Friday, January 25, 2008

10. Progress Report

As an example of my progress, today I sight-read this piece at 55 BPM without making too many mistakes.

Yesterday, however, I played some simpler pieces, and had difficulty -- some days forward, some days back. It's always difficult to gauge your progress, since every song is different. You'll start celebrating your success, only to realize that you hadn't improved, the songs were just simpler than the ones you played the day before.

This also happens: I'll be playing some common song, and think "Hey, this is really working, I must be improving!" only to realize that I've been playing the melody by ear, and only reading the bass part -- hadn't even glanced at the melody.

Speaking of that, I've found that I can play one hand of a song, even if there are a lot of chords, pretty fast. Not surprising, I guess, since it's only half the music, but it's a good feeling, and I look forward to playing both hands at that speed.

Many people recommend not working with pieces that you can't play reasonably well at 50 BPM. I suspect that you can still learn a lot playing a piece that's more difficult, but it's a lot more frustrating. So, if you're worried that you'll give up, go for the easier material.

You really have to be motivated to make this work. If I hadn't decided that I was going to spend a year on this no matter what, I probably would have given up by now. I know this is true, since I've given up on sight-reading twice in the past.

I'm still "into it," and often practicing three hours of sight-reading in a day, but there are some days when I have to force myself through the mandatory two hours.

I'm still finding enough material from the library and from books lent to me by friends, but I've realized that I don't have to have a strict "one song, one time" policy. That is, after I've read through a few hundred songs, I can probably go back and read them again without getting much benefit from my first reading.

One other note: If you're starting out, I'd recommend recording your sight-reading of a few pieces, so that later you'll have a feeling for how much you've improved. Alternatively, you can just make some notes about what songs you played at what tempos.

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