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I am not putting down the traditional method of sight-reading with music scores, but I present here my argument supporting exercises through use of computer programs.

The following are what I believe to be the most important skills in sight-reading, listed in order of importance. They are under the premise that to sight-read at a decent tempo, one should keep his eyes on the score while sight-reading.

1. Instant recognition of notes on the grand staff for any key signature, including all the ledger lines that would typically be seen.
2. Knowing where the keys are for single notes and chords during sight-reading, while keeping your eyes on the score. This therefore includes getting the precise hand placement to play any note or chord, while keeping your eyes on the score.
3. Getting instantly the correct hand shape/formation to play any chord in any key signature, so as to be able to play any chord as quickly as though it were a single note.
4. Playing at the correct rhythm with (non-tuplet) notes as small as 16th notes.
5. Playing the rhythm of triplets and other tuplets and 32nd notes correctly, including the case when they are combined with regular notes in both staves.
6. Playing quickly two-handed chords with more than, say, 5 notes in total.
7. Seeing ahead enough so as to play notes with proper fingering.
8. Playing properly overlaying layers.
9. Playing articulations properly like proper loudness/softness, slurs, staccatos, change in tempo, etc…
10. Playing with artistic quality and emotion.
11. Anything else?

I've tried both regular music sheets and computer programs, and have found that skills 1-6 are best practised using computer programs because they tell you with pinpoint accuracy what your mistakes are. Only skills 7,8,9 are best practised with regular music sheets.

So what about all the pianists who say that the best way to practice sight-reading is to simply read off music sheets? Well, I believe those pianists have already mastered, or become very good at, skills #1-6. But most piano students have not, and would take years to do so. In which case computer programs (like PrestoKeys, KeyPiano, Home Concert, etc...) is better for them. Now I'm sure JeffreyJones became such a good sightreader without those programs and believes that random music sheets is the best way to go, but I think he had some natural gifts to begin with, and he has already mastered skills #1-6 pretty much. But even he I think would have improved even faster than he did when he was younger if he used those computer programs.

So in summary, random music sheets only if you are already a fluent sightreader, otherwise computer programs (on top of regular music sheets) is even better.

Last edited by MathTeacher; 09/03/11 02:09 PM.
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"So what about all the pianists who say that the best way to practice sight-reading is to simply read off music sheets?"

I think you're right on target with this. There's a difference between obtaining a skill and developing a skill, and there are different methodologies and tools for each.


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I think most of your questions were answered in a previous post you did about this where if I remember correctly most disagreed with your recommendation of using a computer program.

I think your list is very arbitrary and strangely phrased. If one has not "mastered" 1-6 on your list(which you feel are some kind of prerequisite), then one should choose to sight read pieces where those skills are at a level that one can have some success.

Your idea that one should keep one eyes totally fixed on the score while sight reading is simply not correct and not the way even the greatest pianists do it. If the passage is difficult enough everyone has to look at the keys if only briefly.

Why would one arbitrarily choose chords with more than five notes as in your #6?

ETC.



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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think most of your questions were answered in a previous post you did about this where if I remember correctly most disagreed with your recommendation of using a computer program.

I think your list is very arbitrary and strangely phrased. If one has not "mastered" 1-6 on your list(which you feel are some kind of prerequisite), then one should choose to sight read pieces where those skills are at a level that one can have some success.

Your idea that one should keep one eyes totally fixed on the score while sight reading is simply not correct and not the way even the greatest pianists do it. If the passage is difficult enough everyone has to look at the keys if only briefly.

Why would one arbitrarily choose chords with more than five notes as in your #6?

ETC.


Yes, that thread was about doing triplets exercises (skill #5) with a computer program. I took the advice of one poster who said that the triplets should be grouped in similar patterns rather than being so random, but I still think that using the computer program is the best for practising skill #5 alone.

Skill #6 (two-handed chords) could be grouped with skill #3, but I decided to list it as a separate skill because heavy chords like this don't occur as often as chords with 4 or less notes.

Sight-reading off music sheets when one has not mastered skills #1-6 is still effective, but one can make mistakes without realizing it (sometimes you may playing a wrong note but it still sounded fine anyway, and often your rhythm can be incorrect without knowing it), whereas with computer assistance you will know for sure.

