Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Improvisatory Sight-Reading

I get a particular kick out of teaching people to read music so that they enjoy the process every step of the way.  This means showing them how to get into an entire piece without necessarily getting all the notes right.  This requires an experimental attitude from both teacher and student.  (That is usually the really hard part!)

Today's experiment involved finding the most common tone within the first four bars, then playing that note, in rhythm, whenever it occurred, with either hand.  That was right away amusing.

Next, deviations from that tone, first by thirds (i.e., the triads in which it figures), next by step or half-step deviations from it.  Voila, the piece.

Within 45 minutes the student, who is far from a facile reader, was enjoying the sense of the whole thing.

I asked what was the hardest part of the task:  Tolerating wrong notes.

I was in my 20's when an astute teacher required me to play wrong notes on purpose during lessons--by far the hardest thing I had ever been asked to do, harder even than playing three voices of a four-part Bach organ fugue with hands and feet while singing the fourth voice, selected on the spot by the teacher.