Any correlations and meanings here?

I find that people who are good at sight reading are bad at memorising, and people who are bad at sight reading are good at memorising.

I also find that some people can memorise a song and play both hands independently, while others can only play the song from memory with both hands.

Also, some people are better at reading notes than following rhythm. And some are better at rhythm than notes.

In this bunch, I am good at sight reading, good at reading notes, can only memorise with both hands; bad at rhythm, bad at memorising.

Anyone relate? See a correlation?

  • Welcome to Music.SE! Do you have a specific question? Please see the help center, and especially the section about asking to learn what questions work well here. :-) Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 5:50
  • Have a look at 'Sight reading ("two hands")' from this page (right-hand side). There's some insight in other answers there too.
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 8:16
  • 1
    @Kat: Can you clarify? What kind of answer are you looking for? Scientific research? Implications on practicing? Pros and cons? Other? (My experience is similar - that there is a spectrum of performers abilities of sight reading and memorization and/or playing by ear - so I can relate, but I don't feel that, at least, I can write a SE Q&A relevant answer from that.) Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 9:37

1 Answer 1


Sorry for the obvious answer here, but though everyone has strengths and weakness, you do get better at what you practice well and after 20-30 years of practice, your skills reflect first what you worked on most.

In this bunch, I am good at sight reading, good at reading notes, can only memorise with both hands; bad at rhythm, bad at memorising.

One possible explanation among others to your situation:

The memory most people have (and the first to go away when under stress) is finger memory. It comes from playing the piece over and over and doesn't require much understanding of the piece. If you are good at sight reading, chances are you quickly play hands together and thus acquire that finger memory. And chances are also that you rely on the music sheet heavily (since you read well) and don't have to challenge your memory.

Bad at memorizing can mean many things: that it goes away with stress, that it takes a long time to come to you, etc. Take a short piece and explore a different approach: practice it diligently with hands separately for a much longer time; try to play it from memory after just a few passes, even if you don't know it yet; then as you start playing it from memory, start randomly from anywhere in the piece, and chances are that you will find yourself having a very strong memorization for that piece, pretty quickly, playing it with both hands or only one hand.

My point here being that even though everyone has different inherent skill, I suspect that a lot of what you consider as a given comes from your playing habits.

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