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I just worked out something about sightreading

sightreading

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#1 ten left thumbs

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Posted 03 September 2019 - 15:56

OK, I think I just worked out something, and I thought I'd share it.

 

I have a student who struggles with sightreading. Capable student, not dyslexic, quite musically able. Every grade we do, sightreading is what occupies us the most. She learns her tunes mostly herself, often memorizing them. Gets the point of scales and arps, plays them well. Pretty good at aural too. But the sightreading - really stumps her. 

 

We've been going through an Improve your Sightreading book for the appropriate grade. We do what it says, and then some. We prepare, play, move on, But, she routinely falls apart when it comes to actually doing it. She'll do all the rhythm stuff correctly. She even does the rhythm exercises while improvising in different keys. But, despite how well the preparation goes, when it comes to the - now do it, keep going through any mistakes, keep the pulse, give it shape, she just falls apart. 

 

(As an aside, I feel that sightreading is my worse skill).

 

But I just realized what is missing. What is missing is *sacrifice*. She hasn't come to terms with the fact that she will have to sacrifice something in order to sightread. She does the preparation and focusses in turn on rhythm, key, hand shape, etc. But there is nothing that says, now when it comes to this rhythm, you may well feel you won't get it, so best to improvise straight quavers and come in with the G confidently on beat 2. Or, for this chord there are simply too may notes to process, so just play the top one and move on. There is nothing in the book, and I've really not said in as many words, you will need to sacrifice something. Best guess a note, and keep going. 

 

Every time she is faced with the tough choice, she delays, deliberates, works it out. Gets it right, but loses pulse, then goes back to the beginning to make up for it, or takes her hands off the piano instead. 

 

I wonder if she plays chess?

 

 


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#2 Latin pianist

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Posted 03 September 2019 - 16:35

Duets can help with this as the student has to keep going whatever. Or simple accompanying. Paul Harris Improve your sightreading duet books are useful. Those of us who accompany choirs or church services frequently have to use this skill particularly when learning to accompany.
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#3 LoneM

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Posted 03 September 2019 - 21:05

+1 for playing with others so that she has to keep going.  I was a terrible sight-reader when I was young (teacher stopped me whenever I made a mistake :blink:) and I relied on memory to play my pieces. In exams I always failed the sight-reading but got full marks for scales so I could scrape through. It was only when I got together with my husband, who badgered me into accompanying him on his flute, starting with easy baroque pieces, that I learnt to read ahead and keep going regardless, that wrong notes didn't matter, and that playing whatever notes I could even if it was just a bass line was a lot better than stopping.

 

I'm still not a brilliant sight-reader but can get by, and have a great deal of pleasure playing with tolerant friends and family, (now including piano duets with our son-in-law), or just wading through solo music exploring the repertory.


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#4 Aquarelle

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Posted 03 September 2019 - 21:43

Yes, I learnt to sight read because I was made to accompany the Sunday School Juniors. I got quite good at "sacrificing"  :)  Sometimes whole bars got sacrificed but we usually finished together!  Then I was asked to accompany the Senior Church Choir - some sort of secular cantata the name of which I cannot remember. However, I do remember that I rather over did the sacrificing and finished 2 pages before the singers. I actually tell my pupils that sight reading is about cheating, not about getting it right. Just keep going and see how many mistakes you can cover up so the examiner won't notice!


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#5 ten left thumbs

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Posted 04 September 2019 - 07:34

... However, I do remember that I rather over did the sacrificing and finished 2 pages before the singers....

Great! 

 

Yes, I have done duets with this kid, however perhaps not enough recently. I didn't realise it's part of the Paul Harris series. I'll look into those. She does need something for daily practice though, I wonder if I can wangle a duet with her and a little sister? 


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#6 SingingPython

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Posted 04 September 2019 - 08:42

"Sacrificing" is a great way of putting it.  My sight reading got good doing years of youth orchestra (and playing piano stuff for myself).  In orchestral sightreading I am prepared to sacrifice everything if it means I can keep track of where we are up to.  Then you can come in on the easy bit at the right time even if you haven't played a note for several bars.

 

For pianists the lack of ensemble experience is a drawback.  I wonder if you could find recordings to play along with, or to accompany, to build that skill at home if duets can't be easily arranged.


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#7 LoneM

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Posted 04 September 2019 - 09:41

However, I do remember that I rather over did the sacrificing and finished 2 pages before the singers.

