These Top Ten Tips For Sight Reading will help to tackle a problem that kids often find difficult. While there is no easy fix, it is quite possible to overcome these difficulties with a bit of patience and perseverance. It is important to equip your fledgling pianists with the tools and strategies to solve the problem themselves. But most important of all, it is vital for it to be taught in a relaxed and calm way. If they become stressed about it, it has a negative effect on the overall experience, often resulting in disappointment.
So here are my Top Ten Tips For Sight Reading put together with the intention of making the task a little easier. Hopefully it will help kids to overcome their anxieties and as their confidence grows, it might even make sight reading a little bit enjoyable!
Tips for Sight Reading : How To Nurture A Happy Sight Reader
1. Consistency is key. Right from the start teach your pupil a clear strategy that becomes a reliable method and therefore a reassuring pattern. At the start of each lesson it is always a good idea to do a note recognition game. This reminds them of the names of the notes on the lines and the spaces of the treble and bass clefs.
2. Choose the sight reading task, and tell the child that you want them to pretend to be a detective looking for clues. You need to know all the answers, but without touching the piano. Tell them to look at it carefully and ask the following questions.
3. Right hand or left hand? What is the clef? Work out the right hand only first, then left hand. Don’t attempt hands together until they are fully confident reading each hand separately.
4. What is the time signature? How many beats in a bar? Spot the rests! Do you know how many beats they are worth? Are there any tied notes? Clap or tap the rhythm to help work it out – watching out for the rests, and keeping a steady beat.
5. Is there a key signature? If so – what key is it? How many sharps or flats? Are there any accidental sharps or flats anywhere else on the music?
6. Look at the shape of the music. Identify the starting note, can you tell the jump (interval) to the next note? Ask them which finger they should use to play it? (Does the next note move up or down – choose fingers to allow for this)
7. Does the tune have lots of jumps, or steps? Look ahead to see if there is anything particular to watch out for, like a big jump of an octave, and spot the highest note, and the lowest note. All these clues give a general overview and prepares for what lies ahead.
8. Tell the child to trace the path of the notes with their finger. If they can, ask them to name the notes as they go. They will find this tricky but with gentle prompting, the more they do it, the easier it gets – and it really works. It is also very good to encourage them to sing the names of the notes too.
9. Do they recognise the dynamics? Make sure they understand any markings on the page that they may not be familiar with. Should it be loud or soft, or fast or slow, staccato or legato? Does it have any special mood or any repeats? Explain that the dynamics are the ‘icing on the the cake’ and what makes the music special to listen to.
10. Finally, let them have a go – with the emphasis on having a go! Make light of any mistakes, encourage them to keep going and prompt them if they get stuck. Try to encourage them not to stop, or give up, and never to go back and attempt to correct mistakes. Just leave them behind – you can get them next time! Encouragement and praise in abundance!