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#2984450 05/27/20 06:27 AM
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I took piano lessons a while back (probably 2 years ago last time) and now I'm studying on my own. During the time I've known piano, I've never really sightread (as in trying to play with my eyes always on the score). As a result, I'm 16 with extremely poor sightreading skills.

Starting around 2 weeks ago, I have been practicing to reinforce my sightreading.

Here's how I do it :
I picked up Schafer's Sightreading Book 1(out of 3 volumes) for pieces to sightread then I try to sightread as many as I can in 30 minutes. For each short piece (around 1/3 or 2/3 of a page) I play it once.

However, I notice that I struggle a lot with :
1. Fingering
2. Reading the notes correctly
3. Reading the notes to the tempo I want.
Lento, fine. But sometimes I can't even get the notes right in lento. I can easily recognize a note, so recognizing one is not a problem. But even then I still hit the wrong notes. Mostly because I think I take a long time moving my hands without looking at them they just end up messing with the whole thing.

And lastly a quite important one :
I'm really trying to learn to sightread, but 2 weeks of work doesn't seem like it's giving me much improvement. How long did you learn sightreading (and how long per day) to get to a proficient level?

[I was on a Discord server and this guy just sightread Liebestraum no. 3 and Winter Wind. Not 100% perfect, more like 85%. Definitely impressive. Sightreading seems like a very beneficial skill to learn pieces since 70% of my time is wasted on trying to place my hands on the notes and I wish to have that particular skill.]



p.s. : Sorry if this sounds like a rant. I promise you I am not ranting. I'm simply just frustrated with no apparent improvement after 2 weeks of practice. Which is why I am asking for your insight, milords.

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Originally Posted by Nitrovaleric
And lastly a quite important one :
I'm really trying to learn to sightread, but 2 weeks of work doesn't seem like it's giving me much improvement. How long did you learn sightreading (and how long per day) to get to a proficient level?

p.s. : Sorry if this sounds like a rant. I promise you I am not ranting. I'm simply just frustrated with no apparent improvement after 2 weeks of practice. Which is why I am asking for your insight, milords.
2 weeks??

I'd say - a minimum of 20 weeks to notice definite improvement.

200 weeks (4 years) to become reasonably proficient. (And I don't mean sight-reading a Chopin étude. I mean sight-reading the slow movement of a Haydn or Mozart sonata).

If I were you, I'd give up on using sight-reading books and just download lots of real music from IMSLP for free: start with Schumann's Album for the Young, Bach's Anna Magdalena Notebook, Tchaikovsky's Album for the Young, Kabalevsky's Op.27 and sight-read through them for fun. There're lots of appealing pieces in them.

The vast majority of competent sight-readers never used "sight-reading books", nor even practiced sight-reading like the way you're doing. They just enjoy reading through lots of music and discovering new stuff for themselves without necessarily intending to learn any of the pieces they read through for pleasure.

(How did you become good at reading English, such that a word like "incomprehensible" is comprehensible at a glance without looking at every letter and pronouncing every syllable aloud? You read a lot.......)

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Totally agree with ben. 2 weeks is nothing, but keep practicing and you will improve after some years of daily practice

There's also Burgmuller easy pieces, quite useful

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What I did as a young student, was played LOTS of music not taught in my lessons: books of Broadway show tunes, pop anthologies and classical. Think of sight reading development as exploring—- and exploring is easy now because of the wealth of free scores on the internet. Love a band or a composer? Go hunt down their music and just play. Buy cheap music on eBay. Play the music from ‘The Great American songbook. Even the paid score sites have a ‘free’ section.

I don’t understand why you are trying to play as much as you can within 30 min. It’s not a race. Choose pieces below your normal level—- where you can expect to play them at tempo. Increase the difficulty as you get more proficient.

This should be fun not an exercise. I never thought of this as ‘time to sightread’ but a time to try something new that I might like. ... and this was pre-internet days. Make it a fun break and time will fly.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Originally Posted by Nitrovaleric
[...]
Starting around 2 weeks ago, I have been practicing to reinforce my sightreading.
[...]But even then I still hit the wrong notes. Mostly because I think I take a long time moving my hands without looking at them they just end up messing with the whole thing.
[...]

