One of the greatest lessons a student can learn in the course of learning to play a musical instrument is the importance of prioritization. In every weeks assignment there are greater and lesser difficulties and higher and lower priorities. Learning to order one’s work so that the maximum is accomplished with the greatest efficiency is one of the keys to success in life. Musical study provides a microcosm where you can learn this lesson.
Each week there are some items which are critical for immediate master (recitals and contests provide these nicely) and other items of less importance. Learning to address the critical without neglecting the less important is a life’s lesson we all can revisit.
Andrew, I wholeheartedly agree with you for all 15 points and particularly this one. I used to think I could not sigh-tread music and it is a skill of geniuses. One day my current teacher told me to read the next section of the piece I was learning. I told her that I have not touched it yet. She told me to sight-read it. I said that I would not be able to do. She looked at me curiously and said “You have never done this? Ok, then let’s start it right now. There is no reason that you cannot sightread. You’ve been doing piano for a long time. You recognize notes quick, you know the rhythm, etc”. So she forced me to read the next section there. I immediately started HS. She said no no no. Hands together. She set the metronome extremely low and there I went… For my surprise, I could do this. Wherever I stammered, she stopped me and asked me what happened. Usually a jump or accidentals or something new. Interestingly my right hand fingers were on the next measure at the right place but the left hand that wasn’t there. Apparently I was not reading from the bottom. She then told me to look at the next measure and say the bottom note out loud and make sure my left hand is there before striking it. I caught my left finger on the wrong note as I was saying the note name out loud. But I was able to start playing the section with sight-reading first time at that extremely slow speed. She told me that it would cut down the learning time for a new material significantly. I only need to use HS in a more focused way, like fixing mistakes. I now can read Bach or materials similar (not so many huge jumps) at first sight slowly. I am not successful yet for big jumps. But she says that I should be able to play those as well in time. I am glad to find one more person who supports this very useful practice tip.
Kazue Balint a/k/a FarmGirl on the Piano Forum
Your teacher did a lot of things right in your example and if you can remember to continue to work like that on your own, you will increase your learning rate over time.
It is key to work slowly. If you want to work on your sight reading (a most valuable skill easily improved by anybody at any level) work on very short sections. A good reader is familiar with lots of note arrangements. So your goal is to become familiar with as many note arrangements as possible. Your short term memory can only hold seven or so chunks of information at a time before it begins to dump. So limit your material to 7 chunks. This might be only 7 notes, or as your understanding improves and you are able to recognize chords, chord progressions, different styles of broken chords, scales, etc. those chunks may being to hold dozens and eventually hundreds of notes. Repeat your set of 7 chunks 3 – 5 times and then move on. Your not trying to perfect anything, just become familiar.