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Re: Sightreading technique #915741
04/29/03 12:33 PM
04/29/03 12:33 PM
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i have never heard of pischna. would you please post his full name and the names of some of the exercise books? i will also ask my teacher about him. i have been using bartok's mikrokosmos series for sight reading.

that is amazing, benedict, that you invented this antidote on your own. i learned about it from my teacher. she kept telling me i needed to always be aware of what beat of the measure i was playing, not which note. this i found very confusing. then, one day, when i was struggling note by note (yet again!) through some difficult mendelssohn, she taught me to name each of the sixteenths with the rhythm: "one ee and a two ee and a three ee and a four ee" and to say it out loud as i played!

with my focus moved to the rhythm, to my utter amazement, i was able to read right through the piece, in time, with all notes correct. it was miraculous, and my ability to read has been forever changed. i was so excited, it was very much like being able to read a book for the first time, after years of only seeing the individual letters.

she now says she is going to use me as the poster child for all her adult students. laugh

it has been described to me also this way: the music is a moving train, the rhythm is the engine, you feel the rhythm in your own pulse and you hop aboard the moving train and go for a ride.

works great for me!


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Re: Sightreading technique #915742
04/29/03 12:48 PM
04/29/03 12:48 PM
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benedict Offline OP
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Pique,

Please congratulate your teacher (and yourself) : I have never met anybody who had started thinking about the question.

With Pischna, you read 32nd notes o -ne e-e a-and a-a.Which allows you two read any problem like Fugue 1 of WTC 1 which has a strange rythm (strange for Bach : probably changed by his son Karl Philip Emmanuel to fit the spirit of the time).

[URL=http://www.google.fr/search?q=pischna&ie=ISO-8859-1&hl=fr&btnG=Recherche+Google&meta=]http://www.google.fr/search?q=pisch...l=fr&btnG=Recherche+Google&meta=[/UR L]

(you can copy and paste in your navigator)

Good luck.
And welcome in the Pischna fan club ! smile


Benedict
Re: Sightreading technique #915743
04/29/03 03:10 PM
04/29/03 03:10 PM
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ryan Offline
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I don't know what to say... this is of course most useful stuff. But how are people not taught it in their piano lessons?!?! I start my students counting the rhythms out loud from day one. There is also singing, clapping, marching, knee slapping, etc. My wife was laughing the other day because she heard our son practicing his quarternote rest exercise "ta ta ta shhhh" in the back seat of the car smile

Anyway, congrats on your discoveries! I am stunned, though, that it wasn't taught by your first teachers frown

Ryan

Re: Sightreading technique #915744
04/29/03 03:15 PM
04/29/03 03:15 PM
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Ryan, I'm with you. But great that folks are getting it.

My daughter's teacher used words, which I've found are oddly contagious:

Chips (1 beat)
Salsa (2 beats)
Enchilada (4 beats, e.g., 16th notes)

Particularly with Mozart, I find myself singing "enchilada enchilada enchilada" when working out a lot of his 16th note passages (and with Mozart, there are a LOT of these!)

Nina

Re: Sightreading technique #915745
04/29/03 04:02 PM
04/29/03 04:02 PM
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benedict Offline OP
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Ryan,

The system in France separates music education called "solfege" and practice of an instrument.

In schools, music classes are usually those where children do not pay any attention and throw things at one another.

Because it is more theorical and historical than practical.

French education has this tendancy to rely very much in formal knowledge and intellectualization.

There is absolutely no singing (choirs) or youth orchestras in the education except in some private schools.

My children went to such a school so they had a class orchestra and they developed good musicals skills without any theory whatsoever. But they are good natural musicians.

In the conservatories, children have to study two years of solfege before beginning the instrument.

My own experience is of a very long time ago. But I am not sure, things have changed very much.

The piano teacher relies on the solfege class to deal with rythm and reading pitches.
So, he concentrates on interpretation and not on the process of learning the piece.

I have had 7 teachers since my childhood : from the conservatory when I was 8 to the Ecole Normale (founded by Cortot where I started again with Mikrokosmos), two students of Yvonne Lefebure and two Julliard School graduates.

None, I repeat, none ever took one second to concentrate on the rythm. So I learnt the pieces by memorizing by repetition. And I used the names of the pitches to memorize.

