Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Sight reading Chords


Hi Clare,

I'm beginning to do sight reading both treble and bass clef on a midi keyboard using musescore. It seemed so hard even just half notes. I'm not sure if memorizing the chords on the staff will make it easier to identify them or should i learn to see each note individually on the staff and simple place the fingers based on what i see.  Thanks

Hello Omer, and thanks for being patient.  

Playing the piano/keyboard is about using your muscular memory; from the word go your eyes, ears and hands work in tandem so if you see a phrase of music you can hear it internally (and know what it should sound
like), and you can feel it in your hands so you shouldn't need to consciously think about them.  When you sightread you don't take your eyes off the music; you always look ahead and leave your hands to play by feel.  

If you are a beginner on the piano and learning a piece with me, we go through it separate hands slowly, phrase by phrase, working out the fingering and making sure you understand it, then we clap the rhythm to make sure you understand that.  Then I cover your hand and you play the whole phrase as with as slow a beat as you like but ensuring you play in rhythm.  You practise it separate hands only all week then we try putting it hands together in your next lesson.  When you practise, as soon as you hear a mistake you need to stop and put it right.  I'm a great believer in covering the hands when you practise so it helps if you can find someone to do that for you, so you have to play by feel.

The difference between that and sightreading is that when you sightread, come what may you must not stop.  You have to ignore any mistakes and keep going.  You're not looking at individual notes; you're looking out for intervals or patterns which your hands immediately recognise (this is the reason we practise scales and arpeggios).  You don't so much memorise chords as memorise chord shapes so you see the notes as a group.

Without an example of what you're trying to sightread, it's difficult to be more specific.  Stick to separate hands to begin with, make sure you're absolutely fluent at reading stave notation and have the confidence to let your hands get on with it.

Hope this helps.  

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Clare Redfarn


All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.


58 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 43 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 46 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 21 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

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