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#3003408 07/16/20 04:27 PM
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Hey folks,

I spend so much time looking and screens, text, and scores that it seems as if my eyes have lost their intelligence, as if my eyes are tired... and I am not able to read efficiently. I have always been a 'decent' sight reader... and better in my youth. Perhaps its just that im out of practice, in spite of the fact that I read through hymns and Bach Chorales at least 4 times a week. I just recently have had to buy a pair of reading glasses, but all the same I had a question:

Any advice about how to drastically increasing your sight reading ability, especially under pressure, or with other eyes on your score?

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Aren't you just out of practice with sight-reading stuff other than hymns and chorales?

If you start sight-reading piano music of the style/era - be it Baroque/polyphonic, Classical, Romantic, atonal/contemporary - that you want to be good at, you'll likely become pretty good at it.

I know church organists who're pretty good at sight-reading anything in 4-part harmony, but hopeless at polyphonic Bach.


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In general, a teacher would recommend students read consistently from the bottom up. First read the Key Signature to know the black keys to play. Next start with the lowest note on the bass and go up to the treble. And you'd recognize intervals quickly to know the notes to play together.

To be good at sight-reading means reading a new piece as much as possible. When you're playing with other musicians, you may even drop notes in the middle just to keep a piece going.

The last Bach piece I played was a fugue in 4 voices. Took me a month to learn 4 pages. The notes are easy to read and there are few big jumps. The problem was that more than half the overlapping notes don't start or end on the same beat. It's not easy to start playing from a specific measure that has 1 or more notes that continue from the measure before. When you hold down a long note and play other notes on top, you only have 4 fingers to work with. And there are times you need to change finger to keep a note down when you run out of fingers to play other notes on top. Many people including myself wouldn't be sight-reading a piece like that. i was working on it a few measure a day before playing the whole thing from top to bottom.


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My teacher had me use Bartok's Mikrokosmos as sight-reading exercises (at least the first 3/4 books worth). They're great for that, because Bartok is usually surprising you in some regard - non-standard key signatures, odd meters, generally doing things you wouldn't expect, etc... It keeps you on your toes and makes you really focus on reading what's on the page, and not what you _think_ should be coming next.


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I always wished someone would invent some app or game (maybe it already exists?) where you're given a piece to sight-read, and the app calculates the percentage of notes/ directions that you're reading correctly vs how many mistakes you make, notes you leave out, etc. Your scores would give you an incentive to do better every time and to notice and read ahead as many details as possible.

My sight-reading was at its best when I was friends with a wonderful violinist (who unfortunately later left the country) and we would sight-read together all the time- standard sonatas, short pieces, transcriptions, obscure composers, early music, modern music, anything we could find that looked interesting. Those were some of the happiest hours of my life. The pressure of him being an amazing reader forced me to read as best as I could in the moment, and I think it's that pressure that really stretches one's abilities, because pushing yourself becomes a habit. It's so different from reading on your own or being in an environment that's less demanding. I notice it these days- I allow myself to not push myself to the maximum because I can get away with it, because it's a voice lesson or an acting lesson and everyone else plays just what's needed to keep it going. But it's such a dangerous habit, and I'm so afraid of going down that slope. When I recently told a friend I was accompanying a lot of singers he said, your sight-reading must have skyrocketed, and I was so embarrassed and worried to suddenly realize that it's actually gotten worse. (And here's a promise to self to remedy this, starting today, and to never again allow myself to play with less than full involvement).


"Love has to be the starting point- love of music. It is one of my firmest convictions that love always produces some knowledge, while knowledge only rarely produces something similar to love."
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Originally Posted by 8ude
My teacher had me use Bartok's Mikrokosmos as sight-reading exercises (at least the first 3/4 books worth). They're great for that, because Bartok is usually surprising you in some regard - non-standard key signatures, odd meters, generally doing things you wouldn't expect, etc... It keeps you on your toes and makes you really focus on reading what's on the page, and not what you _think_ should be coming next.

Brilliant!

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Originally Posted by Ainar
I always wished someone would invent some app or game (maybe it already exists?) where you're given a piece to sight-read, and the app calculates the percentage of notes/ directions that you're reading correctly vs how many mistakes you make, notes you leave out, etc. Your scores would give you an incentive to do better every time and to notice and read ahead as many details as possible.

My sight-reading was at its best when I was friends with a wonderful violinist (who unfortunately later left the country) and we would sight-read together all the time- standard sonatas, short pieces, transcriptions, obscure composers, early music, modern music, anything we could find that looked interesting. Those were some of the happiest hours of my life. The pressure of him being an amazing reader forced me to read as best as I could in the moment, and I think it's that pressure that really stretches one's abilities, because pushing yourself becomes a habit. It's so different from reading on your own or being in an environment that's less demanding. I notice it these days- I allow myself to not push myself to the maximum because I can get away with it, because it's a voice lesson or an acting lesson and everyone else plays just what's needed to keep it going. But it's such a dangerous habit, and I'm so afraid of going down that slope. When I recently told a friend I was accompanying a lot of singers he said, your sight-reading must have skyrocketed, and I was so embarrassed and worried to suddenly realize that it's actually gotten worse. (And here's a promise to self to remedy this, starting today, and to never again allow myself to play with less than full involvement).

