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Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion) (Read 6583 times)

Offline perfect_pitch

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Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
« on: December 17, 2014, 04:22:49 AM »
Greetings, (and I apologise if it looks long, but I hope it's worth it)

I know there's hundreds of sight-reading posts out there, but I wanted to have a very detailed, hard-core discussion about sight-reading from a teachers point of view. I'm happy if people want to debate, argue, etc... as long as we try and make it objective as well.

To me, there seems to be 3 aspects to sight-reading. 1) The ability to ready the notation quickly (almost without thought) - this includes the rhythm as well. 2) The ability to play the piano without looking at the keyboard itself. 3) Having the technical ability to play what's in front of you (finger dexterity).

Now I know there are some apps that help with the reading of notes and rhythm, although they focus on one area without combining them together, but what I want to focus on is the 2nd aspect - the ability to play without looking at the keys. It is possible, as blind pianists like Ray Charles have played without seeing. I wanted to try and work on getting students to that ability if possible.

I have designed what I think are good exercises to help students gradually get to know the keyboard over time. I have attached them here:

http://www.filedropper.com/sight-readingskills

I wanted to get your opinions on their validity in teaching. Obviously, you would have beginner Grade students try exercises 1, 2 & 3, having intermediate students trying exercises 4 & 5, and maybe having advanced students try exercises 6 - 8.

Please be honest... I have some students who are VERY weak at sight-reading, and really want to help them as I feel that if they don't address this - the pieces they learn in lessons will become too hard for them to learn properly because of their limited ability to automatically work out the notation.

Offline j_menz

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #1 on: December 17, 2014, 04:38:45 AM »
I'd add an extra thing to consider when teaching - fingering principles. Sightreading requires that you be able to come up with an execution that works on the fly.

And another - listening to yourself - you need the feedback, which also means you need to know what to expect.
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline anamnesis

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #2 on: December 17, 2014, 05:58:36 AM »
Greetings, (and I apologise if it looks long, but I hope it's worth it)

I know there's hundreds of sight-reading posts out there, but I wanted to have a very detailed, hard-core discussion about sight-reading from a teachers point of view. I'm happy if people want to debate, argue, etc... as long as we try and make it objective as well.

To me, there seems to be 3 aspects to sight-reading. 1) The ability to ready the notation quickly (almost without thought) - this includes the rhythm as well. 2) The ability to play the piano without looking at the keyboard itself. 3) Having the technical ability to play what's in front of you (finger dexterity).

Now I know there are some apps that help with the reading of notes and rhythm, although they focus on one area without combining them together, but what I want to focus on is the 2nd aspect - the ability to play without looking at the keys. It is possible, as blind pianists like Ray Charles have played without seeing. I wanted to try and work on getting students to that ability if possible.

I have designed what I think are good exercises to help students gradually get to know the keyboard over time. I have attached them here:

http://www.filedropper.com/sight-readingskills

I wanted to get your opinions on their validity in teaching. Obviously, you would have beginner Grade students try exercises 1, 2 & 3, having intermediate students trying exercises 4 & 5, and maybe having advanced students try exercises 6 - 8.

Please be honest... I have some students who are VERY weak at sight-reading, and really want to help them as I feel that if they don't address this - the pieces they learn in lessons will become too hard for them to learn properly because of their limited ability to automatically work out the notation.

I think the Richman book provides a fairly systematic way to approach the tactile component of sight-reading using the black keys as physical landmarks that you use to feel out the rest of the notes. 

Offline nickmarshall

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #3 on: December 17, 2014, 08:51:54 AM »
As a mature age advanced pianist I have absolutely no difficulty sight reading. Years of listening to great pianists on radio or CD and following the score, even noting in pencil certain "effects" etc. hones sight reading ability. I never look at the keyboard. It helps also to have a really good instrument to make one acutely aware of the sound produced ---- for years, as a youngster, I had to struggle with an old German upright, then a Yamaha G2D grand.
Since I acquired my Steinway Model M and had it totally rebuilt 6 years ago, new strings, felts, etc I have improved even more.
Bottom line is now, age 75, I cannot play from memory whereas as a teenager I could "rattle off" stuff like the Waldstein from memory, but with wrong notes memorized in LH, because with the passion, sound and fury one could not differentiate on a mere upright.

Nick Marshall
Sydney, Australia

Offline j_menz

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #4 on: December 17, 2014, 10:01:13 AM »
As a mature age advanced pianist I have absolutely no difficulty sight reading.

Then you really aren't challenging yourself. Or you have very low standards. ::)
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #5 on: December 17, 2014, 01:19:29 PM »


To me, there seems to be 3 aspects to sight-reading. 1) The ability to ready the notation quickly (almost without thought) - this includes the rhythm as well. 2) The ability to play the piano without looking at the keyboard itself. 3) Having the technical ability to play what's in front of you (finger dexterity).

I think these are "necessary but not sufficient" conditions. 

2) gives the beginner the most trouble and of course 3) limits almost all of us. 

