Reading Multiple Voices

Question: Does your course also cover how to properly read and practice the multiple voices found in almost every piano/vocal/chord sheet music I see? I have seen many courses that teach you how to sight read, but every time I ask about the multiple voice issue, I always receive the same answer in that the course doesn’t cover the subject. I believe I read somewhere in your web site that multiple voice piano music are called fugues.

What I’m truly looking for is a note/sight reading training DVD that covers a complete course from the beginner “This is a Staff” all the way to exploring some of the truly advanced material of multiple voices and other subjects such as that.

I realize that is a tall order to fill and I’m hoping that you’ll be able to provide some answers, or at least point the way that I could go. Because of my crazy work schedule, learning with a live teacher is all but impossible, but I’m willing to work hard on my own if given a solid direction.

Albert’s reply: My course How to Read Sheet Music does cover reading multiple voices. There’s a whole section of the DVD that discusses reading harmonic intervals and how to develop the requisite physiological patterns to play them accurately.

That said, no introductory course on reading piano music can possibly take you to truly advanced material. It’s just too hard – there’s simply too much to do at the more basic, critical level of laying a solid foundation for reading music at the piano. This will require time. Don’t underestimate the time you’ll need!

More advanced reading material would involve different rhythms in different voices. The course deliberately focuses more on reading pitch than it does rhythm since the former is easier to convey through the video medium. I do wish to add more lessons on rhythm to key-notes, although this is a musical skill that is best practiced in person with a teacher. It is a major challenge to teach students accurate yet not mechanical rhythm.

One of the things that makes my course unique is its that it has a comprehensive workbook full of preparatory exercises that train the eye to recognize notes on the staves. These exercises are specifically not sight reading exercises: Instead they are designed to be done away from the instrument, as preparation for reading music at the piano.

In my experience, mastering this preparatory reading material is the fastest way to develop your music reading skills. The primary reason reading music is considered so difficult by most piano students is that they’re really trying to combine too many skills at once: reading pitches on multiple staves, reading key signatures and accidentals, reading chords, piano fingering, and multiple rhythms at all the same time. This is a guaranteed recipe for frustration and failure!

This is why I designed the course, and why it’s unique in its thoroughness. I can’t stress enough the importance of having a solid foundation in all aspects of musicianship.

As for music with multiple voices, only a small subset of it consists of fugues. A fugue is a musical form from the Baroque period, in which a subject is stated in each voice in succession and treated according to rather strict rules of counterpoint. Fugues are the highest intellectual level of music composition and training, and they are some of the most difficult music to sight read!

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