Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

A "classroom" environment for exchanging Technical Questions & Answers, How-To's, music theory concepts, etc.
Cass Couvelas
Posts: 325
Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 7:36 pm
Location: London, UK

Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by Cass Couvelas » Fri Mar 30, 2012 7:04 pm

I'm urged by my teacher to keep returning to the score. I have a tendency to memorise too quickly, setting the score aside as soon as I can, which I know is not a good thing.

So I now spend longer with the score, trying not to dispense with it too soon. However, I'm finding that my responses to the score change as I progress with the piece, and not necessarily for the better.

This is what happens. At the start of the process, all is well. I make my way through a piece, questioning fingering, adopting it or finding my own. I play over and over, still looking intently at the score because at this stage it hasn't settled into memory.

After a few days, with constant repetition, the swing of the piece begins to take hold in my memory. I can't help that – it just does. I'm still making sure that I intently look at the score. But I'm no longer seeing the notation as I was a few days ago. I'm now, it seems, using the physical patterns of the printed notation on the page to act as my cues to where I am and what I do next. I don't mean to; but this is what is happening. I'm no longer seeing the notes; just black and white patterns on the page which translate into placement of fingers (both hands) in a certain pattern that is specific to that particular part of the physical page.

I've found that this 'pattern recognition' falls apart if in any way the pieces of the pattern change. If, for instance, I'm presented with exactly the same piece of music, but from a different source, the small differences in presentation throw me. It may be that there are 4 bars to a line on one version, but 5 on another. My cues have shifted: bar 18 is no longer where it should be. Or it may be that the actual typeface used for the notes is different, so the thing looks alien. And because I'm no longer 'seeing' the music and the notes – as I had been doing right at the beginning, when I had no memory of either music or score to get in the way – I get lost and confused.

Perhaps, because I'm not completely at home with notation and instant recognition of where notes are right up the fretboard, my brain is stepping in to help me out: it's quicker and more comfortable with pattern recognition than it is with note-to-fretboard deciphering. But ultimately this isn't helping me keep thoroughly in touch with the music itself, which is the whole point of returning to the score. It's a short-hand that I don't want, but which I don't seem able to prevent.

I'm not asking for solutions – I'm sure that time and experience will help. But it is an odd conundrum to be faced with.
"She ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B."
(Dorothy Parker on Katharine Hepburn)

simonm
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 9264
Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 10:22 am
Location: Spain, IB

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by simonm » Fri Mar 30, 2012 7:49 pm

I am not an experienced reader of music but here's is my view on what your situation.

I think pattern recognition means that you are really getting an understanding of reading music. In essence it is all about patterns. The fact that a change throws you is kind of like when you are learning a new language and you understand an accent similar to your teacher's quite well but as soon as you hear a different accent you are lost. With experience you start to understand the other other accents as well. So with more practice you will not have a problem with slight changes in the music's appearance.

I would say that realize that you are seeing patterns is a major milestone in progress. The fact that you have figured out why you sometimes can't see the pattern is another. Keep reading and grab some of the wonder free stuff that is now available to practice sight reading and your progress will continue.

User avatar
robin loops
Posts: 3247
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:57 am
Location: California

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by robin loops » Fri Mar 30, 2012 9:53 pm

Seeing patterns is great. unfortunately it leads to not reading the individual notes as much. What I do to compensate for this is jump around a bit... For example I'm playing along and get to bar 12, then I jump back 2 or 3 bars and continue, Or you can go 4 bars forward jump back 3>4 forward> jump back 3, etc... Kind of like a record skipping all over the place. Note: Don't do this when getting close to trying to memorize a piece and use only when working on sight reading newer pieces or it will affect the continuity of the peice later.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
-James-

barry haywood
Posts: 158
Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2011 4:24 pm
Location: Nottinghamshire UK

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by barry haywood » Fri Mar 30, 2012 11:04 pm

I think "pattern reading" is a natural point on the path to more intuitive reaction to the printed score. I see this as "cue reading", since we don't attend to every mark on the paper but pick up enough "cues" to keep you flowing and accurate. In time you will learn to be more aware of small changes when you meet an alternative arrangement, while still making good use of the "cues". I like this stage of learning a piece since it means I'm a short step from accurately remembering the whole thing - without those errors which can creep in if we try to memorise too soon.

