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Sight-Reading Music

Module by: C.M. Sunday. E-mail the author

Summary: For music teachers, suggestions for teaching sight-reading and sight-singing, including suggested materials needed and music knowledge required as background for good sightreading.

Objectives

1. To facilitate accurate sight-reading skills through the use of learned procedures which are to become habits of mind.

2. To develop the discipline to apply these skills under performance pressure.

3. To construct an inner frame of reference on which to build more and more sophisticated skills as the student develops.

4. To confirm and solidify these skills until they become integral to the inner thinking and translated into automatic action in performance, audition and other stressful circumstances.

Lesson Procedures:

A. Skills

Sight-reading skills may be developed by mastering eight content areas and using one specific physical skill. Each content area should be covered carefully and thoroughly with the "eyes ahead" physical skill utilized in each content area. That is, the eight parameters of quick and accurate sight-reading should be taught in the context of using the physical skill.

Content Areas

  • a. Key structure
  • b. Meter
  • c. Form
  • d. Tempo
  • e. Phrase shape
  • f. Dynamics
  • f. Articulation
  • g. Style

Physical Technique:When confronted with a new piece prior to a sight-reading effort, either during a rehearsal or an audition, the scanning, or "eyes ahead" technique is necessary after an initial brief analysis period when key, tempo, and other primary foci are considered.

B. Psychological Considerations

  1. Inner awareness. See video "Inner Game of Music."
  2. Inner hearing.
  3. Confidence building through daily practice.
  4. Audition rehearsals.
  5. Positive self-talk.
  6. What if the worse thing you can image would happen? So what?! (From Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, "What if all your catastrophic expectations came true?")

IV. Materials needed

  • Circle of 5ths chart
  • Rhythmic sampling
  • Form diagrams
  • Tempo (conducting practice)
  • Shape in music diagrams
  • Dynamic chart
  • Articulation chart
  • Historical periods chart
  • Video Inner Game of Music
  • Video "The Orchestra" (Dudley Moore)

V. Materials to Content Area Table

  1. Key structure: Circle of 5ths chart. Basic theory: scale and interval recognition, chord structure, cadences, major/minor tonality, modes, keys areas and modulation.
  2. Meter: Rhythmic sampling.
  3. Form: Form diagrams; listening and score recognition.
  4. Tempo: Conducting practice; batons and metronomes.
  5. Phrase Shape: Shape in music diagrams.
  6. Dynamics: Dynamics chart; score recognition.
  7. Articulation: Articulations chart; computer graphics to creative articulation marks.
  8. Style: Historical periods chart; readings from Grout assigned in library references area; listening.

VI. Instructional Strategies

  1. Approach each new piece in terms of meter, key structure, form, historical setting, biographical insight, or key data relevant to the work. [Academic focus]
  2. Call attention to and study commonalities between pieces with conducting patterns, rhythmic patterns, form analyses, dynamic shapes, or compositional techniques. [Academic focus]
  3. Reinforce theoretical learnings through repetition of key concepts within the context of similarly designed harmonic schemes. Use of computer programs designed for ear training and theory practice, as well as dbases, notation programs and CD ROMS. [Technological focus]
  4. Reinforce students' notion of their ability to hear, analyze, reproduce, and enjoy music of different periods and styles. [Humanistic focus]
  5. Develop character, sensitivity, patience and interpersonal skills through group cooperation. (E.g., the ability to both lead and follow, to assert one's own ideas as well as respond to the needs of the group, etc.) [Humanistic focus]
  6. Promote and inspire an interest in research by instigating "scavenger hunts" for musicological data. Use of common research tools such as Grove's, Harvard's, Baker's and biographic research strategies. [Academic focus]

VII. Concurrent Objectives

  1. To heighten awareness of human history through the pathway of music history.
  2. To make students aware of harmonic relationships, within the framework of traditional harmonic practice.
  3. To impart a good general, working knowledge of music history and theory.
  4. To facilitate an understanding of sight-singing and sight-reading by means of an intellectual frame of reference.
  5. To enhance multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual sensibilities.
  6. To enlighten students' world view and the possibilities within that spectra by means of current technological developments.

VIII. Evaluation: Pretest and Post Test Strategies

A Music pretest should be given at the beginning of the students' career. Students should be told that it is for evaluation only, that they should just answer as many questions as they can and that after evaluation by the respective teacher, the test will be returned to the student with the instruction that an identical, though resorted test, will be readministered at the end of the coursework. In this way, the students will be enlightened with respect to the material which they are to learn through the coursework.

Post tests are a more serious affair, as the students will be expected to pass with a certain number of answers correct. Second post tests can be given, however, if tutorials are needed. Generally this is not the case.

While the pre- and post tests cover a much wider content area than the specific one addressed in these notes, the wider context can be seen to facilitate the sight reading goals sketched earlier.

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