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Nov 15, 2021 - 2:23:33 AM

Jimbeaux

Germany

409 posts since 5/24/2016

Anyone done this? Do you have any tips?

I would love to learn to sight read. I tried and gave up once. I really prefer to learn by ear and memory, but there have been occasions where sight reading would have been a welcome skill to have in my pocket.

I can work out a melody based on dots, but only if I convert it to tab. It's an arduous process, so I usually rely on my ear only.

Just curios what has worked for others. Anyone know of an app that makes it into a fun game?

Nov 15, 2021 - 4:12:14 AM
Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2433 posts since 2/2/2008

The skill is fun to have. I can't give you advice for adult learning as I starting learning how to sight read when I was about 9. I think of it as a somewhat schizophrenic activity. I'm actually reading a bit ahead of what I'm playing and it's a continuous process.

When I retired, I could now spend time playing genres of music that I couldn't do when I was working. I play tin whistle for Irish music where there are many easily accessible transcriptions of tunes. My sight reading skills have allowed me to play up to speed from a notation while listening to a recorded version. I notice that about the 4th or 5th time through, I am starting to play the tune by ear and no longer really reading the music, though it takes longer for the tune to really stick.

I really can't say how hard it is to learn this skill as an adult, but I hope my description is of some use.

Nov 15, 2021 - 4:16:29 AM
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Swing

USA

2134 posts since 6/26/2007

I would suggest that you take a few tunes that you already know and find the dots for them and sight read.... it really is about becoming familiar with assigning a note (sound) with what you are seeing....it will take a little time, but if you dedicate 5 minutes every time you practice then you will get it... having both skills is important.

Play Happy

Swing

Nov 15, 2021 - 5:03:35 AM
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2636 posts since 10/22/2007

I'm so "ear-bound" listening to an aural example skews the whole endeavor.
I suggest getting into the Fiddler's Fakebook. Finding a tune you don't know, and simply sus it out. Record what you think is your finished product. Then compare it to another aural example.

I have in the past done this. It's interesting how one picks it up. But! You got to use it or loose it.

Nov 15, 2021 - 5:08:45 AM

10148 posts since 3/19/2009

I'd suggest that you get some 'beginner' fiddle books and try to learn from them first..I taught myself to sight read.. Believe me, if I can do it YOU can do it.. I didn't start sight reading until I was about 30 years old..You have plenty of time, just plug away. It gets easier over time.......My ten year old grandaughter played the Suzuki "EAR ONLY" method for six years and just recently started sight reading.. and she is excited about it..Don't tackle difficult pieces first.......and MAYBE get some instruction..

Nov 15, 2021 - 5:48:42 AM
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94 posts since 9/4/2007

Time and repetition is my suggestion. Not quite sure how to describe it other than that. I have learned to read fiddle music simply by working at pieces that I needed to learn. There always seem to be notes in fiddle tunes that I can't figure out by ear due to the speed played or my own particularly bad ear. It was often something that really made that particular tune unique. I got frustrated and started checking out online transcriptions where I would find the notes transcribed. I also ended up purchasing the Milner/Koken collection, Marion Thede, R.P. Christensen, etc. etc. and some others.

I picked a tune I wanted to learn and slowly worked my way through it. Eventually the tune, or the phrase, I was working was memorized and I left the paper behind. Then I would do the same with another tune. After a few years of doing this, possibly as many as five, I could say that I knew how to read fiddle music. Still not hugely fast, but I can do it. Main resource still, by far, is listening; but when notes are needed I use them.

Never did this as a specific routine by the way, just as I wanted/needed to learn tunes I was working on.

Nov 15, 2021 - 6:08:43 AM
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2428 posts since 10/1/2008

I have started again and again to learn to read music. First time attempting to learn to read lines for playing a trumpet at age ten or so. So far I am an abject failure. I know that it requires a daily input of information from practicing the skill. It's just that now when I sit down to play I want to play not suffer the grind of poorly following the dots. At sixty-nine years of age I am getting to the point of just giving up the process and depending on my ear and the ASD software. Yet I recognize the truth of having a competent reading skill in my pocket....... I understand all the various symbols but .... < sigh.

Nov 15, 2021 - 10:16:01 AM

408 posts since 7/30/2021

Well, when I was learning classical guitar, it was inspiring because one of my friends/fellow students had started lessons when he retired at age 70. He learned quite well to read guitar sheet music and even wrote some of his own music adaptations. (In his younger days, he was a "playing in a bar and strumming cowboy chords" kind of guitar player.) I think secret of his success-
- lots of time to practice (since retired)!
- having a teacher to help out and assign music graded from easy/beginner and gradually getting harder

That said, I'm not sure reading sheet music is that helpful for getting better at fiddling? Having things written down can tend to "set the music in stone" and that's something I'm actually trying to get away from!

