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Sightreading - again :(


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#1 hummingbird

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Posted 09 May 2018 - 23:26

I've got a confession to make, which is that I've badly neglected sightreading practice.  I've got no-one to blame but myself as my teacher is a passionate advocate of sightreading practice.  I'm equally passionate about disliking doing it, and of course it's a vicious spiral downwards.  If I do another exam, it will be Grade 5 but one of the things that's putting me off is getting my sightreading up to standard.

 

I've got lots of past exam books and seeing as I like doing things logically, my strategy is to start off with Grade 1 books and work my way upwards, and that's what I've been doing.  I'm not very good at just picking up random pieces without any structure.  What sort of timescale would it be reasonable to think I could get up to the standard of a G5 exam, assuming I devote some serious time to it.  A few months, half a year, more than a year...?  I'd like to have some idea, if possible, of what to expect. 

 

Thanks piano.gif


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#2 Ligneo Fistula

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 02:29

hides.gifguilty as charged.  </watches thread with great interest>

 

My grade 1 and grade 2 Paul Harris books are sitting by my piano, barely used crying.gif


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#3 EllieD

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 07:02

I too recognised that sight reading was far and away my weakest point. I have bought every single book I could find for relevant grades and I rotate through them each time I practice - a couple of pages from each book - so that I don't remember them when I play them subsequent times. It is hard, and you have to accept that you are going to do something that is probably not going to give you immediate satisfaction. But I have improved massively since doing this, and my sight reading is almost catching up with my playing now. Try allocating a time in the day that you can commit to for at least 5 days a week, and make yourself practice it then.

 

I won't tell you how long I've been doing this for as it won't be relevant I'm afraid. There are probably some people who can pick sight reading up quite easily, others for whom it is very hard, and all degrees in between, so best not to compare yourself with anyone else and learn it at your own pace, whatever pace that may be.

 

Top tip though, and the thing that has helped me most - Play your sight reading pieces slowly enough so that you are always looking at least one beat ahead of where you are playing. If you can't do that, start again, but more slowly until you can. Eventually you learn to read ahead, and that seems to me to be a vital asset in sight reading, and also in playing.

 

Good  luck!


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#4 fsharpminor

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 07:06

Am I right that sight reading tests are regarded as being 2 grades lower than the grade you are taking?  So if you can sight read a Grade 3 piece fluently, then you should be able to get a good mark in a Grade 5 sight reading test.


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#5 agricola

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 07:13

You are much better placed yourself than any outsider to work out how fast your progress will be, simply by keeping a record of time spent v level reached. 

 

Sight reading is a skill, not a talent and in my opinion it is one where quantity matters more than quality.  If you work through many examples, however inaccurately, you will eventually notice that it is not as hard as you thought. If your reading of notes or rhythm is slow then you need to spend time identifying notes and tapping out rhythms as a preliminary exercise.  A few minutes every practice time is all you need, but do it first before anything else!


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#6 Aquarelle

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 08:43

Am I right that sight reading tests are regarded as being 2 grades lower than the grade you are taking?  So if you can sight read a Grade 3 piece fluently, then you should be able to get a good mark in a Grade 5 sight reading test.

I've often heard that, but I don't think it is particularly accurate.

 

There are two things about sight reading. One is being able to read music fairly fluently at around the level one plays - or just below and being able to bluff your way when, for example accompanying someone and you simply can't stop.The other is passing a sight reading test under examination conditions. These two skills are related but they are not the same.  I would say that if you are good at the first you only need to adapt to the exam procedure and you will get a good enough mark - or even a very good mark.  So I think in the first instance it's best to practise sight reading "real" musical material. I also think a sound knowledge of the key system is necessary, certainly in the higher grades. Once they get to around Grade 3 my pupils  revise and  learn their scales in the  the order of the cycle. They play the scale, the arpeggio and a perfect cadence in every key. This takes time and I spread the work out - often using a year when they are not doing an exam and with some pupils not actually finishing the cycle at once but putting it aside until later.

 

I still have natural readers and some who find it very hard but one can only persevere. 


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#7 Solari

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 09:14

I've found the hardest thing about sight reading is building up a mental library of rhythms. Note reading is fine, it's varying rhythms that trip me up so on top of getting the right notes, I can freeze or, at best, invent things to keep going. tongue.png

 

I did get the flip-a-rhythm books a while back but need to motivate myself to use them.

 

I think I remember reading some time back that the French tend to teach rhythm and notes separately for this very reason.


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#8 zwhe

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 09:27

Am I right that sight reading tests are regarded as being 2 grades lower than the grade you are taking?  So if you can sight read a Grade 3 piece fluently, then you should be able to get a good mark in a Grade 5 sight reading test.

