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Thread: Sightreading practice ideas?

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    Default Sightreading practice ideas?

    I apologize that I already posted this in the "Beginners" forum, I soon realized that, being a piano player, I would probably get more results posting in this forum! If any mods see this, feel free to delete my thread in Beginners.

    Hi, I'm fairly new to playing classical music, and piano in general (I only started about 2 years ago,) and my main focus has been on jazz since I started. Lately I've been trying to delve a bit into the classical realm, and I've found that I'm just an atrocious sight reader, and just reader in general.

    I was wondering if you guys had any recommendations of plentiful, easy material that I could use to practice my sightreading. Preferably something that escalates in difficulty a bit as it goes on? I'd love to hear what you guys come up with.

    Also, if you guys had any tips on how to go about actually practicing sightreading, they would be appreciated!

    Thanks!

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    Sr. Moderator Taggart's Avatar
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    This looks neat and has links to other sites:

    http://www.wikihow.com/Practice-Sigh...ng-Piano-Music

    There's also the ABRSM books starting with http://shop.abrsm.org/shop/prod/Bull...-Piano/2057952 and the associated test books.

    Basically, a good start to sight reading is to improve your music reading in general. Then you should work through scales to develop good fingering and get used to the various keys.

    After that, it becomes part of your general practice - as you pick up a piece you analyse it - key sig, time sig, tempo, look for modulations, look for difficult bits - all of this feeds into your general musical awareness. The general thought from ABRSM is that you will be sight reading at least 3 grades behind the level you are actually playing so that the sight reading doesn't present too many problems.

    I've nicked this from Wiki but it's a fairly good summary of the sorts of things you need to be able to do:

    "Hardy reviewed research on piano sight-reading pedagogy and identified a number of specific skills essential to sight-reading proficiency:
    Technical fundamentals in reading and fingering
    Visualization of keyboard topography
    Tactile facility (psychomotor skills) and memory
    Ability to read, recognize, and remember groups of notes (directions, patterns, phrases, chords, rhythmic groupings, themes, inversions, intervals, etc.)
    Ability to read and remember ahead of playing with more and wider progressive fixations
    Aural imagery (ear-playing and sight-singing improves sight-reading)
    Ability to keep the basic pulse, read, and remember rhythm
    Awareness and knowledge of the music's structure and theory

    Beauchamp (1999) identifies five building blocks in the development of piano sight-reading skills:

    Grand-staff knowledge
    Security within the five finger positions
    Security with keyboard topography
    Security with basic accompaniment patterns
    Understanding of basic fingering principles"

    All of these are things you develop as you play anyway and if you are used to Jazz and (hopefully) lead sheets then you need to be able to recognise your chords in "proper" notation on either stave and know the best ways to finger them.

    Hope some of this helps.
    Last edited by Taggart; Apr-16-2013 at 20:01. Reason: Ingenue caught some typoes.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    I would recommend Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues because they are very technical and are great pieces! But if these are too difficult then maybe try Bartok's Mikrokosmos, which gets progressively more difficult.

    Hope this helps!

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    Thank both of you for the great advice!

    Mich, do you know where I could get my hands on Bartok's Mikrokosmos? It doesn't seem to be available on imslp due to copyright restrictions

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    Senior Member hreichgott's Avatar
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    Mikrokosmos is available in 6 separate volumes and if you buy one volume at a time (they are in order of difficulty) they are quite inexpensive. I have this edition which Amazon is selling for $9 a volume:
    41G2+BCYuiL.jpg

    I use Mikrokosmos volume 1 to teach sight-reading to students who read at a basic level but are too mature for Piano Adventures.

    Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier would be sight-reading material only for the very most advanced of pianists who are also excellent readers. Assuming that by "sight-reading" you mean "look at the page for the first time and play all the notes accurately at a reasonable performance tempo."
    Heather W. Reichgott, piano
    http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com

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    Senior Member Novelette's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hreichgott View Post
    Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier would be sight-reading material only for the very most advanced of pianists who are also excellent readers. Assuming that by "sight-reading" you mean "look at the page for the first time and play all the notes accurately at a reasonable performance tempo."
    WTC is what I always used for sight reading practice.