But I'm pretty sure the really good sight readers use other methods as well. 

In learning to sight read, focusing on those three will not hurt you.  But sightreading is a complicated combination of a number of related skills. 
Tim

Offline keypeg

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #6 on: December 17, 2014, 05:46:09 PM »
Before learning to sight read a student should learn to read.  Sight reading is an advanced, specialized skill that is needed in situations such as accompanying.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #7 on: December 17, 2014, 09:54:41 PM »
Before learning to sight read a student should learn to read.  Sight reading is an advanced, specialized skill that is needed in situations such as accompanying.

Last year an accidentally misaddressed email had me sub with a community band for the Christmas concert.    I asked if they wanted me at the last rehearsal or if I should sightread the concert.  The director replied that this music was much too challenging and i needed to be there.  (I wouldn't normally have made that offer, but I understood it to be the German/european band, and I've played their book enough times to be confident.  Turned out I had the wrong band.)  At any rate, I went to rehearsal and sightread the concert program flawlessly at tempo the first time, including dynamics, articulation, weird repeats and codas, etc. 

We brass players routinely expect to do that in performance. 

But a huge part of that is memory retrieval of thorougly learned and overlearned patterns.  I hadn't played those particular pieces (except Sleighride, which we can all do left handed in our sleep) but everything was stylistically similar to very very familiar music.  That would have also been the case with the German band, but that stuff is stylistically very DISsimilar to community band stuff; the first several times I read a musical pit score I crashed and burned, and had to work my butt off to prepare the music to an acceptable level.

Reading a new piece in the learning stages is as you say, not sightreading.  But reading that same piece when some of the difficulties are worked out is very close to sightreading, I think
Tim

Offline keypeg

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #8 on: December 17, 2014, 10:26:29 PM »
Here are my complete thoughts.

The OP writes
Quote
I have designed what I think are good exercises to help students gradually get to know the keyboard over time.
and he goes on to talk about beginner to grade 3.  Therefore we are not talking about people learning an advanced and specialized skill, which is what sight reading is.  People mix up sight reading and reading, and they also don't consider everything that learning to read involves.    When a student is learning at a basic level, he or she is learning to recognize how piano keys relate to the lines and spaces, what the treble and bass clef mean, and many other basic things.  The student should be taking all the time in the world to get at each correct note.  Sight reading is the opposite of this.  You play at tempo, skip notes if you have to etc.  That's a good thing to do when you are specializing - not when you are learning to read music.  They are different skills, and they tend to get mixed together.

I did not look at the material, because you have to join some kind of site to do so.

Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #9 on: December 18, 2014, 12:45:29 AM »
Sight reading is an advanced, specialized skill that is needed in situations such as accompanying.

I don't completely agree with that. I think at the base level, sight-reading is what even 6 year olds do when they are looking at a new piece of music for the first time. If they have good note reading skills up to that point and clearly understand the rhythm; and are fairly strong in the hands, they can look at a new song, play through; yes, there might be a little mishap - a wrong note or two, a note that's not held for the full length, but overall they are looking at the piece and reading it 'at sight' at a reasonable tempo.

To me, sight-reading is playing without relying on muscle memory or aural memory, and seeing the musical notation for the first time, without any previous preparation.

Think about it. When you started learning pieces/songs (like Twinkle, twinkle), it might have taken you a couple of days (20 mins a day) to learn each song... but as we get more advanced, we find that it will take us weeks and sometimes months to learn new material... Why is that? I'd like to think that at this point in time, I have excellent note-reading skills, and a moderate amount of technical skill (compared to the greats), and I can play fairly well without looking at the keyboard, but over time I wasn't regularly taught and assessed on these abilities, and I feel that had I been, maybe my sight-reading could have been much better.

I'd add an extra thing to consider when teaching - fingering principles. Sightreading requires that you be able to come up with an execution that works on the fly.

Maybe, but I think part of that comes from keeping your eyes on the music and reading ahead. I think the less time spent looking at the keyboard allows you to maintain focus on the piano and to read ahead. Plus, sometimes you'll get basic fingering put on the score, so it's simply a matter of keeping your eyes on the fingering as well. It's a good point though, so I'll noodle over that...    :-\   

You play at tempo, skip notes if you have to etc. 

I hate to say but again, I disagree. Yes, it may be handy to skip notes when you're sight-reading for a performance and it is the first time, but I'd like to think that the ability to read everything on the page, and to play everything on the page can be taught or developed. I think part of the skipping notes, may be that your note reading skills are just a little lacking, or the technical development needs more work. Yes, everyone does it, but I'd rather address the problem and try and better myself than just accepting that skipping notes is necessary.

I think these are "necessary but not sufficient" conditions. 

2) gives the beginner the most trouble and of course 3) limits almost all of us. 

In learning to sight read, focusing on those three will not hurt you.  But sightreading is a complicated combination of a number of related skills. 

Do you feel there are any other skills that would help sight-reading other than the 3 I initially mentioned? I'm curious to know...

