READING

How to Get Great at Sight Reading Music

Sight reading new music can feel like a daunting task. But let’s face it, all music is new to us at one point. This is why getting great at sight reading can make the experience of learning new music by reading a more enjoyable one and less of a “homework” style activity.

So in an effort to make your next sight reading experience more enjoyable, there are several great tips and strategies in this post that will get you started on the right path.

  1. Familiarize yourself with a variety of rhythms. Start simple and increasingly change the difficulty of the rhythms you are reading.
  2. Memorize key signatures at-a-glance. IMPORTANT!
  3. Know your scales forward and backward. Literally forwards and backward.
  4. Practice playing without looking at your hands.
  5. Practice sight singing by singing the notes you are wanting to read.
  6. Take a minute to examine the piece you’re sight reading. Tap out the rhythm, read through the notes and follow the structure. Look for trouble spots that may trip you up when you’re reading.
  7. Mentally commit changes in key or time signature within the piece.
  8. Make markings on the paper (or on your tablet/iPad), if allowed.
  9. Sound the whole piece out in your head, recognizing patterns.
  10. Breathe, relax and keep going, even if you make a mistake.
  11. Use a pencil to make the note names of each note above in order to be able to focus more on the rhythmic changes.

 

When I began teaching music theory and piano lessons it dawned on me how poorly some students understand music and how it really works from the inside out. Many could play their instrument but they blindly stumbled through learning new pieces and had trouble with counting even simple rhythms when faced with musical excerpts that were not in the most basic of meters. -Leon Harrell, author of “How to Read Music”

Focus on rhythm

Rhythm is the most essential part of sight reading. If you play rhythm correctly but not pitch, at least you can stay in the right place. The opposite is not true.

If you don’t have a firm grasp of rhythm, this is where you should start. You can practice rhythm sight reading with any sheet music. Just ignore the pitches and only read the rhythms. Later you can go back through and practice reading the rhythms and pitches together.

Don’t stop when you make a mistake

So obvious, and yet surprisingly counter-instinctual. When we make a mistake, especially during an important performance, the temptation is strong to go back and fix it. But everyone knows this is impossible – time in music only moves forward. It’s done, shrug it off and move on. (If there’s a repeat, you’ll get a second chance! :))

Not only is it futile, but it’s actually counter-productive to stop and try to fix performance mistakes. You draw attention to an error your audience otherwise may not have noticed, and you make a second error by stopping time!

Learn how to plow through your mistakes rather than stopping to lament. Your judges will review you more favorably, you’ll better keep up with the ensemble if you’re not playing solo, and your audience will enjoy the music better uninterrupted.

Let the most difficult passage set your tempo

This tip I picked up years ago from a wise band director. It’s a smart way to set the tempo when you’re sight reading. (You’ve never heard the piece before, so you can’t use your memory of what it sounds like for reference.)

Of course you’re going to observe the composer’s tempo guidelines, but you’ll have room for interpretation as the performer. The most important thing when you’re choosing a tempo for sight reading is that it not prohibit you from getting through the piece successfully. And the most common tempo mistake made by inexperienced sight readers is to choose one that’s too fast.

The way to ensure that you don’t choose a tempo that’s too fast is to base it around the most difficult passage. While you’re looking over the music just before playing, find the part that looks most challenging. Finger through it on your instrument at the tempo you have in mind and be confident you can get through without making a slew of mistakes. If you don’t think you can, slow down the tempo a bit at a time until you have one that works.

Learn to look ahead

People are often surprised to learn that advanced sight readers aren’t looking at the notes they’re playing. Rather they already looked at them, and are always looking at least a few beats ahead of where they’re playing.

Think about it. You’re sight reading, so you’ve never seen this music before, save the brief moment you had to look it over before you started playing. If you’re just taking in the notes one at a time as you’re playing them, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. Imagine driving a car and only watching the spot of pavement that’s visible just over the hood.

You need to learn how to be reading one measure while playing the measure that came before it. The coordination is a bit tricky, but it’s well worth the time investment to learn this skill.

Don’t forget, at the end of the day it will be you that will need to put in the work with your sight reading practice. At first, it may seem challenging. But my promise to you is that if you stick with it and take these tips and strategies to heart while practicing that your skill will improve and sight reading will become simple and seamless for you.

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Ref: Music Notes, Sight Reading Master.
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Book Review: ‘How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist’

The 2009 effort by Nicole Bouchard Boles is a savory book loaded with ideas, action plans, and thought provoking information. Boles, mother of three, gives you a plethora of valuable information that is structured as to apply to every day practices.

The Book:

Self described as “330 wasy to make a difference” does just that and more. In the book you will find areas of philanthropy categorized by what you can ‘use’. This makes for a wonderful resource in terms of applying these actions to our lives to benefit others.

Book Examples:
Boles lists many ways to impact the community around you, so I have only showcased a select few bellow.

from How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist by Nicole Bouchard Boles

Use Your Time
1. Foster a Pet
2. Volunteer Online
3. Work for the Earth

Use Your Awareness
1. Start an E-Campaign
2. Educate Face-to-Face
3. Discover Your Carbon Footprint

“The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world.” -Allen Ginsberg

This book is a delightful read and a must have for any home or office library. You can use the book a reference book, study book, or simply something to read through from time to time. No matter the way you approach the book, you will eventually find yourself implementing concepts that will enhance the world around you.

