Sight Reading Mechanics

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adamjohnson
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Sight Reading Mechanics

Post by adamjohnson » Fri Dec 16, 2016 4:58 am

I'm looking to breakdown the mechanics of the worlds best sight readers. I'm 57 and was in high school band 40 years ago and back then it was learning "Every Good Boy Does Favor" and other mnemonics to learn the notes and staff.

I have read that pros don't recommend that as it creates extra steps to find a note value and get the finger to go to it on piano. I have also read that it's good instead to learn intervals like thirds and know where they are located and don't even learn the note names so you are not saying them in your head but instead just seeing the note and knowing where to strike on the keyboard.

So, what are the best ways to learn to sight read to be able to eventually be proficient with difficult pieces. Thanks for any ideas.

I don't want to spend a lot of time on staff flash cards and learning notes if these are more for kids and not really so effective in advanced study.

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Last edited by adamjohnson on Sat Dec 17, 2016 4:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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HullandHellandHalifax
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Re: Sight Reading Mechanics

Post by HullandHellandHalifax » Fri Dec 16, 2016 1:29 pm

Hello adam,
that takes me back a long time, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (English spelling right hand upwards) Good Boys Deserve Favour Always (left hand upwards) F.A.C.E (of course) and my favourite All Cows Eat Grass for the left hand spaces. I have no idea if it worked for everyone, but it obviously worked for me as I am even older than you and can still remember it.
Whether it helps for sight-reading of ordinary pieces and advanced pieces I couldn't say, but as I am a very good sightreader (piano and organ with pedals) I can only tell you what I believe works for me. There is no quick method, let's be honest about that, it is all down to just doing it and keep on doing it so that the hand eye co-ordination is set on the high setting, don't look down at your hands otherwise your brain will not map the keys properly and always sit exactly in the same place every time, for me that means my nose is in a direct line with the gap between E and F above middle C. After that what I think happens is that your brain recognises the chord shape with or without accidentals and here lies the crux of the matter your eye sees the lines of notes and the chord shapes and replaces them with fingerings and hand positions respectively. Do not hesitate play what your eye sees straight away even if it is wrong, correct it and hopefully your memory will store that information away for the next time it sees that chord or progression. This by the way is the way to learn cadenzas, discover the patterns for the hand and discover how easy they actually are. Also normal fingerings come more naturally from recognising the patterns both linear and vertical and become part of your technical arsenal and not that of some professor locked away in a publishers garret slaving over a dummy keyboard.
There is no easy way except lots of experience gained in the act of doing it. I hope this helps
best wishes
Brian

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Re: Sight Reading Mechanics

Post by Timtin » Fri Dec 16, 2016 9:18 pm

I agree with everything Brian has said.
There is also the question of whether to strive to be note-perfect
or to just play the piece so that it sounds about right.
If it's the former, then it may be necessary to slow down slightly
in passages containing lots of notes. If it's the latter, then it may
be necessary to make slight simplifications which aren't apparent
except to the trained ear.
I offer this advice as an amateur, so it doesn't carry much weight,
but it works for me. Finally, don't forget that accidentals are deliberate!

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Re: Sight Reading Mechanics

Post by fredbucket » Fri Dec 16, 2016 10:29 pm

HullandHellandHalifax wrote:that takes me back a long time, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour
Favour????

Fruit!!!!

Regards
Fred

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Re: Sight Reading Mechanics

Post by HullandHellandHalifax » Sat Dec 17, 2016 12:13 am

fredbucket wrote:
HullandHellandHalifax wrote:that takes me back a long time, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour
Favour????

Fruit!!!!

Regards
Fred
I think it is called regional differences Fred, perhaps in Liverpool there was less fruit to go round hence all Liverpudlians had scurvy and still have it I think haha.
I also agree with what you say regarding the speed of performance, note perfect then play slowly, unnecessary then play up to speed. I once entered a sight-reading competiton (well quite a lot actually) and the judges commented on that point, they said if playing for yourself then you can stop, correct and move on, but if you are in an accompanying situation then you have to plough on regardless and skate over the awkward bits and develop that sightreading skill of playing enough to deceive the ear into thinking that it heard the notes you didn't play. Whilst sight-reading you develop an almost improvisational effect playing what is not there and not playing everything that is there. This was the crux of their judgements, the prizes going to those who came closest to playing everything up to speed whilst giving off the effect that they had played everything, one of the necessary skills an accompanist learns.

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Re: Sight Reading Mechanics

Post by fredbucket » Sat Dec 17, 2016 11:48 am

HullandHellandHalifax wrote:I think it is called regional differences Fred, perhaps in Liverpool there was less fruit to go round hence all Liverpudlians had scurvy and still have it I think haha.
I was taught in Sydney...
HullandHellandHalifax wrote:Whilst sight-reading you develop an almost improvisational effect playing what is not there and not playing everything that is there. This was the crux of their judgements, the prizes going to those who came closest to playing everything up to speed whilst giving off the effect that they had played everything, one of the necessary skills an accompanist learns.
Which is exactly what I did as a child, and still do now. Accompanying singers and instrumentalists in recital of course is different - you do need to learn the notes as writ.

Regards
Fred

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Re: Sight Reading Mechanics

Post by HullandHellandHalifax » Sat Dec 17, 2016 1:22 pm

Agreed, plus I might add that other co-musicians are not always perfect in the beat, certainly the singers are big sinners in that department and you have to use your improvisational/sight-reading skills to paper over the problem and add bits in and take bits out seamlessly.
regards
Brian

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