Top Tips for Sight Reading

canstockphoto5231136In the 19 years I have been teaching piano the one aspect that seems to put fear into the vast majority of my piano pupils has to be sight-reading. I have spoken to other teachers about this and it’s the one thing we seem to completely agree on. Many pupils who learn a musical instrument take music exams and sight-reading is a requirement of the test. I have approached this little issue in a variety of ways over the years from playing duets to having seasonal fun playing through easy carols. Ideally sight-reading needs to form part of everyday playing rather than just anxiously tackled a week before an exam. Here’s a few general things listed below that may help.

  1. Check out the key signature. How many sharps or flats and what notes are affected? Keep them in mind all the time you are playing.
  2. Scan the general shape of the melodic line, look to see where it rises and falls and also watch out for repeated notes. There may be easy to play arpeggios, chords and scales. It isn’t possible to read every note so spotting these well know patterns is important. At this time have a look at the fingering as well. canstockphoto1824353
  3. Tempo (speed) is crucial. At the beginning of every piece of music there is a tempo marking such as Moderato or Allegro, this will give an idea of the speed and indicate character as well. Generally I would suggest playing very much under speed and especially for those who find sight-reading difficult.
  4. Next on the list is to check out the rhythm. It might be worth tapping out some of the trickier rhythmic patterns.
  5. Establish a steady pulse. It may be worth discretely tapping a foot to keep to one speed and don’t be afraid to subdivide the beat. Avoid rushing at all costs.
  6. Try to look ahead as you play, this will be easier if a steadier speed has been taken. There is always time to find the notes. My advice is to treat sight-reading as you would reading a book out loud. We never look at the word we are saying, but rather a few ahead, do the same with music.image490
  7. There is a great deal of information to take in all at once. Count a complete bar before starting and keep playing. Don’t stop! If hesitations are occurring then an even slower tempo will be needed. Coping with mistakes is all part of the learning process. Eventually, mistakes will cease to be distracting and it will become easier to give a good overall performance.
  8. It is essential when developing sight-reading skills to start with something easy. If it is fairly simple it will make the experience more enjoyable and build confidence.
  9. Over time the reading will speed up. Patterns will recur and will eventually become easy to spot. It will then be possible to add other detailing such as dynamics.
  10. A wise teacher once told me that the art of good sight-reading is knowing what to miss out. I used to worry about this as I could never be sure what I should miss out, but sight-reading is just about giving an impression of a piece of music. As with everything, the skills will develop with regular practice and time. imgres
  11. What else? Reading through hymns will help with chord reading. Play lots of very easy pieces and gradually build them up in complexity. Team up with other pianists to play duets. Even play ‘regular’ pieces, one hand each and then swap over. Accompanying other instrumentalists is great fun as well as a brilliant way of improving sight-reading because stopping really isn’t an option.
  12. There are many books on the market which can be of help. Here are 3 popular publications, they move through the grades too…
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I hope this has been of some help. Most importantly of all is to enjoy the journey and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Good sight-reading can open a whole new world of exciting music making.

DULWICH PIANO FESTIVAL

Pianol10847996_781566838599146_2139433592547073257_nobby is delighted to announce sponsorship of the 2015 Dulwich Piano Festival.

Entries are now open for the fourth annual Dulwich Piano Festival held at James Allen’s Girls’ School (JAGS) in East Dulwich. The festival provides an opportunity for pianists of all levels to share their music making with friends and family and to hear a wide range of inspiring repertoire ranging from Baroque to contemporary music. 10

In addition to graded exam classes, the festival organisers have carefully selected pieces that will appeal to beginner pianists to encourage them to make their Debut performance. The Duet with Teacher classes as you will be accompanied on stage as you play on a beautiful Yamaha S3  grand piano in the magnificent Holst Hall at JAGS school.

In an exciting twist, lots of the music by contemporary composers will be adjudicated by the composers themselves so this is a wonderful chance to receive feedback from the person that wrote your piece!

All competitors receive written and verbal feedback, a certificate and printed programme. Many medals and trophies are presented on the day to class winners. 01

You do not need to be a resident of Dulwich to enter. Last year entrants came from as far away as Peterborough, Manchester and even Austria!

Enter online or by email via the festival web site. Entries are open from February 1st to April 1st although class numbers are limited to 15 for beginner classes and 10 for graded exam classes, so early entry is strongly advised as the festival is oversubscribed each year.
http://dulwichpianofestival.co.uk 

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A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT PIANO FINGERING

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As a child my piano teacher talked a great deal about fingering and how important it is to establish good fingering. I have to confess that I was a bit nerdy as a child about my piano playing and enjoyed the lessons where we worked on this. It must have been the challenge of sorting out a puzzle that caught my imagination.

