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thought some people might be interested in this youtube series of an ABRSM grade 6 player who ''can't read for toffee'' (her words). Sound familiar?




Can't read!! Seems she can read quite well...although she seems to play mainly by memory watching her eyes.
She gets stuck occasionally ..as you do.
What am i missing.
Originally Posted by willywagtail

What am i missing.


when she plays repertoire she isn't reading, when she tries to read even the most basic of exercises she is having problems. This is someone who has passed grade 6 ABRSM, but of course your performance level is no indication of your reading level.
What is the point of the video other than to show some students are poor sight readers? Her teacher is partly to blame.

Poor sight reading skill limits how fast one can learn music since it's related to reading skill. It also greatly decreases the enjoyment one can have with piano playing since one can sight read music for pleasure.
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
What is the point of the video other than to show some students are poor sight readers? Her teacher is partly to blame.


This is the first in a serious of videos where she stops lessons to pursue getting better at sight reading. Why did she stop lessons? Because she felt she could not go on without becoming a better sight reader. I happen to disagree that is the best thing to do, but each to their own.
I was having trouble both reading and playing HT, until one day, suddenly something clicked and Voila! I was doing both.
My teacher suggested that the neurons finally came together laugh

I have always likened learning to play the piano to learning to drive a shift car and using hand signals as well. Very tricky until it all comes together.
Originally Posted by leel
I was having trouble both reading and playing HT, until one day, suddenly something clicked and Voila! I was doing both.
My teacher suggested that the neurons finally came together laugh

I have always likened learning to play the piano to learning to drive a shift car and using hand signals as well. Very tricky until it all comes together.


I'm struggling with that currently. I can sight read at my level hands separate quite well. Hands together however and I have to drop quite far back in material.

It's slowly coming together though. I can now at least quickly recognise when L.H is mirroring right hand (parallel or contrary), or when a small number of chords I'm familiar with crop up. Once you get to the L.H playing more varied notes to the R.H however I quickly lose myself. I can cope with one hand playing out of position (depending on how complex a pattern the other is playing) but once both start to move even a few notes out of position, falls apart there too.

Not sure if she was exaggerating in her video, just how bad her sight reading is. I know mine was that bad last year :P I can now sight read some of the things she was showing. I feel I've come a long way in just 4-5 months though of doing 5-10 minutes every day sight reading, still, a long way to go...
One observation about my own sight reading. I felt I really really regressed as I left the beginner stages and moved into longer/more involved pieces. One of her videos touches on that by recommending the Paul Harris "A Piece a Week" books.

The blurb on the back says these are written to be below the grade you're playing such that you can learn a piece in, erm, a week smile The idea being that once you get onto longer pieces, you're spending perhaps several weeks on a single piece and only a fraction of that time is spent actually reading it. The rest is just using the score for quick reference whilst you work on technique, rhythm, articulation etc

I decided back end of last year to drop back to playing a ton of Grade 1 pieces which I know I can learn one (1-2 page) piece a week. I wasn't aware of that series of books, instead I've been making use of all the old ABRSM exam pieces from over the years for Grade 1. I've been doing that along side my daily sight reading practice too (which is pieces below Grade 1) and one normal piece that can take multiple weeks to learn.

I intend to keep plugging away at a Grade 1 piece every week along side daily sight reading until I feel a sufficient improvement and then I'll bump up to learning a Grade 2 piece every week. Not sure what I count as "sufficient improvement" though.

As to which has had the biggest impact on my sight reading skills, I'm not sure, but I certainly feel I can read harder pieces than when I started this.
How can a teacher teach to grade 6 and you end with someone that can’t read grade 1 music ?
Perhaps we should not critic a stranger in an online forum. I wish her luck trying to sight read !
Everything she is doing in that video is wrong, and it's no wonder she has a hard time sight-reading. The hesitation, the perfectionism, the physical tension, etc. It's all making it more difficult. If you want to improve your sight-reading, don't do what she's doing in the video.
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Everything she is doing in that video is wrong, and it's no wonder she has a hard time sight-reading. The hesitation, the perfectionism, the physical tension, etc. It's all making it more difficult. If you want to improve your sight-reading, don't do what she's doing in the video.
Or one could say her poor sight reading is causing hesitation, tension, etc. Or tension could just be poor technique.
Originally Posted by Moo :)
Perhaps we should not critic a stranger in an online forum. I wish her luck trying to sight read !


Some teachers almost ignore sight reading, and assume a student just isn't a sight reader.
Maybe Moo is making a statement more than just being critical.
I originally thought she must have learnt to read quite well and the hesitant stuff was new pieces.
My teacher would constantly point out a note on the sheet and ask me to play it.
I never done any levels just a casual teacher for about a year
It makes me feel uncomfortable to critic someone online without their knowledge. We have discussed this struggle a lot in other threads. I think she can learn to sight read and wish her luck. I will probably leave it there.
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Everything she is doing in that video is wrong, and it's no wonder she has a hard time sight-reading. The hesitation, the perfectionism, the physical tension, etc. It's all making it more difficult. If you want to improve your sight-reading, don't do what she's doing in the video.
Or one could say her poor sight reading is causing hesitation, tension, etc. Or tension could just be poor technique.


Sure, but that wouldn't be quite as useful. What I'm offering is a practical way to improve sight-reading.
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Everything she is doing in that video is wrong, and it's no wonder she has a hard time sight-reading. The hesitation, the perfectionism, the physical tension, etc. It's all making it more difficult. If you want to improve your sight-reading, don't do what she's doing in the video.
Or one could say her poor sight reading is causing hesitation, tension, etc. Or tension could just be poor technique.


Sure, but that wouldn't be quite as useful. What I'm offering is a practical way to improve sight-reading.
If the poor sight reading is causing her hesitation, for example, then it's illogical to suggest not hesitating will improve her sight reading.
I would just practice reading and playing more pieces, instead of making videos. I think that will improve your sight reading faster smile
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Everything she is doing in that video is wrong, and it's no wonder she has a hard time sight-reading. The hesitation, the perfectionism, the physical tension, etc. It's all making it more difficult. If you want to improve your sight-reading, don't do what she's doing in the video.
Or one could say her poor sight reading is causing hesitation, tension, etc. Or tension could just be poor technique.


Sure, but that wouldn't be quite as useful. What I'm offering is a practical way to improve sight-reading.
If the poor sight reading is causing her hesitation, for example, then it's illogical to suggest not hesitating will improve her sight reading.


1. Hesitation is part of what it means to have poor sight-reading.
2. It's not illogical, since they reinforce each other: Less hesitation ---> More fluidity ---> More pleasure ---> More practice ---> Better sight-reading ---> More confidence ---> Less hesitation.
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Or one could say her poor sight reading is causing hesitation, tension, etc. Or tension could just be poor technique.


Sure, but that wouldn't be quite as useful. What I'm offering is a practical way to improve sight-reading.
If the poor sight reading is causing her hesitation, for example, then it's illogical to suggest not hesitating will improve her sight reading.


1. Hesitation is part of what it means to have poor sight-reading.
2. It's not illogical, since they reinforce each other: Less hesitation ---> More fluidity ---> More pleasure ---> More practice ---> Better sight-reading ---> More confidence ---> Less hesitation.
Still sounds illogical to me. You begin with less hesitation which is what the person cannot do without playing wrong notes. Kind of like saying a person overeats and is overweight. Solution:don't be overweight,
I agree w/ Moo- its strange to see someone play grade 6 pieces and be unable to sightread something as simple as a grade 1 piece or anything that has a Fandango picture of a bird on it with only a few notes in the bass and treble clef!! I had to watch it twice because at first I thought she was just joking and the video was done sarcastically or something- but if that woman really cant sight read at all as shown in the video- Ohhhhh mmmy..I just have no words. :-o)
Surprising she got thru any grades this way, but not surprising to play at a high level without reading. We had a Gentleman here a few years ago learning pieces by watching the notes of a Player Piano. Remember that. Sol was it? He was good too, and advanced stuff.

Think we'll see more of it with the advent of the internet, online videos, sythesia etc. Basically it is easier to learn to play then it is to read and play at the same time. I started around the age of 10, then learning about lead sheets and chords in my late 20's and taking up full on reading in my 50's. I didn't go back to grade one material though. Started reading and memorizing where I was already playing. Bach little prelude was 1st one and I recorded it here.

Still, i don't think I'd pass any exams. But thankfully not in it for that.

Who is to say, our enjoyment is worth more then anyone else's. There are lots of ways to go about this. Good for her for enduring the pain.
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Still sounds illogical to me. You begin with less hesitation which is what the person cannot do without playing wrong notes. Kind of like saying a person overeats and is overweight. Solution:don't be overweight,


You can easily sidestep this problem if you just let yourself play wrong notes.
This is simple. We've decided that the key to improving sight reading is to get better at it and in order to get better, you need to improve.
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Still sounds illogical to me. You begin with less hesitation which is what the person cannot do without playing wrong notes. Kind of like saying a person overeats and is overweight. Solution:don't be overweight,


You can easily sidestep this problem if you just let yourself play wrong notes.


This reminds me of other anecdotes.
Cars- Fast, reliable and cheap, you can have 2 of the 3.
Bodybuilding- Big, cut, and natural (no peds). You can't have all 3.

Here's a new one. Sight reading - Fast, accurate, and inexperienced. You can only be 2 of the 3.
Originally Posted by Jack Moody
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Still sounds illogical to me. You begin with less hesitation which is what the person cannot do without playing wrong notes. Kind of like saying a person overeats and is overweight. Solution:don't be overweight,


You can easily sidestep this problem if you just let yourself play wrong notes.


This reminds me of other anecdotes.
Cars- Fast, reliable and cheap, you can have 2 of the 3.
Bodybuilding- Big, cut, and natural (no peds). You can't have all 3.

Here's a new one. Sight reading - Fast, accurate, and inexperienced. You can only be 2 of the 3.


Yes, I'd say that's about right. You could also say Speed, Accuracy, and Complexity. If you want to play faster and more accurately, you have to play simpler music.
Originally Posted by earlofmar
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
What is the point of the video other than to show some students are poor sight readers? Her teacher is partly to blame.


This is the first in a serious of videos where she stops lessons to pursue getting better at sight reading. Why did she stop lessons? Because she felt she could not go on without becoming a better sight reader. I happen to disagree that is the best thing to do, but each to their own.
She didn't have to stop lessons to become a better sight reader. She should just spend more time sight reading. Surely she could add 15 minutes every day to sight reading and continue the rest as before. Another reason she shouldn't have stopped lessons is that sight reading skill is related to other aspects of piano skill that lessons would have increased. For example, as her technical skill and knowledge of harmony improve that will help her sight reading in a significant way.
Maybe as the pieces became more complex, and unfamiliar, she can no longer learn them to continue lessons. Or she's disappointed with the teaching. Sightreading music you've never seen before, but have heard before, is different from sightreading something you've never heard before. If a teacher has already played the piece for you and you know what it sounds like, or you went and listened to it on youtube, it's a lot easier cos you'll at least get the rhythm mostly right.