I did not look at the material, because you have to join some kind of site to do so.

No you don't... You just download the file - no signing up or anything, no need to give an e-mail or password. But having said that, I also did forget that you can just attach PDF's to posts, so I'll update that in a second.

Offline keypeg

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #10 on: December 18, 2014, 01:22:26 AM »
I don't completely agree with that. I think at the base level, sight-reading is what even 6 year olds do when they are looking at a new piece of music for the first time. If they have good note reading skills up to that point and clearly understand the rhythm...
Yes, but I was writing about the need to get those things first which you just listed.

I tried to do a series of quotes but it doesn't work.  The system always cuts out what you quoted so there is a blank, then your "yes but" (to what?) because of how PS is set up. :(

Offline keypeg

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #11 on: December 18, 2014, 01:26:58 AM »
[responding to mine: You play at tempo, skip notes if you have to etc. ...
I hate to say but again, I disagree. Yes, it may be handy to skip notes when you're sight-reading for a performance and it is the first time, but I'd like to think that the ability to read everything on the page, and to play everything on the page can be taught or developed. I think part of the skipping notes, may be that your note reading skills are just a little lacking, or the technical development needs more work. Yes, everyone does it, but I'd rather address the problem and try and better myself than just accepting that skipping notes is necessary.

Clarification:  Every advice about sight reading I have ever seen has advised to play at tempo, and skip notes.  I disagree with this when someone is learning how to read.  You also seem to disagree.  Otoh, if a professional gets a piece of music plonked in front of him and he has to accompany on the spot, then he has to do just that.  I once was in a choir doing Brahms, where the choirmaster told the accompanist, "Oh, I decided to do this entirely different piece.  Please bring out the alto notes, since they are weak."  He handed her a score with the four voices separate, and topped by a reduction of the orchestral part - and she had to play that on the spot while "bringing out the alto melody".

Offline j_menz

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #12 on: December 18, 2014, 01:35:28 AM »
Clarification:  Every advice about sight reading I have ever seen has advised to play at tempo, and skip notes. 
Depends on the purpose. If you are playing it live - as a soloist or particularly to accompany a band or choir, then that's definitely the way to go. That's not a beginner skill, though.

If you're reading through to get a feel for a piece, keeping most of the notes (except maybe for the odd cadenza bit or other awkwardness) and going at a reasonable, but slower than actual speed is perfectly OK.
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #13 on: December 18, 2014, 03:37:15 AM »
Greetings, (and I apologise if it looks long, but I hope it's worth it)

I know there's hundreds of sight-reading posts out there, but I wanted to have a very detailed, hard-core discussion about sight-reading from a teachers point of view. I'm happy if people want to debate, argue, etc... as long as we try and make it objective as well.

To me, there seems to be 3 aspects to sight-reading. 1) The ability to ready the notation quickly (almost without thought) - this includes the rhythm as well. 2) The ability to play the piano without looking at the keyboard itself. 3) Having the technical ability to play what's in front of you (finger dexterity).

Now I know there are some apps that help with the reading of notes and rhythm, although they focus on one area without combining them together, but what I want to focus on is the 2nd aspect - the ability to play without looking at the keys. It is possible, as blind pianists like Ray Charles have played without seeing. I wanted to try and work on getting students to that ability if possible.

I have designed what I think are good exercises to help students gradually get to know the keyboard over time. I have attached them here:

http://www.filedropper.com/sight-readingskills

I wanted to get your opinions on their validity in teaching. Obviously, you would have beginner Grade students try exercises 1, 2 & 3, having intermediate students trying exercises 4 & 5, and maybe having advanced students try exercises 6 - 8.

Please be honest... I have some students who are VERY weak at sight-reading, and really want to help them as I feel that if they don't address this - the pieces they learn in lessons will become too hard for them to learn properly because of their limited ability to automatically work out the notation.

I am not a teacher, but as someone who has been trying to focus on sight reading lately, this whole thread is giving vague answers all over the board. Maybe the posters are all correct but adding it all together yields no technique for sightreading other than "just do it" . Even the link didnt work for me. That being said I have particularly weak skills when the notes get too far apart. When the composer is generous enough to write "8va..." then it is easier to stay with it. That is something I have been noticing since I have been "practicing" sight-reading.

Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #14 on: December 18, 2014, 03:56:05 AM »
Even the link didnt work for me.

Well... I've checked it twice now and it worked both times. There may be something wrong with your computer.

this whole thread is giving vague answers all over the board. Maybe the posters are all correct but adding it all together yields no technique for sightreading other than "just do it"

Then you don't seem to have been reading through the thread properly... Granted it's only 1 day old, but I'm trying to actually work on the aspects that culminate to make a good sight-reading, and the one that I think has been neglected is the ability to play the piano without looking at the keys. Considering there's plenty of books on technique (aspect 3) and lots of Apps designed to help note reading, and rhythmic practice (aspect 1), the aspect that I think has been overlooked is trying to play without looking. Trying to eliminate the need to take your eyes off the music.

