Saturday, January 19, 2008

7. FInally, Some Progress!

Well, it's been about 40 days of two-hour-per-day sight-reading, and I'm starting to see some signs of improvement! Not as much as I'd expect, considering I've now sight-read through over 700 pieces, but enough to notice.

I'm noticing, for example, that some of the more common note groupings are quickly recognized and converted into movement of my fingers with less conscious thought on my part. Also, notes which were less familiar before (such as C6 for example), are now less likely to slow me down.

I'm still playing things at a much slower than normal tempo. For example, I might play a difficult (for me) piece at 60 BPM per eighth note! For most pieces, I set the metronome to 50 BPM (for quarter notes).

To give you a feeling for where I stand, I find that I can sight-read this piece, first time through, quite well at 50 BPM:

Whereas I'll have some trouble sight-reading this piece at the same tempo:

The hymnals have been the most useful, since they have so many chords and intervals to practice.

In addition to these books,

I have read through America's Song Book, Young America's Music, Easy Piano Classics, and about 200 hymns.

I suspect two reasons that my progress is slower than I expected:

  1. At age 54, perhaps I've missed the critical period for learning reading-related skills. Conventional wisdom holds that adults have a much harder time learning to read text than do children. Not sure if that's true, but it may be related to my slow progress.

  2. Yes, I've read through 700 pieces already but I've only been working at it for one month. If one can become a good sight-reader in ten years by reading 15 minutes per day, it doesn't mean that one can accomplish the same thing in three months by reading 10 hours per day. In other words, there's a passage of time component that's also important in learning a skill like this.
Sight-singing First

I've done some limited experiments with sight-singing part of a piece first, to see if it will improve my sight-reading. Result: doesn't seem to help. That is, if I sight-sing a line of the melody before playing it, I don't play it any better than I would have without the sight-singing.

Not Looking at my Hands

As mentioned, this is something I'm pretty good at, but I notice that every once in a while I do glance down, and this often causes me to make mistakes.

In addition to playing memorized pieces and jazz with my eyes closed, here's one other exercise I find useful: Close your eyes, place a hand on the keyboard, and try to recognize where it landed by feel. You're not allowed to move the hand; recognize the position based only on the keys you can feel immediately.

Looking Ahead

I realize the importance of this, but I don't do it very well. I have to consciously force myself to do it. It usually goes like this:

  1. "Hey, you've got to look ahead more!"

  2. I look ahead a measure, and memorize part of it, say the left hand.

  3. When I play that measure, I'm so absorbed in playing what I've memorized, that I don't look ahead to the next.
I'm giving this a high priority right now.


Anonymous said...

This advice is inspiring me! Thank you so much!

Meri Gwiadza said...

Thanks for this blog!