Discussion:
Expectations regarding sight reading et al
(too old to reply)
Saddles
2005-04-18 09:22:08 UTC
Permalink
Please advise,

I'm a upper-intermediate lurker ABRSM grade 8 +, who pops up sometimes.
Where I'm located I suffice as a teacher for lack of anybody better or more
qualified, but I think I try to do my rigorous best.

I'm worried about two things. I have a student whose mother is an excellent
pianist. Mom is worried that her daughter is not sight-reading well at all.
The daughter has passed ABRSM grade 3 but does have a problem reading
fluently. While admitting that, I also told mom that sight-reading is very
difficult on the classical guitar - maybe moreso than for other instruments.
I used some argument I had read somewhere about the instrument being
polyphonic and requiring position playing at the same time, so that the
possibilities and decisions are multiple for any bit of execution. I also
(mis?)quoted a comment by Liona Boyd where, when asked if she sight-read
well, said "Are you kidding?". To tell the truth, for days after this I
didn't know if she meant "Are you kidding, I couldn't get where I am unless
I sight-read really well. How dare you ask?" or "Are you kidding? Few
people sight-read well, and I'm not fortunate to be one of them." I still
don't know, but I decided on the latter just to make my point with mom.

Then I said that this does not mean that her daughter shouldn't strive to be
the best sight reader possible and that she had some way to go yet.

I have another student who will be taking grade 8 in Feb 2006 (having last
past grade 6), who is pretty good but who sometimes gets frustrated with the
hesitancy with which he seems to have to learn his pieces perhaps compared
with his little brother's fleet fingers all over the paino keybourd even on
a first trial of a piece to be learnt. He's been weeks on Capricho Arabe.
I'm only a bit better myself. I decided to learn Torre Bermeja the other
day and it was a week before I was playing it fluently (with sticky
unrefined parts still, of course). So again I said it was the nature of the
instrument.

But is it? Or are the three of us all just dullards? Is there really some
justification for these lowered expectations?

MM
Tom Sacold
2005-04-18 11:02:06 UTC
Permalink
Post by Saddles
Please advise,
I'm a upper-intermediate lurker ABRSM grade 8 +, who pops up sometimes.
Where I'm located I suffice as a teacher for lack of anybody better or more
qualified, but I think I try to do my rigorous best.
I'm worried about two things. I have a student whose mother is an excellent
pianist. Mom is worried that her daughter is not sight-reading well at all.
The daughter has passed ABRSM grade 3 but does have a problem reading
fluently. While admitting that, I also told mom that sight-reading is very
difficult on the classical guitar - maybe moreso than for other instruments.
I used some argument I had read somewhere about the instrument being
polyphonic and requiring position playing at the same time, so that the
possibilities and decisions are multiple for any bit of execution. I also
(mis?)quoted a comment by Liona Boyd where, when asked if she sight-read
well, said "Are you kidding?". To tell the truth, for days after this I
didn't know if she meant "Are you kidding, I couldn't get where I am unless
I sight-read really well. How dare you ask?" or "Are you kidding? Few
people sight-read well, and I'm not fortunate to be one of them." I still
don't know, but I decided on the latter just to make my point with mom.
Then I said that this does not mean that her daughter shouldn't strive to be
the best sight reader possible and that she had some way to go yet.
I have another student who will be taking grade 8 in Feb 2006 (having last
past grade 6), who is pretty good but who sometimes gets frustrated with the
hesitancy with which he seems to have to learn his pieces perhaps compared
with his little brother's fleet fingers all over the paino keybourd even on
a first trial of a piece to be learnt. He's been weeks on Capricho Arabe.
I'm only a bit better myself. I decided to learn Torre Bermeja the other
day and it was a week before I was playing it fluently (with sticky
unrefined parts still, of course). So again I said it was the nature of the
instrument.
But is it? Or are the three of us all just dullards? Is there really some
justification for these lowered expectations?
MM
I studied classical guitar in my (dim and distant) youth to quite a
reasonable standard - I never took exams. Being more interested in music
than just the instrument, when I got a job and bought a house I took up the
piano and over 20 years of lessons and playing at least an hour most
evenings I could sight read pretty well most pieces first time through at a
good-ish tempo. A year ago I changed to a job which requires a lot of
out-of-town travelling so I've returned to the guitar and I am amazed at how
well I can sight read - much better than when I gave up the guitar all that
time ago! Just goes to show how much is just confidence and overall musical
experience.
Steve Freides
2005-04-18 12:38:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Saddles
Please advise,
I'm a upper-intermediate lurker ABRSM grade 8 +, who pops up
sometimes. Where I'm located I suffice as a teacher for lack of
anybody better or more qualified, but I think I try to do my rigorous
best.
I'm worried about two things. I have a student whose mother is an
excellent pianist. Mom is worried that her daughter is not
sight-reading well at all. The daughter has passed ABRSM grade 3 but
does have a problem reading fluently. While admitting that, I also
told mom that sight-reading is very difficult on the classical
guitar - maybe moreso than for other instruments. I used some argument
I had read somewhere about the instrument being polyphonic and
requiring position playing at the same time, so that the possibilities
and decisions are multiple for any bit of execution. I also
(mis?)quoted a comment by Liona Boyd where, when asked if she
sight-read well, said "Are you kidding?". To tell the truth, for days
after this I didn't know if she meant "Are you kidding, I couldn't get
where I am unless I sight-read really well. How dare you ask?" or "Are
you kidding? Few people sight-read well, and I'm not fortunate to be
one of them." I still don't know, but I decided on the latter just to
make my point with mom.
Then I said that this does not mean that her daughter shouldn't strive
to be the best sight reader possible and that she had some way to go
yet.
I have another student who will be taking grade 8 in Feb 2006 (having
last past grade 6), who is pretty good but who sometimes gets
frustrated with the hesitancy with which he seems to have to learn his
pieces perhaps compared with his little brother's fleet fingers all
over the paino keybourd even on a first trial of a piece to be learnt.
He's been weeks on Capricho Arabe. I'm only a bit better myself. I
decided to learn Torre Bermeja the other day and it was a week before
I was playing it fluently (with sticky unrefined parts still, of
course). So again I said it was the nature of the instrument.
But is it? Or are the three of us all just dullards? Is there really
some justification for these lowered expectations?
<RANT>

I'm the exception (although perhaps the one that proves the rule). The
"rule" is that classical guitarists can't sight-read, and a similarly
low expectation is held of singers, another area of musical endeavor in
which I've spent and still spend time. I read, in all modesty, very
well, to the point where it takes quite a bit of practice for me to play
anything significantly better than I can sight-read it, but it's not
because I practice sight-reading. It's because I've spent a lot of time
in a proper curriculum, one that takes each of the component parts of
sight-reading, and teaches them separately. At Mannes College of Music,
where I was a student, the entire department is called "techniques of
music" and there are separate studies for sight-singing while saying
solfege syllables, saying solfege syllables in rhythm but without
singing, dictation, harmony, counterpoint (using a modern text
essentially covering the same ground as Fux's "Gradus Ad Parnasum"),
piano, keyboard harmony, analysis, and the list goes on.

