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How much music to sight-read per day? (Read 522 times)

Offline monitor_343

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How much music to sight-read per day?
« on: June 30, 2020, 04:28:20 AM »
Hi all

My goal is to improve my ability to sight-read. To tackle this, I have been doing my best to read through a tonne of music outside of the pieces I'm working on.

I've been using the book Bach 371 Harmonized Chorales and 69 Chorale Melodies with Figured Bass. The chorales themselves are out of my ability to sight-read so I'm tackling the 69 chorale melodies (short, two voices only, ignoring figured bass markings). These are more attainable, but I have to go extremely slow and still have a little stop-starting.

I've been averaging about 1-2 per day (actual 0-3) and am up to #19. Each is approx 10-30 bars of two-voice music.

Is this enough for significant improvement, or have I severely underestimated how much I should actually be reading?

How much new material would you commit to reading per day?

Offline j_tour

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Re: How much music to sight-read per day?
«Reply #1 on: June 30, 2020, 07:32:02 PM »
I couldn't answer specifically for what you should do.  You know, I don't think there's a recipe.

But, as someone who's a pretty good sight-reader, it's pretty regularly for me that I'll read things that I suspect I might wish to play.  It almost never results in a good performance the first time, but I regard it as an excellent tool for inspecting closely a given piece at the keyboard.

For me, it's usually preceded by reading the music away from the keyboard, which gives me some idea how I'd want the music to sound, roughly, and things that might interest me musically, or even just theoretically.

Being a lazy person, I'd say 90% of my sight reading is done away from the keyboard, and only when finding something interesting, then I'll try to give it a go at the keyboard to see if there are some things I missed.

Also, memorization work, even if a piece I can play, given my limitations, I like to read as a way of focusing my mind on a given piece.

I'm sure you'll find a hundred pianists have a hundred different opinions.

I'd say read everything, just whatever you like, if you have a strong enough constitution to stay at the keyboard and can deal with inevitably less-than-perfect results.

If I were an evil, cruel person, I'd suggest sight-transposing some simple tune which you don't know before hand, through, like six or eight keys, but I don't think that would be a good use of your time.
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Offline piano_sight_reading

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Re: How much music to sight-read per day?
«Reply #2 on: June 30, 2020, 10:57:58 PM »
Hi,
Doing 1-3 chorale melodies a day sounds okay but I would suggest you also sight-read some easier pieces that you can sight-read without having to go extremely slowly. The more music you read, the better. You would improve faster by sight-reading 10 (moderately) easy pieces instead of 5 hard pieces. You could use beginner method books or use sight-reading books that guide you through the process such as Piano Sight Reading: A Fresh Approach 1-3 by John Kember or Sight-Reading Exercises Op. 45 Books 1-3 by Arnoldo Sartorio (available on Imslp).

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How much music to sight-read per day?
«Reply #3 on: July 01, 2020, 12:54:24 PM »
Hi all

My goal is to improve my ability to sight-read. To tackle this, I have been doing my best to read through a tonne of music outside of the pieces I'm working on.

I've been using the book Bach 371 Harmonized Chorales and 69 Chorale Melodies with Figured Bass.

This is not a bad plan and is one that has been used by many.

These are my personal thoughts only and may be completely wrong.

I think it depends a bit on what stage of sightreading you are in:  keyboard geography, prima vista, or pattern retrieval.

Beginners don't know where the keys are in space or what 3-D path to take to get a finger where you want without looking.  If you're still in that stage the Bach is a good approach.  how much you should do depends on how much you're struggling.  If you're stuck here you need to get easier music and do much much more. 

Prima vista is the transfer of visual page to brain to automatic finger motion.  It is what most people wrongly think is sightreading.  There is a component of that to sightreading, but it is not how good sightreaders work.  Again Bach is not bad for that, and what you're doing is probably plenty.  I would venture into other styles though.

Memory retrieval is how it's actually done - muscle memory patterns that are retrieved instantly because they're so well learned.   And here your approach isn't great.  What you're doing will only teach you to sightread Bach - sightreading is FAR more style centric than is realized.  And to actually get those patterns learned, you can't spend your time sightreading, you have to spend time practicing those pieces.  But you may not be ready for this yet. 

Again, just my opinion. 
Tim

Offline quantum

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Re: How much music to sight-read per day?
«Reply #4 on: July 01, 2020, 02:29:10 PM »
The Bach chroales are a great tool, but as others have suggested, you may wish to also sightread easier music in order to facilitate establishing a reasonable flow in the music you are playing.  Don't stop with the Bach, just expand your sight reading selections.

For the Bach chorales, you don't have to play all voices at the same time.  You could select two voices, say Soprano and Bass, and sight read those.  There is a practical aspect of this as well: isolating voice parts may be something you need to do in rehearsal with singers.  So go through the various pairings of two voices in a chorale. 

