My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Sightreading Reality Check - there's more than meets the eye

I think about the skill of sightreading music a lot. My pontificating on the topic goes hand in hand with my fascination about the brain and about what we are capable of doing as humans, more specifically as musicians, and even more specifically as pianists. Sightreading is a complex, multi-layered task that involves more than our eyes and hands; just to name a few layers, it involves our ears, imagination, problem solving skills, a kinesthetic sense of the keyboard's topography in relation to our own body, and recall of all that we've experienced at the piano previously. The complexity can often overwhelm me when I'm discussing the topic or coaching someone privately, especially since there seems to be two prevalent views of this skill's acquisition:
  • You're either born with the skill or you're not so you shouldn't expect to get better
  • You can get better by just doing it 
In my opinion, neither of these are correct. I do think some people are perhaps born with skills that help one be more naturally better readers and I also know from personal experience that having constant exposure, especially early on in one's musical journey, can make skill acquisition happen more naturally and easily. But I also believe that it's possible for anyone to improve their sightreading no matter where they are in their journey but it's not through "just doing it" on a regular basis. Yes we need to practice it consistently but we need to do it with strategies in mind to address the many different skills that go into musically processing and reproducing the clouds of black scratches on the page that manage to represent music and all that it can entail. 

I've blogged about much of this before so feel free to check out my other posts on the topic. In today's post I want to share two recent videos that further explain my thoughts on the topic and recommendations for how others can work on sightreading themselves. The first video is on the shorter side. For a more extensive discussion, see the second one.

This first video clip is from the end of the 100th episode of my Sightreading Maverick show, which I livestream most Sundays at 1pm ET on my YouTube channel. 

This second video is an interview I did with David Holter who teaches piano in North Carolina. In the past year he started up a Facebook group specifically for pianists who are interested in improving their sightreading skills called the Piano Sight Reading Community. It's a wonderfully supportive group that now has over 1700 members - I highly recommend joining whether you're a teacher, student, or amateur. We tease out a lot of different issues over the course of 45 minutes. 

If after watching either or both of these you still have any questions or want to share your own experiences or thoughts, please do feel free to comment here. 

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