I think its the technical/theory specifications of the grade, rather than how difficult the piece is. So key signatures, time signatures, dotted rhythms, hand positions/shift etc.


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#9 sbhoa

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 10:51

Playing through real music as you've suggested is a good idea or if you want something more structured you could work through one of the many series of sight reading books as they break down the elements.


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#10 Saxwarbler

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 17:34

I collect sheet music like some people collect recipes. There's the bundle of fifty-year-old stuff I got via Freecycle, the anthology that I bought because I liked/wanted just one piece in it, the piece I bought but then couldn't play and then forgot all about, free samples downloaded from the internet (incomplete but still usable) and piano parts from the early grade books I used for saxophone/clarinet practice back in the day. And like recipe collectors, I'm always dipping into my archive looking for something new to try out. All useful stuff, whatever the difficulty. As my teacher says, it doesn't just have to be exam stuff for practice purposes - anything and everything is another little bit of experience.

You've said you're not very good at picking pieces at random, but that's precisely what will happen in an exam. You have no idea what the examiner's going to present you with until he/she puts it on the stand and points to the exercise he/she wants you to play. You'll get a minute or so to look at it but not the five or ten you'll usually end up taking at home. So get used to it now. Don't overthink things - just pull out some music, open it at a random page and start playing the first few bars your eyes fall on.


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#11 Saxwarbler

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 17:46

Am I right that sight reading tests are regarded as being 2 grades lower than the grade you are taking?  So if you can sight read a Grade 3 piece fluently, then you should be able to get a good mark in a Grade 5 sight reading test.

I think its the technical/theory specifications of the grade, rather than how difficult the piece is. So key signatures, time signatures, dotted rhythms, hand positions/shift etc.

It varies from board to board and sometimes from instrument to instrument. A quick glance at the boards' websites should give you this information. That said, it never hurts to practise punching above your weight from time to time.


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#12 akc42

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Posted 11 May 2018 - 19:26

I've been using Piano Marvel (www.pianomarvel.com).  One of the sections on it is a sight reading test, and I have been taking one (almost) every day since last December when I first got the trial (1st 30 days is free - you have to pay after that).  Of course it only works if you have a digital piano

 

Each test starts at a simple level, and depending on your score, you get a harder piece to try, if you do well you get an even harder piece and so on.  If you do poorly, you are then given a simpler piece, which you have to do well on to get any increase in score at all.  Piano Marvel has a generic feature for all exercises (there are method and technique sections as well as sight reading) where it scores you a percentage of notes you get right at the right pitch and time.  You have to continue to score over 80%.  Three strikes (scores under 80%) and the test stops and that gives you a score for the day.

 

Initially my sight reading test scores were abysmal (in the low 300s), but they have slowly improved  to where they are regularly over 473 (Piano Marvels boundary between beginner and intermediate) and have once or twice gone above the Intermediate/Advanced boundary.

 

HOWEVER, comparing the sort of music I am playing in these tests as I get to the point where I am not scoring over 80% to the ABRSM Specimen Sight Reading tests for Grade 5  (which I bought but not done many of because they are too hard for me) I would say Piano Marvel is a lot simpler.

 

There are some what Piano Marvel call bootcamps for sight reading (these are in the Library Section of Piano Marvel) and a while back I did take one for sight reading Hymns and started another called "Classical" and it did improve my sight reading skills.  I haven't had much time on the bootcamps lately because there have so many other challenges in the Method and Technique sections, but that is another story altogether.


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#13 hummingbird

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Posted 13 May 2018 - 06:32

Thank you for all these comments.  I'll keep persevering!


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#14 adultpianist

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Posted 13 May 2018 - 08:31

Thank you for all these comments.  I'll keep persevering!

 

 

I need to do more sight reading so it becomes more fluent


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#15 Witzend

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Posted 28 May 2018 - 09:45

Shortly after taking up the piano again after many decades, when my sight reading was virtually nonexistent, I was advised by my piano tuner to get lots of unfamiliar music and just play it, or try to -just the once, and move on to something else. Like so many, I suspect, as a child all I had ever done was play the same exam pieces over and over.

Cheap 2nd hand music from Amazon or abebooks were my friends, starting with the really easy. In particular I found an old series called Read and Play - going from real beginner pieces to advanced. They were all very short, tuneful pieces, with hints on how to tackle them. I did use other music too - as long as it was completely unfamiliar, since I've always been able to play (after a fashion!) familiar tunes by ear.
It did take a while and a lot of practice, but my sight reading did improve enormously, and presumably still is improving.

When you think about it, it's rather more complicated than learning to read as a child, since you not only have to recognise the note or chord, but also find it on the keyboard, so it's a question of page to to brain, and then brain to fingers. After enough practice the brain forms new short-cut pathways so you don't even have to think.
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