Also those who are good at playing by ear can fake sightreading by first hearing it. So the true test of sightreading skills is sightreading a piece you've never heard before. In that case, you wouldn't even be aware of much of the mistakes since you don't know how it's supposed to sound. There are blind pianists and there are musicians who can't read sheet music, that's why I think this video is not really surprising.
Originally Posted by wszxbcl

Also those who are good at playing by ear can fake sightreading by first hearing it. So the true test of sightreading skills is sightreading a piece you've never heard before.

Sight-reading tests in music exams (like the ABRSM) are of 'music' no man or beast has ever seen or heard before.

No faking required.

Therefore, the way to practice it is to sight-read lots and lots of stuff for fun - without hearing it on YT etc beforehand. And your teacher should never, ever, play a new piece complete for you before you learn it. (You should sight-read it for her right there and then first, so that she can observe how you go about sight-reading and then learning a new piece.) There is one teacher in the Piano Teachers Forum who does that routinely (hopefully, she's since stopped), and only discovered by accident - after three years of lessons with her - that one girl she was teaching actually can't read music for love or money. She just watched and listened intently as her teacher "went through" every new piece with her, and her memory did the rest....
Originally Posted by earlofmar
This is the first in a serious of videos where she stops lessons to pursue getting better at sight reading. Why did she stop lessons? Because she felt she could not go on without becoming a better sight reader. I happen to disagree that is the best thing to do, but each to their own.

People make bad decisions all the time and when they did, it used to not receive so much notice. Now, though, we have Youtube and other social media so we can all share in the foolishness! 🤣

Usually, the bad decisions people make and then publish on social media are hardly noteworthy - not everyone is logical, but some bad decisions people make may lead to fatal decisions by others due to herd mentality. Often the weakness of such decision-making doesn't become apparent to some until someone dies.
Originally Posted by wszxbcl
Maybe as the pieces became more complex, and unfamiliar, she can no longer learn them to continue lessons. Or she's disappointed with the teaching.
If she doesn't like the teacher she should consider getting a new one. If she thinks the pieces are too difficult for her, she should discuss that with her teacher and perhaps work on easier ones.
Originally Posted by bennevis

Sight-reading tests in music exams (like the ABRSM) are of 'music' no man or beast has ever seen or heard before.

No faking required.

Therefore, the way to practice it is to sight-read lots and lots of stuff for fun - without hearing it on YT etc beforehand. And your teacher should never, ever, play a new piece complete for you before you learn it. (You should sight-read it for her right there and then first, so that she can observe how you go about sight-reading and then learning a new piece.) There is one teacher in the Piano Teachers Forum who does that routinely (hopefully, she's since stopped), and only discovered by accident - after three years of lessons with her - that one girl she was teaching actually can't read music for love or money. She just watched and listened intently as her teacher "went through" every new piece with her, and her memory did the rest....


Rather, no faking possible!
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by wszxbcl
Maybe as the pieces became more complex, and unfamiliar, she can no longer learn them to continue lessons. Or she's disappointed with the teaching.
If she doesn't like the teacher she should consider getting a new one. If she thinks the pieces are too difficult for her, she should discuss that with her teacher and perhaps work on easier ones.


Why speculate the underlying reason (if any) for stopping lessons? You could post a comment on her YouTube channel.
I think it is difficult to do what she has done to recognise a problem and to then post online series about it. I am not sure we can speculate why she left her teacher. She may blame them to some extent for not teaching sight reading ability. I do find it odd that some people learn to mimic their teacher as someone suggested. That is very strange so certainly many people may have problems with teachers. I have always found it odd that most people here have learnt to memorise music I think adults may learn in different ways to kids. I think that sometimes it may be the adult pupil that insists to learn in a certain way and maybe it is not the teachers fault entirely. I think I spend a lot longer on very basic things as a kid whereas from the progress video of some adults it seems they are playing intermediate level pieces very quickly.

I think there may be something in slow progress in the long term. I think many adult beginners have this problem so maybe a rapid progress has some problems. I think memory is a slower way to learn in a longer term. I believe those of us who can read well can play more pieces and trying to memorise everything is not efficient. It may be helpful to see some ideas to try who has this problem with reading. Of all the things tried, I think the paul harris series is an excellent suggestion. I found this series quite clear and helpful. I think you could probably do this without a teacher as it has a structure. I think if you have to do the graded approach and have this sight reading test it forces you to spend some time on this. They have appropriate level sight reading with these books so I think it is more useful to do this if you are a beginner at it.

I think there is a risk with the pick up and play approach that you may pick up difficult music and it is not structured. Whilst I think it works if you are an intermediate level pianist, I am sure it was not something I could do for a long time. I have found books when I was a child where I had to write the names of all the letters under all the notes before I could play it. I am not sure playing 90 minutes random pieces a day is the best way to learn but I agree when you have some ability this is probably a great way to do this. I think picking up lots of music and playing is a great way to develop this skill but I am not sure when it is best to start experimenting with this. Perhaps yes it is better to keep lessons and work on all skills.
A lot of people including myself need to "learn" the notes and then play it back from memory. When she is playing a new piece, she pauses a lot. With a familiar piece her eyes seem to be looking at the keys and playing from memory. The repertoire book in front makes it look like she is reading.
I have been told by many here than memorising gives you a zen-like experience allowing you to connect to the music more. I know only a few pieces and have never found this mythic power. To be honest once you get to a certain level and ability the score is just a guide. You dont need to read the score for the notes. It is a guide to how to play and what the mistakes are. When you have a teacher that will pick up small problems it is annoying but I noticed that many people do not have teachers like this and they play music often with rhythm and note errors and are not aware. After a while it is more about interpretation and details. This can keep you on a piece for a long time. I think maybe it is better to be able to analyse music and understand the score than to memorise it. My ability is very limited with this but I do find it interesting when my teacher explains some of the harmonies and understanding. Sometimes it helps to connect if you read up about the composer or the piece which I dont do. I think harmony and composition that maybe composers or jazz musicians learn is a skill which may be useful. If I ever were to memorise I would do it in a way when I could sit and analyse score to understand this and only if it were a requirement. i have spoken to people who have done performance diploma with music scores and I always get a page turner when i play for people so i have yet to find any place where is critical to memorise.
I don't understand how she learns those pieces if she can't read? It seems like the repertoire must take her months to learn each piece, because it must take a very long time just to learn the notes at that rate? I find it kind of hard to believe. Was she never taught intervals?
Originally Posted by Amykpiano
I don't understand how she learns those pieces if she can't read? It seems like the repertoire must take her months to learn each piece, because it must take a very long time just to learn the notes at that rate? I find it kind of hard to believe. Was she never taught intervals?



It is actually very easy to reach a high level and not be good prima vista sight reader. My previous teacher, who probably wan't that long out of a music degree, told me when I asked her to teach me to sight read, that she couldn't because she wasn't a good sight reader herself.
So they got a music degree without ever learning to read music? That seems kind of amazing that it's possible. They must have incredible memory ability.
Originally Posted by Amykpiano
So they got a music degree without ever learning to read music? That seems kind of amazing that it's possible. They must have incredible memory ability.

Nobody ever gets a music degree without being able to read music.

Incidentally, some experienced pianists will say (with or without false modesty) that they are bad at sight-reading - or even that they "can't" sight-read (for toffee or any other candy). What they really mean is that they don't regard themselves as good sight-readers, even though they can easily sight-read anything that intermediate-advanced pianists are able to play. But they probably wouldn't be able to sight-read Ondine (Debussy's or Ravel's) at tempo.
Originally Posted by Amykpiano
I don't understand how she learns those pieces if she can't read? It seems like the repertoire must take her months to learn each piece, because it must take a very long time just to learn the notes at that rate? I find it kind of hard to believe. Was she never taught intervals?


Why would it take her a long time? Her problem is with prima vista sight-reading "in the moment, in real time" and at tempo, not with reading itself. If you are learning a piece that is challenging for your level of playing ability (as opposed to your sight-reading level), you are spending many hours and repetitions getting on top of the fingering, tied and held notes, rythym, dynamics, articulation etc. After 50 or 100 playthroughs getting all that mastered, you know the piece by heart, without even actively trying to memorise it. How could you not? It would be harder to not know it than to know it.
I'm the same, but I'm working on changing that. I'm not interested in sight reading per se, but I want to have good plain reading skills just to learn pieces faster / play them with the sheet music as a reference.
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Amykpiano
So they got a music degree without ever learning to read music? That seems kind of amazing that it's possible. They must have incredible memory ability.

Nobody ever gets a music degree without being able to read music.

ABRSM is not a music degree. As I know they have like 4 sections, if you suck at sight reading and do well in the other 3 you're good to go.
I'm late in the game. I went to her site and think I have a picture of what happened. One reason at least for one of the early videos, was to signal to teachers the importance of ensuring their students get underlying skills such as sight reading. She's still in the middle of clearing up the whole mess and so doesn't have the whole picture, but has a great deal of it. Sort of deja vu for me. wink

She had 5 years of piano lessons, as an adult. Was diligent about practising, preparing her pieces, and to the best of her knowledge, was getting all the skills including reading. As she went up the grades, it took longer to prepare a piece - but one would think "harder pieces, take longer, logically" and not wrry about it. The crisis crept up on her. At the moment that she dropped out, she was supposedly at the zenith - ready to do exams, acing everything in the program, teacher pleased and so on. But when she was to play starting at a random measure she was lost. I assume that her teacher was "nice" and "sweet" and "patient" about it ...which is not the same thing as recognizing a problem, its source, and helping with it. Or preventing it in the first place.

I've been a similar route. Teacher Marbeth's terms "product vs. process orientation" gave me the vocab for it. "Product" is a piece, an exam, a performance, the end deal --- "process" is the skills and the growth. They are intertwined. Ideally if a student is working through their grade 1, 2, 3, 4 ... pieces, etudes, and scales .... they are also developing underlying skills. It's the skills which matter much more. BUT it is easy to manage to produce the "product" and not get the skills. You can do the whole set of stuff for ABRSM, RCM etc. and miss out on skills. For me it was RCM. My last etude was gr. 7 (violin). This is especially so for adult students. Because we can conceptualize: know what it should sound like; be very diligent - we can end up producing the product, miss the underlying skills, and never realize.