(Incidentally, studying this stuff often drives the students crazy and
they often wonder why on earth they have to bother with such difficult
studies that are taught in separate, component-like pieces but, lo and
behold, after they graduate, they inevitably come back and say,
"Everyone says I'm such a good sight-reader - I wasn't when I was here
but someone I guess it all just comes together.")

My point is that being a good sight-reader is, for most people, the
result of a lot of study, the kind of study that's rarely undertaken
anymore because it doesn't improve how well you can play a virtuoso
concerto. If you spend hours a day learning to play your instrument,
there's no reason not to also spend hours a day improving your
sight-reading if it's something you want to get better at. The Mannes
approach is based on the traditional French approach but I'll be the
first to admit that putting in the time and effort to improve one's
sight-reading, however you go about it, is likely to bring results when
compared to someone who just bemoans the fact they can't read and then
doesn't take an organized approach to improving their situation.

Which begs the question - what can a classical guitarist, not a
full-time student in a conservatory, do to become a better reader? The
short answer is to get good at theory. Good reading in any language,
music or otherwise, is all about the recognition of a patterns - until
you stop seeing just a pile of notes and start seeing patterns you
recognize, you won't read well. And all of the theory, ear-training,
counterpoint, dictation, and other study goes into improving just that,
your ability to look at a piece of music and know what you're looking
at. It should be, more or less, like looking at this email - you don't
sound out every word you see, you recognize not only collections of
letters as words but collections of words as well. If you're just
looking at notes and seeing only notes, you won't read well. (There
are, of course, exceptions to this rule, e.g., pianists who don't know
theory or ear-training but just have the knack for putting their fingers
on what's on the page in front of them. In this, it is truly much
harder to do on the classical guitar.)

(Sorry for the long rant but I spent about a decade on Mannes' TOM
faculty after having spent a couple of years as a student there so this
is an area near and dear to my heart.)

Want some concrete things to try? Start by taking very simple etudes or
even just chord progressions you create for yourself, e.g., I, IV, V, I,
and play them in all 12 keys. Take a tune you know, e.g., Mary Had A
Little Lamb or "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," or anything more
complex, and play it in all 12 keys, then start playing it in a single
key but in different positions on the neck, starting with open and
working your way up 3 frets or so at a time, and eventually be able to
play it in each of the 12 keys at each of several positions on the neck
of the guitar.

And, for your ears, start by taking both tunes you know by memory and
tunes for which you have recordings and writing them down. Musical
dictation practice will definitely help sight-reading. Use children's
records or simple folks songs, replay short sections of the recordings
as much as you need to be sure you've gotten it right.

When you can recognize what you hear, and recognize what you see, you'll
be able to sight-read pretty well, I'll venture to say. Nobody
practices only virtuoso repertoire on their way to becoming a virtuoso
performer, and sight-reading is no different. Practice the skills and
component parts, work on your weaknesses, and the progress will come.

</RANT>

-S-
e***@yahoo.com
2005-04-18 13:23:43 UTC
Permalink
Steve,

Thank you for your "rant" and the great advice for improving sight
reading. Much appreciated.

Ed S.
Richard F. Sayage
2005-04-18 13:25:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Steve Freides
Post by Saddles
Please advise,
I'm the exception (although perhaps the one that proves the rule). The
"rule" is that classical guitarists can't sight-read, and a similarly low
expectation is held of singers, another area of musical endeavor in which
I've spent and still spend time. I read, in all modesty, very well, to
the point where it takes quite a bit of practice for me to play anything
significantly better than I can sight-read it, but it's not because I
practice sight-reading. It's because I've spent a lot of time in a proper
curriculum, one that takes each of the component parts of sight-reading,
and teaches them separately. At Mannes College of Music, where I was a
student, the entire department is called "techniques of music" and there
are separate studies for sight-singing while saying solfege syllables,
saying solfege syllables in rhythm but without singing, dictation,
harmony, counterpoint (using a modern text essentially covering the same
ground as Fux's "Gradus Ad Parnasum"), piano, keyboard harmony, analysis,
and the list goes on.
(Incidentally, studying this stuff often drives the students crazy and
they often wonder why on earth they have to bother with such difficult
studies that are taught in separate, component-like pieces but, lo and
behold, after they graduate, they inevitably come back and say, "Everyone
says I'm such a good sight-reader - I wasn't when I was here but someone I
guess it all just comes together.")
My point is that being a good sight-reader is, for most people, the result
of a lot of study, the kind of study that's rarely undertaken anymore
because it doesn't improve how well you can play a virtuoso concerto. If
you spend hours a day learning to play your instrument, there's no reason
not to also spend hours a day improving your sight-reading if it's
something you want to get better at. The Mannes approach is based on the
traditional French approach but I'll be the first to admit that putting in
the time and effort to improve one's sight-reading, however you go about
it, is likely to bring results when compared to someone who just bemoans
the fact they can't read and then doesn't take an organized approach to
improving their situation.
Which begs the question - what can a classical guitarist, not a full-time
student in a conservatory, do to become a better reader? The short answer
is to get good at theory. Good reading in any language, music or
otherwise, is all about the recognition of a patterns - until you stop
seeing just a pile of notes and start seeing patterns you recognize, you
won't read well. And all of the theory, ear-training, counterpoint,
dictation, and other study goes into improving just that, your ability to
look at a piece of music and know what you're looking at. It should be,
more or less, like looking at this email - you don't sound out every word
you see, you recognize not only collections of letters as words but
collections of words as well. If you're just looking at notes and seeing
only notes, you won't read well. (There are, of course, exceptions to
this rule, e.g., pianists who don't know theory or ear-training but just
have the knack for putting their fingers on what's on the page in front of
them. In this, it is truly much harder to do on the classical guitar.)
(Sorry for the long rant but I spent about a decade on Mannes' TOM faculty
after having spent a couple of years as a student there so this is an area
near and dear to my heart.)
Want some concrete things to try? Start by taking very simple etudes or
even just chord progressions you create for yourself, e.g., I, IV, V, I,
and play them in all 12 keys. Take a tune you know, e.g., Mary Had A
Little Lamb or "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," or anything more complex,
and play it in all 12 keys, then start playing it in a single key but in
different positions on the neck, starting with open and working your way
up 3 frets or so at a time, and eventually be able to play it in each of
the 12 keys at each of several positions on the neck of the guitar.
And, for your ears, start by taking both tunes you know by memory and
tunes for which you have recordings and writing them down. Musical
dictation practice will definitely help sight-reading. Use children's
records or simple folks songs, replay short sections of the recordings as
much as you need to be sure you've gotten it right.
When you can recognize what you hear, and recognize what you see, you'll
be able to sight-read pretty well, I'll venture to say. Nobody practices
only virtuoso repertoire on their way to becoming a virtuoso performer,
and sight-reading is no different. Practice the skills and component
parts, work on your weaknesses, and the progress will come.
</RANT>
-S-
Excellent advice all around, Steve. Maybe a bit much, but you get out
of it what you put in. Read everything you can get your hands on, violin
music, piano music right hand, left hand bass reading, re-write music
(transcribe), read read read. Time and effort will pay its reward. You
will be amazed in a year's time with your progress in the diligent pursuit
of strengthening this weakness.