There is no requirement in sight-reading that you not look at your hands. A quick glance at the keyboard for orientation from time to time is certainly admissible as long as you can keep the piece going at whatever tempo is necessary to do so without multiple mistakes.

Regards,


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When learning to sight-read you need to play each piece at least 3 times. It's necessary because you need to identify all mistakes of your first run and note how to avoid them in the future. And to better understand the musical idea of a piece.

But it might be that now you don't have sufficient reading skills to start specific sight-reading training. You need to play music by score for quite a long time before starting to sight-read. It's necessary because you need to remember typical patterns that you can later recognize quickly when sight-reading.

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Originally Posted by BruceD
There is no requirement in sight-reading that you not look at your hands. A quick glance at the keyboard for orientation from time to time is certainly admissible as long as you can keep the piece going at whatever tempo is necessary to do so without multiple mistakes.
+1.

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by BruceD
There is no requirement in sight-reading that you not look at your hands. A quick glance at the keyboard for orientation from time to time is certainly admissible as long as you can keep the piece going at whatever tempo is necessary to do so without multiple mistakes.
+1.

I would just add that the great sight readers (mostly accompanists) I've met have trained themselves to see the keyboard using downward peripheral vision while keeping their eyes on the score. They also read ahead in the music so they are anticipating notes they haven't yet played. These are perhaps advanced sight reading techniques, but just knowing they are possible helps me, and I'm not a great sight reader. Even reading a note or two ahead helps. Great sight readers sometimes read ahead 2-3 measures. And the ability to see the keyboard with peripheral vision is a big help with jumps. If you have to look at your hands, try not to move your head but simply look down with your eyes so when you look back at the score, your head is already in the right position. All these techniques require a LOT of practice.


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I think it depends on your goals...I'm 27 and I am still embarrassingly bad at sight reading. I'm so horrible at it that I can't play simple pop songs that people who never practice piano can easily sight read. I always need a few runs to get some of the music in memory before I can actually play through it.

The thing is, I don't care about being able to sight read well, so it doesn't bother me. I have a bit of OCD and cannot make up or skip notes, which is really bad for playing chamber, and I don't feel like investing the significant amount of time it takes to learn the piano accompaniment part for a lot of works.

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Originally Posted by AaronSF
I would just add that the great sight readers (mostly accompanists) I've met have trained themselves to see the keyboard using downward peripheral vision while keeping their eyes on the score. ... And the ability to see the keyboard with peripheral vision is a big help with jumps.
For me it sounds extraordinary. I'm pretty sure that my peripheral vision will never allow me to control jumps.

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Originally Posted by trigalg693
I have a bit of OCD and cannot make up or skip notes
It's unusual and interesting. Does it help your overall playing accuracy?

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What level are you at, and how far did you come with lessons? It's important that you sight-read pieces that are below the level you are working on. This has been discussed here before, and I often feel that the first two years of learning an instrument are crucial for whether or not one develops the ability to sight-read, and many students get away with reading poorly. I am very particular about this in my own teaching and have been using a method that aims to develop reading, starting from the first 3 or 5-finger pieces in one line and carrying on to pieces in both hands. I used this with John Thompson's books, which admittedly has its weaknesses (e.g. very few pieces with polyphony), but it can work for most pieces. If you are fluent reading single lines in both clefs, I would suggest getting a very easy book, like John Thompson's first grade book, and working very slowly to make sure your eyes are always ahead of your hands. If you're interested, here are the steps:

For single-line pieces:
1) Survey piece visually; mark the phrases (especially important for pieces starting on an up-beat) and write in breath marks after each phrase; compare the phrases visually and try to figure out the form (e.g. AB, ABA, etc). If necessary, when there are complicated rhythms, dots, etc, draw a circle around every beat
2) Clap the rhythm while counting to the smallest subdivision (e.g. 1& 2&, or 1e&a 2e&1)
3) Clap the rhythm while counting only the pulse out loud (1, 2, etc)
4) Say note names aloud (better in do, re, mi, makes for easier speaking and singing, but also possible in C D E) while clapping the rhythm
5) Say note names while clapping the pulse
6) Sing notes while clapping rhythm
7) Sing notes while clapping pulse
(If there are words, add here: speak words while clapping rhythm, speak words while clapping pulse, sing words while clapping rhythm, sing words while clapping pulse)
8) Find your hand position
9) Play and count to the smallest subdivision
10) Play and count pulse
11) Play and sing notes
12) Play and sing words (if present)

