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17 November 2019

How to Improve YOUR Sight Reading OVERNIGHT

Change The Way YOU Sight Read

Most students focus primarily on getting the notes the correct pitch at the expense of keeping the beat going. However, if you look at the ABRSM marking criteria for a sight reading test, the FIRST thing that is mentioned for a distinction is, “Fluent, rhythmically accurate” (followed by “accurate notes/pitch/key”).

Sight Reading Trainer will help change the way you sight read. It is not just a series of specimen sight reading tests like you can buy in the ABRSM Specimen Sight Reading Grade Books. The examples in this book are designed to be played with an accompanying audio track which can be downloaded for free HERE 

This will improve your rhythm and fluency when sight reading. 

Another hindrance to effective sight reading is poor “Piano Geography”. This is the ability to feel your way around the piano without looking at your hands. Be honest - when you sight read, are you continually looking at your hands? It’s something I call, "watching vertical tennis", where your eyes travel up and down between hand and book for virtually every note or chord. No wonder your sight reading is hesitant and lacking fluency.

With this in mind, throughout the course there are some “Piano Geography” tests which MUST BE PLAYED WITHOUT LOOKING AT YOUR HANDS.

The third factor that will contribute to better sight reading is visualizing the music in your head (especially rhythm) before you even play a note and this includes how to use your preparation time effectively.

In an ABRSM exam for example, you are given 30 seconds to prepare. How you use this 30 seconds, is key to effective sight reading. 

DON'T just start playing from the beginning. Rather, the first thing you should do is get a sense of the key you are in and if you are taking an early Grade (1-2), simply find the hand position for each hand before playing a note. Throughout this course you will also find some “Instant Hand Position or Key Signature Recognition” tests.

Then, concentrating on the rhythm, try and visualize in your head how the music should sound, again before you even play a note. This will also include other stylistic markings such as dynamics and articulation. Getting the right pitch is only a small part of what the examiner is looking for. Below each test in this course, there will be hints of details to look out for, before you even play a note.

The last thing mentioned in the marking criteria for a distinction is “Confident presentation”. A sight reading test is an assessment on how well you can convey the music as a whole performance, NOT if you can recognise the pitches A, B, C etc - that is a theory exam!!

Finally - a word on mistakes. If you do miss a note, DON’T go back and correct it, you’ll only upset the flow and rhythm of the music and this effectively then counts as a 2nd mistake. You can’t erase the first mistake, and the examiner is not interested if you can improve on your wrong note, he wants to hear a performance of the music as a whole, which conveys as best you can, the character of the piece.

Now isn't it time you stopped leaving this vital skill to chance and actually did something to improve your sight reading.

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