Issue 12: Sight Reading is Fun!

“Has she taken leave of her senses?”  “Sightreading?  Fun?”  “Never!”.

I hated and dreaded sightreading, and so do many of my pupils.  It is the time of maximum  exposure to failure and dismay, and modern teaching methods are all about avoiding negative experiences in learning.

Here is a game that will kill not one, not two, but three birds with one stone.

Once your pupil is reasonably familiar with the piece that they are studying, you can introduce the pic’n’mix game. Choose a section of the piece, or all of it, and you due warning that next week, you will choose any bar  from that section, and the pupil will have to be able to play Just That Bar, with correct fingering, rhythm, bowing, phrasing, tonguing or whatever is appropriate for your instrument. You will need to ensure that there are enough  clues, in the way of slurs, bowing marks and fingerings already pencilled in, so that the student will be able to start each bar orrectly.  You can always rub out these extra marks later.

Here are the birds that you will kill; (that looks rather bloodthirsty in print!)

  1. Their note-reading skills should improve, as they will have to identify the notes on the music in order to play the bar, rather than relying remembering the tune.
  2. They will have to break the horrible habit of only being able to play the piece if they start at the beginning. (expect a few sticky moments and even a fierce battle of wills when you first play this game – have plenty of stickers or other encouragements to hand!)
  3. Because of 1 and 2 above, they will learn to be able to work on just the single bar or phrase that causes the problem, concentrating their effort on the bits they can’t play, rather than wasting valuable time on the bits they can play.

The game will help develop the visual vocabulary that is the bedrock of being able to sight read.

To begin with, you can make it easier for them by choosing a simple bar – how about the final chord? It’s always good to be able to end your performance on the right note!

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