If you have built on shaky ground, and not know it, then at some advanced grade the whole thing can blow up on you. First there are rumblings, but you don't know what that's about. And you will think "This must be what advanced feels like." The cause (and solution) in my case is to get at what it is that you've been missing since day 1. Scrap the entire "program" - forget about preparing for gr. 6 exams, repertoire, whatever.

If a student like this went to another - astute - teacher - that teacher would say "Look, you have some serious reading problems here. Let's work on building this first, and get your skills in order. We'll put the other things you've been doing on the back burner." Is she stayed with her original teacher .... that teacher did not stress the skill in the first place; did not address the problem once signs started to show up - what are the chances that the teacher would suddenly start solving this problem?

She seems to have quit out of embarrassment of how badly she did when she floundered through the "at random" sections of music. That's a stupid reason to quit. But perhaps at a gut level she also felt that this teacher could not help her with the reading skills issue. After all, she hadn't. If in the lessons where she was bombing on those occasions, her teacher had said, "Look, we seem to have reading problem here. How about we go after this first." she probably would not have quit. Otoh, the teacher may have been afraid to "discourage" her by stressing weaknesses or skills .... which is another common thing that happens.
The video itself is clear as a bell to me. Her repertoire is material she practised, and so she knows it well. The score that is up is a reminder of things that she has practised, and it's in memory. She probably never really learned to read. In fact, she talks somewhere of something like, not recognizing G. It makes absolute sense that she is struggling with even the simplest music, if "G" isn't anything or anywhere. And I have been there.

The hesitancy is not the "cause", and "letting loose", "letting go of perfection" is not the solution. Supposing we both want to go to Rome. I'm east of Rome, so to get there I have to go west. If I want to tell you how to go to Rome, I better find out that you are west of Rome, before I tell you to travel west .... because that advice will get you further and further away. You cannot advise someone based on how you learned, because you have to find out how they learned and what their situation is.

She's doing the right thing. The only thing with that video is that if it's addressed to teachers, only some teachers will "get it". And those teachers are the ones who won't create that problem in their students in the first place.

I've got a t-shirt to give away, except nobody should want it. wink
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Originally Posted by Jack Moody
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Still sounds illogical to me. You begin with less hesitation which is what the person cannot do without playing wrong notes. Kind of like saying a person overeats and is overweight. Solution:don't be overweight,


You can easily sidestep this problem if you just let yourself play wrong notes.


This reminds me of other anecdotes.
Cars- Fast, reliable and cheap, you can have 2 of the 3.
Bodybuilding- Big, cut, and natural (no peds). You can't have all 3.

Here's a new one. Sight reading - Fast, accurate, and inexperienced. You can only be 2 of the 3.


Yes, I'd say that's about right. You could also say Speed, Accuracy, and Complexity. If you want to play faster and more accurately, you have to play simpler music.

This is simple but genius.

Speed, accuracy and complexity. You want all 3, but how do you get them?

2 of the 3 are always possible! Think about that!

Most think that accuracy should NEVER be compromised though.

1. Tell someone to practice simpler songs so they can play faster and they say ok.
2. Tell someone to practice slower so they can accurately play more complex songs and they say ok.
3. Tell someone to practice less accurately so they can play more complex songs faster and they will think you are crazy.

Are we failing to push for speed and complexity combined?

Should you spend at least a little time on all 3 methods? If not, why?
Here is what I get from that video ….

She is experiencing the same thing that all those who memorize pieces and look exclusively at their hands as they play.

She runs out of memory eventually and begins to forget pieces that they had learned previously.

Then, they have to "re-learn" the piece later on if they desire to play it again.

It gets easier to learn but that process get frustrating over time.

So ….

They decide they have to learn to play while following alone in the notation.

That is DIFFICULT.

So …. some forge ahead and get better at it.

Those players find a while new world opens up as they can now pick up a sheet of music (at their level) and just play through it immediately.

Maybe not perfect …. but enough so they can recognize the tune.

Then they practice it to their standard.

Later on ….they can just pick it up and play it and the notation will be there to remind them of parts they might have forgotten as they play.

Much easier.

It took some work but the rewards were well worth it.
Originally Posted by keystring
I'm late in the game...... She seems to have quit out of embarrassment of how badly she did when she floundered through the "at random" sections of music. That's a stupid reason to quit. But perhaps at a gut level she also felt that this teacher could not help her with the reading skills issue.


better late than never smile

In any case you summarised her situation quite well having some empathy for the subject.

Originally Posted by keystring
If a student like this went to another - astute - teacher - that teacher would say "Look, you have some serious reading problems here. Let's work on building this first, and get your skills in order. We'll put the other things you've been doing on the back burner." Is she stayed with her original teacher .... that teacher did not stress the skill in the first place; did not address the problem once signs started to show up - what are the chances that the teacher would suddenly start solving this problem?


Perhaps, but this was not my experience when I changed to what I consider to be a fantastic and astute teacher. One problem seems to be the exam system itself. Although there are some good reasons for doing exams one of the detriments is the lack of focus on sight reading ability. Understandably not everyone is going to make a great sight reader, but the exam component and marking for sight reading is tiny compared to playing the main pieces. This becomes a problem of balance for the teacher, students/parents want exam results to show they are progressing. So ear training and sight reading become lower priorities and often neglected until close to exam time.
Originally Posted by earlofmar
One problem seems to be the exam system itself. Although there are some good reasons for doing exams one of the detriments is the lack of focus on sight reading ability. Understandably not everyone is going to make a great sight reader, but the exam component and marking for sight reading is tiny compared to playing the main pieces. This becomes a problem of balance for the teacher, students/parents want exam results to show they are progressing. So ear training and sight reading become lower priorities and often neglected until close to exam time.

If you look at the Piano Teachers Forum, you'll find that ear training is hardly on the radar, and sight-reading is rarely important for teachers whose students don't do exams. In other words, without exams, there is no reason to 'waste time' on teaching aural skills and sight-reading. (And aural skills is the one section where you can easily score maximum marks, thus getting 12% of the total marks in ABRSM, so why wouldn't a teacher teach it? Sight-reading makes up 14%. If you're bad at both, it's very unlikely you'll scrape a pass).

When I was a student, as I've mentioned many times before, I was tested on sight-reading at every lesson (my teacher got me to sight-read every piece that I was going to learn, in front of her), and aural training started from the first lesson, with counting beats aloud in pitch with the notes. None of my peers had any problem with sight-reading and aural skills either, though all had different teachers and all did ABRSM exams. Almost everyone in my high school who were having instrumental lessons also sang in the school choir (where sight-singing skills were required, because of the rep that we learnt and performed), which was how I found friends to play duets with (violin & piano, as well as piano duets: we basically sight-read through lots of stuff for fun).

I think the problem is mainly with adult students who want to 'push through' the grades quickly (or whose teachers believe - rightly or wrongly - that adults don't want to waste time with spending a lot of time on properly mastering basic skills), and therefore set the agenda for their teachers, like the adult student whose YT you posted.
Originally Posted by earlofmar

better late than never smile

In any case you summarised her situation quite well having some empathy for the subject.
[/quote ]
Thank you, earlofmarch. smile I guess one reason for the empathy is that I lived a situation that was very close. You diligently follow instructions, trusting them, and then discover you've been led down the garden path. It is not necessarily done with malice.
[quote]....This becomes a problem of balance for the teacher, students/parents want exam results to show they are progressing. So ear training and sight reading become lower priorities and often neglected until close to exam time.


There is often a fundamental misunderstanding about exams, and this does a lot of mischief. In my own teacher training and subsequent practice, exams and tests were seen as one way of keeping track of student progress and the direction to give your lessons. They were also seen as the weakest and least reliable method of assessment. When teaching large numbers of students such as in a classroom of 30, or when institutions such as schools and school systems need to process and categorize students, exams are used. They can be a "processing tool". Exams are only as good as their design and appropriateness for a particular student (body) and the assessor interpreting them. Ideally that is the teacher doing the teaching - but often it is done by outside bodies.

Exams often become a thing unto themselves. Instead of studying in order to learn, people study in order to pass exams, and in some cases actually bypass learning altogether. Our societies have been so inculcated by these mechanisms, which we are used to through school systems, work, etc., that we can take them for granted, and even expect and demand them.

In regard to music, a few years ago I was talking to a piano teacher who was throwing his hands up in frustration, because he had a student who insisted on doing the exams. Because he had to teach toward the exams, he could not give her the skills she needed, because he could not teach toward them. Preparing for the exams, prevented him from teaching her. Btw, this was not hard for me to understand because I was once in a similar situation with a student myself, in my field. We were locked in a situation due to the school system, and I was absolutely prevented from teaching this student.

You may also want to look up Elissa Milne's blog. Her material is used as exam material and she had a few things to say here a few years ago about exams. She straightened out some misperceptions I had about how things were set up.
Originally Posted by bennevis
I think the problem is mainly with adult students who want to 'push through' the grades quickly (or whose teachers believe - rightly or wrongly - that adults don't want to waste time with spending a lot of time on properly mastering basic skills), and therefore set the agenda for their teachers, like the adult student whose YT you posted.

The adult student did 6 grades in 5 years which is not terribly fast. She did everything she was told, how she was told, and that's how she got in trouble. Her reason for quitting and studying on her own was for the purpose of slowing down the process. It is also not always as simple as "speed". Teachers may not grasp that an adult needs to be taught basic fundamental things. The teacher will skip these things because the student is progressing so well, so they must have it. The student, meanwhile, has no idea that anything is missing. These fundamental skills are silent killers, because in simpler more basic music, you don't need the tools, but later in higher grades it bites you - and you don't know what has bitten you. It is insiduous. The solution is what that student is doing: go after the skills you were never given.
it is no mystery people, she goes through a detailed video on her blog where she goes through why she thinks she is a bad sight reader.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNp2pmBXBEk
The video she posted seems much more than just not reading in the moment, she wasn't able to read even very simple music slowly. She says in the subsequent video that Moo posted that she could only learn 4 pieces all year because each piece took so long. That seems logical if a person is not able to sight read well, it would take so long just to recognize the notes to play the piece, then you'd have to spend a few weeks relearning the notes each time you played until you committed it to memory. That's what I mean that it must have taken such a long time. It seems like she has been able to make up for lost time very quickly though, she is certainly a very committed student!
i had a watch of the videos. i am not a teacher but to me this experiment of buying huge amount of books and just focusing on solidly on 90 mins sight reading. i am not sure why the focus is on sight reading. there appears a more fundamental reading and learning problem from the score. i actually do not think it is so important the first (or second or every third) playing of a piece. however bad these attempt unless in an exam setting it really does not matter. what matters is that you are able to successfully correct or not. if we make an error it is basic stuff but we would practice to solve it. we can then learn. piano reading score is a lot of trial and error and learning. many strategies can be used. play it very slowly. hands separately. count it. clap it. play it hands separately. then when we have it play it together again with strategies. what she however does is just go from the beginning and in all the attempts i saw it is just give it a go and if it doesnt work then there is not even basic strategies used. it cant seem to be focused or fixed. we instead just have someone practice the first attempts over and over with no music. i dont thinik it works. i actually think bennevis is correct that 'sight reading' may be something more for an exam. i am sure a bad sight reader is not a problem. i think it the inability of someone to go from a bad sight reading passage to correcting errors and then learning the score is essential. having no idea how to correct this however a huge issue. it really is a beginner problem where people just go back to the beginning and play the same hands together and hope for the best. unless this is worked on then i dont think there is much hope of solving these problems. i think it sad this is discussed on a public forum without this individual's permission but i do not myself think this is a successful way to solve a primary reading problem. i think this again shows me why teaching is so important. i would suggest you contact this person to ensure that she does not mind this debate as i do not want to be unfairly criticising someone if it is not wanted.
Originally Posted by Amykpiano
The video she posted seems much more than just not reading in the moment, she wasn't able to read even very simple music slowly. She says in the subsequent video that Moo posted that she could only learn 4 pieces all year because each piece took so long. That seems logical if a person is not able to sight read well, it would take so long just to recognize the notes to play the piece, then you'd have to spend a few weeks relearning the notes each time you played until you committed it to memory. That's what I mean that it must have taken such a long time. It seems like she has been able to make up for lost time very quickly though, she is certainly a very committed student!


