Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two Years and Counting

Well, I've now been working on my sight-reading for two years! Where does the time go, huh? I'm continuing to improve, and more importantly, I'm reaping the benefits of my new skill:

(1) It's great to be able to read and play examples in instructional jazz texts (see an earlier post for an example).

(2) I'm enjoying learning pieces by reading through them multiple times. For example, click here to hear me play this nice arrangement of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (from the Reader's Digest book of Christmas Songs).

(3) I'm finding that t's much easier to memorize songs when I can read pretty well. Instead of laboriously reading through a measure or two at a time, I can more quickly play a segment of the song and commit it to memory. For example, I've recently memorized Bach's Two-Part Invention #8 (hear me play it in our 2009 Christmas card video (about halfway through. All the music in that video was me playing on my Yamaha P90), Bach's French Suite 5 Allemande, and Schubert's Scenes from Childhood (Foreign Lands & People).

Back to the actual sight-reading progress aspect, I've continued to do about an hour of reading per day. I do more repeated readings of songs -- while technically not sight-reading, this has the benefit of letting me practice reading at a higher tempo.

I'm getting more comfortable at sight-reading. That is, it's less of a strain than it was in the past. Things are becoming more automatic, and my hands go where they are supposed to go with less conscious thought.

As mentioned before, I'm good at not looking at my hands, but I could still be much better at reading ahead. Here are several examples of my sight-reading, recorded yesterday. They give a pretty good feeling for where I stand, although I play better when I'm not making a recording destined for the world wide web.

That's it for now. I'm continuing to work on this, and I'll report back in a year!


Anonymous said...


Ace Hole said...

here are some excellent sight reading studies
all free

Anonymous said...

hi al
do you sight read these pieces prima vista ?
or some visual or manual practice before recording?

Anonymous said...

Hi, great blog!
I think you have used your time wisely, and it will pay off. If you had taken traditional piano lessons and mindlessly practiced technical exercises and the same few songs for a year at a time, like most unfortunate kids whose parents make them learn piano, you probably would have given up by now, like most ...
Don't stop, and play a variety of pieces/styles from very difficult to very easiest. Eg, Fantasie-impromptu, Beethoven Op 27#2, Liszt La Campanella, and etudes, down to kids songs. Also attend concerts. This will keep you motivated, which is the most important thing for an adult player!

Jenny Bay said...

Just stumbled upon your blog - what a neat project! Way to go, that is awesome. I am a piano teacher and I write a piano teaching blog - we will be discussing sight reading on the blog this next week and I'd love to post a link to your blog - hope you don't mind!

Richard said...

I've been practicing my sight reading now on an off since 1987 but pretty steadily since 2000 and finally started looking around for a blog like yours. I do mostly classical. It's been very rewarding. As you've said the progress is very slow and steady.
I've found I make progress even when I leave off for a while.
I've found it's all in the head - how fast you recognize patterns and how quickly you can understand what's going on on the page and hear. Generally, if I can't hear it in my head (understand the harmony etc), at least roughly, I can't read it. I've found just looking at the music, trying to understand it, is almost as good as playing it.
I've found I make the most progress when I try to crawl through stuff that is quite difficult.
What I like best is going back to pieces I haven't read through in a year or two and have them be much easier than before.
Good luck.

Li-San Ting said...

I stumbled upon your blog while searching for piano sight reading resources. Keep up your piano sight reading. You'll improve the more you do!

myer nore said...

Al - it's a year later, so how has it gone? Thanks for posting here. I wish more people posted observations of their daily efforts like this; it would provide prospective learners with a more accurate picture of what it really takes to learn to sight read at the piano. Keep it up - I'd love to hear more.

Al said...

Thanks for all the great comments! I had turned on comment moderation, so I didn't see any these comments until today.

Most of the stuff is prima vista, except for hymns, I take some time to look through each piece, something my teacher is getting me to do.

Jenny, yes, please do post a link to my blog.

I'm still working hard on this, and I will post my four-year progress report in a few days (Dec 10).

Pauline said...

Great work. I am also trying to improve my sight reading. What is the name of the piece you played for your solo gig?

Al said...

Hi Pauline,

You'll have to refresh my memory concerning the solo gig. Although I usually play with my trio, I have done a number of solo gigs, and I perform a bunch of tunes.