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Joined: Apr 2012
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Hello all,
I have been going through old posts in the 'Piano Teacher's Forum' and have found this: http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubb...ching%20teens%20who%20c.html#Post1414026

So my main question (derived from said post) is, could practicing touch-typing actually help with sight-reading on the piano? In the school I go to, they make touch-typing a must and everyone does it. Could there be a benefit from this class that I am not seeing? (Well other than the fact that my typing is now quick and accurate).

Thanks for the input, in advance. smile


"Just practice diligently and you will do very well. You have five fingers on each hand just as healthy as mine."
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If you could sight-read as quickly as you can type
(say a modest 60 words a minute)
then, there would be a case for the comparison.

But with ten fingers on two staves, all going every which-way, sight-reading eventually reduces to a study in memorisation and dedicated hours of practice.

kind regards, btb

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I can touch-type excellently, and have always been able to since as long as I can remember. I thought it was just from using the computer a lot, but my mum told me recently that she had me do one of those touch-typing programs when I was at least 4 or 5. My thoughts can flow out naturally to the computer keyboard, and although I don't feel much by the way of limitation in improvisation at the piano keyboard, I can't sit down and play a piece in the same way I could sit down and type out a book. I have had to work at sight-reading to a much greater degree (of what I recall) to get any kind of competency in it. On the other hand, I have had several teachers say that I'm a good reader, and I can learn a piece relatively quickly compared to other people.

In my experience, I don't think touch-typing has really given me any advantage in sight-reading. I guess the main thing that would be key in both situations is the ability to "skip" the influence of the conscious mind between the act of reading and typing/playing. IE, when I sight-read, as well as touch-type, I want to look at whole words/chords, and just reproduce that, rather than actually _reading_ it per se. If you start reading and digesting actually what chord it is, rather than just playing its shape or whatever, or reading the sentence for what it means, it will take too long and hence a decrease of pace, you start to get lost, etc.. I guess somehow I've learnt to do this efficiently on the computer, but on the piano I'm not quite there.

It's an interesting thought, though. It would be interesting to hear the input of some really good sight readers, like JefferyJones, and whether or not, when sight-reading, they are conscious of the music, of if it's just flowing straight through from page to hands, without thinking.


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Thank you Jolteon and btb for your input. Both, interesting thoughts there. I can't wait to see what other thoughts arise. smile


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We had touch typing as a required course and I think it helped me with the piano. In typing we were required to look at the page and not at the keyboard. You had to learn to trust your fingers to position themselves correctly to find the keys you needed at a quick speed. You also had to manually return the carriage (this was before electronic typewriters) and recover your fingers to the correct spot on the keyboard without looking at the keys. With enough practice you could do it so well that your speed would improve, because on the typewriter you are never going to get decent speed if you are constantly looking back and forth from the page to the keyboard.

It is a good discipline for the piano because, again, you have to trust your hands to be in the right place. With the piano you can get away with a relatively static hand position in music of Mozart and earlier, but after that it is really a question of getting your hands to the right spot, often quickly, and not just your fingers (especially with Liszt). I found that if I remembered my touch typing skills, and kept my eyes focused on the page, my sight reading ability in most music jumped up considerably. It helps when you are sight reading this way to keep your fingers close to the keyboard, so that if you need to make a big jump of several octaves you should have time to feel where you are on the black keys in relationship to the white keys without looking at them, and hit the right note or chord. This is especially important for left hand play. Also, over time I have learned the trick of leading with my fifth finger in both hands. In other words, if I am playing a chord in either hand that includes the fifth finger, I work at getting that finger on the correct key, and then all the other fingers will follow. Most of the time, unless the composer indicates otherwise, it is the fifth finger which leads with the melody in the right, and the bass in the left, so this sight reading technique often helps you get the right musical emphasis as well. When sight reading, therefore, let your fifth finger be your guide around the keyboard, and set your mind to focusing on getting the fifth finger correct first and foremost.