There is an app called PianoMarvel that does that. My kids use it with their teacher, and it is pretty good. Not perfect, there is only so much that any of these apps can do, but it does pretty much what you were talking about - giving you feedback about how many notes you got right, where you went wrong. You would need a digital to use it, though, as it hooks into an iPad or something in order to get the MIDI signals. I believe there are ones out there that are more based on audio listening, but I have to think that those will have some issues as well, notable in how they deal with out-of-tune pianos and background noise.


What you are is an accident of birth. What I am, I am through my own efforts. There have been a thousand princes and there will be a thousand more. There is one Beethoven.
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Originally Posted by Ainar
I always wished someone would invent some app or game (maybe it already exists?) where you're given a piece to sight-read, and the app calculates the percentage of notes/ directions that you're reading correctly vs how many mistakes you make, notes you leave out, etc. Your scores would give you an incentive to do better every time and to notice and read ahead as many details as possible.

My sight-reading was at its best when I was friends with a wonderful violinist (who unfortunately later left the country) and we would sight-read together all the time- standard sonatas, short pieces, transcriptions, obscure composers, early music, modern music, anything we could find that looked interesting. Those were some of the happiest hours of my life. The pressure of him being an amazing reader forced me to read as best as I could in the moment, and I think it's that pressure that really stretches one's abilities, because pushing yourself becomes a habit. It's so different from reading on your own or being in an environment that's less demanding. I notice it these days- I allow myself to not push myself to the maximum because I can get away with it, because it's a voice lesson or an acting lesson and everyone else plays just what's needed to keep it going. But it's such a dangerous habit, and I'm so afraid of going down that slope. When I recently told a friend I was accompanying a lot of singers he said, your sight-reading must have skyrocketed, and I was so embarrassed and worried to suddenly realize that it's actually gotten worse. (And here's a promise to self to remedy this, starting today, and to never again allow myself to play with less than full involvement).


Thats really interesting! I find it very disorienting when im reading with other fluent musicians, because I do most of my work in a vacuum, and since I left university I do very little reading with other musicians.

Thanks for the Microcosmos idea, im going to dig in!

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There is an app on the iPad called ReadAhead.

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Originally Posted by 8ude
There is an app called PianoMarvel that does that. My kids use it with their teacher, and it is pretty good. Not perfect, there is only so much that any of these apps can do, but it does pretty much what you were talking about - giving you feedback about how many notes you got right, where you went wrong. You would need a digital to use it, though, as it hooks into an iPad or something in order to get the MIDI signals. I believe there are ones out there that are more based on audio listening, but I have to think that those will have some issues as well, notable in how they deal with out-of-tune pianos and background noise.

Thank you- I've just looked it up and will be checking it out!


"Love has to be the starting point- love of music. It is one of my firmest convictions that love always produces some knowledge, while knowledge only rarely produces something similar to love."
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Originally Posted by Ainar
Originally Posted by 8ude
There is an app called PianoMarvel that does that. My kids use it with their teacher, and it is pretty good. Not perfect, there is only so much that any of these apps can do, but it does pretty much what you were talking about - giving you feedback about how many notes you got right, where you went wrong. You would need a digital to use it, though, as it hooks into an iPad or something in order to get the MIDI signals. I believe there are ones out there that are more based on audio listening, but I have to think that those will have some issues as well, notable in how they deal with out-of-tune pianos and background noise.

Thank you- I've just looked it up and will be checking it out!


There is an ongoing thread devoted to Piano Marvel users in the ABF. These guys can answer all your questions

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Another thing my teacher used to do is to block out the bar I am playing (or two bars), so to ensure I am looking at the next (or second next) bar while playing.


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The only way to get better at sight reading is to play through more scores and get exposed to more types of music and notation. Certain patterns repeat that help you later down the road when you see something new.

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Originally Posted by boo1234
The only way to get better at sight reading is to play through more scores and get exposed to more types of music and notation. Certain patterns repeat that help you later down the road when you see something new.

I'm using this method and I'm using pieces below my current level. Not too far below but just below my level so I can actually play it sounding like the song. I'm also using Super Sight Reading Secrets and Cory Hall Sight Reading and Harmony and taking away some key concepts and overlap. I am enjoying all of it and improving.

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You can start by affording yourself a pair of glasses with lenses that are catered specifically to the distance between your eyes at your natural seated position in front of your instrument to the music desk of your piano, as being able to clearly see both the music and your hands is paramount. Your "reading glasses" may be focused to a closer distance than you need to be able to clearly see your music and hands, which will eventually cause your eyes to strain.

Now onto the meat and potatos. Both learning how to successfully and properly play the piano along with the ability to sight read are learned experiences that take time to develope, which takes years of playing, especially moreso with adult students, with some never being able to successfully do either.

Have patience and become talented, and through that successful experience will come familiarity, and through familiarity will come comfort...and only through this comfort will the ability to concentrate on seeing what needs to be played and playing it correctly on the fly become a skill that the pianist can utilize at will, whether they were at home by themselves or playing in front of 50 people. Such abilities simply cannot be magically gleaned or hastened from a video, book, or app, so honker down and build up your experience smile


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