I certainly don't think that you 'just do it'. I, nor any other member seems to have stated that (except maybe Nick Marshall)...

Offline outin

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #15 on: December 18, 2014, 05:06:25 AM »
the one that I think has been neglected is the ability to play the piano without looking at the keys. Considering there's plenty of books on technique (aspect 3) and lots of Apps designed to help note reading, and rhythmic practice (aspect 1), the aspect that I think has been overlooked is trying to play without looking. Trying to eliminate the need to take your eyes off the music.

I've seen some people suggest doing more scales ;)

Different people have different weaknesses. For me it's score reading (except for the rhythm part), for someone else it is playing without looking. I think when you learn to play 2 and 3 gradually should get better just by playing more material but 1 doesn't necessarily. And I personally feel THAT is the part that is neglected... I haven't seen much practical advice how to work on that because note reading apps really only help on the initial level. Doing more sight reading also only seemed to work to a certain point. Studying scores away from the piano is another suggestion, but if that works the results come so slowly that they are difficult to even detect.

Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #16 on: December 18, 2014, 06:21:49 AM »
I've seen some people suggest doing more scales ;)

Different people have different weaknesses. For me it's score reading (except for the rhythm part), for someone else it is playing without looking. I think when you learn to play 2 and 3 gradually should get better just by playing more material but 1 doesn't necessarily.

I don't know... 1 Can get better. Get an App like 'Tenuto' and use it to try and speed up your ability to read notes - you can even use it to focus on ledger lines, below or above the stave. It's also good for identifying various triads and 7th chords quickly. Also, for those who aren't good are rhythm, the app 'ReadRhythm' is a great one that I've been getting my students to use as well.

To me, notes are kind of like words. When you're young, it takes time to sound out and work out the letter names that make up the words, same with the notes. You more you look at them, and take time for the purpose of working them out, the quicker you get at reading them.

Offline outin

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #17 on: December 18, 2014, 06:33:33 AM »
I don't know... 1 Can get better. Get an App like 'Tenuto' and use it to try and speed up your ability to read notes - you can even use it to focus on ledger lines, below or above the stave. It's also good for identifying various triads and 7th chords quickly. Also, for those who aren't good are rhythm, the app 'ReadRhythm' is a great one that I've been getting my students to use as well.

To me, notes are kind of like words. When you're young, it takes time to sound out and work out the letter names that make up the words, same with the notes. You more you look at them, and take time for the purpose of working them out, the quicker you get at reading them.

I could certainly work on recognizing chords faster, but the biggest issue seems to be that I lose my way even when I keep my eyes glued to the page. I get lost in line changes and I don't seem to be able to focus on all the other details like dynamic markings fast enough. I also have trouble adjusting the two clefs, so after focusing on some detail on another I cannot find my way back to the other.

Offline keypeg

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #18 on: December 18, 2014, 10:42:54 AM »
Depends on the purpose. If you are playing it live - as a soloist or particularly to accompany a band or choir, then that's definitely the way to go. That's not a beginner skill, though.

If you're reading through to get a feel for a piece, keeping most of the notes (except maybe for the odd cadenza bit or other awkwardness) and going at a reasonable, but slower than actual speed is perfectly OK.
I am talking about advice I saw on learning to read, when learning to sight read was meant, and aimed at beginner or beginner/intermediate students.  I was explaining to the OP that this is not my own idea, but what is posted just about everywhere, and not something that would be good for a beginner who is learning to read.  The OP seems to agree with that.

Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #19 on: December 18, 2014, 12:03:24 PM »
I am talking about advice I saw on learning to read, when learning to sight read was meant, and aimed at beginner or beginner/intermediate students. 

MEANWHILE, EARLIER IN THE THREAD...

Sight reading is an advanced, specialized skill that is needed in situations such as accompanying.


Offline timothy42b

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #20 on: December 18, 2014, 01:30:42 PM »
Clarification:  Every advice about sight reading I have ever seen has advised to play at tempo, and skip notes. 

I would distinguish between practice sightreading when learning to sightread, and sightreading in performance.

I think that when learning, it is critical that you continue at a steady tempo but it is not necessary that this is a fast tempo.  It is also not necessary this tempo is so slow you can play all the notes.  The choice isn't really that critical but you must not get "out of time."  In performance of course you must play at the required tempo and simplify as needed to stay with it. 
Tim

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #21 on: December 18, 2014, 01:36:16 PM »
I'd add an extra thing to consider when teaching - fingering principles. Sightreading requires that you be able to come up with an execution that works on the fly.


I both agree and disagree.

I agree in that coming up with the right fingering (or any other aspect of correct mechanics) on the fly is essential to good sightreading and the biggest obstacle for the intermediate, once past that basic keyboard geography learning curve. 