I see. Maybe then sight reading is needed at a basic level to be able to read notes and play to a reasonable attempt. So perhaps yes I think that sight reading needs some work. I do however think that 'sight reading' ability is only really a test that matters for an exam. I do think more important that sight reading a passage and failing what is important is successfully using strategies then you can be going places. I really think it is more important to be able to know how to solve problems to be able to learn and reading scores. If you know how to practice effectively to solve problems then you can progress. I saw none of this in the examples. I am not a teacher so not really too sure on this but i dont think sight reading loads of scores if you cant problem solve will work. i think a teacher would be better to be honest. I would be interested to hear what a piano teacher thinks.
Originally Posted by Amykpiano
She says in the subsequent video that Moo posted that she could only learn 4 pieces all year because each piece took so long. That seems logical if a person is not able to sight read well, it would take so long just to recognize the notes to play the piece, then you'd have to spend a few weeks relearning the notes each time you played until you committed it to memory.


this low quantity of pieces is not because she is a bad prima vista sight reader, this is just very common for people taking exams, myself included. No, the principle reasons why pieces take longer to learn as they get harder is the technical requirements that have to be learned and honed until they become ingrained. Every new piano grade requires learning some new technique(s) which can be a very slow process. Additionally, each piece must be brought to a performance level, where every dynamic has been scrutinized, ingrained, and the piece is secure enough to withstand the rigor and problems that come with taking an exam. This all takes time, a lot of it. But also it is rather simplistic to talk about four pieces, as practice time/concentration levels is limited for most people and of course there is the learning and preparation of a huge amount of technical exercises, sight reading and ear tests. A typical year will also include work on learning the technical analysis of your works, misc theory as a minimum, but might also include a full theory exam in order to progress.

I am not a great prima vista sight reader, but I have no problem learning advanced pieces. Except for my very first run through of a piece I am not reading every note, no one does, But general sight reading is so very different to prima vista reading, although there is a relationship.


I'm fairly new to playing piano so maybe I'm just not understanding her in her videos as I am no where near grade 6 level. She says it was difficult for her to even start at different places in the piece when her teacher would ask her to start somewhere other than the beginning because she only memorized the pieces from the beginning. That seems like it's not just slow sight reading, but as I said, I'm pretty new to all this, so maybe there is way more to it that I just haven't experienced yet.
I agree, that reading with accuracy and up to tempo with dynamics, I'm sure is only necessary for an exam. But if sight reading gets so far behind a person's playing level, I imagine it would reduce the number of pieces that can be learned because the process of learning would be slowed down quite a bit, even if the person can still learn less pieces to a very high level. I watched a few of her videos from last year and then some from now and it seems like she has made huge strides in a relatively short time, so her ability to play and probably her knowledge of theory, etc, probably made her learn to read more quickly than someone starting from square one. She has certainly progressed much more quickly than me! lol
The important thing is that she caught on that there was a problem, got off the conveyor belt, and started to work on the problem. She should never have been in that situation in the first place, and one of her videos is also a plea to teachers.
Well I think there are different problems for her. The reason she was lost when she was asked to start from a random measure is not only because she is a bad sight reader, it's because of they way she memorized the piece. This must be the case when you rely mostly on muscle memory, I must be doing it different because I don't seem to have this problem even though my sight reading is bad. There's a difference between sight reading and just reading on a piece you worked for a week or a month or more. If I work on a piece for a month, even though I can't sight read it, I can play it from any measure and I can surely say where in the score I'm at and what note is there, because that is no sight reading. So I don't really understand how her piece learning really works. I think I heard about this kind of thing from some of Josh Wright's videos, he was telling about some students that can only play a piece from the beginning, I find it kind of amazing how that is even possible. Aren't they breaking the piece when learning in parts, like A, B, C, then phrases, then maybe work on some measure multiple times, then join together with the rest?

Also, I don't think doing 90 minutes of sight reading is really the way to go. The brain needs time to process that information, I found that after 30 minutes of sight reading practice my brain just tells me to gtfo.
The fundamental problem is the teacher - adult student relationship. The teacher's expectation of his student, and the student's expectation of what he wanted from his lessons.

Time and time again, ever since I've been in ABF, I've seen cases where student sets the agenda and practically tells his teacher what he wants to learn (and I'm not just talking about actual pieces) - and the teacher of course obliges. And time and time again, I also see teachers not teaching the fundamentals properly before pushing on......to proper music, well before the student is ready for the latter's intricacies, even if the student isn't (consciously) setting the agenda.

Exams can be part of the solution, if the student understands how - and the teacher is on board. It worked for my friend who started piano lessons from scratch when he retired at 60: only when he told his teacher that he really wanted to learn everything properly from the basics up and he wanted to do ABRSM exams that his teacher (who specialized in teaching adults) changed tack and switched from the rubbish adult beginner book he was using (the one very popular in ABF) and used a children's beginner course instead - the one he used for all his child students. He told my friend that he was the first adult beginner he had who actually wanted to go as slowly as a child beginner normally would in order to learn everything properly, rather than rush into learning Für Elise (or whatever).

As for the lady whose YT is this thread's subject, it's evident that she can read music, but her reading skills are below par for her grade. If she had been a child student, almost certainly her teacher would have gone much slower and ensured she developed her sight-reading skills commensurate with the grade requirements. Did her teacher make her sight-read each and every piece that she learnt, like all my four teachers did, and get her to learn a wide range of music? Who knows? Whose fault was it??
Originally Posted by bennevis
The fundamental problem is the teacher - adult student relationship. The teacher's expectation of his student, and the student's expectation of what he wanted from his lessons.

Time and time again, ever since I've been in ABF, I've seen cases where student sets the agenda and practically tells his teacher what he wants to learn ....

Bennevis, you are continually putting out this one and only scenario. It is absolutely not the only one. There are many cases where the student follows every instruction, is intent on following instructions, trusts the teacher, and it still goes totally this same wrong direction. You will not have seen this because of your age when you started lessons, and the country. Please do finally be open to other possibilities you cannot know about.

I used to think that my experience was unique, but it wasn't. When I took lessons, I started to be alarmed at how fast we were going from grade to grade. When I had gone from prelim., to gr. 1, gr. 2, and was now to start gr. 3, I slammed on the brakes and asked to go back because I felt something was missing. The teacher looked perplexed, disappointed. We went back, but we skimmed through the stuff even more superficially than the first time. I was absolutely not creating the type of pressure that you describe. But the teacher had a preconception that this is what I would want. Nor, when you're a novice, do you know what to ask for. So you're stuck in this dreadful loop.

When I came to PW and went behind the scenes, I have run into at least half a dozen people who were in similar scenarios. Sometimes when the student knew how to articulate their wishes, the teacher was more than happy to switch to a different style of teaching. A few times the teacher didn't actually know how to teach and there was a change of teachers.

It is not a simple thing. The adult student is a recent phenomenon. When I first came, several teachers readily admitted that they haven't a clue how to teach older students since there was no precedent.
Other things can throw teachers, especially signs of skills that are actually not there, and the assumption that they are. A young child will apply the things he has been told to do, and ends up playing the music in a way that sounds correct. The things he has applied are also the skills that are forming. An adult student can grasp the concept of the piece, knows how it should sound, and end up producing the right thing as well. The teacher will assume that if the music has been produced, the skills are also there. This is wrong.

Similarly, some advice on teaching adults will say that since they can conceptualize and intellectualize, this is how you should teach. By doing so, the whole skill building thing can be short changed. There is nothing holding up the building, and nobody knows that fact until it all collapses at a higher grade level.

The only solution that I have found personally is to always look for the most fundamental, basic, concrete, including physical, level - child-like - in order to not be shortchanged. If something isn't working, I go right to the bottom. Were I to start a new instrument tomorrow, I would insist on getting basics, and assure the teacher that I will not be bored or insulted to be working at that level.
Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by bennevis
The fundamental problem is the teacher - adult student relationship. The teacher's expectation of his student, and the student's expectation of what he wanted from his lessons.

Time and time again, ever since I've been in ABF, I've seen cases where student sets the agenda and practically tells his teacher what he wants to learn ....

Bennevis, you are continually putting out this one and only scenario. It is absolutely not the only one. There are many cases where the student follows every instruction, is intent on following instructions, trusts the teacher, and it still goes totally this same wrong direction. You will not have seen this because of your age when you started lessons, and the country. Please do finally be open to other possibilities you cannot know about.


Didn't you read the rest of my post?

In particular, this:

Originally Posted by bennevis
And time and time again, I also see teachers not teaching the fundamentals properly before pushing on......to proper music, well before the student is ready for the latter's intricacies, even if the student isn't (consciously) setting the agenda.


It's always a good idea to read the whole post before jumping to (preconceived) conclusions.
You have a habit of looking at the poster's username and having preconceived notions of what the poster is saying - and rushing in with your response - before even reading the post properly.

I'll reiterate:
If you want to ensure you're being properly taught at the right pace for you - including all the fundamentals - you'll have a much better chance of getting that by doing grade exams, and by not setting the pace for your teacher. And make sure your teacher is a good one, and knows about the exams.

