pieces by learning them a few lines at a time. Once I was at a Christmas gathering and played through the first movement of the Bach Italian Concerto in F (about 4m long) from memory. I can't read fast enough and be able to play at the same time.

Robert Estrin did a video on why it is so hard to sight-read Ragtime music. There are pieces with hands jumping around that you can't easily read and look at your hands the same time. You ended up memorizing a piece beforehand.


Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935307 01/17/20 12:04 PM
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This is all so helpful. Thanks! I think what I’m hearing is that sight reading is separate skill that may progress at a different rate than my ability to play more complex passages once I’ve read them. Maybe I’m different than some other people in that I have to keep reading them as I play? Obviously the notes and intervals become more familiar over time but unless I have memorized something all the way through I have to continue to read and although I suppose this isn’t exactly “sight reading” it’s rather like it.

As a singer I’m aware that a choir made up of effective sight readers doesn’t have to spend extra time getting the notes right and can invest that time in interpretation, improving technique, etc.. It seems to me that the value of sight reading is similar. Right now I am sight reading below 50 bpm on first sight for something like the Minuet in G and I can see that I am limited in my ability to improve things like dynamics, correct fingering, relaxed shoulders and arms, etc because I have to focus on reading. Even when I’ve read it a few times I find that the parts that are unintentionally memorized become a kind of stumbling block because there is rough transition when I have to engage and start reading again

I have been spending a part of my practice sight reading pieces from the (many) books we have lying around and I will continue to do that.

Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Moo :)] #2935308 01/17/20 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Moo :)
Originally Posted by bennevis
The old-fashioned way since time immemorial is the best. Pianists through the centuries have done the same - they got hold of any and every sheet music and just sight-read for fun.


I would agree but I think this works when you are experienced. It was a while before I could pick up even easy music and play it.
I think that depends on what you mean by "experienced" and "easy". It seems to me that by using the suggestion of using pieces listed in the ABRSM at or below one's level, one should be able to find easy enough pieces very soon after starting to learn piano. But as soon as one progresses some more I think one should mostly practice sight reading music at an appropriate level that one likes or music by the great composers. That will be self motivating.

Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2935313 01/17/20 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Robert Estrin did a video on why it is so hard to sight-read Ragtime music. There are pieces with hands jumping around that you can't easily read and look at your hands the same time. You ended up memorizing a piece beforehand.
With some experience playing ragtime and once one reaches a certain level, I thing ragtime is actually easy to sight read because the jumps become easy and the music is usually harmonically very elementary. Estrin also doesn't can look back and forth between the score and the keyboard or use peripheral vision while looking at the score.

Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: dmd] #2935320 01/17/20 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by dmd
What do you care about sight-reading ?

Why not just do the lessons in the book and learn to read music by just doing it little by little, lesson by lesson, piece by piece.

If you play while looking at the musical notation and do not RELY ON MEMORIZATION …. you will learn to read naturally with no special plan.

It just happens.



This a great question. A person can build a great repertoire even
If he doesn't read well. A blind person can. Because you can read
each bar, learn the piece bar after bar and memorize.

In my case, I don't have much patience to read and memorize, so
I prefer to read or sight read. For example, instead of learning a Chopin's mazurka,
I prefered to choose some 30 of them and play readingmazyrcas. Play and play.
The result is that I can rapidly prepare any of them to play whenever I want.
I often use the well tempered klavier and Chopin's mazurcas in order
to improve reading.


I don´t want to learn how to play a music. I´m developing a way to play them all.
Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: pianoloverus] #2935330 01/17/20 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think that depends on what you mean by "experienced" and "easy". It seems to me that by using the suggestion of using pieces listed in the ABRSM at or below one's level, one should be able to find easy enough pieces very soon after starting to learn piano. But as soon as one progresses some more I think one should mostly practice sight reading music at an appropriate level that one likes or music by the great composers. That will be self motivating.


I cant remember exactly but I was told that people can normally sight read 2 grades below what pieces they can play. I think Grade 1 takes maybe 1 year and Grade 2 2 years so I do think there needs to be some ability before you can pick up and sight read by this method. It appears also that adults here are playing pieces much quicker but they say their reading abilities are often a lot below what they could play.

I do agree that ragtime is not too hard to sight read. I have a Joplin book and the chords are quite similar. To say ragtime is hard because it has jumps is strange. I only know the start and middle of maple leaf rag by memory and could play it eyes open and closed so even the eyes closed test I didnt agree with.

Last edited by Moo :); 01/17/20 01:08 PM.
Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935356 01/17/20 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Gabrielsyme
This is all so helpful. Thanks! I think what I’m hearing is that sight reading is separate skill that may progress at a different rate than my ability to play more complex passages once I’ve read them. Maybe I’m different than some other people in that I have to keep reading them as I play? Obviously the notes and intervals become more familiar over time but unless I have memorized something all the way through I have to continue to read and although I suppose this isn’t exactly “sight reading” it’s rather like it.

