Sight reading help

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
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Sight reading help

Post by Stephen.Verderber » Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:48 pm

Does anyone have any tips on how to improve sight reading. I am trying to get better at it, and I would welcome any tips, resources (books, etc.) that could help.

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Re: Sight reading help

Post by Erik Zurcher » Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:16 pm

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Paul Janssen
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Re: Sight reading help

Post by Paul Janssen » Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:58 pm

I asked a similar question a few months ago in relation to my son. I can offer you a few tips that I received that seem to be helping my son:

1. Devote a little time each day as part of your practice session to sight reading
2. Find material that is about 1 or 2 grades easier than the repertoire pieces you are learning (hint: the Delcamp D01, D02 etc collections are a good source of such graded pieces. You can also want to buy a dedicated sight reading book).
3. Before playing a sight reading exercise, identify the Key signature, the Time signature and scan the piece for any accidentals. Look for position shifts as well if applicable.
4. Read the notes out loud before playing. Try and do this in time if you can as this will help you identify any obvious rhythm patterns. If the piece has more than one line, choose the obvious melody line.
5. Play through the piece once slowly.
6. Repeat the piece again a little faster and with a view to ironing out any mistakes you may have made on the first attempt. One repeat is all that you will want to do.

Depending on the level and length of the exercises you are attempting, you should be able to attempt at least 2 or 3 new exercises a day. Remember, we are not trying to learn these pieces, but rather improve our sight reading (there is a distinct difference).

The other thing that I encourage my son to do is to review one or two of the pieces that he attempted the day before and then look at new pieces. However, even when revising a piece that he played previously, I encourage him to go through the steps above before playing it (although he generally skips the reading the notes out loud step on previously played pieces).

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Re: Sight reading help

Post by Dirck Nagy » Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:09 pm

What Paul said, especially this:
Paul Janssen wrote: 1. Devote a little time each day as part of your practice session to sight reading
Just a little time! But do it daily. At first, it will be awful. After a while, it becomes fun!

Once you get a little better at it, I'd also add: "sing the melodic line" as step #4.


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Alan Green
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Re: Sight reading help

Post by Alan Green » Thu Apr 13, 2017 5:31 am

Use pieces that are a step or two below your current performance skillset - so, if you're playing at Grade 5 level then use music from the Grade 3 syllabus to improve your sightreading skills.

Also - remember that there is a humongous difference between playing at sight and playing at FIRST sight

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Re: Sight reading help

Post by Stephen.Verderber » Thu Apr 13, 2017 1:35 pm

Thanks everyone for the feedback. I can read music, I used to play the accordian years ago, so I get the staff, notes, time signatures as such. But reading and playing on the guitar, that's another story, it's rather daunting!

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Re: Sight reading help

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Thu Apr 13, 2017 1:51 pm

First - learn your position "CAGED Scales" in all 12 keys. This provides you with a quick reference as to where you can locate notes and what position is best suited for a specific single note passage. Obviously with classical guitar repertoire we are playing much more than single note lines, but this is a great place to start. Take single note melodies in different keys and play them on the guitar (doesn't have to be guitar music). Through this method, you'll learn to recognize (for instance) - that if you are playing in G major, the "good places" are: Open Position, 2nd Position, 4th Position, 7th Position and 9th Position (depending on the range and note choices -- obviously, lower note ranger would make sense to play in lower positions/etc...).

Second - learn how to melodically and harmonically play all your intervals (m/M 2nds, 3rds, 6ths, 7ths; d/P/A 4ths, 5ths, Octaves and Unisons). Know what the shapes look like cross string, and the distance on a single string. Expand from this into learning to identify common chordal patterns on the guitar. If you see a chord shape on the guitar that's made up of a m3rd and a P4th you'll be able to recognize that that "shape" is like the 4th through 2nd strings of a C-type chord (EGC or 3rd, 5th Root voicing). If this voicing is in the key of E, you'll know you can play this voicing easily in 4th position (G# on the 4th string, B on the 3rd string, and E on the 2nd string. A good starting place if you haven't done this is a method like the Carcassi, Carulli, Sor, etc... Methods. While the teaching of technique is all over the place, it's a great resource for learning the different "guitar friendly keys" and seeing commonly used chord voicings/etc... The methods usually focus on 1st position (more specifically the first 5 frets of the guitar) when working through the keys, but it's a good place to start.

