Sight Reading

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Smiling Hobo
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Sight Reading

Postby Smiling Hobo » Wed Dec 31, 2008 7:33 am UTC

I searched and couldn't find another thread about this. If there is one, sorry, lock this.

Being able to sight read music is a pretty useful skill for musicians, but it takes a lot of practice. What tricks/tips are useful for developing sight reading/singing skills? If you play an instrument and read music, what do you do to help improve your sight reading proficiency? How important do you think being able to sight read is?

I'm, personally, pretty horrible at sight reading, but still think it's an important thing to learn (I play piano, mostly classical). I'm trying to improve it by playing through easy-ish pieces that I've never heard before, and slowly raising the difficulty of the pieces as I go. I'm getting a bit better, but I still can't sight read Bach or stuff like that for shit.

So, now, discuss!

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Re: Sight Reading

Postby ++$_ » Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:53 pm UTC

Honestly, there's no shortcut to sight-reading. Keep practicing. Probably, things will suddenly click at some point.

In terms of difficulty, the easiest things for me to sight-read are classical pieces, followed by Baroque, and then romantic. This is a bit of a generalization, of course, but I think classical pieces are usually the most predictable.

So I'd start with a book or two of easy, short classical-period pieces (like sonatinas) and do all of them. Maybe do one or two per day. Then move on to some baroque pieces. You can try the Bach 2-part inventions, but you've probably played a good number of them and so you can't sight-read them. Use a book of Bach chorales -- this will help you get good at playing multiple notes and managing multiple voices while you sight-read.

It might also help to read some things that you've heard but not seen. Get a book of folk songs and try playing the piano arrangements, especially of the familiar ones.

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Re: Sight Reading

Postby Antimatter Spork » Wed Dec 31, 2008 10:59 pm UTC

The only way to get better at sight-reading is to sight-read. A lot. There are no shortcuts, no tricks. Just get some music and play through it. Repeat until you're good at sight-reading.
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Re: Sight Reading

Postby Clumpy » Wed Dec 31, 2008 11:55 pm UTC

It can be difficult. I've won state piano tournaments and can usually play a song I know quite well, but when playing an unfamiliar song I'll often play something plausible yet totally different from the original composition. I'm lousy with tempo.

Listening to the original recording should help quite a bit (and keep you from playing the song differently than it was written just because it still sounds okay). Listen to a movement or section of the song then try duplicating what you've heard. Go as slow as you need to.

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Re: Sight Reading

Postby Masily box » Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:34 pm UTC

Studying music theory helped my sight reading a lot, even on the piano, which isn't my main instrument. I don't mean just basic music literacy stuff (like scales and keys), but harmony, voice leading, counterpoint, form, all the good stuff. It made me consciously aware of what the notes on the page were doing, and the transition in sight-reading was like starting to read word by word rather than l-e-t-t-e-r b-y l-e-t-t-e-r.

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Re: Sight Reading

Postby kanavazk » Sun Jan 04, 2009 12:09 am UTC

Even with intermediate-advanced-ish theory knowledge, I still suck at sight reading. I could probably pass if I sight read guitar tabulature or chords, or standard notation for alto sax, but I can't sight read piano or standard notation in general.

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Re: Sight Reading

Postby Sandry » Sun Jan 04, 2009 9:22 pm UTC

Pretty much agree with what's been said so far. The other thing I've been told to do is to try sight singing pieces. I think with an instrument I tend to feel slightly detached from the pitches themselves and that producing the song becomes a mechanical thing the first time through. Sight singing can't really be mechanical, though, so learning to do that made me look more toward looking how the melodies were being constructed. I think it helped somewhat.
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Re: Sight Reading

Postby Phill » Mon Jan 05, 2009 2:01 pm UTC

Antimatter Spork wrote:The only way to get better at sight-reading is to sight-read. A lot. There are no shortcuts, no tricks. Just get some music and play through it. Repeat until you're good at sight-reading.

This is my experience. Play through a whole lotta pieces of the type you would eventually like to sight-read. You will get better at it.

I've heard that studying music theory will help though, when I get time I'd like to try and learn some more of it. As someone else said, it helps to see the piece as a whole rather than a series of disjointed notes - good sight readers don't read every single note!

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Re: Sight Reading

Postby SPsnow02 » Mon Jan 05, 2009 3:17 pm UTC

To get good at sight reading you have to sight read a lot. I learned Piano when I was 6ish till I was 10ish, and I didn't practice close to enough, so I pretty much has lessons in trying to Sight read well enough that my teacher thought I practiced. Nowadays, I'm great at sight reading :D

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Re: Sight Reading

Postby LilSweat » Sat Jan 10, 2009 4:07 am UTC

Two things. First off, ear training was one of the ways that I got good at sight reading. If you can see a piece and sight sing it then you are golden. The best way is just to practice learning what different intervals sound like, there are plenty of websites on the internet that offer ear training tests and such.

Second off, I recently found a website of a jazz composer named Tom Kubis. I came to love his music after playing a song of his in my big band a few years back. Anyways, on the site, there are recordings of all the songs and sheet music for all the lead trumpet parts. So I just went through every song of all the different styles and played along with the recordings, it was great practice. If there are any lead trumpet players out there like me, I would suggest going to this site.

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Re: Sight Reading

Postby Hyena » Sat Jan 10, 2009 9:26 am UTC

I learnt to sight read late, and i'm still crap at it. It's all my own fault too, i always just learnt the songs by ear without bothering to read it. as in, i'd listen to my teacher play it, and then play it like that. but the way i get to learning was by playing bass in a school jazz band. simple basslines, fairly easy, but i had to get a good approximation around 15 minutes before playing, usually. playing in a group is a good way to develop your skills, especially estimating rhythm.
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