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