This is all very good at home, but for public performance you are often expected to play by memory. This is where sight reading skills can be a detriment, because now you have the luxury of looking at the keyboard and getting your hands set visually. This is a whole different finger-hand-eye-brain coordination exercise and I sometimes think good sight reading ability gets in the way of proper memorization and performance by memory.


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With me it worked the other way. I never learned touch typing, but I am quite good at it and type quite fast, and I am sure that this derives from my piano-playing skills.

Numerian, your post is very interesting, thank you. I shall try concentrating on my fifth finger! As in your last paragraph, I find that if I look at the keyboard, things can sometimes go awry; as you say, this is a whole different finger-hand-eye-brain coordination exercise. But surely if one is playing by memory, there is no compulsion to look at the keyboard; one could look into the piano or up at the ceiling, or even close one's eyes?

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I have a similar story to David-G. I learned how to play years before I learned to type, and I could sight-read Beethoven or Schubert before I knew how to use a computer. This was in the late '80s; computers were well established but not as ubiquitous as they are now. Today's youth gets much earlier exposure.

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Until I read your post, I hadn't thought about it, but I think my touch typing has actually slowed my sight reading. When I am typing very fast (100+wpm), I am not reading what I am typing. I am looking only at the letters. When I sight read, I tend to look only at the current notes, instead of looking ahead. I suspect this habit was formed from typing. I have to consciously train myself to look ahead in the music.


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For what it's worth, I'm a very good typist, and a poor sight reader.

I spend a lot of time at the (computer) keyboard, as a software engineer - if typing is helping my sight reading, I'd hate to know how bad I'd be if I worked in some other field. smile

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Originally Posted by aidans
For what it's worth, I'm a very good typist, and a poor sight reader....


Me, too.


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I thought that I'd also chime in on this.

I've been around computers since I was five years old, or maybe even earlier, and I've known how to touch-type for almost all of the time since then. I can push 200 words per minute on a good day. However, I'm a terrible sight reader compared to other students at my level. I'm therefore inclined to say that there is little or no connection between sight reading and touch-typing.

Good luck anyway!


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One issue might then be this: in touch typing you don't need to comprehend what you are typing; they are merely letters and symbols. With sight reading on a piano, you must comprehend what you are playing in order to make it musical. To do a decent job you have to shape musical phrases, balance notes so that the melody predominates, adjust the damper pedal constantly, and do all this at tempo. The hand-eye-foot-brain coordination is a lot more intense, and it is therefore logical that many people would not find touch typing skill beneficial in piano sight reading.

The stories of genius composers like Liszt being able to sight read both piano and orchestral scores to perfection without having seen them before, or someone like Mozart being able to completely replay music he just heard because he constructed the score in his head, suggests that people are gifted to varying degrees at sight reading.

What I found is that touch typing taught me to keep my eyes on the material being played and performed rather than looking at the keyboard now and then, which is step one to sight reading. After that we are all more or less at the mercy of whatever God-given gift we have in coordinating all the rest of our body in order to sight read well.

Just a technical note. Having learned touch typing on manual typewriters, it was extremely difficult with these machines to get up to 200 wpm. For one, your fingers had to be raised quite high to strike each key. Two, if you went too fast you would get dreaded key lock where you then had to disentangle two metal keys at the platen. Three, on most typewriters keys were quite heavy to push down. When I translated this to piano sight reading, the piano was actually easier to play - more like a modern computer keyboard, so sight reading at least seemed to come easier.

The introduction of the IBM Selectric, and then the Wang word processor, opened up a miracle world of super-fast typewriting in comparison to the old days. If I had grown up on a computer typing 200 wpm, I can see how that might not necessarily provide many benefits for the sight reader. The only real benefit, again, would be the discipline of keeping you eyes on the material being played.


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After 30+ years in the computer industry, my touch-typing couldn't be much better. I just thing, and the words appear.

No so with my sight-reading. Sight-reading has been a struggle for me (see blog).

So my conclusion: not related.


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