Not Looking at the Keys When Jumping 2 or 3 Octaves

by Diane
(Franklin TN)

I need to know the proper way to not look at the keys. My teacher always let me look and I think it was a mistake. When jumping 2 or 3 octaves she said it was a must.

I have been trying to not look at the keys while reading music as I play. This is also the octaves.

However, since I’m doing this without a teacher, I can’t really feel the keys when it’s 2 or 3 octaves. Any help would be appreciated.

Maria's Answer:

To look or not to look…that’s the question…! :) Well there is no absolute right or wrong here. It is ultimately up to the player.

There are easier ways to do it of course, and as your teacher correctly says; when making huge jumps on the piano keyboard- yes, you should look!

But, there are actually two issues at play (!) here.

The first is, as you correctly are aware of; trying to not look at the keys as you learn to read music.

This is important, so you can read and play without being slowed down, as you would be by trying to check out both the keys and sheet music at the same time.

The second issue is more technical.

We have a fantastic muscular “memory”, that kicks in immediately when we play the music. Your hand and fingers will very quickly learn a specific movement and be able to recall it again and again, even without looking down.

However, when your movement is larger- like over the span of several octaves, your muscle memory is not secure enough. You need to cast at least a quick glance right before you play that note.

But notice I said a quick glance, before you play.

When proficiently reading music while playing, you keep your eyes in the score, but never exactly where you play.

You always read a few notes or even bars ahead. This is so you’ll know beforehand what’s next and are able to play without stopping, or hesitating.

So when making a large jump, you have already read the notes right before, then you cast a quick glance at the key you will play.

When you now throw your arm and play the note, you will at the same time look back at the score for the next part.

It’s all overlapping, and you are always ahead in your mind (and eyes).

If it’s tricky to find your place when you return your eyes to the score, you could mark the place your eyes need to "land on" with a highlighter. Or as is mostly done- memorize the small part following, so that you know exactly where to keep on reading.

I hope this helped.

Happy practicing,

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