How to improve Sight Reading in a short time???

Posted In: Young Harpists

  • Member
    chloe c on #165795

    Hi all =)

    I am going to sit for my grade 8 exam in less than a month’s time from now. However, I have issues with sight reading. I read slowly. I only managed to get 5 marks out of 10 in my last exam and I am not improving at all. Reading new music sheets is always hard for me especially when it comes into tonnes of unusual chords. Common chords are alright. Figuring out the rhythm at sight is killing me too.

    So how am i going to improve in just a few weeks time? Any other method than exposing myself to new and various of music sheets as i do not have much time left? I need some suggestions please!

    Thanks very much! =)

    catherine-rogers on #165796

    Do some sight-reading every day. Start with easier pieces and work up to more difficult ones every day. You may not be as good as you would like by exam day but you may be surprised at how much you will improve. It’s like everything else you learn to do on the harp: it comes with practice.

    Also, are you sure you are seeing as well as you should? If you wear glasses or contact lenses, are they suited to the work you are doing? Not being able to focus quickly on the music will impede even the best reader.

    chloe c on #165797

    Thanks Catherine =)

    I have a low myopia of -1.5dpt for both eyes but i usually dont wear specs while playing on harps. I can see clearly and better without glasses as I wont feel dizziness focusing on the sheets and strings alternatively. So I guess my myopia does not affect my sight reading much.

    sherry-lenox on #165798

    See if it helps you to find where the beats are in each measure and then arrange the patterns of notes on each beat. It can be very helpful to think of words and syllables to match rhythms- ” pie-pie-apple-apple-huckleberry-huckleberry-blueberry-blueberry” represents a written pattern of quarter-quarter-eighth-eighth-sixteenth-sixteenth-sixteenth-sixteenth-tri-p-let-tri-p-let over eight beats. Always think of rhythm as different from tempo. Tempo. Only means differences in how the beat moves. The rhythm functions independent of the tempo. Once youknow the rhythm pattern, you do it at any tempo.

    If this makes no sense to you after you think about it for a while, discard it. If it DOES make sense, let me know and I’ll post more tricks for you.

    carl-swanson on #165799

    Jenny- Without sitting next to you and watching you sight read, it’s difficult to know exactly what is holding you back. However, there are some basics that I think can help us all. The most important thing on the list is to get the rhythm correct. So when you look at a piece of music you have to know where the beats fall in the measure. You can practice this away from the harp, and in some ways away from the harp is more effective for learning rhythm. Sit at the kitchen table with a piece of music that you don’t know and mark each beat in the measure with a light pencil mark. If the piece is in 4 beats to the measure, then mark each beat. Try to figure out the beats as quickly as possible, and try to speed up your ability to see where the beats are. As for the notes themselves, try to see patterns in groups of notes so that you are not reading one note at a time. If there are 4 eighth notes in a row for example, try to see them as a group the way you would read a chord. Make sure too that you are reading chords from the bottom up, not the top down. Try to use your memory to help you sight read. Look at a measure and then look at the harp and try to play the measure, or maybe just 2 beats, from memory. Sight reading involves analysis and memory. Try also to look ahead of what you are playing to see what’s coming up. Make sure you keep moving forward no matter what happens. Put a metronome on at a tempo that is comfortable and play with it and don’t stop for anything. Force yourself to keep moving forward. The best way to improve sight reading is to play duets with someone else. Either with another type of instrument, or another harp playing the same thing as you. That way, you are forced to keep moving forward.

    A. Riley on #165800

    Sherry, that makes sense to me — would you post more tricks? (Not the original poster, but anything that helps sight-reading is good for all of us.) Thanks!

    sherry-lenox on #165801

    I have to point out an error in my original post- “ap-ple-ap-ple” should be eighth-eighth-eighth-eighth, each syllable being one eighth note.

    Carl’s comments are very similar to what I’m talking about, but said in a more adult way BUT sometimes if you are struggling it helps to look at the tasks in the way a child would.

    Can you identify the time signature when you are listening to unfamiliar music?
    Can you identify whether the music is crusic or anacrusic? (google these terms if you don’t recognize them- you probably know what they mean but not the labels).

    A BIG HINT when sight reading is part of a jury/audition. When you have quickly found where the beats are, set for yourself a deliberate slow tempo. You will always score more points if you can play slowly with rhythmic accuracy than if you play at tempo but with no sense of the rhythms.

    If you are able to ask specific questions, please feel free. I’ll post more when I think Of more things you all should know.

    Tacye on #165802

    You probably have some time during the day when you are doing very little- travelling for instance.

    chloe c on #165803

    Yea Sherry, that make sense and enlightened me up somehow! Never thought of matching words with rhythms which is very useful! Thanks =)

    By the way, I cant recognize the time signature by ear sometimes, especially when the music is of compound time. That is indeed a big problem during aural test as i will spend most of the time counting the beats until I ignored the features of the music. =(

    chloe c on #165804

    Thank you Carl!

    One of my habit was to correct my mistakes whenever i made them when i play. Even during my last exam, i tends to correct them back so often until the flow of my music was interrupted. The examiner commented that i made too many corrections until the flow of my music was lost.

    Recently I started to practice with a metronome and that is so much better. I forced myself to go on no matter what happened and somehow this helped me to make less mistakes when playing. =)

    chloe c on #165805

    Thank you Tacye for your advise! =)

    I see your point of reading RH chords from the top now. I should pick this technique up!

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #165806

    Anna Dunwoodie and Lisa WIlliamson have published several volumes of Sight-Reading for Harpists books. here is juts one place where you can buy these books:
    For rhythm practice, there is a great book called A Logical Approach to Rhythmic Notation by Phil Perkins.

    carl-swanson on #165807

    Jenny-If you go to my company web site,, and click on the “ARTICLES” page, there’s an article that I wrote several years ago for the Harp Column called The Big Day, and it’s about how to prepare for a performance, any performance(audition, recital, final exam, etc.). That will give you several suggestions about how to prepare for your examination. The whole point of the article is that performing is not at all like practicing. It’s totally different. Read the article. It will all be explained in there.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #165808

    One important method is to focus on reading ahead, to always be at least one beat ahead of what you are playing. The best practice is to have your teacher or a friend slide a piece of paper across your music as you are playing, and it will force your eye to move faster, and your brain to short-term memorize faster. One can get hung up on notation, but you have to read the meaning. See what kind of chord it is, is it a c major or a minor? Then you can play the right notes even if they are not exactly what is written. There are books for sight-singing that you can use for reading practice. Do a lot of it, and it will get better.

Viewing 14 posts - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
  • The forum ‘Young Harpists’ is closed to new topics and replies.