Sight-Reading Tips

As we hurtle toward GMEA All-State auditions in December, I thought I would dig up an old handout I wrote for a workshop a few years back. I don’t have many students right now, so, if you find this helpful, please share with your own students.

Think about having to sight-read. What is your reaction?
To dispel any negative feelings you may have about sight-reading,
let’s think of all the things you already know how to do, put them in a coherent order of operation, and develop a new picture for the sight-reading requirement.

1. SOUND: Throughout the sight-reading process, a good sound is
your foundation. The most necessary aspect for a good showing
in the sight-reading portion of the audition is good support, lots
of air, and, subsequently, your great sound. If you play this way,
the confidence you exude will raise your score. Secondary to this
is awareness of articulation and dynamics marked in the sight-
reading example, which, like the note and rhythm markings,
will most likely have some kind of pattern.
2. KEY SIGNATURE: Part of this audition requires scales. Scales
teach you to associate and remember a certain pattern of notes
based on the key signature. Sight-reading requires you to use a
key signature as you encounter a slightly less familiar pattern of
FIND THE FAMILIAR: This unfamiliar group of notes before you
is likely to have many things you may recognize. Look for major
scale sections, a chromatic scale, or an arpeggio. These are all
things you have been working hard on for the audition. Having
them appear in the sight-reading should provide some level of comfort.
TIME SIGNATURE: Note the rhythmic division (quarter, eighth,
half, dotted quarter, etc.) as the judge provides you with a tempo.
Remember there is no rhythmic group (16th notes, 32nd notes,
quarter notes) harder than another–they are all simply a
rhythmic division in time.
RHYTHMIC PATTERNS: There will be rhythmic similarities from measure to measure. See them, and skip immediately to the deviations in rhythmic pattern that will most certainly be there. It is a common pitfall to relax into a fast rhythmic pattern that might end in two half notes and play them too fast.
KEEP GOING: No matter what, keep playing. The more correct your rhythm, the more likely the right notes will come out and fall into place. When we practice at home, we are in the habit of making mistakes and correcting them. Set aside time to play through things, ignoring the strong urge to correct. Moving forward rhythmically, without correcting, creates a better sight-reading performance than trying to show the judge you caught an error.



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