Sight-reading in Associated Board exams

Questions on learning to play the piano, and piano music.

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Do you think there should be the choice of EITHER sight-reading OR memorisation in Associated Board practical exams?

Yes
4
22%
No
14
78%
 
Total votes: 18

Liz May
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Sight-reading in Associated Board exams

Post by Liz May » 31 Jul 2003, 00:24

I am a piano teacher and have always thought that *sight-reading* was a very useful skill to acquire. In adulthood, most of our pupils are going to be playing their instruments for enjoyment, not as professionals, and are certainly not going to have much time to practise a piece to perfection. However, if they have good sight-reading skills, they can at least have the fun of borrowing a music score from a library and making a stab at playing through the pieces, in the same way as one might borrow a novel to read without perhaps understanding every single word!

However, in my experience, there are some pupils who are clearly never going to achieve these sight-reading skills. These are often the very same pupils who find it easy to memorise music, which is something I (and no doubt many other good sight-readers) find difficult to do! It is also a fact that Associated Board practical exams are biased towards sight-reading rather than memory skills. I wonder therefore whether it would fairer to all concerned if TWO options were available in the exam: 1) to take the sight-reading test OR 2) to play one of the set pieces from memory (perhaps two pieces from memory in the case of the very early grades).

I would be very interested to receive your comments on the above, before I write to the Associated Board.

magriggs
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Sight-reading in Associated Board exams

Post by magriggs » 06 Aug 2003, 13:42

As much as I *hate* the sight-reading part of exams, I think it's a vital skill and that it should be examined. Learning the set pieces and playing them from memory is (for me, at least) trivial.

mike

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Sight reading

Post by KJH » 03 Nov 2003, 13:11

I read your comments with interest but as an aside I have a dyslexic child who plays the trumpet and does remarkably well in his exams but struggles immensley with sight reading on the day. There is no allowance at all for his disability yet with almost every other exam he will come across his dyslxia will be taken into account. Being able to memorise pieces for grades would see him coming out with high honours.

l_walder
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Sight Reading

Post by l_walder » 17 Nov 2003, 11:15

The danger with allowing a choice between sight-reading and memorising is that those who are not good at sight-reading will never choose that option, and so will never get better at it.

I have found with my pupils as others have said that those who are good at sight-reading are not good at memorising and vice versa. Those who want to do exams are forced to confront sight-reading and by a lot of work on this can actually get a lot better than they believed possible. None of my pupils have failed the sight-reading bit of the exam even those who had a complete mental block about it - I have just drummed in the three principles: As a minimum get your hands into the initial position, look at the keysignature, then once you start keep going. The immense pleasure of actually achieving a pass mark in this section has given them great confidence to improve on this as well.

qjamanka
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sight reading

Post by qjamanka » 26 Mar 2005, 18:56

Hello!
I'm karolina. I'm piano teacher and student from Poland.
I'm very interrested in your discussion about sight reading as I'm writing my diploma essay about piano sight reading (a prima vista). I would e very happy if you could give me some ideas, maybe you know some books, articles etc? Or maybe simple give your opinion on teaching sight- reading.
Thank you in advance,
karolina

Gill the Piano
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Post by Gill the Piano » 28 Mar 2005, 10:31

If you were to contact the Associated Board at Potland Square, London, they have a publication whose name escapes me (Allegro? Can't remember - getting old and stupid! :roll: ) sent to teachers and people who enter themselves for exams. In one of these I'm fairly sure there was an in-depth discussion on sightreading. The publication is free of charge and I'm sure if you asked them they'd send you a copy of the relevant issue.

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Post by Gill the Piano » 28 Mar 2005, 10:32

That should read 'PORTland Square'...can't type, either! :oops:

Rolandroger
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Sight Reading

Post by Rolandroger » 07 Jul 2005, 10:44

Hi

I studied piano to grade 8 and of course sight reading a piece of music is a fundamental and necessary skill. Afterall, how are you going to learn a new piano score if you cannot read the music to start with. (Unless you have an exceptional "ear" and can "imitate" the performance having heard it on CD or radio)

However having said that, I feel that to artistically express oneself in music, one should learn the piece technically by sight reading, commit the score to memory and then play the piece with great expression and emotion. Afterall this is surely what a concert pianist giving a public performance would do.