If one of them had understood the mechanics of learning a piece, they would have stopped me straight away and shown me a process like the one I had to develop painfully. It took me more than 10 years !

I have read all the books I could find about sightreading. None ever spoke about what this thread is about.

So the reality is that both your experiences Ryan and Nina and mine are real.

If a child begins with what you do with him and you apply it to every piece he learns, the skills will be part of him for all his life.

If you don't or if you separate solfege from playing pieces, then the result will be much more left to chance.

I have noticed that many good musicians do not sightread naturally. In my opinion, the reason is that they jump too soon to memorization.

Of course, this is my idea now. I might change in a few months.

It is nice sharing with you.

And the proof is in the hard work at the piano.

Ryan, your insisting on the scales has taken the emphasis away from the pieces and more on the reading process per se. It has freed completely my mind.

There still is much discovering to do. But now that I feel autonomous, every minute is a minute of joy.

smile


Benedict
Re: Sightreading technique #915746
04/29/03 04:13 PM
04/29/03 04:13 PM
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Benedict,

Yes, I am aware that your experience is all too real. I have seen it before. I am just saddened by it. A good *teacher* should have been able to see what you were doing and help you fix it at the ground level.

I am quite pleased that the scales helped. smile

Ryan

Re: Sightreading technique #915747
04/29/03 04:26 PM
04/29/03 04:26 PM
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benedict Offline OP
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Thank you, Ryan.

I think good teachers do the right thing with children or beginning adults.

Once the adult has some practice, even if it is completely bugged, the teacher will concentrate on the piece without using the same process that he uses for a beginner.

I think a good process should be useful at all levels and any age.

If one level of the skill is not correct, you have to go down one level and iterate to go right at the bottom if necessary.

And then you can move right at the top by checking that each level is debugged.

I hope I am clear.

Today, I sowed tomatoes seeds on my balcony garden. I hope I will eat good tomatoes in September.

What has it got to do with scales or sightreading ?

laugh


Benedict
Re: Sightreading technique #915748
04/29/03 09:32 PM
04/29/03 09:32 PM
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yes, my experience was much like benedict's, with former teachers. i just returned to my "good" teacher, the one who taught me how to read, after her year's sabbatical, because my new teacher was making the same mistake all the previous teachers made: thinking that we just focus on interpretation and painful process of memorizing instead of learning how to learn, learning how to read.

my "good" teacher commented that it was a real shame that no one had taught me this before. i think many teachers believe an adult student won't be willing to return to kindergarten level to correct a faulty foundation. the new teacher made this same mistake, even after i insisted that i didn't want to focus on interpretation when i didn't yet have my learning skills fully developed. she thought it was babyish for me to go back and fill in the blanks of the things i never learned.

i found this with my earlier teachers, too.

i believe it is one of the hazards of being an adult student. it also didn't help that i don't *need* to be able to read, i can do a lot just with playing by ear. but i finally reached a level of music where that couldn't help me so much any more.

i interviewed a lot of teachers in the past few years. most of them, once they hear me play, think they don't really need to teach me techniques of music, that i just need "coaching." they are unperceptive. they think that all i have to do is memorize because i am able to play musically. they don't see what i huge handicap i have. those are the teachers i walk away from.

thankfully i am finally back with the only one who has been able to help me make *genuine* progress.


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Re: Sightreading technique #915749
04/30/03 05:57 AM
04/30/03 05:57 AM
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Pique,

We have had exactly the same experience.

I used to play Satie's Gnossienne n1 and I put so much feeling into it that people thought I was an accomplished pianist.

And when they asked me to play other pieces, I just couldn't.

I then memorized WTC 1st Prelude and fugue.

My Julliar teacher found it very good.

And I was begging : teach me how to read, for Heaven's sake.

He didn't have a clue what I was talking about.

We seem to be on the same road now : sightplaying has to been conquered at normal speed for the pieces you love (for me it's WTC 1) and then, I'll concentrate on the process that leads to fluent sightplaying to playing without the sheetmusic. But without the horrible process of memorizing like I have done it up to now.

I have the intuition that memorization will be a joy. But the next step on my roadmap is : fluent sightplaying.

