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Successful Sight-Reading

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

It’s been said the best way to get better at sight reading is simply to do it. While there is merit to practicing a skill to improve, this class will give more concrete tools to increase your chances of success. Sight-reading doesn’t have to mean “winging it.” We’ll work through activities and drills you can use in your own rehearsals, or at home, that will push you beyond your current ability.


Goals

To use different pieces to illustrate different sight-reading strategies, and to understand why you would use certain strategies for certain pieces


Music Examples

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence; Turner MJHS9445

Jubilee!; Sherman MCGB473

The Storm Shall Pass; Endman/Compton MCGB1038

Drive; Guebert MFM20572HB

Coventry Carol; Burt MBEHB445

The Strife Is O’er; Compton MLC202103L


Strategies


Talk the Talk Before You Walk the Walk

Most people skip sight-reading and go straight to sight-ringing. Instead, take a visual walk through the piece, noting things like key, tempo, and meter changes. Use highlighter tape. Ex. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Hit the Danger Zones

When beginning a piece that should be comfortably readable for your group, head off possible disasters by drilling just those few measures that are problematic. Ex. Jubilee

Silent Run

Tap the handles of the bells, and do a silent read of the whole piece. This is best for working out things like rhythm before you get distracted by the notes. Ex. The Strife Is O’er

Air Bells

Leave the bells on the table, and do a bell-less ring through the full piece. Emphasize form, dynamics, and expression. Ex. Coventry Carol

Take Two

Read through a piece. Then when you ring through it, try glancing down and “getting” two measures at a time, and then looking up at the director. Changes your focus, and helps you hear the ensemble. Broadens your view of the piece. Ex. The Storm Shall Pass

Supersize Combo

Most intermediate or advanced pieces will need multiple techniques. Study your score, and apply the technique that works best for each section. Read the music in sections, and then sight-ring the piece as a whole. Ex. Drive

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