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Old 09-01-07, 08:25 PM   #1
Snicklefritz
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A sightreading question for you BF piansts and organists

I signed up for a piano performance class at the university where I'm currently teaching. I was really excited about it because it focused solely on sightreading, something I am sorely lacking in. Unfortunately, the class was canceled because not enough people signed up for it.

For anyone out there who is an advanced pianist or organist do you have some advice or know of some resources I could use to improve my ability to sightread? It's almost embarassing how bad I am at it compared to the level I actually play at. I've played and performed a variety of works in both the solo and chamber repetoire including things like Schubert's Trout Quintet and Mozart Piano Concerto #23. I thought I'd mention those since that's fairly representative of the level I currently play at and feel comfortable with. (ie I played fur elise ages ago but am nowhere near Rach3)

I'm currently not taking lessons as I'm on a bit of a budget, otherwise I'd just ask my teacher (if I had one)

My main motivation in improving in this area is so I can learn new music faster or have an easier time reading through new stuff with a chamber group.
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Old 09-01-07, 08:32 PM   #2
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Don't play the piano or organ, but I can say that with my instrument I get in a bad habit of just using sheet music until I have the piece memorized. Then I'll go months without using it. Then when I go back I'll find that I've dropped out notes here and there.

I would suggest playing songs that you know with sheet music just so your used to playing with the music in front of you.
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Old 09-02-07, 01:33 AM   #3
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Don't play the piano or organ, but I can say that with my instrument I get in a bad habit of just using sheet music until I have the piece memorized. Then I'll go months without using it. Then when I go back I'll find that I've dropped out notes here and there.

I would suggest playing songs that you know with sheet music just so your used to playing with the music in front of you.
I was/am the exact same way. I can't sightread very well for my playing ability on the piano. But once i have something memorized it takes a looooooooong time for me to forget. I don't take lessons anymore (been over 10 years) but i still have afew songs completely memorized that i can play anytime such as Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag. I do get out the sheet music on occasion to make sure i'm not dropping notes though.
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Old 09-02-07, 01:49 AM   #4
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Get as much sheet music as you possible can, and read everything; it doesn't have to be written for piano, it just has to be something you don't know.

The only way to learn to sight-read, is to sight-read; it's as simple as that.

There is no short cut.

Sorry…

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Old 09-02-07, 08:28 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Wil Davis View Post
Get as much sheet music as you possible can, and read everything; it doesn't have to be written for piano, it just has to be something you don't know.

The only way to learn to sight-read, is to sight-read; it's as simple as that.

There is no short cut.

Sorry…

- Wil

So basically pick a piece, play through it slowly, then move to the next piece and so forth...?
I have tons of sheet music, so there are plenty of things I could read through. I'm wondering if there are other pointers, like playing with a metronome (if that would help), and things like is it better to just keep moving forward if you make a mistake or go back and play through the difficult part more slowly...
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Old 09-02-07, 10:41 AM   #6
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Yep, that's it. You'll hate this, but my advice is to take one of the big yellow books (say, the Chopin book of Polonaises) you don't play from too often and play it front to back one time, and then repeat. Go as slowly as you need to, to be sure your fingering is correct. It's awful, but its practice, and you will improve as you go. When you can't stand the yellow books anymore, switch to something else -- my personal favorite respite is the collected works of Scott Joplin. Not sure what your target genre is, but it will help if you rotate from A to B to C, perhaps classical to showtunes to chistmas carols and back again?
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Old 09-02-07, 01:18 PM   #7
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Yep, that's it. You'll hate this, but my advice is to take one of the big yellow books (say, the Chopin book of Polonaises) you don't play from too often and play it front to back one time, and then repeat. Go as slowly as you need to, to be sure your fingering is correct. It's awful, but its practice, and you will improve as you go. When you can't stand the yellow books anymore, switch to something else -- my personal favorite respite is the collected works of Scott Joplin. Not sure what your target genre is, but it will help if you rotate from A to B to C, perhaps classical to showtunes to chistmas carols and back again?
My target repetoire is classical. My interests are in doing a combination of solo as well as chamber works.
Two shelves in my bookcase are just for sheet music - I have a variety of stuff including everything that you mentioned above. That sounds like a great idea, mixing different styles to keep the interest up. I imagine I'd also be exposed to a wider range of technical and sight reading challenges. Much more so than if I just read through all of WTC book 1 and 2.
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Old 09-02-07, 01:35 PM   #8
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Yes, use a metronome!

Pick a tempo which is challenging, but achievable ... be honest, you may have to site read at tempi well below what you can "play" at for now.

Pick one piece of music you don't know each day and read it down from top to bottom. DON'T STOP for your mistakes ... keep going, don't get lost, and stay in time. Once you've finished, go back and clean up the spots you had trouble with. Again, you may have to sight read material that is "below" your ability ... this is a new skill. Do it everyday for 1/2 hour if you can ... as many new pieces in 1/2 as you can manage under these parameters.
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Old 09-02-07, 07:37 PM   #9
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These are great suggestions- in order to become proficient at sight reading, you need to sight-read, say 30-45 minutes/day, using the methods mentioned here. I'd also add score reading- as in orchestral scores. Haydn symphonies are a great place to start, IMO- especially given your interest in classical, as are choral works. I think the practice of reading (reducing) from score adds not only to one's sight-reading skills, but also to general musicianship.

Have fun- as you work at this, you're going to be rewarded a hundred-fold!
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Old 09-02-07, 07:43 PM   #10
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Another huge vote for just do plenty of sight reading.

Look for the classic composers that write piano sonatas and get them.

Play something new every day with a metronome, if you can find one that stays in time.

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