Rich
--
Richard F. Sayage
www.savageclassical.com

Remove ZEROSPAM to reply...thx

http://www.savageclassical.com/rmcg/album-rmcg/album.html
Saddles
2005-04-19 05:55:27 UTC
Permalink
Wow. Couldn't be more satisfied with the soundness of your advice. Thanks a
whole heap.
Post by Steve Freides
Post by Saddles
Please advise,
I'm a upper-intermediate lurker ABRSM grade 8 +, who pops up
sometimes. Where I'm located I suffice as a teacher for lack of
anybody better or more qualified, but I think I try to do my rigorous
best.
I'm worried about two things. I have a student whose mother is an
excellent pianist. Mom is worried that her daughter is not
sight-reading well at all. The daughter has passed ABRSM grade 3 but
does have a problem reading fluently. While admitting that, I also
told mom that sight-reading is very difficult on the classical
guitar - maybe moreso than for other instruments. I used some argument
I had read somewhere about the instrument being polyphonic and
requiring position playing at the same time, so that the possibilities
and decisions are multiple for any bit of execution. I also
(mis?)quoted a comment by Liona Boyd where, when asked if she
sight-read well, said "Are you kidding?". To tell the truth, for days
after this I didn't know if she meant "Are you kidding, I couldn't get
where I am unless I sight-read really well. How dare you ask?" or "Are
you kidding? Few people sight-read well, and I'm not fortunate to be
one of them." I still don't know, but I decided on the latter just to
make my point with mom.
Then I said that this does not mean that her daughter shouldn't strive
to be the best sight reader possible and that she had some way to go
yet.
I have another student who will be taking grade 8 in Feb 2006 (having
last past grade 6), who is pretty good but who sometimes gets
frustrated with the hesitancy with which he seems to have to learn his
pieces perhaps compared with his little brother's fleet fingers all
over the paino keybourd even on a first trial of a piece to be learnt.
He's been weeks on Capricho Arabe. I'm only a bit better myself. I
decided to learn Torre Bermeja the other day and it was a week before
I was playing it fluently (with sticky unrefined parts still, of
course). So again I said it was the nature of the instrument.
But is it? Or are the three of us all just dullards? Is there really
some justification for these lowered expectations?
<RANT>
I'm the exception (although perhaps the one that proves the rule). The
"rule" is that classical guitarists can't sight-read, and a similarly
low expectation is held of singers, another area of musical endeavor in
which I've spent and still spend time. I read, in all modesty, very
well, to the point where it takes quite a bit of practice for me to play
anything significantly better than I can sight-read it, but it's not
because I practice sight-reading. It's because I've spent a lot of time
in a proper curriculum, one that takes each of the component parts of
sight-reading, and teaches them separately. At Mannes College of Music,
where I was a student, the entire department is called "techniques of
music" and there are separate studies for sight-singing while saying
solfege syllables, saying solfege syllables in rhythm but without
singing, dictation, harmony, counterpoint (using a modern text
essentially covering the same ground as Fux's "Gradus Ad Parnasum"),
piano, keyboard harmony, analysis, and the list goes on.
(Incidentally, studying this stuff often drives the students crazy and
they often wonder why on earth they have to bother with such difficult
studies that are taught in separate, component-like pieces but, lo and
behold, after they graduate, they inevitably come back and say,
"Everyone says I'm such a good sight-reader - I wasn't when I was here
but someone I guess it all just comes together.")
My point is that being a good sight-reader is, for most people, the
result of a lot of study, the kind of study that's rarely undertaken
anymore because it doesn't improve how well you can play a virtuoso
concerto. If you spend hours a day learning to play your instrument,
there's no reason not to also spend hours a day improving your
sight-reading if it's something you want to get better at. The Mannes
approach is based on the traditional French approach but I'll be the
first to admit that putting in the time and effort to improve one's
sight-reading, however you go about it, is likely to bring results when
compared to someone who just bemoans the fact they can't read and then
doesn't take an organized approach to improving their situation.
Which begs the question - what can a classical guitarist, not a
full-time student in a conservatory, do to become a better reader? The
short answer is to get good at theory. Good reading in any language,
music or otherwise, is all about the recognition of a patterns - until
you stop seeing just a pile of notes and start seeing patterns you
recognize, you won't read well. And all of the theory, ear-training,
counterpoint, dictation, and other study goes into improving just that,
your ability to look at a piece of music and know what you're looking
at. It should be, more or less, like looking at this email - you don't
sound out every word you see, you recognize not only collections of
letters as words but collections of words as well. If you're just
looking at notes and seeing only notes, you won't read well. (There
are, of course, exceptions to this rule, e.g., pianists who don't know
theory or ear-training but just have the knack for putting their fingers
on what's on the page in front of them. In this, it is truly much
harder to do on the classical guitar.)
(Sorry for the long rant but I spent about a decade on Mannes' TOM
faculty after having spent a couple of years as a student there so this
is an area near and dear to my heart.)
Want some concrete things to try? Start by taking very simple etudes or
even just chord progressions you create for yourself, e.g., I, IV, V, I,
and play them in all 12 keys. Take a tune you know, e.g., Mary Had A
Little Lamb or "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," or anything more
complex, and play it in all 12 keys, then start playing it in a single
key but in different positions on the neck, starting with open and
working your way up 3 frets or so at a time, and eventually be able to
play it in each of the 12 keys at each of several positions on the neck
of the guitar.
And, for your ears, start by taking both tunes you know by memory and
tunes for which you have recordings and writing them down. Musical
dictation practice will definitely help sight-reading. Use children's
records or simple folks songs, replay short sections of the recordings
as much as you need to be sure you've gotten it right.
When you can recognize what you hear, and recognize what you see, you'll
be able to sight-read pretty well, I'll venture to say. Nobody
practices only virtuoso repertoire on their way to becoming a virtuoso
performer, and sight-reading is no different. Practice the skills and
component parts, work on your weaknesses, and the progress will come.
</RANT>
-S-
Nancy C Kenfield
2005-04-18 22:52:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Steve Freides
Which begs the question -
I doesn't "beg" the question. It POSES the question. To "beg the question"
means to use circular reasoning in an argument.

Yeah, I know it's all over ads and television commentary. This does not
mean it's being used correctly, just that they all thought it sounded
erudite.

Sorry...I am just a great lover of language and hate seeing it used so
sloppily.

Yeah, my favorite read at the moment is "Eats Shoots and Leaves."

I will now sweep up the clumps of hair lying on the floor, take my meds, and
try to resume a normal life.
Sam Culotta
2005-04-18 23:04:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nancy C Kenfield
Post by Steve Freides
Which begs the question -
I doesn't "beg" the question. It POSES the question. To "beg the question"
means to use circular reasoning in an argument.
Yeah, I know it's all over ads and television commentary. This does not
mean it's being used correctly, just that they all thought it sounded
erudite.
Sorry...I am just a great lover of language and hate seeing it used so
sloppily.
Yeah, my favorite read at the moment is "Eats Shoots and Leaves."
I will now sweep up the clumps of hair lying on the floor, take my meds, and
try to resume a normal life.
Trying to police the language is a losing proposition. Chomsky had it right
when he said: " grammar leaks ".
You're dead right about posing the question rather than begging it.
And frankly, as I really think about it, I *could* care less about this sort
of thing.

Clumps of hair, meds.. you're scaring me, Nancy.