Maybe one way if you want to practice, is to play a tune you know quite well, while following along on the sheet music for it? The written notes should begin to connect with the sounded notes in your brain, eventually...

Nov 15, 2021 - 11:40:18 AM
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199 posts since 11/28/2018

Jim, here are a few things to consider.

There was another thread this past week started by Tuneweaver about playing from the heart rather than just memorizing the notes (for those that can sight read) or a particular bowing (you will eventually find that several different bowing patterns will all give very satisfactory results).

Remember that there were many many great fiddlers that couldn't read a single note and didn't rely on tablature because it didn't exist (that I know of) back in their era.

I started fiddling (as an adult) and could read music since childhood --- so that became my method of learning. Long story short --- it soon became obvious that nobody played the tunes note for note from the books I learned from. And these people sounded really good. So I took the fiddle books, put them back on the library, and haven't used them since.

I guess what I'm saying is that, IMHO, your time would be far better spent:
a). listening to as much OT music as you can stand,
b). listening to as many different versions of the same tune as you can find,
c). practicing scales in the key of D, G, A, and C until you're comfortable with where the fingers fall on the fingerboard and your intonation is where you want it to be (easier said than done), and
d). play with as many other fiddlers as you can along with backup musicians when possible.

Nov 15, 2021 - 11:50:04 AM

1868 posts since 4/6/2014

Never did learn to sight read like a pro. Those folk can just real tunes off the pages, up to tempo, and even with feeling. That is a massive plus in anyone's playing skills. ..Ask em to play what they just played a few minutes ago without the dots and see what happens... But that doesn't detract from the awesome skill of sight reading up to tempo.

But i'm glad i learned to "Read" enough to be able to analyse and interpret different versions/settings of tunes. And a fragmentary remembered version of the dots, (usually only 2 bar phrases or so), sometimes helps me to play it how i like it to sound.

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Nov 15, 2021 - 11:56:02 AM
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2042 posts since 12/11/2008

I was fortunate enough (or is that unfortunate enough?) to suffer through formal piano lessons as a child, so I got pretty fair with reading standard notation. In any event, however excellent my good fortune might have been, when it comes to fiddle playing, standard notation is pretty much a slam dunk. You're only doing one note or at most two notes at any one time so there are no vertical towers of notes to deal with. Once you suss out what key they want you to play in (via that damnable collection of flats & sharps at the beginning of every line), it's just a matter of following the dots up & down. The amount of time spent on each note is wonderfully logical & clear once you get the gist of it. Don't fear the page!

Nov 15, 2021 - 12:09:18 PM
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boxbow

USA

2720 posts since 2/3/2011

I had learned as a kid and had to relearn as an adult some 30+ years later. I don't think that's the same as learning from scratch. What I wanted to say, though, is that reading sheet music is just one more great tool. I find the major drawback is that it uses a different part of my brain. It's much harder to improvise on a tune I've learned by memorizing the dots than on a tune I've learned by ear. I'm happy to use both methods. I just have to practice the tune memorized from sheet music a whole lot more. Often they sound best when I learn them and then ignore them for a year or so. When I pick them up again I'm often very pleased with how they've aged in my head over the interim into "by ear" tunes. As an OT fiddler, most of my tunes are pretty reasonable to learn by ear. Part of the process is to get them to lay in the hand well. It seems to me that playing off sheet music adds a layer of processing between player and tune.

Nov 15, 2021 - 12:21:20 PM

1868 posts since 4/6/2014

There's a guy that i have played with a few times, (he plays mando and various other fretted instruments). He's like a human piano roll once he has located the correct dots in the massive amount of paper work he carries around with him. by then the tune has usually gone three times round though. I always want to vamp on a single chord while he rustles around, and finds the elusive page. Then start the tune all over again! Because he is such a fine player to play with once he has located the dots.

Nov 15, 2021 - 12:33:30 PM
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10148 posts since 3/19/2009

There are many fine tunes in print that do not have audio recordings on a computer somewhere.. Being able to learn a tune without having heard it can be a priceless experience..

Nov 15, 2021 - 12:52:57 PM
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1868 posts since 4/6/2014

Odd thing is that i almost never listen to a tune if i have the dots, before i have what i consider to be a "working version", from said dots. Then i'll go and have a listen to other folks interpretations. Sometimes it's uncanny how similar they are. Or surprising how different they are.

i am liking interpreting really obscure late 16th to early 19th century English tunes in juicy flat keys, with weird time sigs lately.