Later on as a student when I was actively building up my music library and learning as much music as I could, I continued the pattern set by my teacher and wrote in fingerings. This was partly habit as much as anything but also at the time it helped me learn music more quickly.

imgresYears later I decided to programme a work again, it was a Chopin Ballade but my copy was very tired and with many pages missing. I bought a new copy. The trouble was it came minus my fingering. When I began to re-familiarise myself with the work, I had forgotten most of my original fingerings and had to work them out again. This was time consuming and became a problem when my old fingerings started to emerge again from my muscle memory a few days into the process of practising new and different ones.

Now I had 2 fingerings. The old one I found was pretty hard wired in my sub-conscience and was working well. The new fingering just didn’t feel as comfortable and in large part got binned. The message here has to be, write your fingerings in the score for posterity and look after you music! You will save a lot of time.

Why write in fingerings at all?

There is a school of thought that does not believe in organising and ingraining a set fingering. The belief is that the hand will find its own way, which to a certain extent is true, especially as a pianist becomes more experienced. The danger of this easy come, easy go finger memory is lack of reliability in the longer term and when playing under pressure.

I much prefer to spend time on the process of organising a fingering that suits my hand right at the beginning stages of learning a new piece.

imagesPlanning the piano fingering of a piece can feel a real chore. Using good fingering at the very start of learning a piece however, will really help you learn faster, memorise easier and play with more ease, fluidity and reliably. It is definitively worth the effort!

Get the fingering right and stick to it. The muscle memory gets activated the first time you play and becomes automatic so you won’t have to think about it anymore! Fingering is fundamental, but you have better things to focus on when playing the piece – like musical expression and phrasing.

How do I get started?

Start by trying out the original and see if that works. Today most piano sheet music from a good edition has fingering already written in the score, checking it out first will save you a lot of time. Do write in the fingering which feel best and stick to them every time you practise until it becomes automatic. imgres

In some music there is no fingering, so you will need to write in your own. Is it comfortable? Is it efficient? These are the two questions to ask. And unhelpfully, what works, works!

Of course it is never quite that simple and it helps to know some common rules that have been tried and tested by generations of pianists.

Some fingering will not feel right at all. What suits one persons hand may not necessarily suit another, so it is important to write in the changes that work best for you.  Never leave it to the memory only, the fingering will get forgotten and all that time working it out would have been wasted.

Planning the Fingering.

The purpose of fingering is to help us perform the piece easily and in the most effortless way. It should help us to play difficult passages with fluidity and without hesitation. A basic tool for us to be able to perform the piece as we want to express it musically.

Here are some rules to help out less experienced pianists when planning fingering:

  1. Avoid thumbs on black keys.

The thumb is very short, and getting it to the black keys make unnecessary jerky movements. As always, there are exceptions to this. A piece may be mostly on the black keys and your hand will already be over the black keys.

  1. Learn the basic fingering patterns of scales, chords and arpeggios

This will teach you fingering patterns that work. Music pretty much consists of patterns. These patterns are scales, broken chords, blocked chords or arpeggios. Knowing these will greatly help take care of most of fingering issues.

  1. Try to find a fingering that lets your hand stay in the same position for as long as possible.

Try to find the easiest way to do something, take the shortest route.  Avoid moving your hand around.

4. Fingering should always serve expression.

Think about the musical phrase you play, where does it lead to, where is the peak, where is the landing or resting point.

Finger with the phrasing. Don’t let the fingering stop the flow or direction of the phrase.

canstockphoto23946888Treating fingering as a challenge to be overcome, or perhaps a puzzle to be solved can make it more rewarding. The ultimate reward of course is being able to play that piece with ease, fluidity and reliability and having the tools to help convey the character of what you are playing.

Pianolobby Sponsors Local Festivals

Pretty much everywhere nowadays there are wonderful local festivals in so many different guises. These strike me as celebration of the wealth of talent that exists in every community.

This year Pianolobby is sponsoring 3 different events in South London. 2 are piano festivals and the other is a more general Arts event.

