Sight Reading

June 8, 2018, 10:01 PM · Hi, I'm pretty new here :)

I've played violin for about 3 years, and I play with a youth orchestra. Lately I have noticed that I am terrible at sight reading... whether it's a new piece for orchestra or the next song for lessons, I can't seem to get very far at all without hearing what it sounds like.

I think it's a problem with the rythyms mostly? Between looking ahead, getting the notes, etc. I find it really hard to count/subdivide and it's a mess.

How did you guys get better at sight reading?

Replies (5)

June 9, 2018, 1:04 AM · I think you're right on the money with the rhythms. I always feel reading rhythms well makes sight reading much easier, much like hearing rhythms well makes transcription vastly easier. Many people focus so strongly on the pitches and may not realize how important the rhythmic factor is. If you can identify longer rhythm passages at one glance, you've gotten it out of the way and can devote more attention to the pitches. Additionally, you will recognize that rhythm passage faster if it occurs again, whether or not it has the same pitches as before.
June 9, 2018, 4:52 AM · There are two rhythmic exercise books called 150 original exercises and 127 original exercises. IIRC they deal with rhythm almost exclusively.

When I was in the youth orchestra system in the town I grew up in the first 15-20 minutes of each rehearsal were spent purely on rhythm using these books. I'm flabbergasted when I see that today's youth orchestras (at least where I live) don't spend any time at all on this kind of stuff.

You can order them for yourself and practice the individual exercises at home with the metronome. If you have trouble your teacher should be able to help you.

And be patient. Building up that internal pulse takes time.

June 10, 2018, 9:08 PM · I find the Rhythm Sight Reading Trainer iOS app to be very helpful. Learn to tap the rhythms.

When I was a kid, my teacher made me go through a rhythm training book: LINK
(Conduct a steady beat with one hand, and tap the rhythm with a pencil using the other hand. For an extra challenge, do another line with a foot.)

June 14, 2018, 10:58 AM · This article may give you some guidelines:

June 16, 2018, 5:00 PM · I've incorporated both volumes of the "I Can Read Music" books into my curriculum. One advantage is the duets in the second volume, which give practice not only in learning rhythms but in practicing the principles of chamber music and listening.

In the end though, sight reading relies on the library of patterns you already have in your head. The more patterns you know, whether melodic or rhythmic, the better a reader you will be. It's like reading a book: if you already know the vocabulary or the idioms and expressions, the faster and more accurately you can read. Music, like language, has many (but luckily, a finite number of) common patterns and idioms. Learn as much music as you can. After a certain point, it becomes a matter of processing speed, especially for new patterns.

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