Sight-reading: need help for Suzuki student
Dear group --
I read the post below about sight-reading and I was wondering if anyone have any thought/suggestions, or would kindly share their experience about how a younger student learn to sight-read in a more systematic manner.
My son (12) is learning from the Suzuki-method so he relied a lot on listening. Even for pieces that are beyond Suzuki books, he always relies on listening before attempting to play the piece. His teacher rarely taught music theory, just "enough" to play the piece. For sight-reading, or reading notes in general, he did the "I Can Read Music" book volume 1 & 2 when he was in book 5, and that was it.
Recently my son tried to audition for a local orchestra and needless to say he found the excerpt and the sight-reading part challenging. In particular, if the key signature is not something he has played before.
If you would be willing to share how you/your students learn to sight-read, from the very basic, I would appreciate it. Also, what are they looking for on the sight-reading portion of the audition? (e.g. at the very least, the student should do ... is it intonation, or rhythm that is the most important? or else?)
Many thanks in advance.
Playing by ear makes the neural connections between the heard/memorized music connections. Sight reading is an eye to seen/memorized music.
A number of my grades 4-12 school orchestra students found
I know it seems like your son is at a disadvantage now. But in the long run he will be grateful that he trained his ear well. Sight reading is easier to learn than ear training when you get older.
I believe I had music scores in front of me from my very first lessons at age 4-1/2. So, when I taught many years later I did the same thing with my violin and cello students, even after I switched to using the Suzuki books. They seemed to have learned to read music without any problems ---- except for one adult (30-ish) who, because of previous experience, viewed the score as "guitar tablature," a hurdle she never quite cleared in the few months we worked together.
Thanks so much everyone, we receive so many good ideas already!
I am not sure there is a quick and easy way to learn to sight read. Your son is quite behind in theory if he can encounter key signatures that are "not something he has played before". (I am sure they don't give something in F# major or e flat minor for sight reading auditions. It would be sadistic). It also implies he has not done much scales (among other things scales can be used to teach part of theory as they exist in all 24 keys).
Sight reading is one of the easiest things to improve, actually. You just have to make a practice of doing it. One of my kids really struggled with it. In her case, it was mostly a developmental vision issue (she couldn't distinguish the lines) which disappeared through normal aging. But once we figured that out and how to deal with it (large print), all we needed to do was offer daily sight reading practice. She's still not amazing at it, but is much better.
Thank you again, all, for your suggestions!
For my daughter, we started with the Avsharian books because they are very large print, but she was more around Suzuki Book 1-2 at the time (and 5 years old), so that likely will be too easy for your son. After that, we just used any books we could find that had short little pieces. This included the I Can Read series you mentioned, as well as Adventures in Music Reading (several volumes). After that we got some intermediate collections of music. I don't recall all of them, but I know one was Music by Black Composers and also Gingold's Solos book. Also Sitt etudes and the Delightful Duets book. Basically any collection of easy, short pieces. If your kid likes popular music or folk music, it can even be those. I think one of my kids sightread through a fiddle book one summer.
Here are 2 "books" available free at IMSLP that I like because they resemble the music I was using about 75 years ago to improve my sight reading:
Hello all -- I thought I'd circle back here and report some of the things that has been helpful to my son, in case there are anyone else out there who are in the same situation as we are.