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Trying to improve sight-reading

Alans

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I have been studying the accordion far longer than I have the piano. On the pa I can read at about a grade four RCM level,that comes from years of study with my teacher drilling each piece bar by bar for me. On the piano I am just starting grade one level. Yet I can sight read,sometimes hands together,usually hands apart,much of the music at my grade level. But I have never been able to sight read anything on the pa. Today I pulled out a book of standards for the accordion with the thoughttthought that since I will recognize the tunes perhaps they wont be as difficult to,play. But after barely one bar of complete frustration I toss d the book away. Now i understand that on the pa we cant always look at our fingers,but I am so much more used to playing the piano with much less instruction that there too I dont always need to look down at my hands.
I find the inability to sight read on the accordion,even with just the right hand alone so frustrating.

Any suggestions please?
 

Rhelsing

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Just read and play, read and play. That sounds dumb but that is what it takes. Go slow, and just keep at it. It will actually happen quicker than you think.
 

Glenn

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I think educated (experienced) guesses help to sight read on the accordion. Often the type of music we play has a certain regularity that can be second guessed most of the time. The notes you read just gently guide our guesses in the right direction. Of course now and again you go completely wrong but then it is only a practice so you stop, look , correct and commit the interval to somewhere in the brain. Next time you come across that passage the guess will be more accurate. That's how I imagine it anyway. Probably a load of ********.


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donn

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I could understand that after four years it might seem like something is not working like it should.

No idea what's going wrong, though. You will have to climb out of it on your own, it appears to me - even if we were all standing there watching you, we'd have no way to know where the obstacle is. I hope it's unusual - I personally can't read worth beans on the accordion, while I read fine on other instruments, but I have been assuming it's only because I never use that faculty so it isn't developed.

There's sure to be some clue in the fact that the piano isn't giving you this trouble. For example, maybe the way you handle bellows push/pull is too cerebral and it's getting in your way - that's a wild shot, just an example of the thought process: 1) what's different, and 2) how could that affect reading. (Reading is technically cerebral, of course, but what I'm referring to is a sort of analytical/verbal faculty that we often use when confronted with a problem, and which is in my opinion quite incompatible with any kind of playing.)

I have a hunch that the bar-by-bar learning process you describe is related to the problem - can you play a familiar and really simple tune by ear without going through that? but the piano vs. accordion difference can trip up any such theories.
 

george garside

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just a thought! the difference sight reading progress on the box compared to the piano may well be related to the fact that pshychologicaly you are geared to constantly being able to see the keyboard on the piano ( even if you only have an occasional gander) it effectively gives you a 'comfort zone'

On the box it should all be done on auto pilot with the fingers just automatically going for the right key without conscious thought as to where it is! It may help to put a cardboard 'shield' on top of the treble end so you cant see the keyboard. This will initially slow progress but will makee it a necessity to reach the level of ''read it/think it/play it!

Same of course goes for by ear players and having a crack at playing some well known tunes by ear ( with keyboard shield) would probably speed up the ''think it/play it'' process which is readily transferable to sight reading.

As a mainly by ear folk/trad player I never look at the keyboard whether reading or by earing

It may be worth a try

george
 

Happy girl

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George advised me to attach a shield to my accordion, & initially it did set me back with frustration; but a few months on I have the benefit, because I don’t have the temptation to look at the keyboard quite as much anymore, & I find my notes a lot better now, sight unseen.

http://www.accordionists.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=4125&start=10 (Scroll down the page a bit to see the image of the shield)

Good luck with your endeavours, if a shield is the answer for you, it works!
 

Soulsaver

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I don't have any theories that haven't already been mentioned as to why OK on piano vs not on pa. But I do have theories why sight reading can be slow work for some peeps with a taught instrument - you're actually learning several distinct skills at once:

Reading music, mastering the instrument, playing the (usually set) piece.

Now as always the answer is you need to do 3 things: practice practice practice ... but:

In your 'being taught' normal practice, you start the piece and in the process there's clearly sight reading at first. But then as you try to learn to play the piece, you start to play (mostly) from memory and only aided by the sheet. So only a small % of your practice time is actually spent practicing sight reading, as such.

If you spent time sight reading a piece until, say, you felt you can just about play it slowly probably with mistakes, then moved to a brand new piece so memory involvement is minimised, and again etc. then I think one'd make better progress in this area...