I like robin's idea of "jumping around", especially if you deliberately jump to the bits which give you problems. I think this avoids the limiting idea of learning always from bar 1. Naturally we eventually play the piece in the right order and we can feel the music develop that way, but to always approach those difficult 4 bars by playing 28 easy ones every time as an approach seriously dilutes the learning effort.
If you don't grow up, you'll never grow old.

User avatar
robin loops
Posts: 3247
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:57 am
Location: California

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by robin loops » Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:45 am

I meant to mention that if you compare it to reading text, Reading patterns is akin to reading whole words as opposed to sounding out the letters of a word. This will soon evolve to reading whole phrases which is akin to reading whole sentences rather than individual words. And is definitely a sign of good progress. Also that memorizing too soon is the big trap you want to avoid. Also i'll ad to last post that if you read 28 bars to get to problem spots you'll end up playing most of the song great but the difficult parts really poorly. Same thing with working measure to measure starting from beginning and then adding a couple of measures each time. With that you end up playing the beginning really awesome and progressively worse as the song progresses. This was a trap I used to fall into a lot.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
-James-

OldC1guy
Posts: 306
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:14 pm
Location: Spring Hill, FL

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by OldC1guy » Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:04 am

The process you first described seems to about the same experience I have with a new piece. I'll take enough time to become familiar with the position switches, and generally get through the piece. Then I try to get a good level of familiarity with the piece, not worrying about tempo. About this time, I'm looking for major phrases and attack them in that way. This may mean today we start at measure 38 for a few days, then maybe start at 56 or where ever. This keeps you from "wearing out" the opening sections. I think it is only natural at this point to be reading measures instead of notes, kind of like words and not letters as someone said. Oh, but look at a different version of the same piece and I might as well be looking at a whole new piece. So where I'm having trouble, I'll look at sections of different versions until I find one that fits and works for me. This is what I am doing in the prelude to Lute suite no.4 at this point.
I bought my classical guitar before my first marriage. That didn’t last, but the guitar did; one of the few things she didn't get...

User avatar
robin loops
Posts: 3247
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:57 am
Location: California

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by robin loops » Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:43 am

Some versions just don't work. That's where I run into problems. Finding a decent transcription can sometimes take trying several on for size. I often find the ones that try to simplify a piece often make it nearly impossible to play with continuity. Example is one note on one string then two notes on next to avoid a barre with a simple arpeggio. I like to find a couple of good versions and work on both to avoid over familiarity. Then I often end up using the better fingerings from each. Sometimes even the exact same version but printed differently ( different spacing different font, etc.) is useful because I end up actually reading it rather than memorizing. I also often put aside a piece for a few days then come back to it, which requires me to read it rather than playing chunks from memory. This slows the learning process down in the short term but helps the long term learning process as far as developing good sight reading skills. Probably not a good approach for new players but for players like me that have played for year without working on the basics ( in this case strong reading skills) might work well. At least in my case it is.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
-James-

Brian99
Posts: 129
Joined: Sat Jan 14, 2012 5:25 pm
Location: North Hampshire UK

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by Brian99 » Sat Mar 31, 2012 8:55 am

I think I have a similar situation, but I'm probably at an earlier stage of development.

I agree sight reading by pattern recognition is good, and is likely similar in the way we read words, not letters, then sentances etc, as was suggested above...

however at an earlier stage of my sight reading devolpment I see patterns, and can place my fingers accordingly, but then struggle to deconstruct those patterns into actual named notes.. (but I do know where to place my fingers..)

I suspect that some people are very pattern oriented, and others are not. I see patterns.. I'm good at graphical recognition, my favourite games as a child would be patten related ie puzzles etc. while I struggled with reading skills..