If you want an extra challenge, read Alto and Tenor, and play with a single hand.  This exercise will also help you working out patterns of voice distribution between hands, when it comes up in more complex music. 
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Offline monitor_343

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Re: How much music to sight-read per day?
«Reply #5 on: July 13, 2020, 12:34:45 PM »
Thanks for the replies folks. The key takeaways so far are:

1 - read a greater variety of music
2 - read easier music too
3 - learn pieces outside of sight-reading
4 - consider reading isolated voice(s) of the 4 part chorales
5 - the volume I'm doing might be plenty, or it might not, no-one can say for sure

I will definitely take #1 onboard and have already done some of this. Trouble is, everything else tends to be more complex which is why I was prioritizing the easier Bach. I can go through something more difficult (and definitely have), but far slower and typically hands separately.

I had done some of #2 but in what I've found there's a definite lack of easy pieces that aren't soul-destroyingly boring to play. The choral melodies are about as easy as I could find while still satisfying, and while not 'easy' they're not too bad to immediately dive into hands together.

#3 is in progress with a teacher.

#4 is a good idea, might take it up as well as other material once the 2 part choral melodies begin to lose their 'newness'.

#5 isn't an easy question to answer I know. I feel like there's an improvement already but time will tell. I'm certainly getting better at feeling my way around the keys without looking, but have plenty more to improve.

The current plan is to keep it the daily Bach as a minimum goal, read more on top as time and motivation permits, and re-evaluate in a few months.

Offline tschilb

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Re: How much music to sight-read per day?
«Reply #6 on: July 18, 2020, 11:54:31 PM »
This is a question that's often looked over! I am glad you asked. If you want to improve steadily and become very fluent with sight reading, practice reading easy excerpts for a half hour, and then more challenging excerps for another half hour.

Also, there are tons of great online resources for getting better at sight reading like Pianoforall. Check it out https://bit.ly/2DQV1ze

Offline jimf12

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Re: How much music to sight-read per day?
«Reply #7 on: July 20, 2020, 02:52:04 PM »
I have been incorporating sight reading into my daily routine.   I am curious as to what level is appropriate - how much easier should the material be than what you are capable of playing?   Should you pick material that you can more or less play correctly at tempo?   Should you pick material that is slightly above that, so that parts of it will fall apart and/or material you need to slow down to be able to play?   

I've had pieces that are low enough where I basically play it perfectly, and I wonder if I'm really helping myself.   I've tended to go for material that is slightly above that, where I am not overwhelmed but it's a stretch to play it perfectly.   

Offline piano_sight_reading

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Re: How much music to sight-read per day?
«Reply #8 on: July 21, 2020, 12:37:12 AM »
I have been incorporating sight reading into my daily routine.   I am curious as to what level is appropriate - how much easier should the material be than what you are capable of playing?   Should you pick material that you can more or less play correctly at tempo?   Should you pick material that is slightly above that, so that parts of it will fall apart and/or material you need to slow down to be able to play?   

I've had pieces that are low enough where I basically play it perfectly, and I wonder if I'm really helping myself.   I've tended to go for material that is slightly above that, where I am not overwhelmed but it's a stretch to play it perfectly.

In general, your sight-reading ability will be one or two grades lower than your current playing ability so pick pieces of that level. The music should neither be too easy nor too difficult to sight-read. If itís too easy, you wonít learn as much and if itís too hard, you may get frustrated. The level of difficulty should be just outside your comfort zone.

Having said that, for pieces that you might find easy to sight-read, you can still benefit from them if you set yourself higher goals. For example, by aiming to play accurately all the dynamics, articulation, etc and at tempo. Find ways to challenge yourself while still keeping the goals realistic. 

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How much music to sight-read per day?
«Reply #9 on: July 22, 2020, 12:21:35 PM »
I had another couple of thoughts, based on my sight reading practice this week.

It wasn't on piano but I think some of the principles apply.  I'm primarily a trombone player and for decades I've played a tenor trombone pitched in Bb, so I'm familiar with the positions (roughly equivalent to fingerings) for the notes. 

With COVID I'm not playing in my regular groups, and I've taken advantage of the time to work on playing an alto trombone pitched in Eb.  I play the same notes, but in different positions.  Also it's lighter and easier on aging wrists and shoulders. 

So, I downloaded a number of public domain wind ensemble pieces, and played along with youtube videos.  My goal was to increase sightreading time while working on precise timing and intonation.  Most of the music I play or practice is familiar enough I do little sightreading day to day.

Here's what I realized.  What is reflexive on one instrument adds a mental processing step on an unfamiliar one.  That reduced me to reading note by note rather than pattern by pattern, phrase by phrase.  So I struggled with technical passages that are not beyond me, but couldn't be played easily at sight, because on that instrument they have not been practiced into muscle memory.  Most of them are scalar, and I've changed my daily practice to go back to classic scale study, stuff I've worked decades ago and no longer worry about.  These muscle memory patterns don't exist yet on the new instrument. 

Anyway, the takeaways:  Sight reading well cannot be done note by note.  It must be done in bigger chunks, and those chunks need to be learned outside of sightreading.  Secondly, maybe not obvious, sightreading must be practiced in strict tempo.  That's where playing along with videos becomes useful, if you can keep up with that tempo; otherwise a metronome as slow as you need.  And recording yourself on a phone will tell you immediately if you're playing exactly on the beat or somewhere close. 

This is my opinion, and I'm confident it applies to brass playing, but how much transfer to piano I don't know.  As always YMMV.   
Tim