By the way, I missed one important skill: Seeing ahead enough so as to play notes with proper fingering. I added it to the list, and practising that is best done with regular music sheets.

Last edited by MathTeacher; 09/03/11 02:22 PM.
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All of these can be accomplished through just reading off scores.



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Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
All of these can be accomplished through just reading off scores.


You're right. And practised correctly if you have a teacher beside you watching carefully and spotting your mistakes, or if you are already a good-sightreader. But all of the above is assuming you are practising alone, which will be the majority of the time, and are not quite there yet.

Also, when reading off scores you are practising all the above skills together. I think there are benefits to practising each skill individually, and there are separate computer exercises for each skill. When I studied chess, I found that my combination skills improved a lot quicker when I practised each type (pins, skewers, forks, etc...) individually rather than a medley of all kinds together.

Last edited by MathTeacher; 09/03/11 02:44 PM.
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Another important skill is carefully listening to yourself and being honest with yourself about what you are sure you played correctly and what may have been wrong. You're perhaps correct that using a computer program can help you more easily identify errors in the short term in your technical studies. But as far as listening to yourself, taking this approach may delay your skill development. Are you going to enter a Rachmaninoff Prelude into your program so that it can tell you when you play a wrong note?

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I guess I shouldn't be surprised but I didn't know there were computer programs for developing sight-reading skills.

Could you please name some? How do they work? Does the keyboard have to be connected to a computer?

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Originally Posted by Copake
I guess I shouldn't be surprised but I didn't know there were computer programs for developing sight-reading skills.

Could you please name some? How do they work? Does the keyboard have to be connected to a computer?


You need an electronic keyboard connected to your computer. The computer program will scroll the piece as you play, and when you play a wrong note (or at the wrong time), the scrolling will pause until you play the correct note (or notes if it is a chord). You can adjust the tempo of the piece to match your sightreading level. And since the computer knows exactly where you are in the piece, it will also turn the pages for you automatically (this solves that problem completely!).

There are several programs, but the best for the skills I mentioned above I've found to be:

1. Instant recognition of notes on the grand staff for any key signature, including all the ledger lines that would typically be seen.

PrestoKeys

2. Knowing where the keys are for single notes and chords during sight-reading, while keeping your eyes on the score. This therefore includes getting the precise hand placement to play any note or chord, while keeping your eyes on the score.

PrestoKeys

3. Getting instantly the correct hand shape/formation to play any chord in any key signature, so as to be able to play any chord as quickly as though it were a single note.

Play It Chords (from keypiano.com)

4. Playing at the correct rhythm with (non-tuplet) notes as small as 16th notes.

Home Concert Xtreme with the appropriate midi files (such songs/pieces downloadable from many websites for free, thousands of classical pieces available)

5. Playing the rhythm of triplets and other tuplets and 32nd notes correctly, including the case when they are combined with regular notes in both staves.

Home Concert Xtreme with the appropriate midi files (already developed)

6. Playing quickly two-handed chords with more than, say, 5 notes in total.

Home Concert Xtreme with the appropriate midi files (currently being developed)

7. Seeing ahead enough so as to play notes with proper fingering.

Home Concert Xtreme with any piece, or just music sheets in general.

8. Playing properly overlaying layers.

Music sheets

9. Playing articulations properly like proper loudness/softness, slurs, staccatos, change in tempo, etc…

Music sheets

10. Playing with artistic quality and emotion.

Music sheets


Note that if you are already a fluent sightreader then I don't think these programs will be of much help to you (though I think even fluent sightreaders can play a wrong note without knowing if the wrong note does not sound discordant and he's never heard the piece before). In such a case, just general music sheets would be good enough for fluent sightreaders.

Last edited by MathTeacher; 09/04/11 11:06 AM.
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"random music sheets only if you are already a fluent sightreader"

Perhaps this is the issue? I understand that to improve in sight-reading you need to focus on reading pieces at a level that you can read fluently (ok, slightly slower than full tempo, but correct rhythm and notes) and study a lot of pieces 1 & 2 grades above. (Google Dr Dianne Hardy & Diagnostic Prescriptive Sight-reading Program). It might be worthwhile for you to find out what your "fluency" level is?