Last year my son's piano teacher gave a public performance (small) in our local village hall. She performed every piece reading from the score in front of her. The performances were largely technically correct in respect to the printed score, but were wooden, lacked any expressive emotion, and were peppered with more than a few "wrong notes" due to slavishly following the score.

My advice is to read the score, commit it to memory, and play the piece like you've never played it before.

Gill the Piano
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Post by Gill the Piano » 07 Jul 2005, 17:38

But pianists always USED to play from music; I believe it was Liszt showing off (damn him!!!) who started the old memory lark! :cry:

Chimera
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Post by Chimera » 07 Jul 2005, 21:56

i dont think exams help much with regard to sight reading, ive been playing for about 10 years, started when i was 7, i did associated board exams till i was about 13, got to grade 4 cos i didnt practice and didnt care.

but about 3 years ago, actually started doing a decent 2, 3 hours practice a day, and discovered your sight reading gets better when you down and try to play every single piece of music you can find, you also find what you like playing.

im now obbsessed with early-mid Liszt , and have vague hopes of a proffesional career.

out of interest, dunno if any of you play them, but which of the Trancendental studies do you find the most difficult, cos im struggling my way through Wilde Jagd, and theres some seriosly difficult passage of horrendously fast chordal passages in there which dont sound so hard when Jando's playing them.

Gill the Piano
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Post by Gill the Piano » 08 Jul 2005, 15:41

I could only play Liszt with the assistance of Class A drugs. Even then I'd probably have a breakdown! I'm too old to start taking on Liszt - at my age it'd kill me. :shock:

PianoFifty
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Sight reading

Post by PianoFifty » 10 Jul 2005, 22:57

This is an interesting thread for me. I did Grade 8 many years ago and had reasonable sight-reading skills (well, good enough to pass :wink: ). Up until then I only played from sight, and couldn't memorise very much. Then I lapsed my musical studies for many years, until someone asked if I would be interested in playing keyboards in a band (long story). I found out that to do that credibly you had to be able to play from memory, and that the best way of doing that was to learn to play by ear. I started to improvise, and learned much about the structure of popular music, eventually becoming able to play many popular standards without reference to notation. That skill has helped my sight reading no end - I can to some extent anticipate chord changes etc - and find that my sight reading is better than it was twenty years ago.

I have come to the conclusion that there are four main ways of playing piano: 1) Play solely from music 2) Play notated music from memory 3) Play by ear 4) Improvise. I don't think the ABRSM exams place enough emphasis on the musicianship aspects of 3) and 4), which are important in helping to be able to sight read effectively.

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Post by Gill the Piano » 11 Jul 2005, 16:47

If you do the ABRSM Jazz exams the pieces DEPEND on improvisation; the first page is a jazz piece written normally, and then SHOCK! HORROR! :shock: , all of a sudden there is mo music, just a load of spots! These indicate pitch but not music, and the candidate is asked to improvise on these notes for eight bars (or so; I only looked at a grade II or III book). So they are aware of the importance of improvisation, but only to jazz musicians! I've played for 40 years now (God, that's OLD... :? ) and still freeze like a rabbit in the headlights if asked to play without music - I only wish I could!

Rolandroger
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Post by Rolandroger » 13 Jul 2005, 13:57

To a certain extent I agree with PianoFifty.

However I cannot really see a problem with learning a notated score by sightreading firstly, then memorising sections and then re-playing the score from memory.

This is the only way, IMO, that any expressive feeling, dare I say passion, can be put into a performance.

Tell me sincerely, how can you play from the depths of your soul, if you're encumbered by having to read from the score; you cannot close your eyes and 'lose yourself' (not literally)in the mood of the music

Playing by ear is a totally different "kettle of fish" and requires no musical education or knowledege whatsoever.

Quite a few people I know can sit down and play tunes on the piano, even stringing chords together to make quite pleasant harmonic melodies. They cannot read a single note of music!

