A few mornings ago while snuggling with Emmett, our eleven month old Bully, in my oversized chair by the fireplace, sipping on my morning coffee and connecting with the world via iPad, a new email caught my attention.
TAKE NOTE the Official Blog of Sheet Music Plus
10 Tips for Improving Sight Reading
Published January 16, 2013
By Stephie Stewart
Sight reading (playing through a piece of music for the first time) has always been one of my strengths as a pianist. I’ve never given it much thought as it is something that has always come easily for me. So I was compelled to read the article in the hope that there would be some tips on helping students develop this ability. One click and I was there. The blog began…
“How many times have you seen someone sit down and play music you know they’ve never seen before and play it beautifully? Doesn’t it make you wish you could do that too? Well, the good news is that you can, but it might take a little bit of work. The truth is most people aren’t naturally great sight-readers. They work at it and they practice it. Sight-reading is more often a learned skill than a natural talent.”
Okay, apparently I am not like “most people” (I think my partner would agree heartily with that statement for other reasons!) because I have never had to work at sight-reading. I think it is a gift that could best be described as a double edged sword. Since it has always been easy to play a piece relatively well at first sight, I have not always been sufficiently motivated to spend enough time perfecting the music. So, I read on…
Tip number one, like the Nike commercial, was “Just Do It!”
“…Don’t worry about making it perfect – just concentrate on getting through it. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of working out the hard parts…”
This hit me like a ton of sonatas. Amazing! The Big Picture, of course! Stephie was writing about sight reading music but she struck a major chord within me. Whenever I am faced with a big project, I get so bogged down in the little things that the task becomes more difficult than it should be, sometimes to the point where the job never gets done. The same thing is also true about writing. Paint the big picture first, fill in the details later. Okay, time to apply my sight-reading skills to everyday life. Must read on…
Tip number two, “Look before You Leap“
“Before you actually begin to play, take a minute to look at what’s coming at you. Check the road map – are there any repeats or codas? Knowing what’s ahead will give you a chance to mentally prepare ahead of time and you won’t be surprised by that D.S. right after the page turn.”
Of course. Be prepared. Make an outline, have a plan. The Big Picture again! Can’t stop reading now…
Tip number three, “Just Keep Swimming“
“Whatever happens – don’t stop playing! Keeping your place in the music is essential. If you stop to go back and fix a mistake while playing with others, you’re going to get completely lost – fast. Going back and fixing a mistake when you’re playing by yourself might not seem so bad, but you’ll lose the overall sense of the music and it’s a bad habit to get into for when you do play with someone else. Learn to let go of the mistakes. Play in the moment by always focusing on what you are currently playing and not worrying about what you just played.”
Yes, now this is (if you’ll pardon the pun) key to sight reading. But how true is it in life? Live in the now. Sure, plan for the future, learn from the past, but be in the present. How often do we get so wrapped up in past mistakes or hurts, or
in future plans and worries that we completely miss the joy of now? Here we can take a lesson from Diesel and Emmett and all of their canine cousins. Dogs live blissfully in the present. They don’t hold grudges. They don’t worry about their next meal. Granted, our bullies are pretty spoiled and know they will be amply fed. But even those poor animals that are homeless, or abused, do not get ulcers from worrying.
So, I kept on reading. Tips number four through nine were much more specific to sight reading music (very basic, useful advice dealing with rhythm, theory, technique), but the last one seemed to me the most important of all whether the subject is sight-reading or life…
Tip number ten, “Make it fun”
This tip might be listed last, but don’t let that fool you – making sight-reading fun is vital. If you’re not having fun, how likely is it that you’ll keep sight-reading? Picking music you like to hear and to play, inviting your friends over for a jam session and rewarding yourself for milestones are all good ways to keep things exciting.
What this all boils down to is that to be a better sight reader, you better get sight-reading! Don’t try to do too much at once. Allow yourself to make mistakes and celebrate the victories. But most of all – have fun!
Yes, friends, our time on this earth is way too short not to have fun. To quote Mary Poppins, “In every job to be done there is an element of fun. Find the fun and, snap, the job’s a game…”
Let the games begin!
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