"random"
Maybe this is the reason why the software programs work for you (if they are any good, you advance once skills are acquired) since trying to sight-read material that is too hard for your current level is a total waste of time (you end up decoding/deciphering rather than fluently reading).

Personally, I'd prefer to spend the money of tons of music (at the correct grade) from the local library rather than on software.

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Originally Posted by EJR
Personally, I'd prefer to spend the money of tons of music (at the correct grade) from the local library rather than on software.
And playing real music is infinitely more fun and rewarding. This is one of the main reasons I think the kinds of practice described in the OP are not good for most pianists at any level except perhaps a beginner during the first months or year.

I'd bet almost none of the people the OP would consider a good sight reader learned from these computer programs.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 09/04/11 06:21 PM.
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Originally Posted by MathTeacher
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
All of these can be accomplished through just reading off scores.


You're right. And practised correctly if you have a teacher beside you watching carefully and spotting your mistakes, or if you are already a good-sightreader. But all of the above is assuming you are practising alone, which will be the majority of the time, and are not quite there yet.
How did people learn to sight read before there were computer programs and digital keyboards?

Certainly not by having a teacher there all the time they were sight reading. That might be for ten minutes/week out a an hour lesson.

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Originally Posted by MathTeacher
I am not putting down the traditional method of sight-reading with music scores, but I present here my argument supporting exercises through use of computer programs.

The following are what I believe to be the most important skills in sight-reading, listed in order of importance. They are under the premise that to sight-read at a decent tempo, one should keep his eyes on the score while sight-reading.

1. Instant recognition of notes on the grand staff for any key signature, including all the ledger lines that would typically be seen.
2. Knowing where the keys are for single notes and chords during sight-reading, while keeping your eyes on the score. This therefore includes getting the precise hand placement to play any note or chord, while keeping your eyes on the score.
3. Getting instantly the correct hand shape/formation to play any chord in any key signature, so as to be able to play any chord as quickly as though it were a single note.
4. Playing at the correct rhythm with (non-tuplet) notes as small as 16th notes.
5. Playing the rhythm of triplets and other tuplets and 32nd notes correctly, including the case when they are combined with regular notes in both staves.
6. Playing quickly two-handed chords with more than, say, 5 notes in total.
7. Seeing ahead enough so as to play notes with proper fingering.
8. Playing properly overlaying layers.
9. Playing articulations properly like proper loudness/softness, slurs, staccatos, change in tempo, etc…
10. Playing with artistic quality and emotion.
11. Anything else?

I've tried both regular music sheets and computer programs, and have found that skills 1-6 are best practised using computer programs because they tell you with pinpoint accuracy what your mistakes are. Only skills 7,8,9 are best practised with regular music sheets.

So what about all the pianists who say that the best way to practice sight-reading is to simply read off music sheets? Well, I believe those pianists have already mastered, or become very good at, skills #1-6. But most piano students have not, and would take years to do so. In which case computer programs (like PrestoKeys, KeyPiano, Home Concert, etc...) is better for them. Now I'm sure JeffreyJones became such a good sightreader without those programs and believes that random music sheets is the best way to go, but I think he had some natural gifts to begin with, and he has already mastered skills #1-6 pretty much. But even he I think would have improved even faster than he did when he was younger if he used those computer programs.

So in summary, random music sheets only if you are already a fluent sightreader, otherwise computer programs (on top of regular music sheets) is even better.


You are correct, one needs to be good with point 1 to 6. In order for a person to be able to just play music, they need to be able to do 1 to 6 without thinking. By the way, why are you so obsessed with sight reading topic?

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Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
You are correct, one needs to be good with point 1 to 6. In order for a person to be able to just play music, they need to be able to do 1 to 6 without thinking. By the way, why are you so obsessed with sight reading topic?


I used to be only a repertoire player when I was a teenager. Now I've gotten tired of that and don't want to play the same thing twice anymore, and now want to be able to play thousands of pieces on the fly.

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Originally Posted by MathTeacher
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
You are correct, one needs to be good with point 1 to 6. In order for a person to be able to just play music, they need to be able to do 1 to 6 without thinking. By the way, why are you so obsessed with sight reading topic?