Before every step of the above, count two "empty" bars out loud with the smallest subdivision (e.g. in 3/4 and in a piece starting on the 3rd beat with eighth notes, count 1&2&3&, 1&2& PLAY)

For pieces in two staves, assuming RH is the melody line:
1) Survey piece, mark phrases, find form
2) For every phrase (4 bars or 8 bars):
- Do all the steps for the LH, as necessary (e.g. you can skip clapping rhythm if it's simply all quarter notes, or singing if you have chords).
- Do all steps for the RH, as necessary
- Per phrase:
1) Play the LH while silently reading the right hand (in your mind)
2) Play the LH while speaking the RH rhythm
3) Play LH while singing the right hand melody
3) Play the LH while "ghosting" the right hand (playing without pressing the keys)
4) If LH is also a melody, switch roles for steps 1-3
5) Play the LH and the RH together while singing the RH
6) If necessary, repeat ghosting step

If LH has the melody, always start with the supporting (accompanying) line.

Do this for the next phrase.

This is still a work in progress, and it is of course flexible depending on the piece, with more or fewer steps as necessary. The point of these steps is to train your eyes and your mind to see and hear vertically as well as horizontally and to lead your fingers. When you play the LH and sing the RH, you are necessarily reading both at once- something you can get away with not doing if you play each hand until your fingers memorize it and then try to put them together, something many students unfortunately do. Very important is chosing a tempo that is slow enough for you to be in total control, making sure your eyes are ahead of your hands. This can mean excruciatingly slow, but when your mind is simultaneously doing all of these tasks, it's hard to go slowly enough. If you are able to follow a metronome, when the tempo is enough to ensure total control and no panic and you master the reading, go 4 clicks up. If you persist through 3-4 tempo increases, you will have already improved your reading.

Of course there are lots of exercises you can do to get to know the keyboard topography better (e.g. practicing scales, arpeggios and chords with eyes closed). If you have weakness in reading the bass clef, I recommend Dandelot: practical manual for reading clefs. It woks through all clefs, but you can do the exercises for the treble and bass clefs.

To remedy fingering problems, practicing scales and arpeggios helps. But the best way to learn is to play lots of music. So go through as many scores as you can and work through them with the curiosity to get to know more music- the more patterns you encounter, the faster you will recognize them in scores. Others here have recommended excellent collections. Choose scores that are well below your "playing" level, but the moment it gets easy or comfortable, make sure you challenge yourself. Listening to lots of music (not while reading, but on the side, and not for the pieces you're sight-reading) is also very helpful, because your mind will accumulate a vocabulary of patterns and rhythms and sounds that will make it easier to hear the printed notes on the page.

I agree that it takes a long time. For the past two years I've been working on score-reading, and my teacher told me to expect good improvement after daily work for 1-2 more years (after spending the last 1.5 years on the basics- old clefs, transpositions, voice crossings and textures up to 4 lines). I'm doing 20 minutes a day, more on a good day. Here, too, I use elements of the method above and I use the metronome- not to keep tempo, but to make sure my eyes are taking in everything and that I'm reading ahead (e.g. never playing a chord without having enough mental time to read all of the notes, from bottom to top).

Sorry for the long reply. Good luck to you!

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We would learn a new piece at a slow tempo which is understandable. Being able to recognize most of the notes when reading a piece the first time is better than getting only some of the notes. A lot of the misses have to do with reading 3 or 4-note chords the first time and odd rhythms. After playing the same section half a dozen times, muscle memory takes over and I don't think about individual notes.

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
It's unusual and interesting. Does it help your overall playing accuracy?

No, I used to be intensely bothered by any mistakes I made, but I've learned to try and forget about them so I can get through the music.

If anything it was probably a detriment to be focused on getting the notes perfectly right and the speed up to "professional" standard, because I would get distracted by frustration, which probably contributed to memory reliability issues.