I don't agree that good sightreaders actually come up with it on the fly.  Good sightreaders have seen that pattern before, have practiced it enough times that they own it, and are able to recognize and retrieve it on the fly.  Of course there will be unique combinations that nobody has seen before that really do require invention on the fly, but the good sightreaders do much less of this than we think. 
Tim

Offline keypeg

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #22 on: December 18, 2014, 05:43:23 PM »
I am talking about advice I saw on learning to read, when learning to sight read was meant, and aimed at beginner or beginner/intermediate students. 

MEANWHILE, EARLIER IN THE THREAD...

Quote from: keypeg on December 17, 2014, 05:46:09 PM
Sight reading is an advanced, specialized skill that is needed in situations such as accompanying.


I see that you are confused about the two statements as though they were contradictions.

I am telling you what I have seen over a period of five years in two forums.  There is no contradiction.  The advice that is generally given, which tells students to play at tempo and to skip notes, is advice that is needed by people who accompany in live situations.  But that advice is given to beginners who are learning to read.  You disagree with that advice, just like I do.  I was telling you what is "out there".  You may not have been aware of it.  Now can we move on?

Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #23 on: December 20, 2014, 09:24:43 AM »
I don't agree that good sightreaders actually come up with it on the fly.  Good sightreaders have seen that pattern before, have practiced it enough times that they own it, and are able to recognize and retrieve it on the fly.

But is that true??? Yes, there are some basic patterns like arpeggiated passages and scalic passages, but are there that many patterns that sight-reading simply becomes a series of patterns strung together from previous experience???

I think part of it is actual memory. People begin with the first few notes in their head, and their focus is simply trying to memorise and play what they already have seen, while trying to read ahead of what their playing. I don't feel their basing it on patterns, but simply working it out in their head as they read ahead of what their playing.

Possibly?

Offline j_menz

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #24 on: December 20, 2014, 10:18:28 AM »
But is that true??? Yes, there are some basic patterns like arpeggiated passages and scalic passages, but are there that many patterns that sight-reading simply becomes a series of patterns strung together from previous experience???

I think part of it is actual memory. People begin with the first few notes in their head, and their focus is simply trying to memorise and play what they already have seen, while trying to read ahead of what their playing. I don't feel their basing it on patterns, but simply working it out in their head as they read ahead of what their playing.

Possibly?

I think i's something of a middle ground. Not merely a stock of learned figures, and not a new one every time.

Consider a reasonably early learned figure to read, a simple standard alberti bass.

Three notes, standards pattern - in fact just like a chord, but figured.  A reasonably skilled reader just need to spot (1) it's an alberti figure and (2) them's the notes. No need for it to be  a "done before" figure, bur merely an example of a figure for which one has a general solution. That general solution is part of the secret - it cuts down what you need to see.
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #25 on: December 20, 2014, 05:03:35 PM »

Consider a reasonably early learned figure to read, a simple standard alberti bass.

Three notes, standards pattern - in fact just like a chord, but figured.  A reasonably skilled reader just need to spot (1) it's an alberti figure and (2) them's the notes. No need for it to be  a "done before" figure, bur merely an example of a figure for which one has a general solution. That general solution is part of the secret - it cuts down what you need to see.

Good example. 

I think it illustrates the other part of what I'm suggesting.

You could sightread ten new pieces a day and have one or two of them be an Alberti bass piece, and you wouldn't improve as fast at sightreading as if you had stopped, realized you were weak on Alberti bass, and spent some time thoroughly learning it so that you had the general solution safely stored in the repertoire.
Tim

Offline goldentone

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #26 on: December 20, 2014, 07:41:28 PM »
I think i's something of a middle ground. Not merely a stock of learned figures, and not a new one every time.

Yes, I believe the advanced sightreader has the ability to process information, rather than it consisting of learning and storing a number of templates.  Our minds are more adept than that.  A person who knows their language can speak a word they've never seen before.
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Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #27 on: December 21, 2014, 04:39:38 AM »
Ok... fun question. Does anyone think the exercises I originally posted will help piano players or students with the mental mapping of a keyboard? I'm definitely looking at ways to help anyone sight-reading, and want to see if this exercise will help in any way?

Offline j_menz

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #28 on: December 21, 2014, 04:54:46 AM »
My issue with them is that they don't seem particularly designed around what beginners-intermediate students are otherwise doing. All scales in various intervals? Octave scales? All 3 and 4 note chords in all positions? My memory may be failing, but I seem to recall that by the time I'd done all that I was about grade 7.

Also, there are a range of commonly encountered things that aren't covered. Alberti bass, reading common rhythms and note patterns, basic modulations and simple leaps.

After your exercises, I'd have only part of keyboard geography, have picked up a lot of extraneous stuff, and quite possibly be bored to tears. At least start to disguise some of the "here learn all this" with some musical framework.
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #29 on: December 21, 2014, 11:00:04 AM »
Ok... fun question. Does anyone think the exercises I originally posted will help piano players or students with the mental mapping of a keyboard? I'm definitely looking at ways to help anyone sight-reading, and want to see if this exercise will help in any way?

