Sight reading dummy

September 20, 2016 at 09:56 PM · Need help in sight reading; Older student of Violin(52) with no formal training. I have taken lessons in the past, but now I need to start sight reading the pieces that I am stuck on (Suzuki,book 1 lesson 2)So far Ive been wrighting the note above the staff. in furthering my studies I need to read and know which string and fingering to use. It is a long way off but my ultimate goal is to play "In The Garden" Many thanks to all.

Replies (14)

September 21, 2016 at 08:01 AM ·

September 21, 2016 at 08:02 AM ·

September 21, 2016 at 12:02 PM · Sight reading... Man... It is something that I need work on too and I have been able to read music since I was ten...

I think in the end it boils down to scales. I learned them on the piano first, so of course that is my recommended method for being able to visualize the relationships between the notes. From there it is easy to mentally overlay that map onto the violin, given that you know where the notes are on the violin.

That said... It is scales, scales, scales and more scales. You will hear the word arpeggios but really, that is just a name for a scale that has been modified to help with relationships between notes. Thirds, fifths, sixths etc...

You should not need the notes above the staff lines. THey can help briefly but if you keep using them it will become a crutch. Part of your practice should be to say the note on the staff to yourself and then play it. Say the next note and then play it... Etc. This will pick up as you get more comfortable.

I am sure teachers here will have more exercises and better advice. But that is what I have for now!


September 21, 2016 at 12:07 PM ·

September 21, 2016 at 02:19 PM · There are apps available that quiz you on notes, etc. May be helpful as a start.

September 21, 2016 at 07:53 PM · I'd suggest making your way through a book called Learn to Read Music by Joanne Martin. As much as I like scales, I don't think scales help all that much when it comes to the practicalities of looking at music and having the physical response of playing the right note. Your brain simply has to learn to process small patterns, then move to the larger ones, but first comes simple practice. This book separates pitch and rhythm, allowing practice with both. The pitch exercises are purposely not melodies, so that you are practicing patterns. Hope that helps!

September 21, 2016 at 08:15 PM ·

September 21, 2016 at 09:29 PM · Liz yes they do, but if you are reading, and you see an interval, that has to be processed before your fingers can even be put down. Also it's not always obvious to which scale a particular grouping of notes should correspond. And there is also rhythm to deal with.

So scales are necessary but not sufficient to learning to sight read.

The books that Laurie linked, "I Can Read Music," are good because they are extremely gradual.

September 21, 2016 at 09:30 PM · The biggest obstacle to music reading is anticipating the notes once one becomes familiar with the practice etude. Simple scales are the easiest to "anticipate" so quickly lose their value for learning sight reading IMO.

One trick I use is to start with beginner practice pieces, like one finger, two finger and three finger exercises on a single string. Play each note SLOWLY and only when you actually look at the next note. This is the only way I have found to burn in my mind a note position on the staff with a string/finger position.

September 21, 2016 at 09:39 PM · If you are on Suzuki lesson 1/2 you have presumably played lesson 1/1 Have you actually watched the score while playing it? I always had my students (even the 5-year olds) play with the music in front of them. It appeared that they were reading it. If they weren't they sure fooled me (some of them probably did).

As far as I'm concerned it helps to start reading from the very beginning of learning and relate the notes written on the page to where they are on your instrument and what fingers you are using. If you want to give the notes "names" like "A," "B," "C" or "Do," "Re," "Mi," fine but it is not essential at this stage. If you have access to a keyboard instrument (z.b., piano) also play your music's notes on that - possibly learn the names on that, where it actually will be easier and the same names apply on the violin.

Now, as far as learning to read the hymn "In the Garden" is concerned, it is typically published in the key of A-flat major (4 flats) which is going to take a beginner quite a while (maybe years with any confidence) to get to. But you can transpose it up 2 notes and rewrite it in C major (no flats or sharps) - or have your teacher do that.

Apropos of of your goal, some years ago a 59 year old lady came to me to start cello lessons. Her goal in cello life, expressed to me at that first lesson, was to learn "Amazing Grace." Well, as her teacher, that was not my goal for her, so I found the score for the song and transposed it to notes she would be able to play. We went through it at her 2nd lesson, and she was reading and playing it fine at her 3rd lesson and we are able to get on with learning to play the cello, which she continued with me until illness forced her to stop 2 years later.

(SInce the Suzuki violin course starts all its pieces in A major - with 3 sharps - it is really not intended for teaching "reading the note names" at that stage - in my opinion.

September 21, 2016 at 09:52 PM ·

September 22, 2016 at 03:01 PM · In my experience, the best way to get better at sight-reading is to just do more of it. Get a book of new music for yourself at your level - the I Can Read Music books are good, but they can get repetitive and boring in my opinion. I like the "Tune a Day" books for my students. Each time you get out your violin to practice, start by sight-reading. Play something new each time, even just 4-6 bars of music, and do your best to just play through it without stopping. The more you do it, the more comfortable it will be for you.

September 22, 2016 at 04:32 PM · I consider myself a pretty mediocre sight reader, even after decades of doing it. I guess I've improved slowly over time, but I still wish I were better.

I think reading music is just like reading language: there are no shortcuts. You have to just do it. A lot. I'm not sure scales are much value in sight-reading. It demands a variety in rhythm and accidentals, especially when things aren't very predictable.

My five-year-old is starting to read, but he's pretty good at simply memorizing a book and "reading" it back to you. I kind of let it slide, knowing he can't get away with it forever.

September 22, 2016 at 10:11 PM · I like your story, Scott. It reminds me of reading to my baby sister (2 yrs old) from my favorite book when I was 5. I too "read" from memory, but as clearly as can be, I remember the "ah ha" experience that afternoon as I recognized "the" and realized that i could "read" all the words - and I've been reading ever since. So---maybe Liz was right in her earliest reply "scales." Scales are the alphabet of music, and I did know my alphabet back then.

I don't remember learning to read music, so I must have done it before reading words (smaller alphabet!).

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