I have just taken my Grade 3 Exams with the ABSRM (I’m in the UK) but struggle very much on the sight reading test. Does anyone have any tips to help? Or is it a case of practise, practise with as much new music as possible?
Posted In: Amateur Harpists
Are your sight reading problems coming from difficulty with rhythm, finger technique, reading the notes, or something else.
I think it’s important to analyze your efforts to determine what you need to do to correct.
Practicing more music can only help if you are not playing subjectively. If you are playing the same kinds of errors as you had problems with, and playing them wrong, you can make your sight reading problem worse instead of better.
Is there someone you know who is a good sight reader who can help you zero in on what your goals should be?
One thing I teach about sightreading piano music is to look for pattern.
Harp is the same way, since it’s treble and bass. Let say, CDE, it’s stepping up. Or read out more chord on the LH, seeing the chord notes in a bunch, is better than reading each note at a time.
Sally, Type Commercial Sight-Reading Books into your search engine. Read down the list and see the hints each book may use to help piano students be better at sight-reading. If you print out that list and take it to a large music store, you could surely see which book or books might be helpful to a harp player. In other words, piano teachers of today
Thank you all for your help and suggestions, they’ve definately helped focus my attention in on some issues…. I don’t feel it’s rhythm that’s the problem, it’s more the speed at which my brain processes the notes and tells my fingers to play them, then finding the strings and placing. If I do one hand at a time I have no problems either, the tough bit is putting them together.
I know of a piano teacher who I will ask to help and will look up some books…. thanks again…
Sight reading is really at the core of your musical ability. It consists partly of analysis, as some of the posts here have stated, of being able to instantly recognize patterns, both note patterns and harmonic patterns, so that you’re not simply reading individual notes. But it also consists of memory: the ability to remember the measure you are playing while your eye scans ahead to see what’s coming up. The better you can sight read, the easier and quicker you will learn all of the music that you have to play.
Studio musicians ONLY sight read. They come in to the studio session and are expected to play perfectly the first time music they have never seen before. Often, especially for harpists, the part is not even completely written out, and the harpist is expected to know how to complete it, on the spot.
I wish I sight read better than I do. But I suspect everybody says that. What I’ve noticed is that people who sight read well learn music quickly and accurately, and most of them are good at it because they do it all the time.
Sight reading is instant analysis, and so, in addition to just doing it on a regular basis, it would be helpful to regularly do rhythm exercises(Bona is a good example) as well as learning more about harmony. Sometimes what throws me when I sight read is figuring out where the beats are. So rhythm exercises would help with that.
“Sometimes what throws me when I sight read is figuring out where the beats are. So rhythm exercises would help with that. “
Oh, me too. I can read notes easily, and I can recognize chords just from the shapes they make on the page without having to think much about them. It is the rhythm that make sight reading a challenge for me.
Particularly anything with a lot of syncopation (and combine that with contrary motion and it’s like running into a wall). And I often get thrown by the unexpected triplet (which is why I find Debussy such a challenge. Love his music, but the man never met a triplet he didn’t like, he threw so many of them into his music).
Tony- I’m even worse than that! Sometimes when I’m sight reading something, I’ll see a tricky measure and suddenly my brain freezes and I can’t remember if my beating unit is quarter notes, eight notes, etc.
You’re right about Debussy. But he makes it even more complicated by shifting between duple and triple sub-division, often putting a rest someplace in the triplet.
Hiya Rod, we’re not alone in our issue then…, what I have gathered from the input of these fine folk is to practise a little every day, but in doing so focus on the aspect of sight reading that is most difficult for you and do some exercises in that area also.
I will be paying more attention to learning where the strings are as well as learning to be reading the bar ahead while i’m playing the current bar. I think it’s also a good idea to get our beginners books out and use that for sight reading material, also there are some publications available for harp to help such as Harp Sightreading by Stewart Green and Sightt Reading Exercises by Fiona Clifton-Welker.
Good luck and thanks all
Sally- One of the things that is really important when you practice sight reading is to constantly move forward. Sight reading with one or two other people playing along with you is one way. Or playing duets(harp and flute for example) so that some outside force is making you stick to the beats. If nothing else, put a metronome on and don’t miss a single beat no matter how bad it gets. The most important point is to keep your eye scanning forward and to not stop.