10426254_1387837918143593_692858298081513404_nThe first in the year in a brand new event, a competitive festival for pianists. This has been set up by Liz Giannopoulos from Encore music. It is open to pianist of all standards, but we are keen to support pianists at the beginning of their playing and we are sponsoring the grade 1-2 class. The festival is on Saturday 7th March. For more information go to www.batterseapianofestival.co.uk

 

logoNext in the year is the Dulwich festival, which celebrates everything Dulwich. It is an annual Arts festival in May and has a huge range of events. There are art exhibitions, music in all its shapes and forms, walks, street art, discussion groups, comedy and fairs where there are bouncy castles to beer tents and food stalls to jewelry stalls. The list could go on and on. We are sponsoring an event and will keep you posted which one it is when all is confirmed.Do keep an eye open for an updated website at www.dulwichfestival.co.uk

dulwichmusic_logoThe Dulwich Piano Festival is now a very well established annual event and a must for local pianists. It is run by the industrious Lorraine Liyanage who also runs the SE22 Piano School as well as so many other piano related events. Pianolobby is a proud event sponsor. The Piano Festival takes place on the 7th June at the James Allen Girls school. For more information have a look at the beautiful website which is: www.dulwichmusicfestival.co.uk

I hope to see you at these fantastic events.

 

The Pianolobby Start Line

canstockphoto14597531It is said that every beginner piano pupil should have the best piano that money can buy. The reason for this is that the pupil will hear and feel how a perfect piano sounds and feels.

Often we see pianos or ‘antique’ pianos for sale that are advertised as ideal starter pianists when in reality they are only ideal for scrapping. Pianos are like cars in that they have many moving parts which eventually wear out, neither improve with age. Violins that are well built do improve with age, there are no moving mechanical parts to wear out. Violins improve as the wood matures. image2

These starter pianos that do not function properly, sound and feel horrible and beginner pupils adapt to that instrument as the norm and develop bad and difficult to correct habits as a result.

I started Pianolobby as a reaction to my own piano pupils buying precisely these awful pianos. I wanted to attempt to unite my pupils with good and reasonably priced instruments. In an ideal world every piano pupil would be equipped with a beautiful Steinway or Bosendorfer grand piano, but sadly most of us are short of the £100,000+ or space for one of these magnificent instruments. imgres

Luckily there are many piano builders that produce pianos which are very good. However they are creeping up in price, new and used as everything else has done in recent years. We have also had a recession which has seen all of our incomes shrink.

Recently I have come across a number of people who have opted for digital pianos and even keyboards as an alternative. These are simply not good options for many reasons I cannot discuss here. I have a blog scheduled in early Spring to discuss this.

We at Pianolobby decided to set up Start Line as a way of providing ‘starter’ pianos that work properly and sound as a piano should but fits in a price bracket below £1000. Pianos are complicated tools and because of their complexity they are expensive and therefore it has been quite a challenge to find pianos that we are happy to sell, but we have made a start and the first pianos are now in stock.

They are listed in the showroom, found on the homepage, have a look and do come and give them a try. We would love your feedback on this project.

Thanks for reading.

If you have any piano related questions or topics that you would like discussing, please let me know. If you would like to submit a blog, we would welcome material written by you.

THE PIANOLOBBY JANUARY SALE…

canstockphoto2392738 (1)Happy New Year everyone! I hope you have all had a good Christmas.

Well, we have eaten our way through our turkeys, geese, sprouts, minced pies and mountains of chocolate, now onwards to clear our minds. imagesWhat better way than to play piano?

 

 

 

 

We have helped hundreds of people over the years to realise their dream and purchase a wonderful piano. Many of our customers have bought a piano for the first time, others we have helped upgrade to something better. U1X front

That new year resolution to self improvement can be to learn piano or brushing up on those piano skills. The piano repertoire is quite simply huge and learning even just a small corner of this wonderful music is quite a journey.

At Pianolobby we would like you to get going with your new years promise to yourself with our January sale.

The structure is very simple this year. Every Barber piano has a £200 discount on the listed price. Every Yamaha, Kawai, Kingsburg and Lippmann has been reduced in price by £100.

What corners are we cutting? None of them. Every piano keeps its warranty, free stool, free first tuning and free local delivery to a ground floor room.

If you would like more information or would like to book a viewing please call Julian on 020 3645 3930. You may prefer to write an email to julian@pianolobby.co.ukYamaha-21s-1966 1140x400px

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COMING SOON!

canstockphoto12108892Part of our Autumn collection of pianos will be arriving very soon. We feel that these particular pianos are a bit extra special.

imagesThere are 2 Yamaha U1’s. They are everything we would expect from this excellent piano builder. These 2 pianos have been so very well looked after, you would never guess their age.

imagesThe other gem is a Kawai. We are particularly fond of Kawai pianos and it was love at first playing with this one! It too has been very well cared for, feeling and sounding really wonderful.