As a singer I’m aware that a choir made up of effective sight readers doesn’t have to spend extra time getting the notes right and can invest that time in interpretation, improving technique, etc.. It seems to me that the value of sight reading is similar. Right now I am sight reading below 50 bpm on first sight for something like the Minuet in G and I can see that I am limited in my ability to improve things like dynamics, correct fingering, relaxed shoulders and arms, etc because I have to focus on reading. Even when I’ve read it a few times I find that the parts that are unintentionally memorized become a kind of stumbling block because there is rough transition when I have to engage and start reading again

I have been spending a part of my practice sight reading pieces from the (many) books we have lying around and I will continue to do that.


There is no particular trick to improving your reading skills.

Just do a lot of it.

If you find yourself looking down at the keyboard much of the time, that is a sign that you are not doing the right thing.

You should be looking primarily at the music notation while you are playing.

Now, if you look down at the keyboard periodically for a particularly difficult area of the music …. no big deal.... that is perfectly fine.

However, the trick is getting your eyes back up onto the music notation and finding your place in the music and continuing to "read" as you play.

In practice, you may move your eyes from music to keyboard and back to music many times but you should always go back to the correct place on the music notation and continue.

Is this easy ? No. It is not. It takes practice and you may find you can play better if you memorize the music.

The problem is …. if you just memorize (because it is easier) you will never learn to play while you are reading the notation.


Good Luck


Don

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Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935468 01/17/20 06:29 PM
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I rarely look at my hands but I find that during passages I have nearly memorized that my eyes kind of slide along reading intervals instead of individual notes at some point I hit a bump in the road where I have to focus back in. That’s where I’m likely to get lost.

Afraid ragtime is likely not in my future. smirk I do see its appeal but I love classical music and there’s just so much waiting that it’s hard for me to imagine wanting to play something else. One of the advantages of coming back to an instrument as an adult is that I can play what I love.

Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935469 01/17/20 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Gabrielsyme
This is all so helpful. Thanks! I think what I’m hearing is that sight reading is separate skill that may progress at a different rate than my ability to play more complex passages once I’ve read them. Maybe I’m different than some other people in that I have to keep reading them as I play? Obviously the notes and intervals become more familiar over time but unless I have memorized something all the way through I have to continue to read and although I suppose this isn’t exactly “sight reading” it’s rather like it.



definitely, sight reading is a separate skill, and so is score reading for that matter, also no, you are not different from most people. I am not a great sight or score reader, but the improvements I have made have come mainly from a gradual increase in the grade levels of pieces. Funny how simple a piece can seem when you are playing pieces four grades above it.


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Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935480 01/17/20 07:10 PM
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40 pieces a year club. Join and try to hit at least 40.

This isn't sight reading but after playing 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 or more pieces your sight reading will (dramatically) improve. Guaranteed.


Beethoven Sonata #6 op 10 nbr 2
Scarlatti K. 466, 521, 434, 24 / Haydn Hob. XVI/35, 36
Mendelssohn Op. 54
Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935491 01/17/20 07:24 PM
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Lately I've been noticing how much my eye gaze is directed at whoknowswhat instead of at the music. It's like I'm a kid with autism avoiding eye contact or a kid who can't read steadfastly not looking at the text..

Last edited by malkin; 01/17/20 07:25 PM.

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Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: malkin] #2935550 01/17/20 11:01 PM
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Originally Posted by malkin
Lately I've been noticing how much my eye gaze is directed at whoknowswhat instead of at the music. It's like I'm a kid with autism avoiding eye contact or a kid who can't read steadfastly not looking at the text..


That is likely because you are playing from memory instead of from the notation.

You should always have a sense of where you are in the notation even if you are not directly reading it at that moment.

You should be able to "see" what passage of music you are playing on the notation even if your memory is doing most of the work for you.


Don

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Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935566 01/18/20 12:09 AM
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Reading piano music without looking at the keys is particularly difficult when there are big leaps, long intervals. Try to read Scriabin prelude Op 16 # 1 and Op 11 # 7:



Scriabin Op 11 # 7:- The hands destructor:( Almost all people mistake some notes on this "simple" prelude, even Horowitz. Playing without looking at the keys, I really doubt in the speed it SHOULD be..).




Last edited by dihelson; 01/18/20 12:15 AM.

I don´t want to learn how to play a music. I´m developing a way to play them all.
Re: How long to wait for sight reading to catch up. [Re: Gabrielsyme] #2935587 01/18/20 02:22 AM
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I suspect for many adult beginners who find reading difficult is that you find yourself in a quandary. Do you deliberately limit yourself to relatively simple and unsatisfying pieces where you can read pretty much every note in real time? Or do you allow yourself to learn more sophisticated pieces that have too much going on to be able to read every note at full tempo, and all you really do is see is a blur of stuff going past and maybe kind of recognising key notes and sequences but not really being controlled by them?

I think there’s room for both approaches but picking the exact blend is hard.

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