How do I make sense of a brand-new score as quickly as possible?
I opt for a mix of playing and understanding at first sight by using the bass clef part of the music and LEFT hand. Apply this to anything from baroque to modern, but largely to tonal music! The piano will always be an instrument where harmony is spread out from the bottom up. Where bass notes change significantly there the harmony will change. You do of course need to get adept at recognising notes belonging to a chord and not confuse chord-inherent notes to new bass notes. Many composers will start a new chord with a new low note and on a main or recognisably important part of a bar.
So, taking your left hand to the keyboard read and sketch/play left hand through the piece. (You can of course do this without any playing at all if your inner hearing is so developed that you can read and hear your score at the same time.) But the advantage of reading and playing left hand is that you do both and correct any misconceptions of sound that might occur and take you by surprise when it comes to hands-together playing.
After doing this and recognising repeats or variation forms do make sure you give the end, the last few bars or the final cadence bars or the coda, your full attention. See how the composer wraps up his piece: quite often there is a surprise in store there, with an extra unusual modulation, a sudden flurry of notes or just a strong statement – and play this right through, slowly, once or twice! It helps your self-confidence enormously if you know ‘where you are going’!
Beate Toyka, Principal Tutor of The Piano Teachers' Course UK
‘Getting to the heart of music’ is Beate’s teaching philosophy. Exploring a beautiful tone and the shape of a melody right from the early stages is essential, as is the formation of a good technique. Listening to good music is as important as playing it; encouragement at all stages is the key, and she is a devoted teacher from beginners to diploma levels.