At least, you'll get the comments and the marks for each section of the exam that tell you what you are lacking - or what your teacher isn't teaching you properly.........
Originally Posted by bennevis

Didn't you read the rest of my post?

In particular, this:

Originally Posted by bennevis
And time and time again, I also see teachers not teaching the fundamentals properly before pushing on......to proper music, well before the student is ready for the latter's intricacies, even if the student isn't (consciously) setting the agenda.


Yes, I read your post, and carefully.

I read the part you quoted several times. "even if the student isn't (consciously) setting the agenda." - the "consciously" suggests that the student is "subconsciously" setting the agenda - that even in this case, the attitude is there. It was, in fact, a difficult sentence to understand for that reason. Perhaps you can explain?

Quote
I'll reiterate:
If you want to ensure you're being properly taught at the right pace for you - including all the fundamentals - you'll have a much better chance of getting that by doing grade exams, and by not setting the pace for your teacher. And make sure your teacher is a good one, and knows about the exams.


Unfortunately that is not necessarily the case. I went that route. The story of the student being featured in this thread is similar to mine in a number of ways. What you may not be fully appreciating is everything your teacher put into teaching you. She seems to have been a wonderful and extraordinary teacher. I'm so glad you had her. Programs are just a shell. You have no idea what goes on in other countries. wink
I’m not sure if my experience is unique but:
I never took graded exams as a child. In fact, I didn’t know they existed.
However, I had extensive training in aural, and theory. After about two years, a second weekly lesson was added just for that purpose. And as a treat, we would sight-read piano duets. I did not consider it ‘sight reading’ exercises, but a cherry on top of the sundae.

Would it have been better with exams? Maybe. but I doubt that the principles would have been taught differently.
Originally Posted by dogperson
I’m not sure if my experience is unique but:
I never took graded exams as a child. In fact, I didn’t know they existed.
However, I had extensive training in aural, and theory. After about two years, a second weekly lesson was added just for that purpose.

I think your experience is quite unique for someone (even a child) who didn't follow a graded syllabus and didn't do exams.

I don't recall anyone else in ABF under similar circumstances who had such a complete grounding in all the basics as you without the 'incentive' of exams. Most others who knew what they lacked had to fight for it from their teachers.

You were very lucky with your teacher.
Originally Posted by keystring

I read the part you quoted several times. "even if the student isn't (consciously) setting the agenda." - the "consciously" suggests that the student is "subconsciously" setting the agenda - that even in this case, the attitude is there. It was, in fact, a difficult sentence to understand for that reason. Perhaps you can explain?

There have been many posts in ABF where the poster says he lets his teacher set the agenda, including even choosing all the pieces, and then, a few sentences later, something along the lines of "I didn't enjoy......so my teacher changed to........". The question is - is the 'alternative' really what the teacher would have wanted his student to learn, to plug the gaps in his knowledge or skills? Is Scarlatti really the alternative to Bach? Or Chopin the alternative to Mozart?

Which is (I suspect) the way most adults expect to learn: after all, they are adults and learning the piano is purely for recreation. Why would they want to practice 'boring' stuff......like counting beats aloud, right from the first lesson? (Is there actually an adult beginner here whose teacher made them do that - and they did it? .....yet Graham Fitch, among other YT teachers, recommends it.) Or learn 'boring' pieces with simple RH tunes but a busy LH? Or pieces they don't like? Or scales & arpeggios? Or practice at recognizing intervals by ear?

I've already mentioned how, even as a young adult, my last teacher got me to learn pieces I didn't particularly like (at first), and composers whose music I didn't enjoy (at first) in order for me to develop a complete range of classical skills and knowledge that I needed for my performance diploma.

Now of course, I appreciate having had to learn all those pieces and all those composers' piano styles all those decades ago, because there's nothing I can't play or understand.
There are many scenarios. You consistently filter out only the one.

In my case I expected that I would be taught what needed to be taught, did what I was told to do believing that these were necessary things, and discovered some years later just how many shortcuts there had been - and it had been due to the assumptions you just wrote (and the assumptions you yourself seem to have). I then met other students who were in the same situation. they did not do the things you wrote about. There was no "I didn't enjoy .... so....." That is ONE scenario. It is not the only one.

The actual facts that I set out are being buried so I will not continue this discussion.

The actual issue is a student who discovered after 5 years of lessons that she had not been given an essential skill, and stopped lessons so she could go after that skill. Should she have asked her teacher to give her that skill? The underlying scenario is probably the project/process one which was set out by senior teacher Marbeth.
Originally Posted by keystring
There are many scenarios. You consistently filter out only the one.

In my case I expected that I would be taught what needed to be taught, did what I was told to do believing that these were necessary things, and discovered some years later just how many shortcuts there had been - and it had been due to the assumptions you just wrote (and the assumptions you yourself seem to have). I then met other students who were in the same situation. they did not do the things you wrote about. There was no "I didn't enjoy .... so....." That is ONE scenario. It is not the only one.

You keep referring to your violin lessons, where you did exams. Violin exams are different, and violin skills are different.

This is the piano forum.
Quote
The actual issue is a student who discovered after 5 years of lessons that she had not been given an essential skill, and stopped lessons so she could go after that skill. Should she have asked her teacher to give her that skill? The underlying scenario is probably the project/process one which was set out by senior teacher Marbeth.

You are mistaken.

She was taught to read, and she can read, and sight-read. But she jumped ahead with grades before her sight-reading skills caught up.

It's not clear whose fault that was. People don't divulge everything on YT. She is an adult.........
Violin is a different instrument. You only read the Treble Clef. In the lower levels you only play 1 note at a time with no overlapping notes (broken chords) until you pass level 3 you start playing double stops (2 - 4 notes at a time). The main issue with playing violin is putting your fingers on the right places on the strings. It's not a fretted instrument like a guitar or mandolin. You press on the strings to get the right notes by feel.

Piano sight-reading you need to read 2 staffs (Treble & Bass). Some very beginner pieces you'd alternate the L & R playing just 1 note at a time. As long as you read the correct notes and pressed the corresponding keys, the instrument is always is tune. When playing a violin, getting the notes in tune can be a problem unless you play an open string (no finger pressed).

Playing the "Minuet in G" from the Anna M Notebook as a violin player you only do the melody line. Playing the same piece on a piano you need to do both the melody (Treble) & the accompaniment (Bass).
Originally Posted by Jack Moody

Speed, accuracy and complexity. You want all 3, but how do you get them?

2 of the 3 are always possible! Think about that!


I know! Crazy, isn't it?

Originally Posted by Jack Moody

Most think that accuracy should NEVER be compromised though.

1. Tell someone to practice simpler songs so they can play faster and they say ok.
2. Tell someone to practice slower so they can accurately play more complex songs and they say ok.
3. Tell someone to practice less accurately so they can play more complex songs faster and they will think you are crazy.


In classical circles, this line of thinking is considered blasphemy. Too bad, because that attitude really holds people back.

My attitude regarding this issue started to shift after I read "The Perfect Wrong Note", a great book by William Westney.
Anything I wrote was about music studies in general and applies to all studies, especially piano. I have been studying piano formally with a teacher for ten years now. I did violin for 4, and effectively only 3. This has gone negative and in the usual way. My hope above all is that new adult learners reading again about all the attitudes that supposedly exist, will not take it to heart, or think everyone thinks that way - too many have become discouraged and gone underground or disappeared altogether. That's what happens with stereotypes. I think we know better than that.

The important thing about any problem, such as the one experienced by the student who inspired this thread, is that when you recognize a problem and address it, then it stops being one. Every rough spot is an opportunity for growth, and a sign of something that needs to be learned - and this is an adventure.
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Originally Posted by Jack Moody

Speed, accuracy and complexity. You want all 3, but how do you get them?

2 of the 3 are always possible! Think about that!


I know! Crazy, isn't it?

Originally Posted by Jack Moody

Most think that accuracy should NEVER be compromised though.

1. Tell someone to practice simpler songs so they can play faster and they say ok.
2. Tell someone to practice slower so they can accurately play more complex songs and they say ok.
3. Tell someone to practice less accurately so they can play more complex songs faster and they will think you are crazy.


In classical circles, this line of thinking is considered blasphemy. Too bad, because that attitude really holds people back.

My attitude regarding this issue started to shift after I read "The Perfect Wrong Note", a great book by William Westney.


I'm not saying that people are right or wrong in this notion. I am not an accomplished sight reader, so I don't know the best path.

I find it interesting that you are the only one that Ive noticed challenging this idea.

I thought about this today. I considered trying to sight read very quickly, while away from a piano. What effect would that have?

I can say this. Your comments have inspired me to try reading quick enough to sacrifice accuracy. It's much harder than I expected. My mind simply does not want to accept that I need to keep moving no matter what. Also, I found it hard to just go a little faster. I either wanted my normal comfortable pace or I wanted to go much faster. This brought me to the idea that maybe I don't really know how fast I can play something.

I wouldn't practice only in this fashion, but whats wrong with adding it to your practice?
The problem with playing the wrong note is that sometimes it's the same as whacking your shin against the coffee table, or someone jamming an ice pick into your skull. The wrong sound hurts! Can't deal with it. I'd rather play the right sound.
Sight reading doesn't have to be a performance speed. Why would someone want to sight read faster than what would allow for a reasonable degree of accuracy?

I think when most people read through a piece for the first time they will also naturally stop to correct obvious wrong notes, There's nothing wrong with this approach either whether or not it fits the of sight reading.
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Sight reading doesn't have to be a performance speed. Why would someone want to sight read faster than what would allow for a reasonable degree of accuracy?

I think when most people read through a piece for the first time they will also naturally stop to correct obvious wrong notes, There's nothing wrong with this approach either whether or not it fits the of sight reading.


The problem with stopping to fix errors is that it becomes a habit so that you can’t just continue through the error when the situation requires it.
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Sight reading doesn't have to be a performance speed. Why would someone want to sight read faster than what would allow for a reasonable degree of accuracy?

I think when most people read through a piece for the first time they will also naturally stop to correct obvious wrong notes, There's nothing wrong with this approach either whether or not it fits the of sight reading.


The problem with stopping to fix errors is that it becomes a habit so that you can’t just continue through the error when the situation requires it.

There shouldn't be a confusion in a student's mind between (sight-)reading through a new piece with the intention of learning it, and sight-reading as a one-off play-through (whether for fun or for real).

With the former, one should play it slowly enough to get all the notes (and rhythm, articulation, dynamics, phrasing, expression etc) right and stop to correct mistakes if required - but not necessarily play the whole piece from beginning to end. For the latter, you want to play it at performance speed if possible, and drop inconvenient notes along the way if you have to wink while keeping strict time.