Based on the pdf you posted, the exercises are just fine for someone to understand the keyboard. In the key of C.  Good exercise to learn in all keys, but does not address sight reading very well. If it did I would be a pro. I am not trying to knock what you posted, it is something that piano learners should strive for.

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #30 on: January 03, 2015, 02:11:54 AM »
Well... I've checked it twice now and it worked both times. There may be something wrong with your computer.

Then you don't seem to have been reading through the thread properly... Granted it's only 1 day old, but I'm trying to actually work on the aspects that culminate to make a good sight-reading, and the one that I think has been neglected is the ability to play the piano without looking at the keys. Considering there's plenty of books on technique (aspect 3) and lots of Apps designed to help note reading, and rhythmic practice (aspect 1), the aspect that I think has been overlooked is trying to play without looking. Trying to eliminate the need to take your eyes off the music.

I certainly don't think that you 'just do it'. I, nor any other member seems to have stated that (except maybe Nick Marshall)...

As a person who is tackling sight reading, I appreciate what this thread has offered. As I have been practicing sight reading it reveals some of the things mentioned in this thread which I need to work on such as not looking at the keys. In fact , I think I have a terrible habit of glancing at keys when I play, even if I have practiced and "know" it.  So for now, the focus is to play everything with a conscious effort not to look at keys. For me that might be the core of my issue. We'll see how it goes. It might take some time though

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #31 on: January 03, 2015, 03:22:04 AM »
Pretty easy to cover the keyboard with a U shaped piece of cardboard or foam board.
Tim

Offline keypeg

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #32 on: January 03, 2015, 05:22:53 AM »
Why is glancing at the keyboard supposed to be a "terrible habit", so why should one try to stop it with a U-shaped piece of cardboard or any other device?

Offline j_menz

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #33 on: January 03, 2015, 05:40:39 AM »
Why is glancing at the keyboard supposed to be a "terrible habit?

Glancing, very occasionally probably isn't. Nor is using ones peripheral vision. But having to do it often makes it likely you'll lose your place and is in any case less time spent actually looking at the score, so less time thinking about that and more time just checking you are where you think you are.
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Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #34 on: January 03, 2015, 07:04:31 AM »
Good exercise to learn in all keys, but does not address sight reading very well.

Do you mind explaining why you think it doesn't address sight-reading well? I mean, think about Blind pianists who can gauge the ability to play, being able to jump around the piano keyboard with an instinctual ability to land on chords with ease.

The ability to quickly reach awkward intervals and chords, including black and white notes, could help people sight-read a little easier... especially in keys with several sharps or flats.

Offline keypeg

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #35 on: January 03, 2015, 08:24:04 PM »
Glancing, very occasionally probably isn't. Nor is using ones peripheral vision. But having to do it often makes it likely you'll lose your place and is in any case less time spent actually looking at the score, so less time thinking about that and more time just checking you are where you think you are.
The actual reason why teachers tell students not to look at the keyboard is that they want to promote reading, and therefore want to discourage a crutch that is used instead of reading.  So what is actually WANTED is the ability to read music.  Looking at the keyboard isn't actually a bad thing --- having a crutch that replaces reading is a bad thing.  But too many students come away with the idea that looking at the keyboard in and of itself is bad.  It isn't.  That is the point I was trying to make.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #36 on: January 04, 2015, 12:06:17 AM »
The actual reason why teachers tell students not to look at the keyboard is that they want to promote reading, and therefore want to discourage a crutch that is used instead of reading. 

That's one of the reasons but it is not the only reason.

Looking at the keyboard to find the key you need delays learning keyboard geography.  We have to be able to find keys in relation to where our hands are at that moment.  Beginners will have thumb on C and have to look to find F.  The faster we can acquire a feel and visualization spacial sense of the keyboard the better. 

Even advanced pianists make quick glances to check big or unusual leaps, but they don't need to look for most of what they play, and we should aspire to that.  Looking is a crutch that can slow this process down. 
Tim

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #37 on: January 04, 2015, 12:07:04 AM »
Also, looking at the keyboard can delay memorization.
Tim

Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #38 on: January 04, 2015, 02:22:05 AM »
Okay... does anyone have any other exercises or advice (apart from sight-read more) on how to train someone to sight-read better?

Is there an aspect I've missed apart from the 3 I stated in the beginning (notes/rhythm, technical ability, keyboard orientation?)

Offline keypeg

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #39 on: January 04, 2015, 09:23:11 AM »
Looking at the keyboard to find the key you need delays learning keyboard geography.  We have to be able to find keys in relation to where our hands are at that moment.  Beginners will have thumb on C and have to look to find F.  The faster we can acquire a feel and visualization spacial sense of the keyboard the better. 
There are other teaching and learning methods that you may not be aware of.  You are describing a methodology where a student puts his hands for example in "C position", knows his thumb is on C, and then finds the notes via his thumb and fingers.  I would never want to learn that way.

There are teachers who have thought this through.  They work to have the student associate notation with piano keys, and the fingers and the hand play no part.  Associating fingers with notes creates problems.  The same thing occurs in violin when notes are related to fingers.

