Monday, December 10, 2012

Progress Report - Five Long Years!

Oh, man, five years gone, and I'm still not that good a sight-reader.  Much better than before, but I have a long way to go.  There are days that I want to give up on this, but I keep working at it.

I've been doing some reading every day, except that I took about a month off leading up to a solo gig that I had in early December.  That is, during that time I put all my effort into working on tunes for that gig, and did no sight-reading.  That month saw some good improvement in my solo work, and showed me that my time spent on sight-reading is time taken away from other aspects of my playing.  That is, it reminded me that there is a cost for working so hard on sight-reading.

Click here to hear a clip from that solo gig.

That gig is over, I'm back to daily sight-reading, and I'm trying something new.  I've concluded that one of my problems is that I pay too much attention to the note names and not to the intervals.   I've discussed this several times before (for example, here).  Because I've spent years not attending to the intervals, my brain has gotten stuck reading notes.  This is a case where I've been practicing the wrong thing.

My best trick for fixing this is to transpose a tune to another key (mentioned here).  When I do that, I have to pay attention to intervals, because the notes are wrong.

In the past, I've used transposing in this way: I'll play a hymn or two transposed, and then I'll go back to normal reading.  After I do that, I seem to pay attention to intervals a little more, but soon go back to my old bad habits.

So my new system is to, each day, play two hymns or chorales transposed, and then not do any more sight-reading. Perhaps if I do that for a month, I can kick my mind into the interval gear.

Note that when transposing, I think about intervals only.  I'm not allowed to see the note and figure out what note I'll play.  I only do that for the first chord of the piece.  From then on, I play based on the intervals from one chord to the next. I don't want to get good at transposing, I just want to use transposing as a tool to help me attend to intervals.