After all, you never know when someone might plonk the score of Bridge over Troubled Water on your music rest (while you're trying to practice the Hammerklavier) and say: "Hey! Play this so we can sing it together!" and you take a glance and see all those crazy chords and arpeggios, and say: "No problemo!" and start playing.

But of course, you can't play it too slowly, because your friend (and yourself) will gasp and turn blue because you're running out of O2 from trying to sing each phrase in one breath (as Art did). So what do you do? You just drop the unnecessary notes and simplify the chords & arpeggios so that you don't run out of fingers, but play at the right speed and in strict time. (There's no room for Chopinesque rubato in pop music). And you and your friend give a performance that elicits a standing ovation from the audience in the bar. thumb

Now you realize why you've been practicing sight-reading for those piano exams - for just such occasions grin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNq3c0NVhzA
Jack Moody, you mentioned playing faster. I get sightreading at my lessons so I'll share it. My teacher takes out music I've not seen before and gives me about 15-20 seconds to look it over. She goes to the piano next to mine and we start playing together. I struggle to keep up. I play some wrong notes, sometimes one hand is lost for a whole measure but I jump back in the next measure. Meanwhile she's telling me: "read ahead!", "left hand softer", "dynamics", "use your pedal!" etc.

My teacher plays the pieces pretty much at its indicated tempo (may go just a notch slower if too difficult) and doesn't wait even when I'm floundering. But at a cadence she may stretch it out longer to let me catch my breath then it's " ready... aannndd... go on!". When I do really poorly she may let me try certain sections again. Second try usually a lot better but we never play it more than twice. After we're done, she takes her music back. I never see it again, I get a new piece next week. The difficulty of the music varies.

About wrong notes, I think it's important to say that the wrong notes were not random. I did not play the notes wrong because I'm some free spirit who doesn't care and would just press any key. It's the opposite for me. Actually I am intensely focused during these sessions trying to play the right notes. Certain mistakes happen because certain ideas are unclear in the mind.

Sightreading has to do with having a quick physical response to visual information. Without quickness (ie timely response), it's no different from learning a new piece. So if you practice sightreading as slow as you like, you're not training for quickness of response (though I'm sure you're still training for other things). When you are under pressure you watch for changes ahead, and try to find patterns to help you survive.

The student has to care. I care about being able to play the right notes on time. I care about doing well so I give it all. My teacher cannot do sightreading with me if I just stop playing and say "that's too fast, I can't do it." One has to desperately want to succeed during sight reading, and at the same time not be afraid to fail.
To bsharpcyclist, yes the wrong sound hurts but when i have my teacher there playing the right sound it hurts less. I still hear my mistakes but her right sound is the one that registered in my mind.
Originally Posted by wszxbcl
Jack Moody, you mentioned playing faster. I get sightreading at my lessons so I'll share it. My teacher takes out music I've not seen before and gives me about 15-20 seconds to look it over. She goes to the piano next to mine and we start playing together. I struggle to keep up. I play some wrong notes, sometimes one hand is lost for a whole measure but I jump back in the next measure. Meanwhile she's telling me: "read ahead!", "left hand softer", "dynamics", "use your pedal!" etc.


I read the description of what happens in these lessons with interest. Among other things, I see guidance, and habits of attention that your teacher is implanting.

One thing that interests me is what preceded this. Did you start sight reading after learning to recognize notes from score to piano, understanding note value and so on? Do you, or did you, also get other foundational things like basic theory for understanding the music (key signatures, note values, time signature) and sight reading is a part of this greater whole?
Originally Posted by dogperson


The problem with stopping to fix errors is that it becomes a habit so that you can’t just continue through the error when the situation requires it.


I agree. The essence of practicing is everything that you do at the piano becomes a memory upon which you will rely when a similar situation occurs.

Students I have had who learned from previous teachers (or all by themselves) to stop and correct things as they occur invariably will stop and correct things all the time when playing, be it in a recital, in public, for the teacher, etc. It is a VERY hard habit to break.

The several students I have had who learned from the very beginning to carry on through when they make a mistake usually do that...carry on through, because they have learned not to stop, and have learned strategies to employ to keep on going when the inevitable error(s) occur.

Bottom line: you get what you practice...it is a double-edged sword.
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Sight reading doesn't have to be a performance speed. Why would someone want to sight read faster than what would allow for a reasonable degree of accuracy?

I think when most people read through a piece for the first time they will also naturally stop to correct obvious wrong notes, There's nothing wrong with this approach either whether or not it fits the of sight reading.


The problem with stopping to fix errors is that it becomes a habit so that you can’t just continue through the error when the situation requires it.
Perhaps for some people, but in my own rather extensive amateur performing experience, I have never stopped because of an error either in a performance or in a situation where I had to sight read a piece accompanying a singer or chorus.

I can't imagine that all or even most pros never stop to fix an error the first time they read through a piece, but I have never heard a pro stop to fix an error during a performance. I haven't even heard an amateur on YT stop to fix an error in a performance although I guess one could find an example of this.
Originally Posted by bennevis
There shouldn't be a confusion in a student's mind between (sight-)reading through a new piece with the intention of learning it, and sight-reading as a one-off play-through (whether for fun or for real).

With the former, one should play it slowly enough to get all the notes (and rhythm, articulation, dynamics, phrasing, expression etc) right and stop to correct mistakes if required - but not necessarily play the whole piece from beginning to end. For the latter, you want to play it at performance speed if possible, and drop inconvenient notes along the way if you have to wink while keeping strict time.
Exactly and this matches my experience.
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Sight reading doesn't have to be a performance speed. Why would someone want to sight read faster than what would allow for a reasonable degree of accuracy?

I think when most people read through a piece for the first time they will also naturally stop to correct obvious wrong notes, There's nothing wrong with this approach either whether or not it fits the of sight reading.


The problem with stopping to fix errors is that it becomes a habit so that you can’t just continue through the error when the situation requires it.
Perhaps for some people, but in my own rather extensive amateur performing experience, I have never stopped because of an error either in a performance or in a situation where I had to sight read a piece accompanying a singer or chorus.

I can't imagine that all or even most pros never stop to fix an error the first time they read through a piece, but I have never heard a pro stop to fix an error during a performance. I haven't even heard an amateur on YT stop to fix an error in a performance although I guess one could find an example of this.




I have heard beginners stop during a recital to fix an error; but you might to read Rocket88’s post to get a teacher s perspective. Just because you don’t stop doesn’t mean that others don’t.
Originally Posted by rocket88

I agree. The essence of practicing is everything that you do at the piano becomes a memory upon which you will rely when a similar situation occurs.

Students I have had who learned from previous teachers (or all by themselves) to stop and correct things as they occur invariably will stop and correct things all the time when playing, be it in a recital, in public, for the teacher, etc. It is a VERY hard habit to break......

Bottom line: you get what you practice...it is a double-edged sword.

Now that we are talking about practising, I think we should look at this more closely, and you'll probably agree. Like, what kind of practising, and toward what?

For example, when I work on a piece of music, especially newly, I am not playing it through. There is chunking, dividing up into sections, isolating and identifying difficulties and deciding how to approach these. If there is a difficult leap coming up in m. 37 and a pedal change, I might work on just those two notes, with and without pedal, and then the measure before that coming into it. So that later, when I play through the section or the whole piece, that has been practised. There will be no reason to slow down or retake, because of that prior preparation.

Again in practising, I might simplify a section, turn an Alberti bass into block chords, take out notes and later put them back in.

When I play through a piece, to me this is a different kind of practising for a different purpose. The kinds of preparatory or building practice that I described above means that I have a handle on the piece inside out. I will also do play-throughs, and especially before getting out to perform in a recital, an exam, or in front of friends. In that kind of play-through, you don't stop, and you practise not stopping "no matter what".

A lot of people know this already, but we also have learners at all kinds of stages, with all kinds of backgrounds so I thought it might be good to look at this more closely. Any disagreement? wink
I would still consider SIGHTREADING practice to be different from practice in reading and practicing a piece you are learning to play.

Sight-reading is music below your current level and includes not stopping to correct or dissect
Meanwhile (for something that Bennevis wrote, which I agree with), if I am playing through a piece for the first time before starting to work on it, I might do so with pencil nearby. I'll stop, circle things, make notes. This is where the later practising gets planned out.

Actually, for anything we do, there should be a purpose, and that purpose will govern what and how we do it.
Originally Posted by dogperson
I would still consider SIGHTREADING practice to be different from practice in reading and practicing a piece you are learning to play.

Sight-reading is music below your current level and includes not stopping to correct or dissect


Absolutely.

On a site like this I think it is good to actually distinguish what many of us consider obvious. For example, teachers often talk about students who think that "practising" is basically an act of playing through from beginning to end (a poorish half-read, half memorize exercise).
Originally Posted by dogperson
I have heard beginners stop during a recital to fix an error; but you might to read Rocket88’s post to get a teacher s perspective. Just because you don’t stop doesn’t mean that others don’t.
It's certainly reasonable/possible that a student during the first few years might stop to correct an error during a performance due to their habit during practicing, but I doubt many students would do this once they reached a more advanced level while they were performing. If that happens they need more performing experience, specific instructions to avoid it, and should practice playing a piece w/o stopping to correct mistakes.

When one is just learning the notes to a piece I see little benefit in not stopping to correct errors and I think this is the most natural thing to do.
Originally Posted by dogperson
I would still consider SIGHTREADING practice to be different from practice in reading and practicing a piece you are learning to play.

Sight-reading is music below your current level and includes not stopping to correct or dissect
This seems to disagree with what you said earlier that it's not a good idea to stop to correct errors while learning the notes to a piece.

I definitely agree with your first paragraph but I think practicing the kind of sight reading where one does not stop is of relatively limited importance for most amateurs although a very important skill for professionals. Unlike pros, most amateurs are not often called to accompany someone having never seen the music before or to sight read a chamber music piece with a friend. They are more likely to have to do those things once they become more advanced but most amateurs don't reach an advanced level.
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by dogperson
I have heard beginners stop during a recital to fix an error; but you might to read Rocket88’s post to get a teacher s perspective. Just because you don’t stop doesn’t mean that others don’t.
It's certainly reasonable/possible that a student during the first few years might stop to correct an error during a performance due to their habit during practicing, but I doubt many students would do this once they reached a more advanced level while they were performing. If that happens they need more performing experience, specific instructions to avoid it, and should practice playing a piece w/o stopping to correct mistakes.

When one is just learning the notes to a piece I see little benefit in not stopping to correct errors and I think this is the most natural thing to do.


I will not participate further in this. Again, I suggest you read Rocket 88s post and reply to that.
Stop or dont stop?

Im no teacher, but I think this one is simple.

There are merits and potential concerns for both. Typically, anything can become problematic if taken to the extreme.