Nov 15, 2021 - 4:10:06 PM
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2357 posts since 8/23/2008

I began reading music notation in my mid teens, I had a book of easy folk songs and a toy xylophone with each note named. I applied what I knew from high school music class and learnt to play a few tunes, must of been ok because my father recognized the tunes. Soon after I began playing drum kit and learnt to read rhythmic notation well. Then came the classical guitar and I learnt where the notes are on the instrument, I also took basic music theory classes. When it came to fiddling I was pretty well there with reading, but 'sight reading' took a special effort. I had a book of fiddle tunes and I would go through it marking tunes I could just play or would like to learn. I would memorize some easy tunes and kept reading and trying to play the harder ones. Due to the quantity of tunes I couldn't memorize all the easy ones, so I continued to read them. I didn't realize at the time but through that process my sight reading skill continued to improve. So I guess what I am trying to say is... play what you can read straight from the page, if necessary begin with easy children's songs, then gradually increase the difficulty of the tunes, beginner violin books are presented in increments of difficulty. Before sight reading you need to know the name of the notes and where they are on the violin, and you need to know the rhythm. That can/should be done before you attempt to play the tune from sight. Always read from the music notation without marking the sheet music, design a separate reminder sheet for reference.

Edited by - buckhenry on 11/15/2021 16:24:32

Nov 15, 2021 - 4:37:03 PM
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doryman

USA

319 posts since 2/10/2020

There are legions of adult beginner piano players who learned to read music as adults, so it can be done. And those folks have to read for two hands and two different clefs! So it can be done!

Nov 15, 2021 - 4:50:46 PM
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10148 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by doryman

There are legions of adult beginner piano players who learned to read music as adults, so it can be done. And those folks have to read for two hands and two different clefs! So it can be done!


AMEN!!

Nov 15, 2021 - 4:51:34 PM
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559 posts since 6/11/2019

Learning to read notation is no harder than learning math, or charts. The thing is, you have to immerse yourself in it for awhile. There are rules, such as incidentals cancelling at the bar, but you can easily find online stuff about that. I suggest finding tunes you know by ear and finding them in notation and playing along. The printed key may be different, so you will have to work through that.

Folks shouldn't think that notation reading is hard, it simply isn't. No more difficult than reading the calendar.

As a musician that started with notation, then developed ear, I hold that everyone would benefit with both skills.

Nov 15, 2021 - 5:35:11 PM
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10148 posts since 3/19/2009

I think that some people see all of the nomenclature and get intimidated.. Basic tunes use basic nomenclature and if one were to just stick with that at first they'd be ok. Jumping into sheet music that shows things like rests, long slurs, and cross measure slurs ....can make a beginner feel overwhelmed.. Again.. Don't be afraid to ask for help... Millions have learned to read music...If e 'knuckleheads" like me  can learn to read sheet music so can beginner Hangout members..

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 11/15/2021 17:35:56

Nov 15, 2021 - 6:42:32 PM
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Snafu

USA

139 posts since 2/2/2014

Want to learn to sight read? Get a violin method book, preferably one that uses a genre other than old time or bluegrass, something that is new to you and your ears. I strongly suggest the Doflein series since it is targeted at adults. And no matter how many years, or decades, you have under the bow, get book one and start on page one.

If you are familiar with a public domain source like imslp.org then I suggest downloading the Wholfhart Op 38 - his elementary method. He wrote everything in that book himself so you can be sure that it is new to your ears. Also, once you have a month or so of sight reading experience then get Wholfhart’s Op 45 book of etudes. The etudes are designed to exercise sight reading skills and develop the link between your fingers and what you see.

I sight read new violin music/etudes almost every day. That said, I must admit that some days I would have to really think if quizzed about the note name of some random note on the page I’m playing from but I will know exactly what finger and string and place to put it on the soundboard. Being able to read sheet music “out loud” like it was a book is a very low priority skill to develop (in my opinion). But you need to develop the link between what you see (where a dot is positioned on the staff) and where your finger goes and the bow position to play that note.

Edited by - Snafu on 11/15/2021 18:45:44

Nov 16, 2021 - 8:56:10 AM

Snafu

USA

139 posts since 2/2/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Snafu

Want to learn to sight read? Get a violin method book, preferably one that uses a genre other than old time or bluegrass, something that is new to you and your ears. I strongly suggest the Doflein series since it is targeted at adults. And no matter how many years, or decades, you have under the bow, get book one and start on page one.