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    Junior Member kamalayka's Avatar
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    I never understood the point of sight reading. It's a neat trick to be able to play something through without having ever seen or heard it before, but the work it takes to acquire the skill doesn't seem worth it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Novelette View Post
    WTC is what I always used for sight reading practice.
    Lizst is alive and with us yet!
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamalayka View Post
    I never understood the point of sight reading. It's a neat trick to be able to play something through without having ever seen or heard it before, but the work it takes to acquire the skill doesn't seem worth it.
    Depends what you want to do. Many professional orchestras work on a sight reading basis. It also develops your analysis skills - the ability to look at a piece of music decide on tempo, dynamics, fingering, articulation and then play it.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    I think sight reading helps cause then you don't take as long to get through pieces, but I feel I'm hopless at sight reading. I tend to just practice on the songs in Pianist magazine. I do remember finding a video on you tube before, and he said that you need to get to the point where you don't see notes you see chords, cause most music is made up of chords anyway, true some are just have single melody lines, but if there are chords in the song then if you know what, a root chord, first inversion and second inversion looks like on sheet music then I guess that's half the battle.

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    Sr. Moderator Taggart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davzon View Post
    I do remember finding a video on you tube before, and he said that you need to get to the point where you don't see notes you see chords, cause most music is made up of chords anyway, true some are just have single melody lines, ....
    That's exactly the point of the video. If it's a simple single melody line, then it might very well be a written out set of chord progressions in single notes. The point is that you can look at a tune and go I IV V when what you see (in C Major) is the set of notes C E G F A C G B D. Being able to "see" it as chords means that you can see 9 notes at a go and be able to hold them in your memory much more easily. This is turn means that you can concentrate more on the "musicality" - dynamics, articulation and tempo. It gives you a framework and if you know the fingering and the moves between chords you are already two steps ahead.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Senior Member Sonata's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kamalayka View Post
    I never understood the point of sight reading. It's a neat trick to be able to play something through without having ever seen or heard it before, but the work it takes to acquire the skill doesn't seem worth it.
    Well, in essence there's a double translation going on with music. The translation from paper to brain to fingertips. I find, as someone whose brain doesn't process foreign languages easily, that improving my sightreading will shorten that "double translation" time.

    Now for someone like my husband, he processes the sheetmusic to his mind rather quickly, so he doesn't bother with sightreading practice, perhaps you're the same.

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hreichgott View Post
    Mikrokosmos is available in 6 separate volumes and if you buy one volume at a time (they are in order of difficulty) they are quite inexpensive. I have this edition which Amazon is selling for $9 a volume:
    41G2+BCYuiL.jpg

    I use Mikrokosmos volume 1 to teach sight-reading to students who read at a basic level but are too mature for Piano Adventures.

    Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier would be sight-reading material only for the very most advanced of pianists who are also excellent readers. Assuming that by "sight-reading" you mean "look at the page for the first time and play all the notes accurately at a reasonable performance tempo."
    I STARTED at age six with Microkosmos Book I, (My very first lesson) and I credit it for being the easiest, most direct 'in' to note-reading, sight-reading and playing the piano. The book(s) are widely recommended on a regular basis.

    Ideally, sight-reading should be learned and stay parallel with your technical playing level; often that is not the case. So you must look at and find repertoire 'less advanced' than your current level (call yourself 'beginner' on the sight-reading front, since in a way, you are:-)

    To 'practice' sight-reading is to genuinely sight-read, and at no less than half tempo of the piece as marked; both staves, both hands, going straight through, without stopping.

    You can only sight-read any piece once! the second time over the information has already passed by / in, and some familiarity, no matter how little, is then present: ergo, a second time over, you are no longer sight-reading.

    Get a stack of material from the library, the Microkosmos, Schumann Album fur der Jugend, Schirmer's collected 'Beginner's Bach' and or books of short pieces designated for the earliest levels.

    Read through a piece or part of a piece, leave a bookmark, and then another piece.

    Initially, you will soon be able to determine what level rep 'works' for the exercise, and how quickly you reach a sort of mental fatique where too many errors or hesitations mid process take place. That is your time limit for length of practice; you can do __'__'' in second session the same day, or the following.

    Learning and practicing sight-reading is just as much a cumulative study as is learning to play. Keep to the program, eventually all elements involved with reading become stronger.
    Last edited by PetrB; Apr-22-2013 at 21:57.

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    I think one of the most important things about sight reading practice is to never insist too much on the same exercise/pieces, otherwise you end up memorizing the notes and defeat the whole purpose (which is to translate the score to music in real time).

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