Saturday, January 15, 2011

Getting Professional Help

It's been over a year since my last post; now three years from the start of my quest.

During this last year, I haven't done quite as much sight-reading as I did during the first two years, since I've had a lot of gigs and have been working on other piano tasks. I've done a good bit more non-sight reading, that is, reading the same piece repeatedly to get better at it instead of memorizing it. I have even performed a simple piece from music -- a first for me.

I've continued improving, but way too slowly.

But today, I took my first lesson with an accomplished teacher who is confident that she can help me improve faster! This is big news.

During the lesson she had me sight-read a very simple classical piece. I did a great job at demonstrating how poorly I sight-read. I was hampered a bit by not having the right glasses, and by performance anxiety, but in general I think I communicated my level of skill in this area.

Some of her initial comments were:
  • I should spend much more time analyzing the piece before I play it, checking all the way through for what will be happening, noticing patterns, thinking about the key, etc.
  • Intervals are indeed important, and I have to get better at thinking about intervals instead of individual notes. I should be thinking more of relationships between notes. One exercise is to say the interval out loud ("second," "third," "fifth," etc.) either while playing or away from the piano.
  • I need to always practice not stopping or slowing down; I should make rhythm the first priority.
  • It's best to start at a slow tempo, and work my way up.
  • I should think more about where I'm looking. Not only looking ahead, but also making sure I scan up and down, and not get locked into just the treble or bass clef.
  • I should pay attention to the fingering suggestions, seeing them as something that will help me.

I'm optimistic that this is going to help, and I will keep you posted!


kabayongtao said...

Thank you kindly Sir. I just found out this blog this morning and I am glad that I did.

I've been playing a keyboard for at least 2 years and I haven't done anything but memorize pieces.

For the past weeks, I've been practicing sight reading and I have to say I am having difficulties.

I would just like to let you know that the blog that you worked on is very helpful.

H.C. said...


I just wanted you to know, that I really enjoy reading your blog. I was searching for information about sight reading, and stumbled upon it. I´m really drawn to your dedication to the subject, and it is also a great deal of fun reading it.. And by the way. I think your reading has improved a great deal. Mayby not so much on the tempo, but the latest musicclips sounds much more flowing. It actually sounds like you are enjoying yourself.

All the Best


Anonymous said...

Amazing blog. I am working on the same stuff. I'd love to compare notes with you.

melmik said...

I am learning from scratch as an adult in my 40's and am a memoriser so feel your pain. However, you sound brilliant compared to me and I would like to think I would be happy if I could sight read as well as you seem to be. But as a type A personality I know if I could read that well I would expect to be better. We are our own worst enemy but my teachers keep telling me that is the difference between kids and adults learning. Just found your blog and it has been great reading over it as at least I am not alone! Well done.

Anonymous said...

I'm excited for you! I, too, have decided to make sight reading a priority. I understand quite a bit of theory and am competent at "faking it" by playing chords and a melody, but I want to be a REAL piano player. I'm 29 and don't intend on trying to become a professional. I just want music in my life for me. Your blog has been helpful to me. I just bought my first real piano and took my first lesson yesterday from a highly recommended teacher. I'm so excited about this new chapter in my life! Thank you for your insight and I hope you'll continue your blog. Know that I'll be reading it and that it is appreciated and useful!


isaacnewton666 said...

you're gonna find this amusing...

how's the sight-reading going by the way?

Montreal Music Teacher said...

Hey there, I am a music teacher in Montreal at Montrose Music Studio. I love helping my students with sight reading because, like you I was terrible at it and believe that it really is an invaluable skill for enjoyment of the piano as well as leveraging your professional time and getting more (and better paying) gigs. Anyways, I digress.

I have found that when it comes to sight reading, a quantity over quality approach seems to work best. In other words the more you do it, the better you get. This leads to a problem that I often face. That of finding a considerable volume of appropriately graded music for the student to burn through. Problem is, most of the graded books are just too expensive to be used for this disposable style of practice. I want them to play a piece 3 times at the max and then to move on. At this rate, you would burn through most method books, or graded repertoire books in a week or two(that will add up!). I run another site which is a repertoire search engine for this type of problem, but as of yet, I have very little for the beginning sight reader. If you know of any large volumes of books that stay at a fairly low difficulty level for about 100-150 pages, it would absolutely love to hear your suggestions.
Way to go on the blog and best of luck!

keyboard kids said...

I just ran across your blog today and it feels like I'm reading exactly what I'm going through as a musician and pianist. I've been learning how to read and write music for about 8 years now. Just recently, I've decided to start sight reading everyday for at least 2 hours. I want to be able to sight read music decently in a couple of years. Before, I would just play and memorize a piece. I came to the conclusion that this isn't going to help me become a useful keyboardist to anyone. I applaud you for keeping this blog going! How are you doing now? I love to hear that your getting gigs with your skills! It really gives me hope for the future as well. This skill is probably one of the most difficult things to learn (in my opinion). I've been at it for years now and it's been an uphill climb all the way. Just recently have I felt like I've been getting anywhere with my music. Thank you for being such an inspiration!

Dan W said...

Thanks a lot for your blog - I read it all the way through, and frankly it was just an interesting read.

If there's one thing I might recommend which has helped me (or seemed to), it would be to split up playing and take a minute or two's break every 5-20 minutes. This gives the mind time to digest what it's just been fed :)

Al said...

Thanks for the great comments, guys!

I've got an update coming in a few days (Dec 10). Stay tuned!

Sight Reading Music said...

Thank you for sharing with us your progress on how to improve on piano sight reading.

Many players would just give up and you have persisted and continued to show progress!

Reading musical intervals (both harmonic and melodic) as well as observing changes in rhythm patterns are both important steps in music reading. Keeping a steady tempo can also be important step!

Please continue to share with us your progress!

Sky Crawler said...

Hey there,

Although this isn't a post-related comment I just wanted to say; what a beautiful blog, I can learn many things from it. Thank you very much for sharing.

Greetings from Holland.