Stopping wont have the same effect on every person.

Two people can put the exact same effort and practice into any instrument and get a very different result.

It's good to be aware of the concerns with both and that's where the forum is helpful.

It should be fun to discuss and hear other peoples ideas and experiences. If we step back and think about it, none of us come here only to be heard. What fun would that be?
Originally Posted by wszxbcl
Jack Moody, you mentioned playing faster. I get sightreading at my lessons so I'll share it. My teacher takes out music I've not seen before and gives me about 15-20 seconds to look it over. She goes to the piano next to mine and we start playing together. I struggle to keep up. I play some wrong notes, sometimes one hand is lost for a whole measure but I jump back in the next measure. Meanwhile she's telling me: "read ahead!", "left hand softer", "dynamics", "use your pedal!" etc.

My teacher plays the pieces pretty much at its indicated tempo (may go just a notch slower if too difficult) and doesn't wait even when I'm floundering. But at a cadence she may stretch it out longer to let me catch my breath then it's " ready... aannndd... go on!". When I do really poorly she may let me try certain sections again. Second try usually a lot better but we never play it more than twice. After we're done, she takes her music back. I never see it again, I get a new piece next week. The difficulty of the music varies.

About wrong notes, I think it's important to say that the wrong notes were not random. I did not play the notes wrong because I'm some free spirit who doesn't care and would just press any key. It's the opposite for me. Actually I am intensely focused during these sessions trying to play the right notes. Certain mistakes happen because certain ideas are unclear in the mind.

Sightreading has to do with having a quick physical response to visual information. Without quickness (ie timely response), it's no different from learning a new piece. So if you practice sightreading as slow as you like, you're not training for quickness of response (though I'm sure you're still training for other things). When you are under pressure you watch for changes ahead, and try to find patterns to help you survive.

The student has to care. I care about being able to play the right notes on time. I care about doing well so I give it all. My teacher cannot do sightreading with me if I just stop playing and say "that's too fast, I can't do it." One has to desperately want to succeed during sight reading, and at the same time not be afraid to fail.








This sounds like an awesome exercise.

If you are playing music with the right person (or people), it can inspire you and it will keep your timing honest.

Ive played other instruments with groups, but I haven't played the piano with anyone else, yet.



Originally Posted by keystring

I read the description of what happens in these lessons with interest. Among other things, I see guidance, and habits of attention that your teacher is implanting.

One thing that interests me is what preceded this. Did you start sight reading after learning to recognize notes from score to piano, understanding note value and so on? Do you, or did you, also get other foundational things like basic theory for understanding the music (key signatures, note values, time signature) and sight reading is a part of this greater whole?


Yes the real-time guidance is invaluable. She's teaching me what to do, instead of just tell me to go practice sightreading at home.

Oh, what preceded this: when I came to her as a piano beginner I already could read music and sightsing (I'm in a choir) and have taken a course in harmony. So we were able to start sightreading exercises pretty early, although in the very beginning we did easy duets. I get primo first, then we switch parts. So she kind of eased me into bass clef. Otherwise the same deal - she keeps playing, I keep up, and the pieces were all one-time use only.


Originally Posted by Jack Moody

I'm not saying that people are right or wrong in this notion. I am not an accomplished sight reader, so I don't know the best path.


Of course, there is truth on both sides, as there always is when people disagree on something.

Originally Posted by Jack Moody

I find it interesting that you are the only one that Ive noticed challenging this idea.


You should spend more time talking with people who are great sight-readers. Especially people who make money doing it.

Originally Posted by Jack Moody

I can say this. Your comments have inspired me to try reading quick enough to sacrifice accuracy. It's much harder than I expected. My mind simply does not want to accept that I need to keep moving no matter what. Also, I found it hard to just go a little faster. I either wanted my normal comfortable pace or I wanted to go much faster.


Yeah, you're trying to fight against deeply-ingrained habits, which are only now coming into your conscious awareness. It will be a wild ride if you keep going in this direction, but worth it, in my estimation.
Originally Posted by dogperson
[quote=pianoloverus]
The problem with stopping to fix errors is that it becomes a habit so that you can’t just continue through the error when the situation requires it.


Good question, how often are you in that situation? Is it worth practicing for a situation that rarely happens?
Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Originally Posted by dogperson
[quote=pianoloverus]
The problem with stopping to fix errors is that it becomes a habit so that you can’t just continue through the error when the situation requires it.


Good question, how often are you in that situation? Is it worth practicing for a situation that rarely happens?


I can’t answer for anyone else, but even in my piano lessons, I never stop and correct if I am playing through. I do occasionally fill in for the pianist at church, and very occasionally give public performances. As a kid, my public playing, either solo or accompanying was much more frequent than it is now as an adult.

But I think if you only want to accompany family Christmas carols or ‘Happy Birthdays’, being comfortable with not stopping is a good skill

Oh, and I forgot to mention you might want to play a piano duet with your girlfriend
Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Originally Posted by dogperson

The problem with stopping to fix errors is that it becomes a habit so that you can’t just continue through the error when the situation requires it.


Good question, how often are you in that situation? Is it worth practicing for a situation that rarely happens?


Right, we should all be striving for mediocrity at best.
Originally Posted by MichaelJK

Right, we should all be striving for mediocrity at best.

Sarcasm does not create a good atmosphere. I avoid it, (both sarcasm and mediocrity) which is why I follow advice that is suitable to where I'm at, and I suggest everyone else do the same. Anything else risks being a one trick pony, doing the wrong trick at the wrong time.
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Originally Posted by dogperson

The problem with stopping to fix errors is that it becomes a habit so that you can’t just continue through the error when the situation requires it.


Good question, how often are you in that situation? Is it worth practicing for a situation that rarely happens?


Right, we should all be striving for mediocrity at best.
Most amateurs are very rarely in a situation where they would have a problem if they stop to correct wrong notes or for any other reason. Except for beginners it's hard to imagine a pianist who corrects errors while practicing(especially during initial read throughs of a piece) doing that during a performance.

I think the correct description of reality and when it's OK or not OK to stop for any reason was given by bennevis.
All students need to learn to play their pieces through mistakes without stopping - whether they're just playing for their cats (or even dogs), or themselves (+- SO), or friends & foes. Or teachers or examiners.

Or even audiences (paying and non-paying).

Bluffing your way through mistakes is an art worth mastering, and it has been mastered by artists since time immemorial:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqOwg0dqApY
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Originally Posted by dogperson
[quote=pianoloverus]
The problem with stopping to fix errors is that it becomes a habit so that you can’t just continue through the error when the situation requires it.


Good question, how often are you in that situation? Is it worth practicing for a situation that rarely happens?


I can’t answer for anyone else, but even in my piano lessons, I never stop and correct if I am playing through. I do occasionally fill in for the pianist at church, and very occasionally give public performances. As a kid, my public playing, either solo or accompanying was much more frequent than it is now as an adult.

But I think if you only want to accompany family Christmas carols or ‘Happy Birthdays’, being comfortable with not stopping is a good skill

Oh, and I forgot to mention you might want to play a piano duet with your girlfriend


We have played duets in workshops, and we have stopped smile Nobody cares, it's so informal.
Originally Posted by bennevis
All students need to learn to play their pieces through mistakes without stopping - whether they're just playing for their cats (or even dogs), or themselves (+- SO), or friends & foes. Or teachers or examiners.

I started to think about this, and then realized that this thread is about sight reading, and we've just switched to performing. But since I have thought about it:

When I returned to piano and had a piano again for the first time in 35 years, I had a few weeks lessons with my then-teacher, who also taught piano. The recitals were coming up, so 6 weeks after restarting, I found myself having agreed to play at them. I had two pieces, a slow one, and a set of variations. I was just establishing how I would practice and study music. I practised my pieces toward the recital.

I determined to have a thorough handle esp. on the variations piece. I made sure I knew it inside out, that I had practised the difficult sections the most, and worked on it methodically. Then came a 2nd stage, where I'd play through, and mentally mark weak spots. I went back and practised those especially. I also practised stopping, deliberately, at random places, to see if I could get going if I got jolted. The last three days were dedicated esp. to playing through without stopping, as though performing.

I also determined that at the recital I would continually focus on the music, what I was playing at that moment, and if distracted, revert right back to that focus, rather than thinking about the distraction. That focus would also be attached to the practising I had done.

During the recital, during the 2nd or 3rd variation which was fast, a kid started scraping his feet loudly on what sounded like sand, and it startled and distracted me. My right hand lost its place. The left hand, being more repetitive, could keep going. So I just kept going with the left hand, staring at the music, (focus on the task) until the right hand could "jump back in". I never stopped.

Thinking back on this ---- I did not get there by sight reading non-stop in my practising. I did all kinds of other things.

Secondly, I was not acting as an accompanist for a performer, which is where you need to sight read without stopping. I don't know whether the sight reading issue actually has a bearing on the performing issue.

My impression in some parts of this thread has been that some things are seen rather simplistically, or black and white.
Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Originally Posted by dogperson
[quote=pianoloverus]
The problem with stopping to fix errors is that it becomes a habit so that you can’t just continue through the error when the situation requires it.


Good question, how often are you in that situation? Is it worth practicing for a situation that rarely happens?


At one end of the spectrum is a bass. At the other is a piano. A piano is the best solo instrument that I can think of! That is why I'm playing piano.

Is it ok if you can't keep time? Is it ok if you can't play with other people? Actually, it's ok if you can't play a piano at all.

There are a lot of people in those 3 categories.

I knew a guy that sang and played guitar for a living. He sounded exactly like Willie Nelson. He almost always played solo. He was a pro, and it was very hard to play music with him because of his timing. Did it matter?

We all get to decide what is important to us, but sometimes its good to have a more experienced person give advice.

Not everyone (almost no one) will take the quickest and most efficient path. Still, I try to keep moving forward.

If we realize that we've overlooked an important aspect, we can always go back and learn/correct.
When singing, few people would stop mid breath, go back, and correct a mistake. We keep singing. I feel playing an instrument should be the same. Finish the breath, finish the phrase, don't choke. You may play a wrong note but you have the right note in your head. That is, you have it after you have studied the piece for a while, and the musical idea has matured in your head. While playing it, you are on its rhythm, and you're not gonna want to stop for a wrong note that was just a small accident, insignificant. The music goes somewhere, and you're gonna instinctively play through to take it to the destination. Of course it's different when you're still learning the piece and figuring it out. When you're learning it, I think you should correct mistakes so that you get the correct music in your mind.
Originally Posted by wszxbcl
When singing, few people would stop mid breath, go back, and correct a mistake. We keep singing. I feel playing an instrument should be the same. Finish the breath, finish the phrase, don't choke. You may play a wrong note but you have the right note in your head. That is, you have it after you have studied the piece for a while, and the musical idea has matured in your head. While playing it, you are on its rhythm, and you're not gonna want to stop for a wrong note that was just a small accident, insignificant. The music goes somewhere, and you're gonna instinctively play through to take it to the destination. Of course it's different when you're still learning the piece and figuring it out. When you're learning it, I think you should correct mistakes so that you get the correct music in your mind.
This and some other posts seem to me to give complicated explanations for something simple. When performing, except possibly for beginners with little experience, pianists don't stop if they make a mistake to correct it
because doing so would sound ridiculous. And it would highlight the error.
Originally Posted by Jack Moody

If we realize that we've overlooked an important aspect, we can always go back and learn/correct.