If you are familiar with a public domain source like imslp.org then I suggest downloading the Wohlfahrt Op 38 - his elementary method. He wrote everything in that book himself so you can be sure that it is new to your ears. Also, once you have a month or so of sight reading experience then get Wohlfahrt's Op 45 book of etudes. The etudes are designed to exercise sight reading skills and develop the link between your fingers and what you see.

I sight read new violin music/etudes almost every day. That said, I must admit that some days I would have to really think if quizzed about the note name of some random note on the page I’m playing from but I will know exactly what finger and string and place to put it on the soundboard. Being able to read sheet music “out loud” like it was a book is a very low priority skill to develop (in my opinion). But you need to develop the link between what you see (where a dot is positioned on the staff) and where your finger goes and the bow position to play that note.

Edit to correct spelling of Wohlfahrt

Edited by - Snafu on 11/16/2021 08:56:49

Nov 16, 2021 - 11:06:23 AM
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2188 posts since 8/27/2008

I taught myself to read fiddle tunes as an adult. It allows me to know vastly more tunes than just memorizing would. The end goal is usually memorization but having tunes written out lets me have access to lots of tunes. Reading tunes I've been playing for a while becomes quite easy as I become familiar with them until I can play them without music. There are several tunes I like to play that I'll probably always need music for too, and that's okay.

One thing that is important for me is finding sheet music that is not cluttered with a distraction of symbols like phrasing ties and bowing instructions, and too many other details. It is also much easier for me to read tunes written in 4/4 using eighth notes than 2/4 using 16th notes.

To that end I started transcribing tunes I wanted to learn several years ago. As I've mentioned before those tunes are all available online. I'm not selling anything.

fiddletunes.net

Nov 16, 2021 - 2:39:32 PM
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3014 posts since 9/13/2009

Place a piece of paper in front of you and perform it cold, and nail it? Probably not really much need to ever do that for most fiddlers.

However, the ability to read, can be useful. The ability to that fairly quickly is useful.

As Brian mentioned.... Writing/transcribing helps reading skills (similar to language). A notation program like MuseScore (free) allows you play back MIDI and hear mistakes.

-----

I can work out a melody based on dots, but only if I convert it to tab.

Some folks use standard notation like tab. As mentioned "the link between what you see (where a dot is positioned on the staff) and where your finger goes". For example fiddle in standard tuning, in first position; the spaces represent even fingers, 0 (open), 2 or 4; the lines represent odd fingers 1 and 3.  As well there are tricks involving seeing sequential intervals, such as space to space, or line to line are third/fifth/seventh. That said, that can be a bit limited; and a common issue folks have is going note by note.

A perhaps better approach to reading is looking at more the big picture first.

One way can approach reading (and writing), similar to how many by ear players... is kind of top down process; first pass focus on getting the main elements, frame work of the basic tune. Next pass, and successive passes, get more of the details.

But perhaps more helpful, including to the above is recognizing how the tunes are structured and organized. This involves understanding music theory... which applies to any instrument. (as well as useful for playing by ear.)

For example, "why" is it in say key of D, and 6/8. Understanding meter and understanding the key... not simply as the math; number of #/b... but that identifies tonic, fifth, thirds, sixths...; as well has expectations of how and when notes are used... including harmonic flow, and typically conform to meter strong beats.  One example is chords, chord tones, phrases going from chord tone to chord tone; and typical chord arpeggios for key. (and embedded arpeggios) Can look at how notes link linear, from chord tone to chord tone. As well, how phrases begin, end and where chord changes likely to happen, cadences. There are other things learn to be looking for and quickly recognizing those makes reading easier. With this can start look at overall phrases contour and not just any notes but have certain expectations how contour will fit the key and meter.

Again, might start with transcribing phrases you know.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 11/16/2021 14:42:19

Nov 16, 2021 - 5:38:55 PM

274 posts since 6/3/2016

I think it would be easier to learn to sight read in general via singing, like in a choir. Because then you have a bunch of other people singing reading the same notes too keep you in tune.

Chances are you won't want to do that, though.

There are fiddle books that have accompanying CDs. You could listen to the CDs while reading the notes. That way you would be internalizing the tune and learning to read better at the same time.

Nov 16, 2021 - 5:44:56 PM

274 posts since 6/3/2016

Reading the original post more carefully, I think I over-simplified. You can read, but you can't sight- read. I am a good sight reader on fiddle. But I was a bad sight reader on banjo. I had to convert everything to tab. In part that was because I used a lot of different tunings.

You might try playing slow airs. They're so slow you have lots of time to think things over. There are several collections out there. Chorales (for example church hymns) can also be like that.

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