So that scenario didn't even occur to me.

Offline j_menz

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #40 on: January 04, 2015, 10:17:22 AM »
the fingers and the hand play no part. 

Do you have a different sort of piano than the one with which I'm familiar?  :o
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #41 on: January 04, 2015, 07:30:49 PM »
You are describing a methodology where a student puts his hands for example in "C position", knows his thumb is on C, and then finds the notes via his thumb and fingers.  I would never want to learn that way.



No, I'm not.  I'm talking keyboard geography, nothing to do with five finger positions

Quote
There are teachers who have thought this through.  They work to have the student associate notation with piano keys, and the fingers and the hand play no part.  Associating fingers with notes creates problems.  The same thing occurs in violin when notes are related to fingers.

So that scenario didn't even occur to me.

Nor to me, so you're going down the wrong track.

Finding the geospatial location of keys can be done visually but that delays knowing where they are.
Tim

Offline keypeg

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #42 on: January 04, 2015, 08:49:34 PM »
No, I'm not.  I'm talking keyboard geography, nothing to do with five finger positions
OK.  I'm trying to feel out where you are coming from, and that was an approach I've seen so I thought that might be it.

Trying to get at it -- and its alternative --- again.

Your scenario has a person with his thumb on C.  Then to find F you have him finding that F from the thumb in some manner.  So somehow he is counting his way up from his fingers, or something like that.

The teaching methodologies that I've seen, esp. in the pedagogy I'm learning, doesn't have that scenario at all.  The pedagogy seeks to teach the student to associate the note on the page with the note on the piano.  It is the reflex of seeing a red light (note) and automatically reaching for the brake pedal (piano key).  Unfortunately the desire to teach that association is rare, and seldom thought of.

Meanwhile, one element that can happen immediately on day 1, is where you know that D is between the two black keys.  You can take two adjacent fingers and know that G,A are between the three black keys.  That leaves F among the pair of two whites, and B among the other two whites.  I've seen the D, G and A being easily found by a six year old in his next lesson, as normally as he can reach for a ball if you say "pick up a ball".  So the scenario of needing to gradually get at geography, and needing to wean yourself of finding notes via the hands, does not always exist. 

I suspect that teaching an association between notation and keys is a neglected and rather undeveloped area in teaching.

Offline anamnesis

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #43 on: January 05, 2015, 12:59:08 AM »
OK.  I'm trying to feel out where you are coming from, and that was an approach I've seen so I thought that might be it.

Trying to get at it -- and its alternative --- again.

Your scenario has a person with his thumb on C.  Then to find F you have him finding that F from the thumb in some manner.  So somehow he is counting his way up from his fingers, or something like that.

The teaching methodologies that I've seen, esp. in the pedagogy I'm learning, doesn't have that scenario at all.  The pedagogy seeks to teach the student to associate the note on the page with the note on the piano.  It is the reflex of seeing a red light (note) and automatically reaching for the brake pedal (piano key).  Unfortunately the desire to teach that association is rare, and seldom thought of.

Meanwhile, one element that can happen immediately on day 1, is where you know that D is between the two black keys.  You can take two adjacent fingers and know that G,A are between the three black keys.  That leaves F among the pair of two whites, and B among the other two whites.  I've seen the D, G and A being easily found by a six year old in his next lesson, as normally as he can reach for a ball if you say "pick up a ball".  So the scenario of needing to gradually get at geography, and needing to wean yourself of finding notes via the hands, does not always exist.  

I suspect that teaching an association between notation and keys is a neglected and rather undeveloped area in teaching.

I suspect you are both talking about the same thing.  

No one is talking about the stupid associate your finger with a key pedagogy or fixed position methods.  

We are talking about keyboard contour/geography.  The feel of the keyboard.

When tim is talking about using your hands, he is talking about using the "tactile sense". What you feel as you touch, which...requires the hands.

You teach the student to read the D on the notation, and then locate that key by deliberately feeling for the the note in-between the two black keys, using your tactile sense with your hand.

The old poster Bernhard already discussed this to death in his pedagogical approach, and why he taught the B major scale first (among other reasons).  You need to learn all the notes by feel in the keyboard in relation so the black keys by feel.  

It's one of the main basis of the Howard Richman sight-reading book, in which you systematically train your self to think that tactile process through with the Bach chorales (along with other exercises). It's one of the "keyboard orientation" exercises.


Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #44 on: January 05, 2015, 01:44:30 AM »
It's one of the main basis of the Howard Richman sight-reading book, in which you systematically train your self to think that tactile process through with the Bach chorales (along with other exercises). It's one of the "keyboard orientation" exercises.

This, I must definitely look up. Thanks for that.

Offline anamnesis

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #45 on: January 05, 2015, 02:07:23 AM »
This, I must definitely look up. Thanks for that.

Before buying, keep in mind that...the book looks like a scam, but the actual content is not.  It's not very well put together, but the inherent ideas are quite good.  

