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What are some techniques for sight reading/playing open score choral music at the piano? | Christmas Caroling

What are some techniques for sight reading/playing open score choral music at the piano?

Posted by admin on May 25th, 2012 and filed under 5 |

I can sight read piano music, it’s just a matter of learning how to read four separate staves.

This is more a matter of a habit connected to the motor activity of the eyes as conditioned from reading two-stave piano music. Of Course, you have already read four-voice music in that format, so bear that in mind.

Your eyes need to literally scan a greater vertical distance: imagine you have backed away a bit from the piano rack so you can now ’see’ those four separate staves with the same eye-sweep of your piano score reading habit. That is as much for reconditioning your eye motor habit as well as taking any ‘psychologically daunting’ aura off of the task. (It really is pretty simple.)

Practice: Incremental building up.
Scan, read, and play the soprano and bass only. That will get you used to that different range of eye-scan to which you are not now yet accustomed.

Then switch up the same, reading say, soprano and tenor — that octave transposition is dead easy, but it can be a hiccup until that too becomes a reflexive reaction. Then, try other mixed stave pairs.

Then do the same with three staves, shuffling which you read.

The same works for getting accustomed to reading orchestral scores: push yourself to read the outer voices, or merely the top and bottom, and eventually you are also more directly able to take in the inner activity.

It threw me for about, maybe two weeks, after which it became reflex. (Since accompanying became a third of my professional bread and butter, that may have been a helpful additional incentive. One likes to keep a job one likes:-)

It is not that far a distance at all in thinking, but the greater ’scan’ motor habit of the eye, and that tenor octave business — you can get familiar with it fairly quickly, by breaking it down as above.

Best regards.

4 Responses

  1. John Says:

    All you have to do is not suck.
    References :

  2. petr b Says:

    This is more a matter of a habit connected to the motor activity of the eyes as conditioned from reading two-stave piano music. Of Course, you have already read four-voice music in that format, so bear that in mind.

    Your eyes need to literally scan a greater vertical distance: imagine you have backed away a bit from the piano rack so you can now ’see’ those four separate staves with the same eye-sweep of your piano score reading habit. That is as much for reconditioning your eye motor habit as well as taking any ‘psychologically daunting’ aura off of the task. (It really is pretty simple.)

    Practice: Incremental building up.
    Scan, read, and play the soprano and bass only. That will get you used to that different range of eye-scan to which you are not now yet accustomed.

    Then switch up the same, reading say, soprano and tenor — that octave transposition is dead easy, but it can be a hiccup until that too becomes a reflexive reaction. Then, try other mixed stave pairs.

    Then do the same with three staves, shuffling which you read.

    The same works for getting accustomed to reading orchestral scores: push yourself to read the outer voices, or merely the top and bottom, and eventually you are also more directly able to take in the inner activity.

    It threw me for about, maybe two weeks, after which it became reflex. (Since accompanying became a third of my professional bread and butter, that may have been a helpful additional incentive. One likes to keep a job one likes:-)

    It is not that far a distance at all in thinking, but the greater ’scan’ motor habit of the eye, and that tenor octave business — you can get familiar with it fairly quickly, by breaking it down as above.

    Best regards.
    References :

  3. mamianka Says:

    This method has worked for decades - maybe centuries. Get a hymnal, from any church. SA in treble, TB in bass clef. Start by playing S and B. Then play A and B - and *sing* the S part, in your range. Continue with every possible combination of playing 2 voices, singing another - and move on to singing *inside* voice, like the third voice of the tenor, while playing SAB. This will train you eye to move vertically as well as horizontally. when this is no longer a challenge, then you are ready to move to SATB on 4 staves. The annoying part is that the T sound an octave lower than written - so you have to add THAT quirk in there. Be aware that you probably will not be playing all four parts of complicated choral music, at sight - my husband and I have worked as professional choral accompanists for many years, and have excellent skills - and there is a lot of feeding of entrances, and then turning one’s attention to the next entrance. Yes, in undergrad school we were terrorized into playing from open orchestral scores - and always though that was ONE GUY that could do this amazingly - until we found out that just knew the works so well, that he was playing by ear, and flipping pages. That is your next line of defense - study the score until you know it so well that your EAR, not your eye, is leading the hands.

    Good luck - but realize that this is a daunting task for some scores, and not perfectly attainable by most of us mere mortals. Perhaps Collaborative Piano grad students have more training in this - but I think not - they are more likely to work on chamber music scores - which are piano parts. The thing we HATE are orchestral reduction of concerti - you need 14 fingers, and get sore joints from the effort.
    References :

  4. Edik Says:

    Sit at the piano and sight read some of this kind of music every single day. In general, I like the idea of trying different voice pairings, different combinations, etc — those are great tips for playing open score music. But if it is literally sight reading that you want to work on, you don’t have that option. You’re only sight reading the first time you look at a piece. After that, you’re practicing. If you want to get better at sight reading, the only way I know to do it is to practice sight reading.
    References :

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