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Question for piano teachers...

(9 Posts)
ChinaInYourHands Mon 19-Sep-11 19:32:36

Are piano sight reading software packages worth the money?

ihearthuckabees Tue 20-Sep-11 17:42:30

I don't use them so can't answer the question, but there are lots of good sightreading practice books out there, and if your piano teacher is worth their salt, they will be incorporating sight-reading skills into the lessons as they go along.

Is your DC/you preparing for an exam?

confidence Tue 20-Sep-11 21:06:46

Never heard of them, but it sounds like an interesting idea. Could you link to what you're considering? Sometimes parents and non-musicians generally aren't really clear on the difference between "sight reading" and general "musical literacy".

ChinaInYourHands Thu 22-Sep-11 11:58:41

Thank you both for your answers. I admit I do not know the first thing about music but I am desperate to support my ds in whatever way I can. At the moment he has a weekly half hour piano lesson at school but I don't get to talk to the teacher. Confidence you're right that I do not know what the difference is between "sight reading" and general "musical literacy". Up until a few months ago I didn't even know what "sight reading" was!!
At the moment half an hour a week is all I can afford as he also does guitar and other activities, so I was thinking to supplement his lessons with something like this:
My ds is very keen on computers and a good self-learner so this kind of thing with minimal input from his teacher who can only do so much in 30 minutes, might benefit my ds? What do you think?

ihearthuckabees Thu 22-Sep-11 12:56:45

Will try to check out the link when I have time, but if you are after general supportive helpful music exercises, then joing Hofnote might be useful. This develops aural skills, which are very useful for overall musical awareness. If his teacher is a member, he/she can also check his progress by checking in on his account.

Also, doing some theory exercise books could be helpful. If he's quite young, then have a look at Lina Ng My First Theory Book. He may well manage to work through it by himself, and if he gets stuck, check with his teacher (if he/she's willing). They are very affordable via amazon.

Hope that helps

Note to self: really need to get around to checking out more technology based materials as I am still stuck in the dark ages!

ihearthuckabees Thu 22-Sep-11 13:06:03

Oops, meant to say that Hofnote is a website.

Just had a quick look at your link. My gut feeling with this sort of thing is that it might be trying to do too much - it's hard to see whether the levels are properly paced etc.

It might be better doing a bit of a google search as there are lots of free websites that claim to do a lot of the things on this CD and you could try them out without splashing your cash.

Also, why don't you join the ABRSM (this is the organisation that run the graded music exams) talk boards as there's a forum for parents, and you might find other people who have tips. It is here:

confidence Thu 22-Sep-11 20:54:51

OK. Had a quick look at the link.

That package is for music THEORY, which is pretty much the same as I meant by "general musical literacy". This is of course important and the more it can be explored via fun things like computer activities, the better. There are a million such packages around and I couldn't honestly tell you which is best, or whether this one is worth the money. There are also a million different ways of approaching music theory. But really, there's something to be gained from most angles, and they all end up cross-fertilising each other in the end. So I can't see how it could do any harm.

The difference between music theory and sight reading, is that theory is about non-time-dependent knowledge. "Knowing" that a treble clef is a treble clef or the top line of the treble stave is F, is like "knowing" that 2+2 = 4 or that Henry VIII had six wives. You can take 1 second, 2 seconds or 5 seconds to answer, it doesn't really make any difference. Although of course cumulatively the quicker you can access stored knowledge, the better.

Sight reading OTOH is a realtime activity, to so with the application of that knowledge to actually playing an instrument. So if you're playing a piece at the speed of 60 beats per minute, and there's an F on the top line of the treble stave on the next beat, you have to play it exactly one second after the previous beat - not 2 seconds, or 5, or even 1/2 a second. The object isn't the knowing, it's the doing. When doing is time-constrained (as all doing in music fundamentally is), it is a deeply different thing to knowing.

You might assume that someone with good theory knowledge will be a better sight reader, and it's certainly a contributing factor. However there are other factors as well. In my experience, people with very good natural sense of rhythm and pulse often make the best sight readers, as long as their theory is up to it, because it's like the have to go on and keep playing in realtime, no matter what.

Just my 2p worth to bear in mind if you're dealing with "sight reading" in grade exams etc. Like I said, theory is of course valuable too and any way you can get him to enjoy it can't be bad.

ShellingPeas Thu 22-Sep-11 22:24:48

You could try the series of books called "Improve your sight-reading" by Paul Harris. He is a well regarded music educator and I use many of his ideas in my lessons. These are graded books with lots of practical tips for working out hand placements, spotting key signatures, rhythmic patterns etc.

ChinaInYourHands Sun 25-Sep-11 22:34:25

Wow, all this information is incredibly useful, thank you all so much. Confidence thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed and helpful answer, i really appreciate it. And it helps a lot! Thank you ShellingPeas for the recommendation, I'll look into those books, and Ihearthuckabees for the Hofnote and ABRSM tips; I feel a bit more clued up now.grin

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