One step at a time is the perfect rythm once one has the right tools.

smile


Benedict
Re: Sightreading technique #915750
04/30/03 09:42 AM
04/30/03 09:42 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by benedict:
Pique,

We have had exactly the same experience.

I used to play Satie's Gnossienne n1 and I put so much feeling into it that people thought I was an accomplished pianist.

And when they asked me to play other pieces, I just couldn't.

I then memorized WTC 1st Prelude and fugue.

My Julliar teacher found it very good.

And I was begging : teach me how to read, for Heaven's sake.

He didn't have a clue what I was talking about.
....

One step at a time is the perfect rythm once one has the right tools.

smile
yes, exactly!

these teachers can hear that i am a musician, but fail to notice that i am not a pianist. they are dumbfounded when the lessons begin and after six months i am still stumbling through the same works we began with without confidence.

then they compound it by continuing to focus on musical ideas and interpretation--which i am already light years ahead of most of them on, anyway--and neglecting the basics. even when i insist on the basics, they are clueless!! how much time was wasted, and how discouraged i have been.

my current teacher respects my ear, respects my musicianship, and also uses flash cards if necessary for the skills i don't have. my progress with her is breathtaking to me.

i want to know everything you have learned about reading, benedict. i could not find the link you posted on pischna. please just type in here his full name and the correct names of some of his works or books. i would be very grateful.


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Re: Sightreading technique #915751
04/30/03 09:52 AM
04/30/03 09:52 AM
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Hi, pique--

His name is Johann Pischna, you should be able to "google" him and find some info. I know of only two things:

1) The Little Pischna - a series of shorter, beginner to intermediate exercises

2) 60 Progressive Exercises - more advanced, for me they are about isolating fingers, building strength and dexterity, not speed

Check out this URL for a fairly comprehensive list of exercises, including Pischna's published work:

Pischna works

You should talk to your teacher also, since she sounds great! I'm sure her opinion will be right for you.

Nina

Re: Sightreading technique #915752
04/30/03 11:00 AM
04/30/03 11:00 AM
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benedict Offline OP
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Pique,

I just typed Johann Pischna in google.
smile


Benedict
Re: Sightreading technique #915753
04/30/03 11:38 AM
04/30/03 11:38 AM
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Pique,

I agree wholeheartedly. I have had adult students in the past (I am not currently teaching) and in each instance I made it clear that we would likely be going back to fill in any holes. A few decided they didn't want to do that. A few decided that they did, and I think they were very happy that in a couple of years time they were able to read fluently and they now knew how to "finish" pieces.

I have to speak for my current teacher, though. Her students have had amazing success. For example, he took on a 50-ish gentleman two years ago who was a beginner. In two years he not only reads fluently, but he can play Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata, Brahms' Op. 118 No. 6, Debussy Preludes, a Bach Prelude and Fugue, and a Mozart Sonata. He was also accepted into the CU music program and an undergrad. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during his lessons!

Ryan

Re: Sightreading technique #915754
04/30/03 12:07 PM
04/30/03 12:07 PM
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benedict Offline OP
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Ryan,

I have the intuition he can play so well BECAUSE he reads and does not learn by stubborn and desperate repetition.

Reading is the shortest way to mastery.

Because reading leads necessary to memorizing.

That is what I am experiencing with the scales and Pischna.

I have always wondered how Bach taught his beginner adult students.

I know he did not let them play a piece before a few months. When they got really VERY impatient mad , he just wrote one of his beautifull little preludes for them.

I now know that he helped them built solid basic skill. He probably used Pischna and scales laugh and made sure they mastered all the basic elements : rythm(in the broad sense), pitch and sensitivity of the sound.
He certainly gave them strong harmonic and contrapunctal basics so that they knew what they were doing when they played the preludes.

Unfortunately, all that is left is what his students learnt after they had the most important training.

He was like the Pyramid builders : the secrets are lost but the works are there for eternity.

Sorry about the lyricism !

I sometimes get carried away. smile


Benedict
Re: Sightreading technique #915755
04/30/03 12:09 PM
04/30/03 12:09 PM
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thank you, nina. i will check with my teacher about him.

and ryan, me too! i want some of whatever he got from his teacher. wow!