I guess the answer is to recognise your strengths and weaknesses, and to work on all areas to get a better balance
Brian

User avatar
Erik Zurcher
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 17271
Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2005 8:38 pm
Location: The Hague, Netherlands

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by Erik Zurcher » Sat Mar 31, 2012 9:56 am

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.
I think this phenomenon applies for music notation as well. First we read every single note, spelling them as individual characters. Then we recognize groups of notes as 'words' and finally connect them into phrases.
Reedition Domingo Esteso by Conde Hermanos 2004; Kenny Hill, model Barcelona 2001
"While you try to master classical guitar, prepare for a slave's life: the guitar will forever be your master and you its slave".

simonm
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 9264
Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 10:22 am
Location: Spain, IB

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by simonm » Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:44 pm

Erik Zurcher wrote:
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.
I think this phenomenon applies for music notation as well. First we read every single note, spelling them as individual characters. Then we recognize groups of notes as 'words' and finally connect them into phrases.

Touché.

User avatar
robin loops
Posts: 3247
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:57 am
Location: California

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by robin loops » Sat Mar 31, 2012 10:51 pm

That was azmanig!

One thing about practicing tough spots of a piece. Rather than working measure to measure or even skipping to the tough spots, I always play a piece from beginning to end but I use repeats at the troublesome spots. Not single measures but the entire musical phrase that contains the tough part. The number of times I will repeat it is determined by it's level of difficulty. For me this helps keep the continuity of the piece later as opposed to having a 'cut and paste' feel...
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
-James-

Cass Couvelas
Posts: 325
Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 7:36 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by Cass Couvelas » Sun Apr 01, 2012 11:15 am

Thanks, everyone, for great and useful responses. Or, to put it another way, tankhs, eryoneve, for gaert and ufusel rosnepses. Glad to know I'm not alone in this!

I've been pondering why I'm so concerned with this. Does it actually matter whether I, as Brian99 so neatly puts it, '. . . see patterns, and can place my fingers accordingly, but then struggle to deconstruct those patterns into actual named notes . . . '?

If ultimately it's patterns that do it for me - enable me to translate from the printed page to the fretboard - then why should I care? Does deconstruction back again actually matter?

Yes, I think it does. I'm not sure why – I need to reason this out . . .
"She ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B."
(Dorothy Parker on Katharine Hepburn)

User avatar
BugDog
Posts: 1167
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 4:07 pm
Location: Northern KY USA

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by BugDog » Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:09 pm

barry haywood wrote: ....
I see this as "cue reading", since we don't attend to every mark on the paper but pick up enough "cues" to keep you flowing and accurate. In time you will learn to be more aware of small changes when you meet an alternative arrangement, while still making good use of the "cues". I like this stage of learning a piece since it means I'm a short step from accurately remembering the whole thing - without those errors which can creep in if we try to memorise too soon.
....
Cue reading.

Thanks for the term! I had always wondered what to to call that process where you weren't sight reading but weren't playing from memory either.
BugDog
There's one in every crowd.

User avatar
Jstanley01
Posts: 405
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2011 3:59 pm
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by Jstanley01 » Mon Apr 02, 2012 7:40 pm

Cass Couvelas wrote:Thanks, everyone, for great and useful responses. Or, to put it another way, tankhs, eryoneve, for gaert and ufusel rosnepses. Glad to know I'm not alone in this!

I've been pondering why I'm so concerned with this. . .

. . . I need to reason this out . . .
FWIW (and it may be exactly what you're paying me), my advice would be to stop using your "left brain" quite so much to noodle out this kind of thing in theoretical terms.

The left brain is indeed involved when questions like, "Is that the best fingering?" or, "How do I stop that buzz?" come up. Or when memorizing by rote where the notes are located on the fretboard. And yes, when slogging through learning to read. But guitar is mostly a right brain activity, including the pattern recognition that comes with reading skill. And right brain skills appear to me to "just happen," mostly. With the application of proper principles in practicing.

MHCO, only. I'm no neurosurgeon, that's for sure. And BTW, Ewe our well comb... :bye:
Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. -W.C. Fields

royscot

Re: Scores: seeing the notes, or only the patterns?

Post by royscot » Mon Apr 02, 2012 7:54 pm

Hi can I take it back to real basics. I am a beginner and amongst other things I am learning scales. Having gone through them a few times I still find it hard to do them blind but if I have the scales in front of me - no problem. I am obviously not reading them as such - I can play them quite quickly -but I seem to need them for the moment until I get the notes in my long term memory.

Hope this is relevent!

Roy

Return to “Classical Guitar Classes”