Yes, exactly. You can always fix things later. So many beginners are afraid to make mistakes, because they think it will be burned in their brains forever (it will, but that doesn't mean it has to be a problem). But, you have to start somewhere, and no matter how much thought you put into it, you will do it wrong.
I need to talk about teaching, learning, and maybe also some teachers extrapolating things onto students.

In teaching, it is possible to give beginner students small, reachable tasks, which also teaches the student that the big thing called music is within one's grasp through small, reachable tasks. This in contrast to, for example, trying to play an entire piece perfectly like you hear a professional play it from beginning to end .... not realizing that this professional is in fact applying a series of small tasks, and skills acquired over time. There may be no "fear of mistakes"; in fact, there may be no "mistakes". There may be no series of unreachable things due to poorly set goals which ultimately lead to a sense of helplessness. How things are approached and taught - with approach being part of the teaching - will have a bearing on this.

There is the question of where the student is at. A same behaviour in two different students may "mean" the opposite thing. One student may indeed have an attitude of fearfulness, caution, a belief that all must be perfect, and a wrong step will condemn him forever to error. Another may have a hunger for precise things, and enjoy these things immensely. In fact, this second student may be one who has been playing with spontaneity, freedom, wild abandon, for ages - and now wants to get at the other side. This student may have sensed a need to counterbalance the one for the other. This second student should not be seen as "fearful" because he is not. You have to know where the student is at.

Attitudes such as fearfulness should not be extrapolated onto a student based on a given behaviour such as a wish for precision at a given point. It depends where a student is at. You not only have the student who has played for years with wild abandon and now realizes he needs to get at some things he never had. You also get the student who was given pieces by a teacher, and learned to play them 'precisely' by rote, without understanding what she is doing, and thus did have occasions of failure - maybe with harsh reprimand. If this student now seeks out tools, such as learning to recognize specific notes, those tools may in fact be this student's way out from that experience.

I'm trying to get some thoughts "on paper" so to say. I hope they make some sense.
Originally Posted by keystring
In fact, this second student may be one who has been playing with spontaneity, freedom, wild abandon, for ages - and now wants to get at the other side.


Those students are extremely easy to teach. You just show them a few tricks and they're on their way. Almost everyone else has severe PTSD that interferes with the whole process.
Originally Posted by keystring
I need to talk about teaching, learning, and maybe also some teachers extrapolating things onto students.

In teaching, it is possible to give beginner students small, reachable tasks, which also teaches the student that the big thing called music is within one's grasp through small, reachable tasks. This in contrast to, for example, trying to play an entire piece perfectly like you hear a professional play it from beginning to end .... not realizing that this professional is in fact applying a series of small tasks, and skills acquired over time. There may be no "fear of mistakes"; in fact, there may be no "mistakes". There may be no series of unreachable things due to poorly set goals which ultimately lead to a sense of helplessness. How things are approached and taught - with approach being part of the teaching - will have a bearing on this.

There is the question of where the student is at. A same behaviour in two different students may "mean" the opposite thing. One student may indeed have an attitude of fearfulness, caution, a belief that all must be perfect, and a wrong step will condemn him forever to error. Another may have a hunger for precise things, and enjoy these things immensely. In fact, this second student may be one who has been playing with spontaneity, freedom, wild abandon, for ages - and now wants to get at the other side. This student may have sensed a need to counterbalance the one for the other. This second student should not be seen as "fearful" because he is not. You have to know where the student is at.

Attitudes such as fearfulness should not be extrapolated onto a student based on a given behaviour such as a wish for precision at a given point. It depends where a student is at. You not only have the student who has played for years with wild abandon and now realizes he needs to get at some things he never had. You also get the student who was given pieces by a teacher, and learned to play them 'precisely' by rote, without understanding what she is doing, and thus did have occasions of failure - maybe with harsh reprimand. If this student now seeks out tools, such as learning to recognize specific notes, those tools may in fact be this student's way out from that experience.

I'm trying to get some thoughts "on paper" so to say. I hope they make some sense.


made perfect sense and I could not agree more, so it gets a thumbs up for me. Even more so since at my lesson yesterday, while discussing a piece, my teacher told me for the first time ever to abandon my normal strong sense of caution. After four years together she knows me pretty well I think.
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Originally Posted by keystring
In fact, this second student may be one who has been playing with spontaneity, freedom, wild abandon, for ages - and now wants to get at the other side.


Those students are extremely easy to teach. You just show them a few tricks and they're on their way. Almost everyone else has severe PTSD that interferes with the whole process.


I can well see that you may encounter PTSD because it's rampant - it would be especially so if you get previously taught students who are not beginners. An adult student who has never studied music should be free of this, unless "the rest of life" that teaches us these things has gotten in the way - including school.

I was this second, "easy to teach" student. Before I ever had lessons, I had spent decades playing whatever instruments I could get my hands on. I didn't know there was such a thing as being corrected, or chided, or judged. It had all be exploration like a kid on a beach with a pile of sand. I need to relate what happened next, because I did end up with PTSD, and it is of a different nature - and also the solution to it. There is a reason why I'm telling this story.

I was able to readily get at the notes, because with all those years, I heard them in my head, and could often predict where the music would go. I pictured the sound, and simply went after it all "somehow". I did "very well" at first. But in the process, I never picked up that there is technique specific to the instrument - or that such a thing existed - and my reading was extrapolation more than real reading. At low grade levels that carries you. In fact, I think the function of low grade levels is to get a handle on these basic things. You can get at "the right sound" in awkward ways, and that awkwardness becomes your base - you don't get reading because the music is so predictable. You need the "not awkward" base, and a sense of reading while the music is still easy. So suddenly in the higher grades it all fell apart 'mysteriously". Now ....

.... at some point I realized that I was missing a "base". When I started to chase this base, by working slowly, methodically, it all started to come together, including the advanced pieces, because I 'had' the other stuff. But while working on the base, this was disturbing to the teacher who extrapolated this as caution, hesitation, fear, "overthinking" (I hate that word). At some point I switched to piano and those lessons stopped. I had played piano as a kid, self-taught. I saw what I was missing. For example, fast staccato notes tied up my hands because of how I had learned to produce staccato (stiff poke with tight hands) - music that was not diatonic was not-so-mysteriously "unreadable". So as I had learned to do, I chased the basics. And felt my way around for a teacher. At this point .....

the first teachers I encountered all freaked if I played "carefully". They were scared of the "careful" student, and they wanted spontaneity. I could easily be "spontaneous" and play some sloppy emotive thing - as I had done as a kid - and they 'd be all happy to have rescued me from the "typical adult over-carefulness". This kind of playing did me no good. When I met the teacher I have, I actually did not allow him to hear me play spontaneously, all-out, for half a year, because I did not want to be told "You have everything already. Let's do some advanced, fun music." Fortunately this teacher saw both sides of the coin: that it is possible to have a lot of instinctive things, and still be missing the tools.

Here, I am able to work on reading, getting at the actual notes and linking them to the piano keys: pausing, waiting, collecting myself, non-fluently ..... without creating teacher-anxiety about non-spontaneous students. The pressure to put a teacher at ease can be enormous; undermining your own progress is a strain. My teacher knows that when I work on getting things I don't have - with the pauses - there are other stages concurrently, where the playing is expressive, fluid - as you merge these two sides together. In fact, our views are the same on this, probably because these are the two sides that need to work together for anyone. Because I am trusted in all sides of what I am doing, I can relax, and that eases the acquired PTSD.

Some of us need to get at the precise things - we know we need to get at them - and it does not mean that we "fear failure", are anxious, are perfectionist. It's just the other side of a same coin, and we've ended up having the opposite side minted first.

This is way too long.
Originally Posted by MichaelJK
.... So many beginners are afraid to make mistakes, because they think it will be burned in their brains forever (it will, but that doesn't mean it has to be a problem). But, you have to start somewhere, and no matter how much thought you put into it, you will do it wrong.


Here I may seem to be contradicting myself in what I wrote previously. I wrestled with these issues for a few years before reaching the conclusions that i now have. It's not black and white. So - food for thought.

During that previous time, I also briefly worked with another teacher. This teacher had concluded that everything you do in the beginning becomes your base, and if it is wrong, you are condemned forever to combat this wrongness. I had two opposing teacher views at that early time, and when I switched to piano and joined PW, I had to sort this out. So:

The model of "beginnings" is the baby and toddler. This baby may grow up to become an orator, singer, ballerina or gymnast. But at present she is toppling about, falling down, can't pronounce words worth beans. So much for "beginnings of perfection". Instead, the skills are "coming into focus" from a blur. Also, the child has an instinct to guide it: babbling rhythmically with inflections rather than trying to speak words to start with - somehow seems to know what to pursue at what time from which angle. Often not the way adults are picturing it. We've got this inside us - and I don't think it goes away. In any case: "coming into focus", rather than "starting off in focus".

I don't see this as a wild, senseless random mucking about, however. Our toppling-about toddler, for example, is working out gravity, centredness, and strategy which becomes part of her beingness. If things "come into focus" and "grow out of" something, then there seem to be some central principles, such as in this case, gravity and centredness.

I have never tried to put this into words, but generally that is my model for growth in music. For technique, for example, there are things like "ease", "work with gravity", "no joint should ever be completely locked anywhere", "nature/functioning of the instrument you are playing vis-a-vis nature functioning of the body" ..... which translates into the mucking about of a little kid "What happens if I do this?" ..... In reading, for me, it's probably relating a dot on a line with a spot on the piano, for piano. There are other aspects, but that's the one I was missing. ...... These things can become fascinating: meditative - there is no pressure to "play music perfectly" - yet it can lead to good music playing.

For myself I've concluded a yin-yang kind of picture - I just discovered that there are some really cool pics out there. I've taken the basic simple one:

https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-8dc0a1fb0bf13bfad77573b2b9ebde9d.webp

In the black there is a white: in the white there is a black. It is neither total spontaneity and randomness, nor absolute precision and tight control but something else.

Anyway, that's what I've come up with (so far).
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