Alone this practice may not be very satisfying, so probably warrants it as additional time allocated in your practice routine, to your set piece, S&As, repertoire.

The 'win' is, if I was a better sight reader I'd get the piece acceptable much quicker.

That's my two pence. It's only a theory... and I need to work on it myself - I'm a shight reader, too.. :lol:

What does your coach say?
 

Corsaire

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I can only agree with all the comments above.
Sight-reading takes practice and some people will find it easier than others. I often avoid sight-reading as I find it much easier picking up music by ear - and this for piano and PA. But as I have to sight-read songs on the spot at our group practices, I just have to get on with it. It has become much easier.

The other thing about learning to sight-read is not to set yourself too high a standard to start with - and this may well mean starting with music that is at a lower level than what you would normally play. Give yourself time, take it slowly and keep at it !

I just comfort myself that there are people who are brilliant at sight-reading but they are unable to play by ear ;)
 

Happy girl

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<HIGHLIGHT highlight=#ffffff>[highlight=#ffffff]Soulsaver wrote: If you spent time sight reading a piece until, say, you felt you can just about play it slowly probably with mistakes, then move to a brand new piece so memory involvement is minimised, and again etc. then I think oned make better progress in this area...[/highlight]</HIGHLIGHT>

A really good tip, this is precisely what I do all the time.

<HIGHLIGHT highlight=#ffffff>[highlight=#ffffff]Corsaire wrote: The other thing about learning to sight-read is not to set yourself too high a standard to start with - and this may well mean starting with music that is at a lower level than what you would normally play. Give yourself time, take it slowly and keep at it.[/highlight]</HIGHLIGHT>

The exact sentiments of Margaret Fabrizio in her video; I have watched this several times & find it really helpful.

 

TomBR

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Just watched a little of that Margaret Fabrizio video and it looks great, I really like the distinction between "reading" and "decoding."

As has already been said, I'd agree that the only way to improve sight reading is to do lots, and it should be at a far lower level than your best memorised playing.
I think if you learn a piece bar by bar and then look at the music while you are playing, you're probably not "reading" as such, the music has become just a memory jogger as to what comes next.

Having made the swap from PA to CBA I'm currently working on learning to read on the chromatic keyboard. I think it's probably necessary to start at the "decoding" level and practice until one reaches "reading" level. I'd be interested in expert views but I suspect one should work to start with and at least some of the time, at a speed that enables one to aim for zero mistakes - pause and think if necessary, but don't guess, press and correct - that's a waste of time.

I think it might also be worth playing some scales and arpeggios in the key of the piece one is about to read before starting.

There is so much PDF music online it should be possible to find some "really easy" music (at whatever your level may be) to practice reading on. You can arguably only "sight read" the same piece once!
Good luck!
Tom
 

george garside

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I agree totally with the notion of playing scales etc in the key you are about to use and think that, as a broad generalisation, scale practice is regarded as something more for learners than experienced players.

being able to rattle off scales on auto pilot is akin to 'knowing the route' along which one will travel to a destination. Different scales are different routes to the destination. i.e along which you travel to produce a tune in a particular key.

It is important at a relatively early stage to get the hang of 12 or a least a good proportion thereof!. This has the distinct advantage of being able to ply the same tune in several scales and to if necessary play in a scale other than the one written ( I think the French call that solmisation or something like that).

of course continental players can manage with one 'scalesworth ' of fingering but 3 is better and British Chromatic players need to master 5.

Often when I pick up the box I randomly run through a few keys and am no great respecter of 'that tune must be played in that key'

george
 

Alans

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Thank-you all for the information you have provided me. After posting last night I came up with idea that Corsaire mentions-I think I need to start sight reading at a much lower level then I play right now. And then just gradually
build it up. Plus add sight-reading to every practise session , hopefully that will produced results. I used to play all of the major scales but I stopped and I think that is something I need to incorporate again.
Once again thanks for your comments, they all help.
 

Soulsaver

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Just found this - 7 Principles Of Sight Reading - covers some of the points we made earlier ..plus more. It is part of a paid for course - no connection, know nothing about the course, other than what you see in this clip.
 