 

Better that than the accompanist I once heard who played every note doggedly, slowing or stopping as necessary, and didn't notice when the singer got to the end. :lol:


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#8 KathyB

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Posted 04 September 2019 - 14:06

I get a piece of paper and follow them covering the notes as we go at the pace they start playing then they can’t look back and it encourages them to forward read the notes as well because if they get behind they’ve lost sight of the notes.
We make a game out of it..... I’m not a slave driver!!! Lol
It’s had some good results.
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#9 ten left thumbs

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Posted 04 September 2019 - 14:09

I get a piece of paper and follow them covering the notes as we go at the pace they start playing then they can’t look back and it encourages them to forward read the notes as well because if they get behind they’ve lost sight of the notes.
We make a game out of it..... I’m not a slave driver!!! Lol
It’s had some good results.

Good idea. I recently used the ABRSM ipad app for sightreading, where the music does precisely that - each bar disappears once you've played it (err, once you should have played it). 


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#10 ten left thumbs

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Posted 04 September 2019 - 14:13

"Sacrificing" is a great way of putting it.  My sight reading got good doing years of youth orchestra (and playing piano stuff for myself).  In orchestral sightreading I am prepared to sacrifice everything if it means I can keep track of where we are up to.  Then you can come in on the easy bit at the right time even if you haven't played a note for several bars.

 

For pianists the lack of ensemble experience is a drawback.  I wonder if you could find recordings to play along with, or to accompany, to build that skill at home if duets can't be easily arranged.

 The lack of ensemble opportunities for piano is a problem. Even duets really don't cut it, in my opinion. With duets, if one person is out, they can still believe that they were right, or that the other person should have accommodated them, or whatever. In a 35-piece brass band, the sheer numbers tell you, you must keep time. They will not wait for you, nor speed up because you are bored in your rests. 

 

For myself, I find playing with recordings is a faff. You need to plug the thing in, find your notes, hear the count-in, have an in-tune piano, it's just a disincentive to practice. So I can't really imagine asking a student to do all that. Pressing play sounds easy, but somehow it's not. 

 

Still, duets are likely the best option for now.


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#11 Nine and a Half Fingers

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Posted 04 September 2019 - 16:14

I can recommend accompanying and ensemble playing to both improve sight reading and bring general discipline to one's playing. Unfortunately it can be difficult to find other musicians and suitable repertoire that suits everyone's ability. It is really great fun if it can be organized. Thankfully we were only practicing, but my and my neighbour's rendition for piano duet of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" was comedy gold. But it was really very satisfying to get a Mozart Sonata up to standard, and when I played with three others the slow movement from Brahms' Piano Quartet I was somewhat overwhelmed by the experience, to be honest.


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#12 Boogaloo

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Posted 04 September 2019 - 17:09

Over the last few years I've encouraged my weaker piano sight readers to take a different approach and they end up with a pass even though they don't play many of the notes! My theory is that if you were playing a melody instrument you would only have to play one note at a time. The marking criteria remains the same regardless of the instrument. So, and I tell my pupils this, it is inherently unfair to expect a pianist to do this  ;) So, mine play the RH melody (or LH where that is the case), find the LH key note and play it at the start, at the end, and if they spot it in the middle play it then as well if they can. It is then up to the examiner to mark it - so I encourage them to think that the examiner has the problem not them! It works wonderfully - they enjoy the idea that it's a disadvantage, that it's not their problem, and obviously they enjoy the fact that they don't have to struggle to play all the notes. (I guess for older pupils an analogy is like doing a maths question and showing the working out to get some marks even if the answer isn't correct). Winner winner!

 

I also find that singing along with them - perhaps making them play songs for some sight reading - makes them keep going because they can hear that breaking a word up or making someone hold a note and running out of breath isn't acceptable.

 

Duets I find work to a certain extent.


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#13 elemimele

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Posted 05 September 2019 - 06:13

this isn't going to help kids, but perhaps the perceptive adult pupil might like to know that filling-in, deception, and sacrifice happen even in the most sophisticated places! This is a recording of a very young Lenka Molcanyiova playing Bach's suite No. 2 Minuet and Badinerie on recorder, in a very professional setting, with a very professional accompanist, but nevertheless some quite strange things happen in the Badinerie's ferociously-demanding accompaniment. The pianist is brave to have allowed this recording to appear on YouTube, and is a perfect example of keeping-on-going, sacrificing in order not to break the flow. Hats off to her!


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#14 Latin pianist

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Posted 05 September 2019 - 06:43

Yes, and if you didn't know the piece, you wouldn't have known there was a problem. A brilliant example of the way to deal with mistakes.
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#15 ejw21

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Posted 05 September 2019 - 11:40

Boogaloo, I like your melody approach! Might try that. Thanks ten left thumbs for the insight, very useful. My own sight reading is a bit patchy so these are good ideas for me to try out.


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