Amazone Link: http://www.amazon.com/How-Everyday-Philanthropist-Difference-Community/dp/076115504X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372118711&sr=8-1&keywords=How+to+Be+an+Everyday+Philanthropist

SCIENCE:: Death and Rebirth: T.I.S.P.

Logo of the Teacher in Space Project issued by the NASA and the United States Government

The T.I.S.P., or Teacher in Space Project was initiated by President Ronald Reagan on August 27th 1984. The project’s main goal was to uplift the inspiration to new generations in enthusiasts in Mathematics, space, and scientific research exploration. Due to unfortunate circumstances the cancelation of the program was installed in 1990 after the death of teacher Christa McAuliffe during the fatal 1986 Challenger flight and disaster.

NASA Spaceflight Participant and Congressional Space Medal of Honor Recipient

But, this was not to be the complete end to the project and its related program E.A.P.(Educator Astronaut Project). For it would be reborn in the early years the 21st century. Due to its controlled release to the private sector, billionaire companies were able to establish their mark on the space and aerospace industries by enabling teachers wanting to participate in the program, via their monetary support. In 2005,  Teacher in Space candidate Pam Leestma, a second-grade teacher and cousin of Space Shuttle astronaut David Leestma, flew a training flight aboard a MiG-21 operated by X-Rocket, LLC. This project an escalating outpouring of applicants to similar companies that also offered space flight as an option for teachers and educators. Flights continued into 2008, for in 2009 T.I.S.P. announced the seven chosen teachers from around the U.S.. They are: Maureen Louis Adams, James Kuhl, Lanette Oliver, Stephen Heck, Rachael Manzer, Chantelle Rose, and Robert Schmidt.

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“Becoming a teacher may have its benefits… You may get to go to space!”

Barbara Morgan, NASA's Mission Specialist. 2007.

 

BY: Thomas McGregor

SCIENCE:: Deep Space Review: Hot Infrared: Messier 81

Messier 81(M81) or Bode’s Galaxy is a beautiful spiral galaxy that lives 12 Million light years away from us, in the constellation Ursa Major. With a right ascension of 09H and a declination of +69°, you can possible imagine in your minds eye how large this Messier Object is. Discovered in 1774 by Johann Elert Bode, the M81 was given Mr. Bode’s name sake for his discovery. With it’s proximity to Earth, large active center nucleus, M81 has been studied extensively throughout the years of astronomical study. The active center  was deemed a class 1 supernovae in the spring of 1995 by F. Garcia, in Spain. This supernovae is said to be the 2ND brightest in the 21ST century! As you look at the photograph above you may notice how bright the edges of M81 are. This is due to the hot stars that are in the M81 system. These stars are so hot that they heat the space dust that is floating in the near by space surrounding M81 and enhancing the infrared dust emissions.

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In my opinion this would be a great Messier Object to study if you are interested in astronomy or astrophysics, and would like to get started. I reason this to the many dynamics that M81 offers without becoming to complicating. Furthermore, M81 is very colorful, active, and full of life(in it’s own right). With the solar galactic heating of infraed dust, and the relationship to Ursa Major – you will be able to learn a lot about Ursa major as well as M81 – all at the same time. Also, this is a no-joke space object! With the mass calculations resulting in a Magnitude 6.94 Messier Object, you will certainly have your hands full with data analysis and intrigue. Enjoy the many aspects of this supernova handling M81, as we expand our knowledge of our outer space.

By: Thomas McGregor

Deep Space Review: A Large Name = A Powerful Star?: Zubenelschemali

Introduction:

Zubenelschemali is a large name that you may never have heard of before. But I have high hopes that I can possibly shed some “white-blue” light on this large name in this issued exploration of outer space!

“The Northern Claw”. This is the literal Arabic definition given in relation to our Main Sequence Blue Dwarf Star. It seems that everything to do with this particular star is in large scale. Radiating at a very hight heat of 12,000K(Kelvin) or +12,000° Celsius, or a sense of wonder that one would associate with such a temperature! In relation to our planetary realm, Beta Librea(it’s other name)spins at very fast 100x that of our sun, or -35.2 km/s(per second)!  Furthermore, it is also 130x that more luminous than our Sun, as well! This 2.6 Magnitude white-blue star, when seen by the naked eye, is the only one to been seen with s hint of green tint. This is due to the hydrofusion aspect of this star’s make-up. If you happen to catch this star with your eye, keep in mind that you are seeing something that is 160 light years from where you stand – truly amazing! To find it, you will see it positioned to a 15h right ascension and -09° declination in the constellation Libra.

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This dwarf star is particularly interesting to me because of how long the name is in relation to how big and powerful the star actually is! Sometimes stars can receive titles in relationship to their positioning in the sky, not necessarily in relationship to their actual atributes. I am only suggesting this, not implying that this was the intent of the stars’ name. For the translation of the star clearly defines how it was named. For it is positioned at the northern tip of the constellation Libra, clearly helping to form a “Claw like” formation. Also what I find appealing is how powerful this star presents itself. It is traveling at a radial speed so fast that our Sun would have to increase its velocity by 100 times its current speed. Everything about this star seems to be on a grand scale. Our benefit? We are graced with the ability to see this powerful star here on earth with our eyes by simply, looking up.

By: Thomas McGregor