Kingsburg blackOur final piano on this post is a Kingsburg. We usually stock the 115 model but this one we stumbled upon is taller and has a superb sound. It will also be great value as well!!

Keep an eye open for more information. As soon as they arrive, they will get added to this site.

Too book a viewing try our calendar service. Alternatively give us a call on 020 3645 3930. We like emails too, please write to julian@pianolobby.co.uk

The Anglo-American Duo

portrait3 (1)This blog focuses on the wonderful duo called the Anglo-American Duo. I have heard them perform many times now and they are stunning musicians.

The Anglo-American Duo specialize in music from America and Britain, drawing from a wide range of styles, periods, and genres. The Duo is comprised of American violinist Timothy Schwarz  and British pianist Jane Beament.

Tim has recorded solo and chamber music CD’s on Naxos and EMI, among others. He currently tours regularly in the United States and Europe, and is Assistant Professor at Kutztown University.

Jane has an international reputation as a contemporary music specialist, having given 50 premieres around the world. She is currently on faculty at Dulwich College in London.portrait4

As a duo they have given numerous British and world premieres. They have performed in over a dozen venues in the United Kingdom, including the London College of Music, Ealing Festival, Dulwich College, and Kingston University, among others. In 2011 they recorded works by David Osbon for the British recording label Music Chamber.portrait1

Other European concerts include a recent Italian tour, with performances at the Grumo Festival, Ludus Tonalis, and the Colle Ionci Cultural Association. In the USA, the Duo has performed at the University of Delaware, Kutztown University and the Abington Concert series (Philadelphia). Radio performances include Classic Shock on Radio Libera Tutti (Italy) and Simply Grand on WVIA (USA).

The Duo will tour the United Kingdom and the United States in the 2014-15 season. The UK tour dates are listed below as is their US tour dates if you fancy a trip State side.

London Tour

October 22 – November 3

Tuesday, October 28th at 1:10pm
University of Reading
Palmer Building, Whiteknights Campus
RG6 6UR Reading, UK

Wednesday, October 29th
Recital at 1:10pm, Violin Masterclass at 2:30pm

London College of Music
Lawrence Hall, Ranelagh Road, London W5

Thursday, October 30th at 7:00pm
City of London School for Boys
Queen Victoria Street, London, EC4V 3AL

Saturday, November 1st at 7:30pm
Saint James Church Malden
Corner of Bodley Road and High Street
New Maiden, Surrey KT3 5QD

USA Tour

Saturday, March 21st at 7:30pm
The Chamber Music Series of Greater Johnstown
309 Lincoln Street, Johnstown, PA 15901

Monday, March 23rd at 7:30pm
Georgian Room at Kutztown University
15219 Kutztown Road, Kutztown, PA 19530

Friday, March 27th at 7:30pm
Chamber Music Series in the Old Chapel
Central Moravian Church
73 West Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCERT: CELLO & PIANO. September 20th

y3 poster UK 1It isn’t our usual thing to advertise concerts here, but we thought this would be a bit special. It is a cello and piano recital of music inspired by folk music. The concert is titled foklore & fantasy and strikes us as a very interesting concept. Folk tradition in music has always been of interest to ‘classical’ composers who skillfully manage to weave this style into their own music.

This concert is performed by a great friend of Pianolobby, who has written a blogpost about life as a freelance cellist.

For this concert, Hannah is joined by the very talented pianist Jillian Jack in this recital. Both Hannah and Jillian are both graduates of the prestigious Juilliard School of music in New York.

Details of how to get tickets are on the attached poster.

If would like more information, Hannah can be contacted on 07921 761 772 or on email to hmsloane@gmail.com

See you there!!

German Ronisch Piano

Here is a German upright piano made by Ronisch in 1980. It might only be 110cm tall but it is a lot of piano is a small case.Ronisch

It is an ideal piano for beginners up to about grade 6. It has a sweet tone and medium/light weighted keys.

RonischRonisch are serious piano builders dating from 1845. They have maintained their traditional skills and blended them with modern technology. Our Ronisch piano is a good example of this tradition.

This piano is for sale at £1550 which includes free delivery, a stool, first tuning and a 3 year warranty.

To gather more useful tips about buying a piano there is a lot more information on this website. Click on the #Used Piano and #The Easy Way to Buy a Piano on the home page to find out more.

If you would like to discuss what you have read here or would like to book a visit to our London warehouse please call us on 020 3645 3930. If you prefer to write, please send an email to julian@pianolobby.co.ukRonisch