Tag Archives: speed reading


Isn’t it funny how something you’ve rarely thought about grabs your attention and then seems to crop up everywhere? I experienced this recently in the world of fonts – no really.

A friend mentioned that Comic Sans was under attack, mentioning that it made life difficult for dyslexic people. Discussion with a couple of dyslexic friends led me to understand that simple, sans serif fonts were thought to be easier to read. I became obsessed by fonts for a few days, as you do, and left it at that.

Then, my mind turned to Amazon’s Kindle. I haven’t bought one, but downloaded Kindle for PC (a free download, granting access to thousands of free books) and was impressed. I particularly liked that one could adjust font size and words-per-line in a way that seemed to assist speed reading* – I never fancied the idea of lengthy sessions reading from the screen – not a laptop screen, anyway.

I then came upon a couple of articles by a favourite science writer, Jonah Lehrer (author of the intriguingly titled Proust Was a Neuroscientist – look inside the book here). The first post was on e-reading in general while the second concentrated on ugly fonts. This latter post directed the reader to research carried out by Princeton University‘s Department of Psychology, which tends to suggest that the easy fonts favoured by e-readers may result in poorer retention – or conversely that changing fonts could prove a cost-effective way of bringing about improvement in schools and colleges.

I found this interesting on many levels: as someone in education; as someone who knows people who find difficult fonts to be just that; as someone who doesn’t like the look of easy fonts (my preferred fonts are Times New Roman; Georgia and Traditional Arabic (misleading name as the letters are Roman…). I imagine that much more research remains to be carried out in this field.

I’d be interested in hearing your experiences and views on fonts.

It might come as a surprise to some but there are also variable fonts in the world of printed music. In this video about Sibelius score writing software (used in our schools by pupils and staff alike) you can see, for example, the difference between a standard font and a jazz one (feigning hand-written music) which appears at 3:08[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/eA8dMdWE_n4?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

* I only use speed reading when reading for info as opposed to reading for pleasure.

Read Faster, Read Smarter

I decided to spend the last day of this week off attending a CPD event laid on by ELC. Delivered by Park Sims Associates, the course was entitled Read Faster, Read Smarter and its stated aim was to help “all who want to get through their reading at work faster and smarter.”

I was hoping that there would be some straightforward ocular content as this would surely be transferable (to some degree) to the reading of music. I was not disappointed in this respect and hope to share that (and this) with colleagues at Monday’s In Service.

I’ve no wish here merely to post online the content of a course honed over years by fellow professionals, so let it suffice to say that it was as good an example of active learning as I’ve seen. Many of the tasks had been cleverly designed to highlight a particular point by stealth, so that the habits of a lifetime, which often conspire to impede us, might be circumvented.

Well presented handouts were abundant, allowing us to concentrate on the task at hand which, I think the 16 delegates would agree, was at times very challenging. However, no-one in their right mind, would expect a physical skill to fall into place in a matter of hours. Like most skills, speed reading consists of a variety of strategies and an intuitive application of the appropriate one comes only with experience.

I look forward to developing what I learned today and, hopefully, to exploring further the parallels with written music. Having had some intensive concentration on visual intake, I feel now may be the time to seek out a book written by one of the presenters of Tune-In: Music with the Brain in Mind – “The Eye: A Natural History” by Simon Ings.


Blues and the abstract truth

So, how was it for you? I’m referring to Blue Monday the day of the year we are meant to feel as despondent as it’s possible to be. Frankly, I didn’t find it too bad. Of course the flurry of snow, cleverly referred to as sleet or even rain by some teachers, caused lasting distraction for many young pupils. I find it quite touching to see such elemental animation. In years to come, these same children will look out of the window and utter inspiringly, “and I’ve just washed the car, as well,” or “that washing’s never going to dry now!”

I also managed to book myself onto a course in speed reading, generously put on by ELC. I’ll post more about that, at frightening speed, when it’s over. I imagine that almost all of it will be to do specifically with words but I wonder if there will be any general ocular facts which would be relevant to music reading.

Speaking of reading – allow me to scatter, for your delectation, links to a cauldron of contentious miscellany, loosely relevant to education, internet, the mind and moods.

A. C. Grayling calls for universities to endorse trustworthy websites and flag up the erroneous

Contributors to Wikipedia are thought to be closed and disagreeable

Misery can be good for you

The mind may not exist solely in the brain. What?! I can’t get my own one around that

p.s. the title of this post comes from one of the finest jazz/blues/big band albums of all time by Oliver Nelson