Sam

P.S. Just betwixt us, I believe the book is titled: Eats, Shoots and
Leaves <g>
Larry Deack
2005-04-18 23:23:30 UTC
Permalink
"Sam Culotta"
Post by Sam Culotta
P.S. Just betwixt us, I believe the book is titled: Eats, Shoots and
Leaves <g>
That's the Ted Nugent BBQ version of the book right?
Nancy C Kenfield
2005-04-19 00:30:19 UTC
Permalink
Actually, the title is a sort of grammar pun.

I think it was Winston Churchill who responded to a nit-picking grammarian
with "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put."
Post by Sam Culotta
Trying to police the language is a losing proposition. Chomsky had it right
when he said: " grammar leaks ".
You're dead right about posing the question rather than begging it.
And frankly, as I really think about it, I *could* care less about this sort
of thing.
Clumps of hair, meds.. you're scaring me, Nancy.
Sam
P.S. Just betwixt us, I believe the book is titled: Eats, Shoots and
Leaves <g>
Larry Deack
2005-04-18 23:20:08 UTC
Permalink
"Nancy C Kenfield"
Post by Nancy C Kenfield
Sorry...I am just a great lover of language
and hate seeing it used so sloppily.
I kinda like the freedom to be sloppy without worrying about what the
neighbors think. Some 31 odd countries use English as their official
language but not the US of A. The French even make laws to protect their
language from abuse :-).

"a language is a dialect with an army."
John Rethorst
2005-04-19 01:31:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nancy C Kenfield
I doesn't "beg" the question. It POSES the question. To "beg the question"
means to use circular reasoning in an argument.
Thanks for pointing that out, not that doing so will stop this popular
corruption. As a philosophy student, it grates.
Post by Nancy C Kenfield
Yeah, I know it's all over ads and television commentary. This does not
mean it's being used correctly, just that they all thought it sounded
erudite.
I love how "deconstruct" was hijacked by popular commentary to mean "analyze",
something entirely different.
Post by Nancy C Kenfield
Sorry...I am just a great lover of language and hate seeing it used so
sloppily.
Yeah, my favorite read at the moment is "Eats Shoots and Leaves."
But note Louis Menand's article in the New Yorker about the book, at

http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/?040628crbo_books1
--
John Rethorst
rot13 to email: ***@cbfg.pbz
John Rethorst
2005-04-19 01:38:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Steve Freides
Post by Nancy C Kenfield
I doesn't "beg" the question. It POSES the question. To "beg the question"
means to use circular reasoning in an argument.
A favorite rant of mine is the OP's
Post by Steve Freides
I'm the exception (although perhaps the one that proves the rule).
An exception cannot prove a rule. This phrase is an old one in English, and uses
an old meaning of "prove" - meaning "test". The meaning survives as well in an
automobile proving ground - cars are being tested, not proved. The German word
for test is "prufen". The phrase means that an exception tests a rule: the rule
may or may not survive, depending on the significance of the exception.

[/rant]
--
John Rethorst
rot13 to email: ***@cbfg.pbz
Larry Deack
2005-04-19 01:43:58 UTC
Permalink
"John Rethorst"
Post by John Rethorst
http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/?040628crbo_books1
They want money to read it. Forgetaboutit.
John Rethorst
2005-04-19 02:31:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Larry Deack
"John Rethorst"
Post by John Rethorst
http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/?040628crbo_books1
They want money to read it. Forgetaboutit.
They do? Maybe I've been registered there since it was free. IAC:


The New Yorker, February 25, 2005

Bad Comma

by Louis Menand

Lynne Truss¹s strange grammar.

The first punctuation mistake in ³Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance
Approach to Punctuation² (Gotham; $17.50), by Lynne Truss, a British writer,
appears in the dedication, where a nonrestrictive clause is not preceded by a
comma. It is a wild ride downhill from there. ³Eats, Shoots & Leaves² presents
itself as a call to arms, in a world spinning rapidly into subliteracy, by a hip
yet unapologetic curmudgeon, a stickler for the rules of writing. But it¹s hard
to fend off the suspicion that the whole thing might be a hoax.

The foreword, by Frank McCourt, contains another comma-free nonrestrictive
clause (³I feel no such sympathy for the manager of my local supermarket who
must have a cellarful of apostrophes he doesn¹t know what to do with²) and a
superfluous ellipsis. The preface, by Truss, includes a misplaced apostrophe
(³printers¹ marks²) and two misused semicolons: one that separates unpunctuated
items in a list and one that sets off a dependent clause. About half the
semicolons in the rest of the book are either unnecessary or ungrammatical, and
the comma is deployed as the mood strikes. Sometimes, phrases such as ³of
course² are set off by commas; sometimes, they are not. Doubtful, distracting,
and unwarranted commas turn up in front of restrictive phrases (³Naturally we
become timid about making our insights known, in such inhospitable conditions²),
before correlative conjunctions (³Either this will ring bells for you, or it
won¹t²), and in prepositional phrases (³including biblical names, and any
foreign name with an unpronounced final Œs¹²). Where you most expect
punctuation, it may not show up at all: ³You have to give initial capitals to
the words Biro and Hoover otherwise you automatically get tedious letters from
solicitors².

Parentheses are used, wrongly, to add independent clauses to the ends of
sentences: ³I bought a copy of Eric Partridge¹s Usage and Abusage and covered it
in sticky-backed plastic so that it would last a lifetime (it has)². Citation
form varies: one passage from the Bible is identified as ³Luke, xxiii, 43² and
another, a page later, as ³Isaiah xl, 3². The word ³abuzz² is printed with a
hyphen, which it does not have. We are informed that when a sentence ends with a
quotation American usage always places the terminal punctuation inside the
quotation marks, which is not so. (An American would not write ³Who said ŒI
cannot tell a lie?¹²) A line from ³My Fair Lady² is misquoted (³The Arabs learn
Arabian with the speed of summer lightning²). And it is stated that The New
Yorker, ³that famously punctilious periodical², renders ³the nineteen-eighties²
as the ³1980¹s², which it does not. The New Yorker renders ³the
nineteen-eighties² as ³the nineteen-eighties².

Then, there is the translation problem. For some reason, the folks at Gotham
Books elected not to make any changes for the American edition, a typesetting
convenience that makes the book virtually useless for American readers. As Truss
herself notes, some conventions of British usage employed in ³Eats, Shoots &
Leaves² are taboo in the United States for example, the placement of commas and
periods outside quotation marks, ³like this². The book also omits the serial
comma, as in ³eats, shoots and leaves², which is acceptable in the United States
only in newspapers and commercial magazines. The supreme peculiarity of this
peculiar publishing phenomenon is that the British are less rigid about
punctuation and related matters, such as footnote and bibliographic form, than
Americans are. An Englishwoman lecturing Americans on semicolons is a little
like an American lecturing the French on sauces. Some of Truss¹s departures from
punctuation norms are just British laxness. In a book that pretends to be all
about firmness, though, this is not a good excuse. The main rule in grammatical
form is to stick to whatever rules you start out with, and the most
objectionable thing about Truss¹s writing is its inconsistency. Either Truss
needed a copy editor or her copy editor needed a copy editor. Still, the book
has been a No. 1 best seller in both England and the United States.

