The Music Corner for Piano Lovers

Incorporating Sight Reading Into Your Practice Session: Part II

11 Oct 2014 News

 If you missed last week's post, here it is: Part I This week, we'll delve deeper into all of the things you need to do before you actually start playing a piece at sight.

To prepare to sight read, go through the section you've selected, noting notes that need to be raised or lowered and go through rhythm. Then, map out fingering. Do this first for the L.H., since our reading of L.H. pitches tends to be weaker than R.H. pitches. Circle any changes in clef signs.

 Figure out whether you simply need to change fingers or whether you need to move your hand? Can you do this without looking down at the keyboard? If not, will looking down cause you to lose your place in the music? At some point, you'll want to use Look-Up drills so that you can identify notes on the keyboard by touch. This is another important skill to acquire for successful sight reading.

As you go through the piece, also notice, if any motives or ideas are repeated. Do you see familiar patterns: scales, arpeggios?

Next, tap out the rhythm using both hands or feet, if you like. This helps with coordination because it forces you to read vertically, from the L.H. to the R.H. It also forces you to look ahead.

Now, you're ready to start playing the piece. Choose a tempo that allows you to play fluently, and look at least one note ahead of what you're playing. You'll find that training yourself in this way improves your ability not just your sight reading, but your ability to learn and play new repertoire.

Evaluate your playing. What do you think could have gone better? Why? Was it hand balance, hand independence, rhythm, or an inability to keep your eyes on the page and let your fingers find the notes on their own that tripped you up? If you're playing a piece at your level, much of this analysis will get you started thinking about aspects of the piece that need attention when you begin your practice session.

Try the same technique with an easier piece. Choose one day of the week, to ignore repertoire altogether. Bring out an easy piece or an older piece that you learnt some time back, and try to play through the whole thing using this technique. You might find yourself having to think on your feet - omitting certain  notes or making certain changes on the fly. This is all to the good, and will help you tide over mistakes when you're performing!

The concentration required to sight read fluently and well translates over into performances - for master classes or recitals. The difference between practice sessions - when muscle memory often takes over, regardless of whether you have the score before you or not - and an actual performance is that your nervousness makes for both a heightened state of alertness and can often lead you to make unexpected mistakes.

Sight reading regularly can help in Two Ways:

a) You'll be able to carry on even after you've made a mistake

b) You'll get used to being in a heightened state of consciousness, and be able to use it to your advantage by thinking on your feet to avoid or minimize flubs.




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