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I want to stress making sure you read ahead. I’ve been practicing sight reading pretty consistently for about 2 years and often have to consciously remind myself to read ahead. When I do the improvement is immediately noticeable.

I use the Scarlatti sonatas to sight read for now. Almost finished with the whole set.


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Originally Posted by jon-nyc
I want to stress making sure you read ahead. I’ve been practicing sight reading pretty consistently for about 2 years and often have to consciously remind myself to read ahead. When I do the improvement is immediately noticeable.

I use the Scarlatti sonatas to sight read for now. Almost finished with the whole set.

How do you read ahead while still playing the previous bar? I try doing that and I just can't focus on the current measure.

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Originally Posted by Nitrovaleric
[...]
How do you read ahead while still playing the previous bar? I try doing that and I just can't focus on the current measure.

You may be trying to sight-read material that is too far beyond your sight-reading skills of the moment.

It's analogous (somewhat) to driving a car. You don't look at the road directly in front of the car, you look down the road to prepare for what you will have to do next while you are currently doing something else.

If one measure ahead is too much, try some simpler material and read only a half measure ahead of where you currently are playing. If you can't read ahead then you will inevitably be caught by some surprises which you weren't expecting and for which reading ahead would have prepared you. If you are relatively knew to sight-reading, then you need to keep in mind that it is a skill that is built over time; it doesn't happen immediately.

Regards,


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<<It's analogous (somewhat) to driving a car. You don't look at the road directly in front of the car, you look down the road to prepare for what you will have to do next while you are currently doing something else.>>

That’s a fantastic analogy!!!


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Originally Posted by jon-nyc
I use the Scarlatti sonatas to sight read for now. Almost finished with the whole set.
All 555 or the ones you have in a book with his Sonatas?

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Think about reading in english, then touch typing on the computer keyboard.

You read the word, piano, you're not reading p---i---a---n---o, you read the root letter, p, then the general shape of the word that looks like a little handle, about yay long, with a round " o " at the end.

When you see this SHAPE, you already know the muscle memory on the keyboard to type it out. you don't think about where is " p ", where is " i " .

Reading music is exactly the same. You see a triple CEG, you're not reading C---E---G, you see the root, C, then you see the general shape, the 2 notes are exactly that SPACING apart about yay-tall.

When you read a long slur, CEGEGE, it's a slightly different shape, one after the other, but you recognize the spacing, and you see the note's darkness implying how long to hold them.

There is a common set of words TO sheet music. To truly read AND play by sight, you need to read widely, Just as you've read Millions of ENGLISH words from books.

Now, as a 16yr old, you know somewhere between 4,000-7,000 english words. Full Adults know somewhere between 5,000-10,000.

The majority of qwerty-touch-typists can reach 125 wpm, each word is counted as 5 characters, so 625 character entry per minute.

It's pretty much the same with music.

It takes YEARS, pretty much 18 years of your life to become a decent READER of english.

Touch typing itself, for someone who already knows how to read english, only takes about 30 minutes a day for 1 month to reach 70wpm, around a year to reach 125-160 wpm on common text. UNCOMMON text with words that a person has never read, that speed will drop to ~90-100. 125-160 is about as high as any touch typist (on qwerty, unchorded keyboards will ever reach). You see 200wpm speeds only on highly predictable, highly practiced text.


Reading Music, in order to be FAST, and read at speed, there's no secret. It's just a matter of reading AT length and continuously, until you recognize the common set of Shapes-and-Patterns.


If we base our estimate on what it takes to achieve strong sight-reading ability in music on what it takes to READ ENGLISH

If you live in a high income neighborhood, go to a non-disadvantaged public school, you have read about 10-30 Harry Potter books before the time you enter college.

It's about 200,000 words per book, Each word counted as 5 characters, you are digesting between 30 Million to 60 Million characters.

Convert that to NOTES. It's about 333 to 1000 Rachmaninoff Concertos.

This is why people tell you it takes 10 years to learn to sight-read.. However long it took you to learn English, speaking it everyday, chatting with your friends, watching movies, yelling at the dog, sight-reading music takes about that long.

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