³I am not a grammarian², Truss says. No quarrel there. Although she has dug up
information about things like the history of the colon, Truss is so uninterested
in the actual rules of punctuation that she even names the ones she flouts for
example, the rule that semicolons cannot be used to set off dependent clauses.
(Unless you are using it to disambiguate items in a list, a semicolon should be
used only between independent clauses that is, clauses that can stand as
complete sentences on their own.) That is the rule, she explains, but she
violates it frequently. She thinks this makes her sound like Virginia Woolf. And
she admits that her editors are continually removing the commas that she tends
to place before conjunctions.

Why would a person who is not just vague about the rules but disinclined to
follow them bother to produce a guide to punctuation? Truss, a former sports
columnist for the London Times, appears to have been set ablaze by two
obsessions: superfluous apostrophes in commercial signage (³Potatoe¹s² and that
sort of thing) and the elision of punctuation, along with uppercase letters, in
e-mail messages. Are these portents of the night, soon coming, in which no man
can read? Truss warns us that they are ³If we value the way we have been
trained to think by centuries of absorbing the culture of the printed word, we
must not allow the language to return to the chaotic scriptio continua swamp
from which it so bravely crawled less than two thousand years ago² but it¹s
hard to know how seriously to take her, because her prose is so caffeinated that
you can¹t always separate the sense from the sensibility. And that, undoubtedly,
is the point, for it is the sensibility, the ³I¹m mad as hell² act, that has got
her her readers. A characteristic passage:

For any true stickler, you see, the sight of the plural word ³Book¹s² with an
apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the
stages of bereavement, though greatly accelerated. First there is shock. Within
seconds, shock gives way to disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger.
Finally (and this is where the analogy breaks down), anger gives way to a
righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage with the aid of a
permanent marker.

Some people do feel this way, and they do not wish to be handed the line that
³language is always evolving², or some other slice of liberal pie. They don¹t
even want to know what the distinction between a restrictive and a
non-restrictive clause might be. They are like people who lose control when they
hear a cell phone ring in a public place: they just need to vent. Truss is their
Jeremiah. They don¹t care where her commas are, because her heart is in the
right place.

Though she has persuaded herself otherwise, Truss doesn¹t want people to care
about correctness. She wants them to care about writing and about using the full
resources of the language. ³Eats, Shoots & Leaves² is really a ³decline of print
culture² book disguised as a style manual (poorly disguised). Truss has got
things mixed up because she has confused two aspects of writing: the
technological and the aesthetic. Writing is an instrument that was invented for
recording, storing, and communicating. Using the relatively small number of
symbols on the keyboard, you can record, store, and communicate a virtually
infinite range of information, and encode meanings with virtually any degree of
complexity. The system works entirely by relationships the relationship of one
symbol to another, of one word to another, of one sentence to another. The
function of most punctuation commas, colons and semicolons, dashes, and so on
is to help organize the relationships among the parts of a sentence. Its role is
semantic: to add precision and complexity to meaning. It increases the
information potential of strings of words.

What most punctuation does not do is add color, texture, or flavor to the
writing. Those are all things that belong to the aesthetics, and literary
aesthetics are weirdly intangible. You can¹t taste writing. It has no color and
makes no sound. Its shape has no significance. But people say that someone¹s
prose is ³colorful² or ³pungent² or ³shapeless² or ³lyrical². When written
language is decoded, it seems to trigger sensations that are unique to writing
but that usually have to be described by analogy to some other activity. When
deli owners put up signs that read ³ŒIced¹ Tea², the single quotation marks are
intended to add extraliterary significance to the message, as if they were the
grammatical equivalent of red ink. Truss is quite clear about the role played by
punctuation in making words mean something. But she also it is part of her
general inconsistency suggests that semicolons, for example, signal readers to
pause. She likes to animate her punctuation marks, to talk about the apostrophe
and the dash as though they were little cartoon characters livening up the page.
She is anthropomorphizing a technology. It¹s a natural thing to do. As she
points out, in earlier times punctuation did a lot more work than it does today,
and some of the work involved adjusting the timing in sentences. But this is no
longer the norm, and trying to punctuate in that spirit now only makes for
ambiguity and annoyance.

One of the most mysterious of writing¹s immaterial properties is what people
call ³voice². Editors sometimes refer to it, in a phrase that underscores the
paradox at the heart of the idea, as ³the voice on the page². Prose can show
many virtues, including originality, without having a voice. It may avoid clich,
radiate conviction, be grammatically so clean that your grandmother could eat
off it. But none of this has anything to do with this elusive entity the
³voice². There are probably all kinds of literary sins that prevent a piece of
writing from having a voice, but there seems to be no guaranteed technique for
creating one. Grammatical correctness doesn¹t insure it. Calculated
incorrectness doesn¹t, either. Ingenuity, wit, sarcasm, euphony, frequent
outbreaks of the first-person singular any of these can enliven prose without
giving it a voice. You can set the stage as elaborately as you like, but either
the phantom appears or it doesn¹t.

When it does appear, the subject is often irrelevant. ³I do not care for movies
very much and I rarely see them², W. H. Auden wrote to the editors of The Nation
in 1944. ³Further, I am suspicious of criticism as the literary genre which,
more than any other, recruits epigones, pedants without insight, intellectuals
without love. I am all the more surprised, therefore, to find myself not only
reading Mr. Agee before I read anyone else in The Nation but also consciously
looking forward all week to reading him again². A lot of the movies that James
Agee reviewed between 1942 and 1948, when he was The Nation¹s film critic, were
negligible then and are forgotten now. But you can still read his columns with
pleasure. They continue to pass the ultimate test of good writing: it is more
painful to stop reading them than it is to keep going. When you get to the end
of Agee¹s sentences, you wish, like Auden, that there were more sentences.

Writing that has a voice is writing that has something like a personality. But
whose personality is it? As with all art, there is no straight road from the
product back to the producer. There are writers loved for their humor who are
not funny people, and writers admired for their eloquence who swallow their
words, never look you in the eye, and can¹t seem to finish a sentence. Wisdom on
the page correlates with wisdom in the writer about as frequently as a high
batting average correlates with a high I.Q.: they just seem to have very little
to do with one another. Witty and charming people can produce prose of sneering
sententiousness, and fretful neurotics can, to their readers, seem as though
they must be delightful to live with. Personal drabness, through some obscure
neural kink, can deliver verbal blooms. Readers who meet a writer whose voice
they have fallen in love with usually need to make a small adjustment afterward
in order to hang on to the infatuation.

The uncertainty about what it means for writing to have a voice arises from the
metaphor itself. Writers often claim that they never write something that they
would not say. It is hard to know how this could be literally true. Speech is
somatic, a bodily function, and it is accompanied by physical inflections tone
of voice, winks, smiles, raised eyebrows, hand gestures that are not
reproducible in writing. Spoken language is repetitive, fragmentary,
contradictory, limited in vocabulary, loaded down with space holders (³like²,
³um², ³you know²) all the things writing teachers tell students not to do. And
yet people can generally make themselves understood right away. As a medium,
writing is a million times weaker than speech. It¹s a hieroglyph competing with
a symphony.