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Re: Sightreading technique #915756
04/30/03 12:50 PM
04/30/03 12:50 PM
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It looks like you received some good advice on this area you want to develop. There are a couple of things I would add. From reading your posts in this thread - and let me know if I am wrong - you are not equating sight playing (which I guess you mean playing with the music in front of you) with sight reading (playing a piece the first time you see the music in front of you). Sight reading is a skill that takes a long time to develop - just ask me because I am terrible at it - and what goes through your mind as you are sight reading is quite different than the mental process of sight playing or playing from memory.
There is a lot of good advice in this thread that can help with sight reading, but another important point to make is you need to always be moving forward in the music while you sight read. That means reading forward, and (the most difficult part) not stopping for mistakes. How far you read forward depends on the complexity of the piece and the tempo. In some cases you can read one to two measures ahead, but with a slow piece, you may only be reading 1/2 of a measure ahead. It depends on the piece, and what matters is how far you can read ahead in order to keep going forward mentally. Another thing - related - about sight reading vs other types of playing is in order to keep moving forward you have to be less reflective of what you are actually playing at the moment.
Sight playing is somewhat different because - again, as I think you are applying the term - it involves playing music that you are more familiar with, but have not memorized. Some of the skills or mental processes used in sight reading can be applied here - e.g. looking ahead in the music - but I think you would want be more reflective in terms of listening to what you play as you are playing (as opposed to constantly moving forward mentally). Also, you may be looking at your hands more as you are sight playing than you would when you are sight reading, especially as you become more familiar with the music. As you become more and more familiar with a piece of music, the line between playing from memory, and sight playing start to become obscure (because some of the music is creeping into your memory), however there are specific things you need to work on with any piece before you can say it is memorized.
It is great the way you analyzed the problem, and developed solutions for reading rhythms. Sight reading, sight playing and playing from memory are all very rewarding once the skills are developed. It is a lot of fun to be able to sight read. On the other hand, I find I am a lot more free and secure once I have a piece memorized.

Re: Sightreading technique #915757
04/30/03 01:31 PM
04/30/03 01:31 PM
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Benedict, you Ryan, Praetorian, pique and ob1knabe are revving me up to try sight reading again. As a beginner, I havent discovered the fun you and others have found in it yet. So far, it has been like the Chinese torture and I just want to get through it and be done with it. As a result, Ive tried it a few times but quit after a short time.

In response to Ryan who said:

I have to speak for my current teacher, though. Her students have had amazing success. For example, he took on a 50-ish gentleman two years ago who was a beginner. In two years he not only reads fluently, but he can play Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata, Brahms' Op. 118 No. 6, Debussy Preludes, a Bach Prelude and Fugue, and a Mozart Sonata.

This gives me both grief and elation. I am a 50ish gentleman who took up piano for the first time over 3 years ago. I can play a couple of Bachs Minuets, Beethovens Sonatina in G and Im just starting Fur Elise to play in its entirety. Im making very good progress but nothing like the guy you referred to. Ryan, I know this is a long shot, but do you know of any good teachers in Atlanta, or know someone who might know of a good teacher. Ive had 2 teachers so far and they didnt seem to give a twit for sight reading. It's so hard to find a good teacher that I'll try anything!

Benedict, you said:

[i]Thanks to Ryan's advice . . . I sightplay scales which puts an end to the nightmare of automatic memory playing which kills any joy. Ryan, your insisting on the scales has taken the emphasis away from the pieces and more on the reading process per se. It has freed completely my mind.[i/]

Could explain what you do here? Do you simply sight play the scales the same as you would a piece of music? Im intrigued by this because it reminds me of my experience with the metronome. A few months into my piano adventure my ex-teacher saw I was having difficulty on a piece and she pulled out her metronome and told me to practice the piece with it. It was extremely frustrating and I swore I would never use a metronome again. A year later, after reading an article on how helpful it can be, I decided on my own to start at the beginning. I spent about a week using the metronome to play scales, first a note on every click, then a note in between clicks (8th notes). It opened the door for me and now the metronome as a tool is second only to the piano itself. I get a feel for a new piece then start practicing it with the metronome and my progress is by leaps and bounds. I then find I can drop the metronome and just soar through the piece, listening for the sound of the music. The metronome is a temporary tool I use to learn the rhythm faster but it is for me invaluable.