A lot of people who play by "ear", that I have had any contact with, seem to always default to the key of 'C' major. Of course they do not know it is the key of C but interestingly they stay clear of involving any black notes. The tunes/melodies sound OK'ish but have no "depth" thru' lack of any semitones up or down.

Geminoz
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Post by Geminoz » 14 Jul 2005, 13:19

Is closing your eyes necessary to feel the music... :roll: ...I think not.
I play (albeit not in the same class as many who contribute to this forum), by reading music, by memory(although in my dotage the memory is not so good these days :( ) and also by ear (in a variety of keys :wink: )
I enjoy playing and I don't feel restricted when following the sheet music...because my heart and my fingers often have a mind of their own, depending on my mood. I rarely play the same piece the same way two days in a row.
Unless you are practising for exams where you will be judged according to the judges' requirements, or performing with or for others I feel playing should be a pleasurable experience.
I just love to sit at the piano and do my own thing.
:D
I do believe sight reading is extremely important for students.
Unless you are planning to play solely by ear, it is a vital tool for all musicians, and should be encouraged from the start.
If you can't sight read how on earth are you going to pick up a new piece of music and play it. :?

Gill the Piano
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Post by Gill the Piano » 14 Jul 2005, 18:03

I neeeeeeed the music as a comfort blanket.
And I never close me eyes...someone might nick me piano! :lol:

Geminoz
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Post by Geminoz » 16 Jul 2005, 04:35

Ooooooooooooh deary me....I just tried closing my eyes.....lost my balance and nearly fell off the stool :twisted:

Rolandroger
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You "old boys"

Post by Rolandroger » 09 Sep 2005, 14:02

You two are just being silly and infantile. If you cannot reply to a post in a reasonably adult fashion then why bother to post at all.

Closing one's eyes is a well known musical phenomenon to the professional amongst us but as you old guys are just "hackers" you wouldn't know a piano stool from a bar stool.

Gill the Piano
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Post by Gill the Piano » 09 Sep 2005, 21:29

Blimey, MA in musicology and 23 years in the trade and I'm not a professional? That's me told, then... :lol:

Geminoz
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Post by Geminoz » 10 Sep 2005, 12:51

Good grief :roll: oh I do, I do, I do know the difference :D ....you sit on a piano stool in front of an instrument and make music... you sit at a bar stool with a glass in your hand and bend your elbow ...both are equally enjoyable.
Since when is a bit of levity a crime? :x ...there is no call to be so rude and insulting :!:
"Old?"..."hacker"? You really wouldn't know about that on either score.
I enjoy my music, even if it's not up to your "professional" standard.
Gill is a "real" professional with a wonderful sense of humour. :D
If you care to peruse the previous posts in more depth you will see we already replied in a serious vein.
And whatever you do, don't go to the general section and read the post on "Refurbish old wood".

Geminoz
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Post by Geminoz » 10 Sep 2005, 15:39

:roll: yeah we can be silly and infantile all we like in the corner :wink:

Geminoz
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Post by Geminoz » 10 Sep 2005, 15:41

how did that happen...the posts are back to front :?

Gill the Piano
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Post by Gill the Piano » 10 Sep 2005, 15:45

Come to join me in the corner in disgrace, girl? :lol:

Gill the Piano
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Post by Gill the Piano » 10 Sep 2005, 16:43

Space-time continuum slip? Time difference between here and the Antipodes? Just being silly...? :lol:

Geminoz
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Post by Geminoz » 11 Sep 2005, 09:20

Think it was 'cause I had the page open when your reply came through and I posted mine before closing and re-opening the page...but then I could be wrong...cause I'm just an old hack who is silly and infantile, so I couldn't possible know such things.
Acutally I am an old hack (retired journalist) :lol:

Gill the Piano
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Post by Gill the Piano » 11 Sep 2005, 12:49

I have a hacking cough if that counts...better look out, we'll get told off again :roll: !

Geminoz
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Post by Geminoz » 11 Sep 2005, 13:01

ooooh I'm scared stiff...shaking in me boots I am :twisted:

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