The other reason that speech is a bad metaphor for writing is that writing, for
ninety-nine per cent of people who do it, is the opposite of spontaneous. Some
writers write many drafts of a piece; some write one draft, at the pace of a
snail after a night on the town. But chattiness, slanginess, in-yourface-ness,
and any other features of writing that are conventionally characterized as ³like
speech² are usually the results of laborious experimentation, revision,
calibration, walks around the block, unnecessary phone calls, and recalibration.
Writers, by nature, tend to be people in whom l¹esprit de l¹escalier is a
recurrent experience: they are always thinking of the perfect riposte after the
moment for saying it has passed. So they take a few years longer and put it in
print. Writers are not mere copyists of language; they are polishers,
embellishers, perfecters. They spend hours getting the timing right so that
what they write sounds completely unrehearsed.

Does this mean that the written ³voice² is never spontaneous and natural but
always an artificial construction of language? This is not a proposition that
most writers could accept. The act of writing is personal; it feels personal.
The unfunny person who is a humorous writer does not think, of her work, ³That¹s
not really me². Critics speak of ³the persona², a device for compelling, in the
interests of licensing the interpretative impulse, a divorce between author and
text. But no one, or almost no one, writes ³as a persona². People write as
people, and if there were nothing personal about the result few human beings
would try to manufacture it for a living. Composition is a troublesome, balky,
sometimes sleep-depriving business. What makes it especially so is that the rate
of production is beyond the writer¹s control. You have to wait, and what you are
waiting for is something inside you to come up with the words. That something,
for writers, is the voice.

A better basis than speaking for the metaphor of voice in writing is singing.
You can¹t tell if someone can sing or not from the way she talks, and although
³natural phrasing² and ³from the heart² are prized attributes of song, singing
that way requires rehearsal, preparation, and getting in touch with whatever it
is inside singers that, by a neural kink or the grace of God, enables them to
turn themselves into vessels of musical sound. Truss is right (despite what she
preaches) when she implies, by her own practice, that the rules really don¹t
have that much to do with it. Before Luciano Pavarotti walked onstage at the
opera house, he was in the habit of taking a bite of an apple. That¹s how he
helped his voice to sound spontaneous and natural.

What writers hear when they are trying to write is something more like singing
than like speaking. Inside your head, you¹re yakking away to yourself all the
time. Getting that voice down on paper is a depressing experience. When you
write, you¹re trying to transpose what you¹re thinking into something that is
less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music. This writing voice
is the voice that people are surprised not to encounter when they ³meet the
writer². The writer is not so surprised. Writers labor constantly under the
anxiety that this voice, though they have found it a hundred times before, has
disappeared forever, and that they will never hear it again. Some writers, when
they begin a new piece, spend hours rereading their old stuff, trying to
remember how they did it, what it¹s supposed to sound like. This rarely works;
nothing works reliably. Sooner or later, usually later than everyone involved
would have preferred, the voice shows up, takes a bite of the apple, and walks
onstage.
--
John Rethorst
rot13 to email: ***@cbfg.pbz
Larry Deack
2005-04-19 03:29:18 UTC
Permalink
"John Rethorst"
Perfect for RMCG writers! Thank you so much for the very apropos post, with
the music at the end.
Steve Freides
2005-04-19 02:01:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nancy C Kenfield
Post by Steve Freides
Which begs the question -
I doesn't "beg" the question. It POSES the question. To "beg the question"
means to use circular reasoning in an argument.
I sit corrected; thank you.
Post by Nancy C Kenfield
Yeah, I know it's all over ads and television commentary. This does not
mean it's being used correctly, just that they all thought it sounded
erudite.
Sorry...I am just a great lover of language and hate seeing it used so
sloppily.
No apology is necessary.

-S-
Post by Nancy C Kenfield
Yeah, my favorite read at the moment is "Eats Shoots and Leaves."
I will now sweep up the clumps of hair lying on the floor, take my meds, and
try to resume a normal life.
David Raleigh Arnold
2005-04-18 16:43:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by Steve Freides
Which begs the question - what can a classical guitarist, not a full-time
student in a conservatory, do to become a better reader? The short answer
is to get good at theory.
No, the short answer is to get good at counting. daveA
--
Practice pie charts, plans and schedules are good.
Practice logs, diaries and records are good.
When they fail, and they will, do another.
How else can repeated failure be a recipe for success?

The only technical exercises for all guitarists worth a lifetime
of practice: "Dynamic Guitar Technique". Nothing else is close.
Free download: http://www.openguitar.com/instruction.html
daveA David Raleigh Arnold dra..at..openguitar.com
Greg M. Silverman
2005-04-18 16:47:29 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
Post by Steve Freides
Which begs the question - what can a classical guitarist, not a full-time
student in a conservatory, do to become a better reader? The short answer
is to get good at theory.
No, the short answer is to get good at counting. daveA
or more generally, quickly identifying rhythmic groupings.
David Raleigh Arnold
2005-04-18 17:02:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by Greg M. Silverman
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
Post by Steve Freides
Which begs the question - what can a classical guitarist, not a
full-time student in a conservatory, do to become a better reader? The
short answer is to get good at theory.
No, the short answer is to get good at counting. daveA
or more generally, quickly identifying rhythmic groupings.
What if there are no groupings? Not more general.

Also, counting should be an aspect of music theory, and
the OR may have meant it that way, but unfortunately
music theory usually excludes rhythm except for the
rather insubstantial idea of 'harmonic rhythm' in a
harmony class.

I'm happier with a qualified answer. daveA
--
Practice pie charts, plans and schedules are good.
Practice logs, diaries and records are good.
When they fail, and they will, do another.
How else can repeated failure be a recipe for success?

The only technical exercises for all guitarists worth a lifetime
of practice: "Dynamic Guitar Technique". Nothing else is close.
Free download: http://www.openguitar.com/instruction.html
daveA David Raleigh Arnold dra..at..openguitar.com
Greg M. Silverman
2005-04-18 17:16:49 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
Post by Greg M. Silverman
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
Post by Steve Freides
Which begs the question - what can a classical guitarist, not a
full-time student in a conservatory, do to become a better reader? The
short answer is to get good at theory.
No, the short answer is to get good at counting. daveA
or more generally, quickly identifying rhythmic groupings.
What if there are no groupings? Not more general.
True, how about this instead, "ability to quickly decipher underlying
rhythmic structure and to develop the ability to pulse as per the
underlying rhythm on-the-fly."
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
Also, counting should be an aspect of music theory, and
the OR may have meant it that way, but unfortunately
music theory usually excludes rhythm except for the
rather insubstantial idea of 'harmonic rhythm' in a
harmony class.
I'm happier with a qualified answer. daveA
Scott Daughtrey
2005-04-18 17:19:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
Post by Greg M. Silverman
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
Post by Steve Freides
Which begs the question - what can a classical guitarist, not a
full-time student in a conservatory, do to become a better reader? The
short answer is to get good at theory.
No, the short answer is to get good at counting. daveA
or more generally, quickly identifying rhythmic groupings.
What if there are no groupings? Not more general.
Also, counting should be an aspect of music theory, and
the OR may have meant it that way, but unfortunately
music theory usually excludes rhythm except for the
rather insubstantial idea of 'harmonic rhythm' in a
harmony class.
I'm with you here. Studying reading rhythm in isolation (from note reading) is
an excellent way to increase sight reading ability. I make most of my students
work thru Syncopation For The Modern Drummer (and book 2), having them use
their feet to tap the kick drum rhythms (nothing more than quarter notes thru
the entire book) while they tap the snare drum rhythms on their legs. Berklee,
MIT and other schools/methods also have similiar approaches.

