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Although my sight reading is good (compared to my playing level) I am regretting learning to mentally read notes as letters and then as a second step translating that letter to a key on the piano. What I would like to do is to retrain my brain to directly associate the note on the page with a keyboard position rather than going through a letter and wonder if anyone here has found a good way of doing this?

I'm already sight reading most notes through intervals but still there are of course some I need to translate directly from the page rather than from the previous note and I'm looking to find a more efficient way of doing this. Something I can use with an acoustic and paper based scores rather than an app would be much preferred, and definitely not a game based learning system please :-)

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Gwing, how long have you been playing? I think that the only way to associate a note on a page with the correct key is through repetition.
I know that happened to me years ago with chords. When I see a "C" on a page, I don't think C_E_G, my hand just plays the correct keys, in most cases without looking at them.

That is part muscle memory and part brain memory, but it will happen if you play the notes enough.
I still have to think "what note is that?" if it is more than two bars above the normal clef lines or so, just because those notes don't get played often enough to have them fixed in memory.


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Originally Posted by gwing
What I would like to do is to retrain my brain to directly associate the note on the page with a keyboard position rather than going through a letter and wonder if anyone here has found a good way of doing this?

I'm already sight reading most notes through intervals but still there are of course some I need to translate directly from the page rather than from the previous note and I'm looking to find a more efficient way of doing this.
First, you need to get beyond intervallic reading to instant recognition of each note, meaning that you have to get used to instantly associate a note on each staff to a key on the piano with no intervening steps. (Most definitely no "ah! that's a C#" follows by looking for the C# on the piano.)

You might have to retrain yourself away from all that by sight-reading - with no stutters/stops, like you'd have to in an ABRSM exam - something very simple, like the early pages of Mikrokosmos:

https://imslp.eu/files/imglnks/euimg/2/21/IMSLP465640-PMLP3661-Bela_Bartok_-_Mikrokosmos.pdf

Play HT if you can, otherwise start HS on one staff first. Play instantly - don't think. If you start thinking, you'll think: It's "A#", then look for it. (Just like you instantly see the letter 'E' as an 'E', not as 'the fifth letter after 'A'.) Doesn't matter if you hit a wrong note, as long as you realise you're hitting the wrong note, but carry right on, as if you're accompanying a singer. She's not going to stop for you to catch up, so you're going to have to keep playing at the same pulse.


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Can you visualize a keyboard in your head? I would recommend doing this away from the instrument. Think of a note or a chord and then imagine where it would lie on the keyboard, in your head. Learning music theory and voice leading indirectly helped me a lot with this -- when an instructor would say something like -- a C major chord moves naturally to a F major in first inversion, because the third goes to the fifth, and the root goes to the third, etc.. having to visualize that in my head really improved my mental visualization of the keyboard.

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I would add to these recommendations just general sightreading, but well below your current playing level. Use a metronome (set as slow as you like) and try to play without the middle step of articulating note names or interval names in your head. In addition to using and listening to the metronome, you can also count along, out loud sometimes. Focusing on the count will sort of run interference with your tendency to name the note and translate it to a spot on the keyboard.

Play some unknown piece of music every day, for 5 minutes, in addition to whatever else you regularly do during practice. I think this would help a great deal.

The other thing is, if you find that your reading speed (or your sight-read-play speed) is picking up, but you still feel like you're mentally reading the note and translating it to the keyboard, just ignore it. By which I mean, don't get caught up in thinking "darn it, there I go again, that's a C and I just read it as such." Just try to keep moving forward in the music and gradually you will become less and less reliant on naming the notes.

Good luck!


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Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
I would add to these recommendations just general sightreading, but well below your current playing level. Use a metronome (set as slow as you like) and try to play without the middle step of articulating note names or interval names in your head. In addition to using and listening to the metronome, you can also count along, out loud sometimes. Focusing on the count will sort of run interference with your tendency to name the note and translate it to a spot on the keyboard.

Play some unknown piece of music every day, for 5 minutes, in addition to whatever else you regularly do during practice. I think this would help a great deal.

The other thing is, if you find that your reading speed (or your sight-read-play speed) is picking up, but you still feel like you're mentally reading the note and translating it to the keyboard, just ignore it. By which I mean, don't get caught up in thinking "darn it, there I go again, that's a C and I just read it as such." Just try to keep moving forward in the music and gradually you will become less and less reliant on naming the notes.
I went through the same process on my violin. Eventually, it becomes second nature. I see a note on the middle line on a G Clef , I play that note automatically with my first finger on the A string without ever looking...
Unfortunately, what I learned there didn't translate on a piano. So when I started out, I know its a B. But I still have to think its a B, and ask "where is it on the piano?", then "what finger?", then "how long?"....
Basically, I had to start all over again... Anyway, doing the work really pays off on this one...


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Originally Posted by ranjit
Can you visualize a keyboard in your head? I would recommend doing this away from the instrument. Think of a note or a chord and then imagine where it would lie on the keyboard, in your head. Learning music theory and voice leading indirectly helped me a lot with this -- when an instructor would say something like -- a C major chord moves naturally to a F major in first inversion, because the third goes to the fifth, and the root goes to the third, etc.. having to visualize that in my head really improved my mental visualization of the keyboard.
+1. I'm sure visualization is the key.

Just get a book with simple pieces and after reading each note try to imagine its piano key next to it as fast as you can. Forbid yourself to pronounce note names mentally. Then advance to pieces in keys with more sharps/flats.


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