Technique, methods and advice for learners


Postby hbarrett@gmx.net » Fri Jan 26, 2007 7:14 am

Last edited by hbarrett@gmx.net on Mon Apr 03, 2017 11:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Sat Jan 27, 2007 6:06 pm

A good functional piano text can help organize your sight reading practice; I recommend "Beginning Piano for Adults", by James Bastien, which we've used at New Mexico State University for years.

The basic trick of sight reading is very much the same as in any kind of reading: learning to take in larger and larger combinations of notes as single units. Imagine a meaningless sentence like, say, "No inside to seventeen urges mechanical."
You'd have to pick that out word for word because the combination means nothing. But if you see "To be or not to be" in print, you take the whole sentence in one glance as a single unit, because of its familiarity.

By the same token, steady practice at sight reading gradually improves your ability to take in more and more combinations of notes at once. The trick is to keep going, regardless; resist the temptation to stop and correct as you go--just go, no matter what happens, no matter what you have to fake or leave out. This will train your eyes and hands to keep moving, and you will gradually see and play more notes as you go.

Dr. Bill Leland.
Technique is 90 per cent from the neck up.
Dr. Bill Leland
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Postby Stretto » Tue Jan 30, 2007 2:11 pm


I'm the opposite of you wishing to increase my skill at improvising, playing by ear, etc. How long have you been working on increasing skill reading piano music?

I like to equate reading piano music to learning to read words, sentences, etc. as far as the amount of time and patience one should allow oneself to improve. Imagine not knowing how to read written words and having to first learn to recognize letters, then sounds that groups of letters make, then recognizing simple words, putting words together in a sentence, and also comprehending what one is reading. I think of learning to read and play written music as similar to having to go from becoming efficient at beginning level reader books to reading and comprehending novels. In music one goes from recognizing a note at a time to eventually recognizing groups of notes, chords, runs and phrases at a time. Imagine trying to go from reading beginner books to novels in a short amount of time - that would be fairly tough.

I just re-read your post and it sounds like what you're saying is trying to read and play both clefs at once is what's making you feel slowed down. In my opinion, when first trying to put hands together in a new piece of music, it's the toughest part of learning it. It's always been that way for myself and for my students. But even at that stage, putting hands together has become faster and more efficient for me the more I have learned to recognize groups of notes, recognize chords, phrases, scale-like passages, etc. readily. Over time, you'll notice even reading hands together begins becoming second nature.

I think one good way to practice sight-reading is to use music that is at least one or two notches or even lower below your current skill level. I have gotten to where I can sight-read my way through music below my current skill level fairly well, but try to read hands together on something at or above my skill level, well then I'm back to breaking it down by practicing hands together in little bite size segments. When I want to boost my self-esteem in how well I can play, I just pull out some easy music anywhere from 5 finger primer music to easy piano books or simpler intermediate pieces and it feels great to play through a bunch of music without a lot of work.

I'm in a similar boat with learning to improvise. I'm still in the stage of having to start by putting simple basic chords with a melody and little by little figuring out how to do more and coordinate more from there.
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