Bernhard summarizes the mental process the book is supposed to train here:
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=2751.msg23871#msg23871

He uses elements of the book when laying out the first couple of lessons for a complete beginner:
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=2260.msg90216#msg90216

He uses the tactile component here to teach scales:
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=2983.msg26079#msg26079
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=2701.msg23134;topicseen#msg23134

How the Richman book avoids the Every Good Boy Does Fine mnemonic/teaching the grand staff rather than separate clefs:
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=2713.msg23282;topicseen#msg23282


Posters on this forum working through the book:
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=3334.0

Bernhard's response to the bad reviews of the book on amazon:
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=3205.msg28313#msg28313
-------


I would personally use a combined approach using that book and the Dandelot solfege de solfege book.  

The Dandelot book is used by top conservatories to read notes in all seven clefs fluently.  The approach is summed up here: http://davesmey.com/brooklynconservatory/archive1/levelup.pdf


------

There are other aspects of sight-reading that are better addressed elsewhere.  

Richman acknowledges the aural component being the most important, but also admits it is beyond the scope of his book.  (He was focusing on the visual and tactile components).  

This is the realm of audiation and ear training.  

EDIT:

There's also a state of mind aspect combined with rhythm and body flow.  Abby Whiteside's book addresses this.  It doesn't address sight reading at all, and yet once you really intuit the ideas in her book, you learn exactly what you have to do to sight read in, during on-the-fly, high pressure situations.  It only works if you really believe in all the ideas in her book, and start making use of the outlining method as a fundamental part of learning your music.  You can enhance it even further if you study Schenkerian/Westergaardian analysis to give your body flow/phrase rhythm an aural-theoretical foundation.  






Offline timothy42b

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #46 on: January 05, 2015, 03:02:38 AM »
OK.  I'm trying to feel out where you are coming from, and that was an approach I've seen so I thought that might be it.

Trying to get at it -- and its alternative --- again.

Your scenario has a person with his thumb on C.  Then to find F you have him finding that F from the thumb in some manner.  So somehow he is counting his way up from his fingers, or something like that.


Okay.

I explained badly, my fault.

go into a darkened room, know there is a piano out there, reach out and put your finger, any finger, on A.

Not possible.

Keep your eyes shut, reach out, feel around until you find two black keys, put your thumb (or any other finger) on C.

Now you have an anchor.  Now you can reach for A and find it in the dark. 

That is keyboard geography.  Every note is a specific distance from an anchor.

But your anchor is constantly changing.  You do have to remember what note you are on to sustain the anchor point.

It's a little bit like the benchmark a surveyor will use to find the edge of your property and figure out if the neighbor built his fence in your yard. 

It is true you also have to assign a one to one correspondence between marks on the page with keys on the piano.  I never went through that stage because I was an experienced musician before ever taking a piano lesson.  But that didn't mean I could find A quickly regardless of where my hand was.  Sure i could, if my thumb had just played G, but as you pointed out systems based on hand position are limiting.  I needed to be able to find A after my thumb had played C, and again after it had moved to F. 

Beginners think keyboard geography is all there is to sightreading, but it is only a first step. 
Tim

Offline ranjit

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #47 on: February 03, 2021, 11:20:53 AM »
Although the reason this thread came to light is because of a spammer, it caught my interest and I thought I would mention an observation which I haven't seen elsewhere in the discussion.

- being able to predict what comes next: either based on short-term recall of motifs/groups of notes and understanding of the idiom, or just 'instinct' where you can narrow down the possible directions a piece of music can take. Then you have to put in slightly less effort to recognize and process the next part if it adheres to your prediction.

You often know what is coming up next even before you actually see the notes coming up, and then glancing at them is simply a sanity check of sorts.

I'd be interested to know what other people here think about this.

Offline lelle

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Re: Sight-reading in detail... (A proper discussion)
«Reply #48 on: February 03, 2021, 10:40:02 PM »
Although the reason this thread came to light is because of a spammer, it caught my interest and I thought I would mention an observation which I haven't seen elsewhere in the discussion.

- being able to predict what comes next: either based on short-term recall of motifs/groups of notes and understanding of the idiom, or just 'instinct' where you can narrow down the possible directions a piece of music can take. Then you have to put in slightly less effort to recognize and process the next part if it adheres to your prediction.

You often know what is coming up next even before you actually see the notes coming up, and then glancing at them is simply a sanity check of sorts.

I'd be interested to know what other people here think about this.

I agree with this. I am a huge music theory nerd and know my harmonic functions and chord progressions. I am not the best sight reader in the world but I can at least read many Mozart or Haydn sonatas, maybe not at full tempo if its a fast movement, but at least at a moderate pace. I have noticed that often my ability to read is helped by the fact that I can predict which chord should come next, often intuitively based on my knowledge of harmony, the composer and the style. This holds up rather well even with many sharps and flats. And conversely, my reading becomes worse if the music is harmonically unpredictable because it is in a non-tonal idiom.