I have been taking harp for 6 years now. I am 14 and I am very gifted with music. But the thing is,
It’s all about practice. Try playing things that you are not familiar with so you have nothing but the sheet music to work from, then have your teacher check to see if you are doing it correctly.
My first experience in music was in a marching band. I played both the fife and the glockenspiel. I quickly learned to memorize all the music so I could play and march at the same time.
By the time I took up the harp it was just a natural habit to memorize the music, but my teacher wanted me to be able to sight read and play from the sheet music so she was constantly on me to keep my eyes on the music. She would stop me in the middle of playing something and say, “quickly, start over from three measures back from where you are.” and things like that so that I would have to learn to keep my eye on the music and keep track of where I was supposed to be.
Eventually I got the hang of it, and although I can still memorize music easily I can also sight read fairly well depending on how complicated the arrangement is. It just took time and practice, and a teacher who was good at keeping me focused.
Molly- Maybe you should consider taking a course in music theory. That way, you’re studying the music without the harp being there. It would force you to focus on the printed page and analyse what is going on. A course in Solfege would be very helpful too, because you would be applying sylables to each of the notes and again, reading the music without the harp.
I don’t know what level you are playing at or what kind of music, but its very common for students to play everything by ear at the begining because the pieces are usually very simple and melodic. But as you get into harder repertoire, it isn’t as easy to play by ear, and you can end up learning a lot of wrong notes and incorrect rhythms.
Anna Dunwoodie and Lisa Williamson (New Zealand) have put out two progressive volumes of short sight-reading exercises. It sounds like this is perfect for what you are describing. Email me off list to get their contact information, if you’re interested.
I suggest you get a recording and a book of Scarlatti Sonatas and/or Bach two-part inventions, or even flute solos, so you can concentrate on listening and following with the score just one or two lines, until that is comfortable, and then more chordal music, perhaps the Chopin Preludes. Learning to be comfortable reading music as though you were
My brother has the same issue. He and I both can play by ear (he can play the complete score of “Pirates of the Caribbean” on the piano), but he has issues with sight reading. He’s good, just not great. Flash cards are a great tool (concentrate on getting the notes FAST). I’m also a church musician, so I would open my hymnbook to a random hymn and start playing, melody one verse than melody and chords the second. That helped me with chord structure, sight reading, and hymn work all in one go!
Hope that helps…
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