The lesson I learned is that if I am having difficulty then I need to simplify the problem, taking it down progressively from one level to the next until it becomes manageable. Im attempting to do this with sight reading because Ive always had trouble with it. Is sight playing the scales a way to simply the learning experience?

Ive cut portions of this thread and put them into a file called Sightreading Tips. Thanks to all.

Re: Sightreading technique #915758
04/30/03 02:34 PM
04/30/03 02:34 PM
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benedict Offline OP
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Phlebas,

Quote
you are not equating sight playing (which I guess you mean playing with the music in front of you) with sight reading (playing a piece the first time you see the music in front of you).
The more I study the problem, the more I think that the three parts (sightreading,sightplaying and memory playing) are like a pyramid with three levels. Each level leads to the next.
Which is the opposite to the practice I (and most students) have had.

If you learn a piece (or the technical exercizes)in that natural order, things will be easy and very pleasant. If you start by the top level, then you won't have the equipment that makes it easy to learn and enjoy the music naturally.

Quote
, but another important point to make is you need to always be moving forward in the music while you sight read. That means reading forward, and (the most difficult part) not stopping for mistakes
I have tried to do that consciously like is recommended by teachers and books.
I lost all pleasure and coordination
Sightreading practiced with the rythm algorithm that I mentioned will become a pleasure. It should never be an effort.
If a piece looks difficult, it is much better to start with hands separate to let the rythm do the job for you.
I think the question of reading in advance should never be a goal. It is more a natural step in the evolution. I had had learnt reading books by reading in advance, I would never have read the first of the thousands books I had the joy to read. When you start reading books, you stay on the part you are on, but soon enough, the advance mechanism comes. It is the anticipation of what comes next smile

Trying to read in advance will only slow you.

Quote
Also, you may be looking at your hands more as you are sight playing than you would when you are sight reading, especially as you become more familiar with the music.
The more you are familiar, the less you will be looking at your hands. Not in the learning phase.
Once you play it with you eyes closed, you can look at your hands or have a business or sentimental conversation, it is a bit like driving a car.

The sensitivity is a natural process that the is in the piece of music (part of the artistic DNA). One should not strive to be sensitive, but just let the sensitivity and beauty which came from the composer meet your own sensitivity and beauty.

Quote
. As you become more and more familiar with a piece of music, the line between playing from memory, and sight playing start to become obscure (because some of the music is creeping into your memory), however there are specific things you need to work on with any piece before you can say it is memorized.
I love it when the music takes control of me. With Bach's WTC, it is every time a unique experience. When I sightread or sightplay, I never think I am working. I feel playing this music is a blessing.

When I learn a new Pischna exercize, I really have fun. Would you work on a video game ?


Benedict
Re: Sightreading technique #915759
04/30/03 03:13 PM
04/30/03 03:13 PM
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Penny Offline
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I just want to tell you all how informative this thread has been. (Although I like Nina's suggestion of using real words, i.e. "chips," "salsa," "enchilada" because it's easier to read than other attempts to write what's verbal.)

In short, thanks.

penny

Re: Sightreading technique #915760
04/30/03 03:32 PM
04/30/03 03:32 PM
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Benedict,

Thanks for the interesting story about your daughter.
I am not sure about that sight reading and sight playing/memorization represent different levels. To me, sight reading is a different skill than the others, and does not necessarily represent a higher or lower level on the pyramid. On the other hand the fundamentals of rythms and notes are building blocks to being able to read (obvious statement, I know).

quote,

"If you learn a piece (or the technical exercizes)in that natural order, things will be easy and very pleasant. If you start by the top level, then you won't have the equipment that makes it easy to learn and enjoy the music naturally.....

...I have tried to do that consciously like is recommended by teachers and books.
I lost all pleasure and coordination
Sightreading practiced with the rythm algorithm that I mentioned will become a pleasure. It should never be an effort."

I know you are not really saying this and you seem pretty disciplined in finding a solution to this, so I am a little hesitant to say the following: just because something seems like an effort, does not mean you are not developing a skill. Sight playing and sight reading might be an effort at first, but as you become more skilled at it, it will become more pleasurable and less of an effort.

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