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Serge88 Offline OP
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We had a lot of discussion about what is sight-reading, here's an interesting definition of sight-reading.

Learning to sight-read better will help you learn music more quickly, but the approach to sight-reading is not the same as the approach to learning a new piece. When you learn a new piece you often work at it a little at a time, phrase by phrase, practising it until it is right. But with sight-reading, the aim is to get it right first time! With sight-reading, you practise in your head, before the fingers touch the keys, and when you do start to play, you keep going(even if you make mistakes along the way).

Excerpt from The Sight-reading Sourcebook from Alan Bullard



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Reasonable but obvious except for the last sentence which I think is nonsense. When sight reading one doesn't "practice in your head" one reads ahead. And there is no need to keep going when sight reading.

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Serge88 Offline OP
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Another interesting excerpt I read.

Keep going - This is the most important part of sight-reading, and means that rhythm - and the basic pulse that underlies it - is even more important than pitch.

I can relate to this. If I make a mistake and stop or slow down everyone notice but if I keep playing nobody notice I played a G instead of a F.



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He may be meaning that a student must practice playing in his/her head in order to become a better sight-reader. It makes sense.

Certainly it's necessary to keep playing ignoring mistakes when sight-reading.

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So I'd file this under one the piano exam/impromptu accompanist/studio musician definition of sight reading (lots of words have several dictionary definitions, right?). In these cases, the person gets a certain amount of time to look over what they're going to play, but once it's time to start, stopping will not be to their benefit.

It's pretty clear that how much our hypothetical musician can get out of that pre-reading would depend on how skilled they've become at thinks from basic observation through analysis/chunking, audiation, and/or the ability to play the piano in one's head while reading.

And as someone who started at the pretty low-talent end of the spectrum but with a certain amount of stubborn fascination with the process, all these are cultivatable skills, if you enjoy the process and/or desire the end result enough.


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Whenever I’ve needed to sightread in real-world situations, there have been scant minutes before needing to start, so there was time only to visually
skim the music but not to play it all in my head.
Key signature, time signature, tempo, dynamics, any patterns? START

The lack of preparation time snd the need to keep playing are why sightreading skills generally are at a lower difficulty level than reading skills. The notes need to be credible, not perfect.

As a kid, my teacher snd I would sightread Clementi piano duets which I saw as a treat rather than an exercise/test.

Incorporating reading ahead, if only a few notes, is invaluable.

If you want duet practice without a duet partner, there is an easy piano duet book ‘fairyland in Treble’ which has embedded QR codes that activate the duet partner’s playing

Nikolas is a member here- it has just been awhile since he has been around.



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Originally Posted by dogperson
The lack of preparation time snd the need to keep playing are why sightreading skills generally are at a lower difficulty level than reading skills. The notes need to be credible, not perfect.
Lower difficulty?

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by dogperson
The lack of preparation time snd the need to keep playing are why sightreading skills generally are at a lower difficulty level than reading skills. The notes need to be credible, not perfect.
Lower difficulty?

Yes, the general estimate that sightreading level is about two levels below reading level.


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When sight-reading for real, as in accompanying/collaborating/duetting with someone in real time, lots of experience and knowledge of harmony is a great help, because you know which notes (including whole groups) you can leave out or simplify down to the bare essentials - which means you can actually 'sight-read' music which is beyond your technical skill level, or stuff which would normally take a lot of practicing over weeks to play all the notes properly. For instance, substituting bare octaves or sevenths/sixths etc for big chords, reducing a rapid arpeggio to another at half the pace with half the number of notes etc.

I've never played all the notes when sight-reading non-classical scores, whether I'm soloing or accompanying, because they're almost all over-written, being arranged by someone trying to make the music 'interesting' for the pianist. Often, I'm playing it like I'm sight-reading a lead sheet, using most of my own notes - especially if there are guitar chords given in the score too (as there often are).

Of course, this doesn't apply to sight-reading tests in exams, where your main concern is to keep going and keep the rhythm no matter what (such that the examiner can beat time to your playing), as well as try to play all the notes - but the technical level required of you in the test will be well below what your current playing level is.

And when sight-reading Classical music like that of Haydn or Mozart, where each note is essential, you'd need to play practically all the notes unless you're just accompanying a singer etc. But even here, practicing sight-reading pieces that are right at your current technical level (or even slightly above) is invaluable to develop your reading skills to, er, stratospheric levels - especially if you're duetting (so, you have to keep your tempo and rhythm no matter what). I was sight-reading through Mozart's and Beethoven's violin sonatas with a violinist friend when I was at high school, when we were both at around Grade 6/7 ABRSM (which is below the actual level of those pieces). OK, some of what we played were messy, but we kept together, and learnt to listen to each other as well as grapple with the notes ourselves, and both of us improved our skills a lot. We learnt to recognize and sight-read advanced patterns in music that we wouldn't have encountered if we kept strictly to pieces two grades below our level, for instance.

For most classical beginners-intermediates, your sight-reading should be of the sort where you try to play all the notes in the score, while keeping to strict time, not simplify or leave out notes on the fly like you might do with pop/jazz. But that doesn't mean that you should stick strictly to music that is "two levels lower than your current level" either........


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Before I sight-read, I check the time and key signature, if there is accidental note and if I have to move my hand. I count the rhythm in my head. Tempo or dynamics ? No I'm not there yet. If this is easy, I play medium tempo, if it's complicated, I play slow.

Last edited by Serge88; 09/12/21 07:58 AM.


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Originally Posted by Serge88
Another interesting excerpt I read.

Keep going - This is the most important part of sight-reading, and means that rhythm - and the basic pulse that underlies it - is even more important than pitch.

I can relate to this. If I make a mistake and stop or slow down everyone notice but if I keep playing nobody notice I played a G instead of a F.
Playing or sight reading in front of people or with other musicians is not the same as sight reading by oneself at home. If you look at some of the videos of pros sight reading at home you will see it's very common for them to stop.

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Certainly it's necessary to keep playing ignoring mistakes when sight-reading.
Only if one is playing with another musician or accompanying a singer. Notice how this professional pianists stops or slows down over and over when sight reading:

Last edited by pianoloverus; 09/12/21 03:30 PM.
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Certainly it's necessary to keep playing ignoring mistakes when sight-reading.
Only if one is playing with another musician or accompanying a singer. Notice how this professional pianists stops or slows down over and over when sight reading:
I can't watch half an hour video, but if she does stop deliberately, it's not sight-reading in full sense of the word.

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Certainly it's necessary to keep playing ignoring mistakes when sight-reading.
Only if one is playing with another musician or accompanying a singer. Notice how this professional pianists stops or slows down over and over when sight reading:
I can't watch half an hour video, but if she does stop deliberately, it's not sight-reading in full sense of the word.
You only need to watch the first three minutes to she both stops and slows down many times during her sight reading. Sight reading means the first time one plays using the score and nothing more. There is nothing in the definition or "full sense of the word" that requires one to not stop or not slow down.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 09/13/21 10:25 AM.
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Sight reading means the first time one plays using the score and nothing more.
You can see that some people intend more meaning for this word than just reading something the first time.

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Personally I've found that if I go into a piece without the explicit intention of memorizing it, I'll fail.

In other words, having the sheet in front of me while playing/practicing without first having it memorized prevents me from memorizing it. In order to memorize, I'll need to get rid of the sheet and force my mind to bring out the notes that I've heard during the sight-reading sessions, even if it involves fiddling with the keys and notes.


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