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Originally Posted by BlizzardPiano
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by BlizzardPiano
I was able to mostly memorize the music, which made it possible for us to go through the piece during the lesson. This would not have been possible if I had been struggling to read the piece.
This is a clear indication you need to work on your reading skills or "playing with the music" skills. Each time one reads a piece it should get easier and this is the way almost all successful pianists work on music. Of course, if you decide to memorize a piece immediately you will never improve your reading skills. IMO this is something that should be near to or at the highest priority at this point in your piano studies.
I am working on improving my reading skills with easier pieces. However, it is a difficult situation to be in where you can technically manage even grade 8+ pieces to an extent, but you can barely sight read a grade 1 piece. Only working on grade 2 pieces (the reading level) would be incredibly boring and not that useful, because you can play and interpret everything at mastery immediately, and only your reading facility is being challenged.

On memorizing immediately -- I agree to an extent, but as a "natural" memorizer, it is frustrating not to memorize a piece you're working on. You have to actively put in effort not to memorize the piece, which could more productively be put to just committing it to memory!

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
It's not your sight reading that necessarily needs improvement, it's your more general reading skill. It's not that important how well you can read the notes the first time you play a piece, but each time you look at the score it should become easier to read the notes and play them. By continually memorizing your pieces from the very beginning you are preventing improvement in this area.
I am working on reading and sight-reading separately. It has been a problem while working with teachers, since it is unconventional to just memorize a piece off the bat -- typically, you are supposed to read through it slowly over and over again, and even play it in a lesson, while reading it, under tempo. That never made sense to me, and I don't really like performing pieces under tempo because it feels very unmusical (practice is another matter). "Learning" and "memorizing" are almost synonymous in my mind -- I don't feel like I've learned a piece unless I have 'understood' it, and can play it from memory at whatever tempo seems appropriate.
Your post is, I'm afraid, full of major misconceptions, rationalizations, and contradictions. But I think I've spent enough time trying to convince you that you are on a seriously wrong path that is severely limiting your progress and enjoyment.

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Originally Posted by BlizzardPiano
On memorizing immediately -- I agree to an extent, but as a "natural" memorizer, it is frustrating not to memorize a piece you're working on. You have to actively put in effort not to memorize the piece, which could more productively be put to just committing it to memory!
I can empathize with this. I’m also a natural memorizer and a slow reader. One thing I did to help myself become better at just reading music in general was to stop trying to memorize anything. I do it naturally, so I just force myself to read things and don’t worry about memorizing. You have to read it to get it into memory anyway, right? You can also keep the music open in front of you as you play and maybe look up every so often…. But I just forget to do this.

Another thing to note here is the memory we use naturally like this is muscle memory and it is the least reliable in stressful situations. Neither here nor there, really, but I have had it fail me before when performing for others. Best to strengthen it with deeper understanding of the music itself, which is difficult for beginners and Chopin (I am still a beginner myself, for the record).

One other aside - and this is not really relevant to your posts - but it does seem that Chopin Nocturnes have kind of a siren’s call for beginners. They certainly did for me, and I have had several discussions with other beginners here over the years about them. Maybe it is because they sound easier to play on recordings than they actually are? After all, a nocturne is well below challenging for a true professional. They can effortlessly bring out the light and shadow of the music, winding the two together into the art that we know. I’ve been at a few of them for several years now and I still don’t sound like Rubinstein cry… I always just sound like me. Anyway, just interesting that so many beginners, myself included, leap quickly into this music that is actually quite complex and difficult to play well.

None of the above is meant to discourage you at all, for the record - there are so many good things that come from learning music like this that it is worth it even if you have to eventually set it down for a while before coming back to polish it more. Have fun!

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
... you are on a seriously wrong path that is severely limiting your progress and enjoyment.

Seems very heavy handed to me. Didn't we just recently have a lengthy discussion of the importance of memorization? I came away from that discussion with the sense there were pros and cons with both approaches, but neither should be ignored completely if you want to be remotely well rounded.

The book worms will have limitations too. if that's all they do. We discovered that in the other thread that seems to have been forgotten now.

As for personal enjoyment, well it's personal so how could you possibly know?

Last edited by Greener; 05/22/21 09:21 PM.
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Originally Posted by Greener
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
... you are on a seriously wrong path that is severely limiting your progress and enjoyment.