From there, find sheet music to read through. Looking for textures like (scales, melodic and harmonic arpeggios, chords, etc...) to help you understand what you'll be playing and sight read a little every day. ALWAYS pick something new so you don't have a chance to "remember" what you played the day before. The complete works of Tarrega on this site are great, plus the lower volumes of the Delcamp method are great too. Anthologies of pieces work well for this purpose as well.
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Re: Sight reading help

Post by Laudiesdad69 » Thu Apr 13, 2017 11:47 pm

I too have been improving my sight reading skills. One thing that has helped me is actually trying to write down the little pieces I come up with. Then once you've written it, put it down for a day or two and come back and read it cold. I also have some guitar method books like Christopher Parkenings and I go through the exercises. I also play the pieces from the book, but not with the goal of memorization. It also helps if you already know the names of all the notes on the neck. Read, play, then put it down and grab another piece, preferably one that you don't know from memory. I also separate out the melody line and read it while trying to play it. And do a lot of repitition.

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Re: Sight reading help

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Fri Apr 14, 2017 12:11 am

Or: take a weekend and devote it to memorizing the notes in the first position as read from the staff. Once this is down you'll have a solid basis going forward. Treat it like a mini intensives language learning session, just to acquire a solid basis. Play some easy Sor studies, not to learn them so much as to learn reading. The worst part is at the beginning, so if you can get a quick foundation it helps going forward. I was lucky to find an entire book of easy guitar pieces; perfect for this. Nibbling away at five minutes a day might or might not be right for you at the beginning.

But my reading level is pretty bad, so take that into account!
Last edited by Jeffrey Armbruster on Fri Apr 14, 2017 1:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sight reading help

Post by robin loops » Fri Apr 14, 2017 12:38 am

There are tons of tips and many topics devoted to the subject but it all boils down to one thing, 'practicing sight reading'. If you practice it regularly it is actually pretty easy. The hardest part about it is the idea in our heads that it is so damn hard... And that often makes us avoid it or take a lazy approach.

Remember, you learned to read a language in a couple of years by spending a little time each day at it and there are a lot more letters in the alphabet than music notes to learn...
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Re: Sight reading help

Post by Andrew Fryer » Fri Apr 14, 2017 12:33 pm

Stephen.Verderber wrote:Does anyone have any tips on how to improve <something>
Yes, practise.
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Re: Sight reading help

Post by bear » Fri Apr 14, 2017 3:48 pm

Stephen.Verderber wrote:Does anyone have any tips on how to improve sight reading. I am trying to get better at it, and I would welcome any tips, resources (books, etc.) that could help.
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Re: Sight reading help

Post by Jim Davidson » Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:38 pm

1. Read literally everything, whether of not you are playing it. Listen to pieces with the score in front of you. IMSLP is an invaluable resource for this.

2. Go extremely slow to a click, and DO NOT STOP. Don't worry about how many notes you can read, but make sure your eyes keep moving forward and you keep the rhythm going. Starer's Rhythmic Training and snare drum method books are great for this.

I would recommend picking up a copy of the Mel Bay method book. It's loaded with examples.
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robin loops
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Re: Sight reading help

Post by robin loops » Sat Apr 15, 2017 7:27 pm

Also, one of the trickiest elements of sight reading is the timing and rhythm but this can be practiced quite effectively without the guitar. So you can take advantage of a lot of opportunities to study it. If you have a long commute to work or school, or go on a trip and have a long flight, etc. bring along music books and work on counting time. You can clap your hands or tap fingers on your desk, etc.

About that: If you study sight singing, you can even work out melody and just read music for entertainment at some point. I also used to bring the sheet music for works I played and knew well and read them (musically like a silent cd player) while riding the train to work. Aside from being able to take advantage of otherwise lost time, I found this time working on some of the elements of reading notation without the distraction of the instrument very useful.
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Re: Sight reading help

Post by nsoliven » Tue Apr 18, 2017 2:55 pm

I can only sightread pieces that are below my current level of playing.
I'd avoid TABs and TAB assisted pieces for now as you'll start to be dependent on them. Besides, you'll probably find it easier to sight read a well annotated standard notation piece than any TAB or TAB assisted piece.


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