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Pianoman1

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Interesting comments Being partially sighted I have to memorise music which helps me Takes time but it means I am not peering at dots

Here is my new website http://www.tonymusicteach.co.uk

I am thinking of offering one to one sight reading lessons for accordionists as short courses for absolute beginners - covering both clefs - my own teacher admits he is not good on the bass clef - reading chords - covering rhythms - and booster courses for more experienced players The main aim of teaching is to identify student needs and help them to solve the problem

I would also cover standard chord sequences as well

With my own piano pupils the bass clef is a particular problem and constant practice is the only answer
Thoughts abuse etc
 

Tom

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I am interested to know your thoughts on hand position when you want to sight read (by this I mean, when you want to play a series of tunes with others, that you have not seen before). Like, do you have certain "home base" positions you go to? Like, in the key of G I know where the notes are relative to my first finger on G, and if I need to go higher, I go to my thumb on C? Or do you have several standard hand positions for each key? Or do you just sort of follow the notes, moving your hand around because you know the keyboard so well that it doesn't matter? I find my self playing along, being conscious of where my fingers are relative to the notes until I come to a note that is 7 (6, 5, whatever) notes away and can't seem to get there in time and/or decide which finger to use. ??????
 

Rhelsing

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Tom,
I have never given this any thought until you asked. So, giving it some thought now - I don't do anything which means that after a while you get familiar with the key board. It just comes from practice. It is not just where you put your hand to start, it is that as you read the music your eye-hand coordination over time just gets you to the right notes and ina position (particularly concerning runs) where your fingering is going to work out OK. i think it is like reading a book - when we first started in the First grade reading "See Jim run" we read one word a a time. Somewhere in life we went to the point where we actually read phrases and more at a glance. Reading music is the same thing - after a while you will see phrases of music just ahead of where you are playing and your hand will get into the right position all by itself. Same on jumps - you will be able to make long jumps and end up at the right place. (Although even experience players mat occasionally "peak" at long runs. Just play and enjoy it, it will come sooner than you think.
 

Tom

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Thanks Rhelsing, for these encouraging words! Kind of what I imagined and can't wait to get there, willing to work at it too!
 
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reivilos92

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I have been struggling with reading music since the beginning, so I read about the topic a bit. Bottom line is "practise makes perfect"... there are a few recommendations though: do not look back/stop keep going etc.

There are ways to speed up your reading though such as Dandelot's famous book as well as Bob Revel's Reading Music by educating the eye.

I am starting music from scratch but sometimes I am a bit surpised by the lack of research / analysis of cognitive processes involved when playing music. The seasoned players I have met so far were not interested in this at all since they had climbed the learning curve already.
A coworker once told me reading was all about pattern matching. You must get past the stage of decoding the notes by counting lines! I guess stage zero is instantly giving an identity to the symbol you read: whether you see A or あ you should recognize "A" instantly. Second stage is the word level: you see "bat", not b-a-t because the brain automatically picks among the similar words it has encountered so far: hat/bat/pat/vat/rat etc. With a sheet of paper, try hiding the lower part (bottom half) of the characters of a sentence. You should still be able to read. You should also be able to read the following sentence without going over each letter:
"I cnduo't bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg."
Third step is the sentence. Some make more sense than others and you are able to anticipate: try swapping the words above.
This is for the decoding part but you still have to map "rabbit" to the white animal with big ears in your mind.

I *guess* this is the same for music. Also, if you sight read in order to play not just to read the notes aloud you must map C4 to the right location on your keyboard!

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reivilos92

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(Continued) After all why can't we switch from C to B system or decide on a whim to go from PA to BA ? Or reverse the keyboard ? I think our muscles eventually memorize the keyboard. However I am against memorizing jumps as there are too many. On the LH for instance I try to get a mental representation of "B E A D G C F" lines to guess where my finger should land. A bit like being able to localize your other fingers from the location of your thumb.

It is much more comfortable if you can anticipate. My teacher once told me he had a buffer of one staff, so even if some part was hard, his eyes were quite ahead of what he was playing at the same time.
 

Glenn

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reivilos92 post_id=50573 time=1505951681 user_id=2528 said:
Third step is the sentence. Some make more sense than others and you are able to anticipate: try swapping the words above.
This is for the decoding part but you still have to map rabbit to the white animal with big ears in your mind.

I think this is the step where many learning to read music have already stopped.
The musical sentence is the crux of being able to sight read fluently.
It is an understanding of the language of music and how it is spoken in your preferred style.
Im sure if I was faced with a musical style totally alien to me that my sight reading would totally flounder.
Give me a 3/4 time with arpegios and grace notes and Im happy as can be.
 

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