Scott
Larry Deack
2005-04-18 17:36:24 UTC
Permalink
"David Raleigh Arnold"
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
Also, counting should be an aspect of music theory, and
the OR may have meant it that way, but unfortunately
music theory usually excludes rhythm except for the
rather insubstantial idea of 'harmonic rhythm' in a
harmony class.
Not sure who you studied with but as I pointed out in another thread Paul
Hindemith was doing this a long time ago. My theory teacher studied with him
so we got plenty of complex rhythm work and not just harmonic rhythm.

As classical guitarists let's also not forget Dusan Bogdanovic's
Polyrhythmic and Polymetric Studies (1990) EB 3320
Steve Freides
2005-04-18 17:24:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
Post by Steve Freides
Which begs the question - what can a classical guitarist, not a full-time
student in a conservatory, do to become a better reader? The short answer
is to get good at theory.
No, the short answer is to get good at counting. daveA
This is a fair point but I'll hazard a guess that more people have
issues with reading the notes than with reading the rhythms. Needless
to say, a complete curriculum like the one I went through and later
taught in includes very extensive rhythm training, and the "short
answer" is that there really isn't a short answer except to realize any
work you do that's focused on improving your sight-reading is better
than none.

For anyone interested, the traditional French approach includes always
conducting when you are singing or saying the solfege syllables. The
book we used was by Paquale Bona, "Complete Method for Rhythmical
Articulation" or something like that. From this book, we spoke
syllables while conducting, and we learned to perform each exercise in
the book in all seven clefs. The method was originally developed for
singers but the general feeling was that the music itself was too hard
for non-singers to do, so other, more musical things were used for
singing solfege, and this only for speaking solfege.

Bona, even saying the names of the notes in English rather in solfege,
will help anyone and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Just being
able to name notes from the easy exercises in the beginning, which are
first scales and then series of consecutive thirds, fourths, fifths,
etc., really gets your brain working in a way that's sure to help with
sight-reading. It is, however, absolute drugery for most people - you
are forewarned. :)

-S-
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
--
Practice pie charts, plans and schedules are good.
Practice logs, diaries and records are good.
When they fail, and they will, do another.
How else can repeated failure be a recipe for success?
The only technical exercises for all guitarists worth a lifetime
of practice: "Dynamic Guitar Technique". Nothing else is close.
Free download: http://www.openguitar.com/instruction.html
daveA David Raleigh Arnold dra..at..openguitar.com
Scott Daughtrey
2005-04-18 17:33:27 UTC
Permalink
On Mon, 18 Apr 2005 13:24:14 -0400, "Steve Freides"
Post by Steve Freides
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
Post by Steve Freides
Which begs the question - what can a classical guitarist, not a full-time
student in a conservatory, do to become a better reader? The short answer
is to get good at theory.
No, the short answer is to get good at counting. daveA
This is a fair point but I'll hazard a guess that more people have
issues with reading the notes than with reading the rhythms.
Not sure this is true, Steve, but even if it were - reading rhythms and
developing a stronger sense of rhythms in isolation helps a person focus less
on reading the rhythms when there are notes attached, allowing one to
concentrate more on the specific note reading.

Scott
Post by Steve Freides
Needless
to say, a complete curriculum like the one I went through and later
taught in includes very extensive rhythm training, and the "short
answer" is that there really isn't a short answer except to realize any
work you do that's focused on improving your sight-reading is better
than none.
For anyone interested, the traditional French approach includes always
conducting when you are singing or saying the solfege syllables. The
book we used was by Paquale Bona, "Complete Method for Rhythmical
Articulation" or something like that. From this book, we spoke
syllables while conducting, and we learned to perform each exercise in
the book in all seven clefs. The method was originally developed for
singers but the general feeling was that the music itself was too hard
for non-singers to do, so other, more musical things were used for
singing solfege, and this only for speaking solfege.
Bona, even saying the names of the notes in English rather in solfege,
will help anyone and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Just being
able to name notes from the easy exercises in the beginning, which are
first scales and then series of consecutive thirds, fourths, fifths,
etc., really gets your brain working in a way that's sure to help with
sight-reading. It is, however, absolute drugery for most people - you
are forewarned. :)
-S-
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
--
Practice pie charts, plans and schedules are good.
Practice logs, diaries and records are good.
When they fail, and they will, do another.
How else can repeated failure be a recipe for success?
The only technical exercises for all guitarists worth a lifetime
of practice: "Dynamic Guitar Technique". Nothing else is close.
Free download: http://www.openguitar.com/instruction.html
daveA David Raleigh Arnold dra..at..openguitar.com
virtual
2005-04-18 18:32:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Raleigh Arnold
Post by Steve Freides
Which begs the question - what can a classical guitarist, not a full-time
student in a conservatory, do to become a better reader? The short answer
is to get good at theory.
No, the short answer is to get good at counting. daveA
Hi Dave

I agree with you. If you are not good at counting you will never be good
at reading.

But then, a good knowledge of theory, harmony, and analysis helps you
anticipate which way the music will turn.

I still think counting is part of theory ;)

Have fun
--
Virtual Guitar Center
Resources to play the guitar for fun and relaxation
http://homepage.mac.com/vanveeren/index.html
***@yahoo.com
e***@yahoo.com
2005-04-18 19:10:05 UTC
Permalink
The ability to accurately count note values and then measures comes in
handy when playing in an ensemble and your part has 20 measures of 2/2
rest then later 18 measures of 4/4 rest.

Ed S.
Larry Deack
2005-04-18 19:14:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by e***@yahoo.com
The ability to accurately count note values and then measures comes in
handy when playing in an ensemble and your part has 20 measures of 2/2
rest then later 18 measures of 4/4 rest.
I do this in the beginning when sight reading but later on and certainly
by performance time I tend to take my cue from the other parts and not count
at all. Once I ca hear the sense of the whole score I counting long sections
of no playing is not necessary and rather insecure for me compared to
anticipating the music.
e***@yahoo.com
2005-04-19 01:27:29 UTC
Permalink
It is really exhilerating when I find I'm finally able to focus on the
other parts more than on my own part. I learned that knowing my part
is just the start and knowing the other parts aurally is the goal. It
is a lot of extra work getting ready for the ensemble performance but
it is worth it. I found more time for practice; I just gave up
watching TV after 9PM.