Seems very heavy handed to me. Didn't we just recently have a lengthy discussion of the importance of memorization? I came away from that discussion with the sense there were pros and cons with both approaches, but neither should be ignored completely if you want to be remotely well rounded. As for personal enjoyment, well it's personal so how could you possibly know?
1. The discussions about memorization are about whether one should memorize pieces and yes, there are pros and cons although I think the cons are much greater for most amateurs. They are not about whether one should choose between not being able to read music decently and memorizing music. That is the OP's situation because he tries to memorize right away since he cannot read with any fluency. IOW he uses his lack of reading skills as an excuse to memorize from the beginning so naturally his reading skills stay very low.

2. Since the OP can barely read music he cannot pick up some score and play it for pleasure, he cannot play unprepared chamber music with other musicians, and, most importantly, the only pieces he can play at one point in time are the few he has memorized and not forgotten. That's why even though enjoyment is personal, I felt I could say with assurance that the OP's approach limits his enjoyment of music. Being able to read music is one of the most basic skills in music.

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The majority who took music lessons would agree reading music is an essential skill.

3 years ago I met a retired man who got into playing on an old piano from a friend. He went straight into learning the Classical piece his father played many years ago... by imitating hand positions off online video demos. It’s an advanced piece over 5 min. Took him 3 months to learn the finger sequences under tempo.

Tried to convince the man the time he took to learn the fingerings would be better spent learning to read. Never met someone with so much resistance to reading notes. Forget it... he is stubborn as a mule.

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Resisting sightreading is like going through life without algebra. It won't kill you, but it's horribly inefficient. grin

You'd throw your phone in the garbage if it took 50 hours to charge for 3 minute runtime. You might as well walk to your sidegurl's house, tell her you love her more, and walk home.

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"2. Since the OP can barely read music he cannot pick up some score and play it for pleasure, he cannot play unprepared chamber music with other musicians, and, most importantly, the only pieces he can play at one point in time are the few he has memorized and not forgotten. That's why even though enjoyment is personal, I felt I could say with assurance that the OP's approach limits his enjoyment of music."

And you would be incorrect.

My approach has been similar to the OP's and for some 50 years now. I love playing and was at it like 3 hours yesterday (spread out over day) learning new stuff and never once looked at a score. But, I'm also working on some Bach which does require a score. Whatever skill you do not practice, will not get developed.

But what irritates me the most is this dogma in the group think tank that there is a single way for learning and anyone that does not conform is doing it all wrong and will never amount to anything. It isn't true.

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Originally Posted by Greener
But what irritates me the most is this dogma in the group think tank that there is a single way for learning and anyone that does not conform is doing it all wrong and will never amount to anything. It isn't true.

It's inefficient to be in pianist without good sight reading ability. It lowers your probability of "amounting to something." The fact that there are spontaneously famous musicians who can't read music is besides the point.

Would you tell anyone hey, you don't need to know how to read and write, we've got google assistant, and touch interfaces, just press buttons, life hacks grin

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So it has to be efficient or it's no good, is that it? Do you not see that the curriculum surrounding music learning and piano specifically has scared away multitudes of would be living room piano players for many decades? Nearly me included.

The advent of the internet has changed all that, and there is a lot more interest as a result. People that thought they could never learn anything can and do now. And once they do they may get more interested and even going right back to the roots of it. But forcing it out of the gate has never worked well and still does not.

Not everyone wants to reach for the classical performance stage, but can still have a life time of piano enjoyment without being so efficient. I know I have.

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Originally Posted by Greener
"2. Since the OP can barely read music he cannot pick up some score and play it for pleasure, he cannot play unprepared chamber music with other musicians, and, most importantly, the only pieces he can play at one point in time are the few he has memorized and not forgotten. That's why even though enjoyment is personal, I felt I could say with assurance that the OP's approach limits his enjoyment of music."

And you would be incorrect.

My approach has been similar to the OP's and for some 50 years now. I love playing and was at it like 3 hours yesterday (spread out over day) learning new stuff and never once looked at a score. But, I'm also working on some Bach which does require a score. Whatever skill you do not practice, will not get developed.

But what irritates me the most is this dogma in the group think tank that there is a single way for learning and anyone that does not conform is doing it all wrong and will never amount to anything. It isn't true.
My strong suspicion is you're talking about playing non classical music by ear when you say you didn't look at the score during much of your playing while learning new stuff. I was pretty obviously talking about playing classical and the OP was definitely talking about classical.

