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Sight-reading - Interval Technique


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#1 Ligneo Fistula

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Posted 17 November 2018 - 20:26

Could someone please explain the interval technique of sight-reading?  When used, after playing the first note of a piece do you very strictly use intervals only, both horizontally and vertically, with no identification of note names? Does this really speed up sight-reading?


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#2 Latin pianist

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Posted 18 November 2018 - 07:45

Obviously it's got to be a combination of the two but I can see that for beginners , reading intervals can be more successful than naming notes. For grade 1 sight reading most of my pupils do it by working out hand position, covering any black keys in key signature with correct finger, then reading by interval. So they have to be able to work out note names to find the position but working out all the notes as they play would be a slow business.As they progress and note recognition becomes more automatic and pieces move out of a five finger position, naming notes is essential, but interval reading leads the fingers to where they should be on the keyboard.
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#3 Splog

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Posted 19 November 2018 - 00:02

I had a piano teacher many years ago who showed me an interesting trick. He said to put both thumbs on the D below middle C, then put my other fingers on the notes on either side. So covering 9 consecutive white notes with the D in the middle. Then he said to depress the keys under the thumbs, middle fingers and pinkies, and look at the pattern. These are the notes on the bass clef lines. After that we pressed the other notes, which were the spaces. It really helped me with reading the bass clef notes. I didn't need to think about the note names; I could look at an A and think top line bass clef without calling it A.

 

I've never met anyone else who was taught like that. 


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#4 agricola

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Posted 19 November 2018 - 13:59

I think you need to do both note- and interval-reading to become a good sight reader.  As a pianist I find reading in Alto or Tenor clef difficult because although I can understand the intervals I don't have a strong feeling for the placement of the notes, especially if a key-signature is involved.  When reading a piano score I would use intervals to calculate notes but only starting from a known note.  For example if I'm looking at a chord in the treble clef whose top note is middle C with the lower notes being a 4th and then a 3rd down, then I can work out very quickly that the other two notes will be G and E.  Personally, I need to do this before playing the chord.  Similarly I need to identify the note which is on the 5th leger line up from the bass staff as D before I can play it. (Scriabin's music has a lot of these!).  However as a child I never had any difficulty 'learning my notes'.  People learn differently so I suppose that for some the interval-only method might work.

 

I have a similar problem with 'speed-reading' which was popular a few years ago -- no matter how fast I skim my eyes over the words, I still hear them sounding in my inner ear and am not able to block them out.


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#5 Ligneo Fistula

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Posted 19 November 2018 - 20:12

I think you need to do both note- and interval-reading to become a good sight reader.  As a pianist I find reading in Alto or Tenor clef difficult because although I can understand the intervals I don't have a strong feeling for the placement of the notes, especially if a key-signature is involved.  When reading a piano score I would use intervals to calculate notes but only starting from a known note.  For example if I'm looking at a chord in the treble clef whose top note is middle C with the lower notes being a 4th and then a 3rd down, then I can work out very quickly that the other two notes will be G and E.  Personally, I need to do this before playing the chord.  Similarly I need to identify the note which is on the 5th leger line up from the bass staff as D before I can play it. (Scriabin's music has a lot of these!).  However as a child I never had any difficulty 'learning my notes'.  People learn differently so I suppose that for some the interval-only method might work.

 

I have a similar problem with 'speed-reading' which was popular a few years ago -- no matter how fast I skim my eyes over the words, I still hear them sounding in my inner ear and am not able to block them out.

Thanks to everyone for your insights.

 

I wasn't sure if it was an either/or binary choice between using note recognition or interval technique to master sight reading.  Clearly, I've relied on note identification almost totally up until now.

 

PS: I've literally just learned that I scored only 16 out of 21 on my grade 2 sight-reading – can't wait to see the examiner's comments.  This is lower than the 18 I predicted after the exam so I am really worried about this part of the exam dragging down my overall score in any future exams.


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#6 sbhoa

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Posted 19 November 2018 - 20:24

To me reading mostly by interval on the piano makes a lot of sense. Yes, you need to know where to start and where to move when there is a big jump but I see it as a chart of where to go next. You start by learning that line to space is next door note/letter name and at the beginning finger then that line to line or space skips one.

You gradually learn to instantly recgonise larger intervals. As the keyboard is nicely laid out in ascending note order this works.


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#7 SingingPython

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Posted 20 November 2018 - 13:38

I played one piece on viola instead of violin in our recent orchestra concert.  I'm at a very early stage of playing viola (but very experienced and competent sightreader on violin), and it was an interesting process.  Not being rapidly comfortable with where to find a named note on the instrument, or able to name a note on the alto clef without stopping to think about it, my reference point was "pretend there's another line above the clef and read it as if you were playing a violin".  I'd say that 95% + I was reading by interval, with the more absolute method playing its role for entries and large leaps and when I got stuck ...

 

On violin, I probably do play more by note recognition, but actually interval recognition is probably still strongly predominant, as I shift positions frequently for convenience.


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