Ed S.
e***@yahoo.com
2005-04-19 15:57:46 UTC
Permalink
Post by Steve Freides
Post by Saddles
Please advise,
I'm a upper-intermediate lurker ABRSM grade 8 +, who pops up
sometimes. Where I'm located I suffice as a teacher for lack of
anybody better or more qualified, but I think I try to do my
rigorous
Post by Steve Freides
Post by Saddles
best.
I'm worried about two things. I have a student whose mother is an
excellent pianist. Mom is worried that her daughter is not
sight-reading well at all. The daughter has passed ABRSM grade 3 but
does have a problem reading fluently. While admitting that, I also
told mom that sight-reading is very difficult on the classical
guitar - maybe moreso than for other instruments. I used some argument
I had read somewhere about the instrument being polyphonic and
requiring position playing at the same time, so that the
possibilities
Post by Steve Freides
Post by Saddles
and decisions are multiple for any bit of execution. I also
(mis?)quoted a comment by Liona Boyd where, when asked if she
sight-read well, said "Are you kidding?". To tell the truth, for days
after this I didn't know if she meant "Are you kidding, I couldn't get
where I am unless I sight-read really well. How dare you ask?" or "Are
you kidding? Few people sight-read well, and I'm not fortunate to be
one of them." I still don't know, but I decided on the latter just to
make my point with mom.
Then I said that this does not mean that her daughter shouldn't strive
to be the best sight reader possible and that she had some way to go
yet.
I have another student who will be taking grade 8 in Feb 2006 (having
last past grade 6), who is pretty good but who sometimes gets
frustrated with the hesitancy with which he seems to have to learn his
pieces perhaps compared with his little brother's fleet fingers all
over the paino keybourd even on a first trial of a piece to be learnt.
He's been weeks on Capricho Arabe. I'm only a bit better myself. I
decided to learn Torre Bermeja the other day and it was a week before
I was playing it fluently (with sticky unrefined parts still, of
course). So again I said it was the nature of the instrument.
But is it? Or are the three of us all just dullards? Is there really
some justification for these lowered expectations?
<RANT>
I'm the exception (although perhaps the one that proves the rule).
The
Post by Steve Freides
"rule" is that classical guitarists can't sight-read, and a similarly
low expectation is held of singers, another area of musical endeavor in
which I've spent and still spend time. I read, in all modesty, very
well, to the point where it takes quite a bit of practice for me to play
anything significantly better than I can sight-read it, but it's not
because I practice sight-reading. It's because I've spent a lot of time
in a proper curriculum, one that takes each of the component parts of
sight-reading, and teaches them separately. At Mannes College of Music,
where I was a student, the entire department is called "techniques of
music" and there are separate studies for sight-singing while saying
solfege syllables, saying solfege syllables in rhythm but without
singing, dictation, harmony, counterpoint (using a modern text
essentially covering the same ground as Fux's "Gradus Ad Parnasum"),
piano, keyboard harmony, analysis, and the list goes on.
(Incidentally, studying this stuff often drives the students crazy and
they often wonder why on earth they have to bother with such
difficult
Post by Steve Freides
studies that are taught in separate, component-like pieces but, lo and
behold, after they graduate, they inevitably come back and say,
"Everyone says I'm such a good sight-reader - I wasn't when I was here
but someone I guess it all just comes together.")
My point is that being a good sight-reader is, for most people, the
result of a lot of study, the kind of study that's rarely undertaken
anymore because it doesn't improve how well you can play a virtuoso
concerto. If you spend hours a day learning to play your instrument,
there's no reason not to also spend hours a day improving your
sight-reading if it's something you want to get better at. The Mannes
approach is based on the traditional French approach but I'll be the
first to admit that putting in the time and effort to improve one's
sight-reading, however you go about it, is likely to bring results when
compared to someone who just bemoans the fact they can't read and then
doesn't take an organized approach to improving their situation.
Which begs the question - what can a classical guitarist, not a
full-time student in a conservatory, do to become a better reader?
The
Post by Steve Freides
short answer is to get good at theory. Good reading in any language,
music or otherwise, is all about the recognition of a patterns - until
you stop seeing just a pile of notes and start seeing patterns you
recognize, you won't read well. And all of the theory, ear-training,
counterpoint, dictation, and other study goes into improving just that,
your ability to look at a piece of music and know what you're looking
at. It should be, more or less, like looking at this email - you don't
sound out every word you see, you recognize not only collections of
letters as words but collections of words as well. If you're just
looking at notes and seeing only notes, you won't read well. (There
are, of course, exceptions to this rule, e.g., pianists who don't know
theory or ear-training but just have the knack for putting their fingers
on what's on the page in front of them. In this, it is truly much
harder to do on the classical guitar.)
(Sorry for the long rant but I spent about a decade on Mannes' TOM
faculty after having spent a couple of years as a student there so this
is an area near and dear to my heart.)
Want some concrete things to try? Start by taking very simple etudes or
even just chord progressions you create for yourself, e.g., I, IV, V, I,
and play them in all 12 keys. Take a tune you know, e.g., Mary Had A
Little Lamb or "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," or anything more
complex, and play it in all 12 keys, then start playing it in a single
key but in different positions on the neck, starting with open and
working your way up 3 frets or so at a time, and eventually be able to
play it in each of the 12 keys at each of several positions on the neck
of the guitar.
And, for your ears, start by taking both tunes you know by memory and
tunes for which you have recordings and writing them down. Musical
dictation practice will definitely help sight-reading. Use
children's
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records or simple folks songs, replay short sections of the
recordings
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as much as you need to be sure you've gotten it right.
When you can recognize what you hear, and recognize what you see, you'll
be able to sight-read pretty well, I'll venture to say. Nobody
practices only virtuoso repertoire on their way to becoming a
virtuoso
Post by Steve Freides
performer, and sight-reading is no different. Practice the skills and
component parts, work on your weaknesses, and the progress will come.
</RANT>
-S-
I wanted to suggest to people who cannot attend a Music Conservatory to
consider the ABRSM Grade exams that include Aural testing (Associated
Board of the Royal Schools of Music). They publish a training book
with a double CD Aural training course. Areas of training and testing
include identifying the pulse, strong/weak beats, whether it is in 2 or
3 time; echo/sing back 15 2-bar examples in 2 or 3 time; listen to a
sample of music played different the second time and identify what was
changed, how it was changed as far as note values. The ABRSM tests in
the US as well as many other countries. The Royal Canadian
Conservatory of music, RCM, doesn't test in the US. I'm starting with
grade 1 exam in May. The poor person who has to endure my voice.

http://www.abrsm.org/?page=regions/us/eng/

Classical Guitar syllabus
http://www.abrsm.org/resources/allGuitar0506.pdf

Ed S.

John E. Golden
2005-04-19 00:08:28 UTC
Permalink
"Saddles" <memarksatcoralwavedotcom> asked about sight reading:

Two methods my guitar teacher (hereinafter the Maestro) uses, which I think
are excellent:

1. Julio Sagreras' six books. All six books are filled with very melodic
exercises that are incredible and incredibly beautiful sight reading
exercises. Old Julio (died in 1942) introduces students to the fingerboard
as painlessly as I believe is possible.

2. "Treble Clef Rhythyms Complete" by Dr. Charles Colin and Bugs Bower.
Contains eighty-two exercises, all in 4/4 time, and ever more complicated.
The authors are horn players, but these exercises are wonderful for
guitarists, both to improve note "sight reading" and rhythym counting. My
teachers idea is to go through the book twice, first playing in the third
position and the second time, in the seventh position. However, since I
was having trouble geting started, I'm going through the book in the first
position. Then, I guess I'll have to go back and do it again in the third
and seventh positions. By the time I'm done with all that, hopefully I'll
be able to make these rhythym exercises sound somewhat musical.

My teacher always uses what he considers the best books available, and I
trust his judgement.

Regards,
John E. Golden

P. S. Hope I didn't violate any grammar rules above.....I wouldn't want
Nancy all over my a**.
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