Sight Reading | Guiding Music Students Toward Success

Sight reading is certainly an essential skill that you should actively develop in the piano students that you teach. With this post I will share a couple of my approaches to introducing new pieces, and then encourage you to add a comment.

Scan – Scan the piece before you even play a note. Ask your students what they see. Give them specific goals. What is the key signature? Which notes will be sharp/flat? What is the hand position of the piece. What section of the piece appears to be repeated? Are there any unfamiliar notes or rhythms?

Practice Rhythms – Consider breaking down a few of the challenges that the piece will present. Since rhythms are always the greatest challenge, choose a few phrases and work through the counting. Next, try clapping the rhythm. Then play the rhythm on a single key on the piano. Finally, try it as written. Presenting the challenges like this provides building blocks that challenge the student, and helps keep things interesting on their road to success.

Practice Phrases – Practice new pieces phrase by phrase. This will provide them with a good understanding on how to practice at home, and what each passage will sound like.

Review Dynamics/Articulation – I always tell my students, “You can’t put the cherry on top until you put the ice cream in the bowl.” In other words, you shouldn’t focus on playing the dynamics if you can’t play the notes. Since your student is not yet performing the notes and rhythms correctly, they are certainly not ready to add dynamics and correct articulation.  You can, however, take the time to review a few of the goals for the week. Point out staccatto/legato notes, and demonstrate how they are performed. Also, show them where the dynamic marking are, and then perform the piece for them. Encourage them to raise their hand every time you play forte, for example. Having a goal like this will help them stay engaged.

Okay, now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear your ideas.


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