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Well it was mostly that yesterday, you're right about that for the newer stuff I was doing. But I rehearsed some classical too. I always try to nail a classical work before referencing the score again, for perhaps correcting any issues. It helps with ear development as you know. The piece I am having the most difficultly hitting the sweet spot with currently is non-classical, but close to classical mind you. Piazzolla medley.

Anyway, I am mostly talking about learning how to play piano which I think should always be the broader topic that is kept in mind. Classical isn't all that different in the end. Not to me, and I have coming up on 10 years experience now learning classical works from a score. I always memorize them, but not like a race to memorize them, it just happens by the time it is getting into decent shape. I can polish the rest without the score. I had been pondering learning the moonlight sonata movement III awhile back in relation to another thread. I still don't think I am ambitious enough for it and not saying I would do it justice. I don't know if I could. But, in the little looking into that I did, for learning this one I would definitely use a tutorial over a score. It would be half time for me. If the results were just as good I really don't see what difference the method makes is all. But I know some might. smile

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Originally Posted by Greener
Well it was mostly that yesterday, you're right about that for the newer stuff I was doing. But I rehearsed some classical too. I always try to nail a classical work before referencing the score again, for perhaps correcting any issues. It helps with ear development as you know. The piece I am having the most difficultly hitting the sweet spot with currently is non-classical, but close to classical mind you. Piazzolla medley.
Neither I nor anyone else has said it's wrong to memorize some classical music if your prefer to do that. What I said was that not being able to read classical music reasonably well greatly limits one musical progress, the number of pieces one can play at some moment in time, and one's enjoyment. The OPs post and my posts have been about playing classical music. Piazzolla is generally considered to be a classical composer and almost all of his tangos have appeared in solo piano form even if originally written for other instruments.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
... Neither I nor anyone else has said it's wrong to memorize some classical music if your prefer to do that.

When is it appropriate to do that?

Everything is important; Reading, ear, memorization ... even lead sheets. All should be developed together. No? If not the one's that are not practiced don't develop. We had examples of many experienced classical players that were frustrated by their inability to memorize after many decades of never memorizing. I don't think that's ideal either. It wasn't for them.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
What I said was that not being able to read classical music reasonably well greatly limits one musical progress, the number of pieces one can play at some moment in time, and one's enjoyment.

I used to think people that read from a score could just put up any score and zip through it. But, I was wrong. Only the best Sight Readers could do this, the rest would need to restore it to performance standard if they hadn't played it in some time. Just like a memory person may need to revisit the score.

--

Look, I am an advocate for reading. I myself had completely run out of motivation without my Dad around to keep feeding me new material. Learning to read has been the solution for me and learning some beautiful works is indeed rewarding. So, reading is important. But, so is everything else.

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Originally Posted by Greener
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
... Neither I nor anyone else has said it's wrong to memorize some classical music if your prefer to do that.
When is it appropriate to do that?
Everything is important; Reading, ear, memorization ... even lead sheets. All should be developed together. No? If not the one's that are not practiced don't develop. We had examples of many experienced classical players that were frustrated by their inability to memorize after many decades of never memorizing. I don't think that's ideal either. It wasn't for them. [/quote]

Whether or not it's appropriate to memorize depends on the situation and the pianist's preference. Some pianists who can read and play very well from the score prefer to memorize pieces they will perform because they feel they can play better without the score. But I'm not talking about pianists who are forced to memorize because they can't play from the score. Pros generally are expected to play solo piano recitals, concerti, and competitions without the score except for contemporary music. So they usually don't have a choice although that is changing somewhat. Many would prefer to play with the score if they weren't expected to play without it because, just like amateurs, they often suffer from fear of memory lapses. I think most amateurs would greatly benefit from not memorizing the score because they would have so much more time to learn repertoire. When I used to play Christmas recitals I had well over 100 pages of pretty advanced music and would have had less than 20% of that learned and ready to perform if I tried to memorize it.

Reading and ear training are important no matter what type of music one plays but the ability to play by ear is obviously much more important for a non classical pianist who does not play from a score. Lead sheets are not important at all for a classical pianist unless they want to be able to play non classical music without a score. Memorization importance depends completely on the specific situation. I have not memorized anything in over 50 years but have performed in countless situations.