I used to be only a repertoire player when I was a teenager. Now I've gotten tired of that and don't want to play the same thing twice anymore, and now want to be able to play thousands of pieces on the fly.



Has the quality of your playing improve? I'd rather play limited numbers of pieces, but with high quality. What for just playing thousands of pieces on the fly with low quality.

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i suck in general, but prefer the traditional way - for all things music

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Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by MathTeacher
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
You are correct, one needs to be good with point 1 to 6. In order for a person to be able to just play music, they need to be able to do 1 to 6 without thinking. By the way, why are you so obsessed with sight reading topic?


I used to be only a repertoire player when I was a teenager. Now I've gotten tired of that and don't want to play the same thing twice anymore, and now want to be able to play thousands of pieces on the fly.



Has the quality of your playing improve? I'd rather play limited numbers of pieces, but with high quality. What for just playing thousands of pieces on the fly with low quality.


My sightreading has improved greatly. Recital pieces, I don't know because I don't practice a piece anymore. I just get bored playing the same piece over and over. So I'd rather play it only once and then move on, even if it means playing with mistakes. At least I enjoy the excitement of a new piece each time this way.

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Sight-reading is a technique that you have to practice. Just like playing scales. You don't start by playing an Ab Harmonic Minor scale in double ninety-sixths while upside down and blind folded, you start with perhaps a simple C Major that is simple and easy, and you work your way up until you can play all of the scales. If you get some random sheet which happens to be a Liszt Transcendental Etude, then try and sight-read it... it's pointless.

If you want to learn to sight read, go to your local music store, buy a selection of books which are for beginners. heck, here in Australia, the AMEB even publishes books especially for the practice of sight-reading. Work through sight-reading them all and keep practicing by buying new books or downloading scores from IMSLP when you get more competent. This is the best way you can get to know how to actually shape the music while you read it. Playing random things generated by a computer won't really help much, especially if there is no musical logic.

And apart from lots of practice of sight-reading specifically, the only other way to get good at it, is years of experience playing and reading all different kinds of music.


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Originally Posted by MathTeacher
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by MathTeacher
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
You are correct, one needs to be good with point 1 to 6. In order for a person to be able to just play music, they need to be able to do 1 to 6 without thinking. By the way, why are you so obsessed with sight reading topic?


I used to be only a repertoire player when I was a teenager. Now I've gotten tired of that and don't want to play the same thing twice anymore, and now want to be able to play thousands of pieces on the fly.



Has the quality of your playing improve? I'd rather play limited numbers of pieces, but with high quality. What for just playing thousands of pieces on the fly with low quality.


My sightreading has improved greatly. Recital pieces, I don't know because I don't practice a piece anymore. I just get bored playing the same piece over and over. So I'd rather play it only once and then move on, even if it means playing with mistakes. At least I enjoy the excitement of a new piece each time this way.


Yeah, and there is so much about music you're missing this way. There's no way you can achieve many good things in the piece if you just play it through once. No work on singing tone/cantabile, no work on sound appropriate for the piece, no work on articulation details (which can completely change a piece)... Anyway; your loss.

Computers and sight reading music.. pfft. What next? Will computers start playing concerts? (I mean, I guess it's mostly already happened, with mechanical players, but that's another topic). It just makes me sick. It doesn't get to the core, heart of music at all. Just playing exercises like a maniac doesn't and won't make you a musician.



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I agree with Pogorelich here, although perhaps not in the same tone. I think there is so much to be missed, musically, by playing through a piece once and then moving on to something else. Is there no joy or satisfaction - I get both! - from working on something until it becomes the best you (think) you can do with it, until you feel you understand it and then can share its "message" with others, whatever you think that message might be?

It seems that you're going to have to invest heavily in hundreds of scores, or print thousands of pages from IMSLP in order to follow your current interest, and what will you get from it except the knowledge that you have played through hundreds of pieces?

I think for most of us here, we don't discount the value of sight reading skills, we aim to improve them, and the better those skills are the better we become as pianists because they enable us, more quickly, to get to the serious work of knowing a piece. We each have our interests and our passions, to some of which we might become quite addicted; I just don't understand what is to be achieved when the primary goal appears to be playing a piece once and moving on.

Chacun à son goùt, however.

Regards,


BruceD
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