Originally Posted by Greener
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
What I said was that not being able to read classical music reasonably well greatly limits one musical progress, the number of pieces one can play at some moment in time, and one's enjoyment.
I used to think people that read from a score could just put up any score and zip through it. But, I was wrong. Only the best Sight Readers could do this, the rest would need to restore it to performance standard if they hadn't played it in some time. Just like a memory person may need to revisit the score.
A person who can read from a score will generally take far less time to relearn a piece because they don't have to memorize it again. And, once they've learned and played it from the score they are no longer sight reading it whenever they sit down to play it again. They are not going back to the level of when they first read the score. I think close to 100% of the best pianists will use the score if they have to perform a piece they have not played for some time. The exception might be if they performed the piece, like a concerto, countless time

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Greener
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
... you are on a seriously wrong path that is severely limiting your progress and enjoyment.

Seems very heavy handed to me. Didn't we just recently have a lengthy discussion of the importance of memorization? I came away from that discussion with the sense there were pros and cons with both approaches, but neither should be ignored completely if you want to be remotely well rounded. As for personal enjoyment, well it's personal so how could you possibly know?
1. The discussions about memorization are about whether one should memorize pieces and yes, there are pros and cons although I think the cons are much greater for most amateurs. They are not about whether one should choose between not being able to read music decently and memorizing music. That is the OP's situation because he tries to memorize right away since he cannot read with any fluency. IOW he uses his lack of reading skills as an excuse to memorize from the beginning so naturally his reading skills stay very low.

2. Since the OP can barely read music he cannot pick up some score and play it for pleasure, he cannot play unprepared chamber music with other musicians, and, most importantly, the only pieces he can play at one point in time are the few he has memorized and not forgotten. That's why even though enjoyment is personal, I felt I could say with assurance that the OP's approach limits his enjoyment of music. Being able to read music is one of the most basic skills in music.
Thanks for your feedback!

I am concerned that trying to avoid memorization would impact memory. I think that musical memory is somewhat trainable, and getting into the habit of memorizing a lot of music (even from just listening) seems to make the brain more efficient at it. The point you are missing here is that I've been only reading for less than a year, so it's obviously going to be near-impossible for me to read grade 5+ pieces at fluency. Many teachers here would say that it would take 5 years to be able to read grade 5 pieces well -- I hope I might cut down that time to 1-2 years. However, solely focusing on reading skills would completely undercut my progress with technique.

I can also play by ear -- I can listen to a popular song, come up with a decent arrangement and improvise, which is quite enjoyable. If a piece is easy, I can try to memorize it quickly and use a combination of memory and reading ability to play it on the spot.

I am also trying to read pieces other than the assigned repertoire. I think your comments are a bit harsh, because, as a teacher, you would know that it takes a very long time to develop reading ability, which would make it impossible for me to work on any pieces which are at my technical standard. That can be incredibly demotivating -- as I've mentioned here, I have worked on a Chopin etude in the past with some success, and it would probably take several years to build up to that reading level, at the very least.

Originally Posted by Greener
I used to think people that read from a score could just put up any score and zip through it. But, I was wrong. Only the best Sight Readers could do this, the rest would need to restore it to performance standard if they hadn't played it in some time. Just like a memory person may need to revisit the score.
This is also true. Based on what I've seen, people with good sight-reading ability, who can read through something like a Chopin waltz at tempo, are very rare. Many pianists I've seen apologize for their "poor sightreading ability", including my teacher -- but I think it's actually the other way around. The standard people set for good sightreading is so high that only a few people can reach it.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
A person who can read from a score will generally take far less time to relearn a piece because they don't have to memorize it again. And, once they've learned and played it from the score they are no longer sight reading it whenever they sit down to play it again. They are not going back to the level of when they first read the score. I think close to 100% of the best pianists will use the score if they have to perform a piece they have not played for some time. The exception might be if they performed the piece, like a concerto, countless time
I agree that reading skills are required for high-level piano performance. There is no other way you can learn concertos etc. in a reasonable amount of time. However, if what you want to memorize is something simpler like a Chopin waltz, or Beethoven bagatelle, you can learn it to mastery and even relearn it fast enough, to the point where a score isn't required, if your memorization skills are good.

Last edited by BlizzardPiano; 05/23/21 02:29 PM.
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