There is nothing more important than equipping your students with a well-rounded education. Read on to learn how to help students learn to sight read sheet music.
Imagine walking into your first day of school, ready and excited to learn, only to find you can’t read your textbooks. If this were the case, you would have to learn each letter, word, and how they interact with each other before you could proceed further. Such a task would take weeks and maybe even months, which could significantly hold you back from excelling and discourage you from trying. Such a predicament is similar to what your students might experience if your music lesson plan does not prioritize or include sight reading. Keep reading for some of our tips on helping your students learn to sight read sheet music.
It is in your best interest to teach your students how to sight read—it is incredibly valuable and useful in helping them feel more confident in their sight-reading abilities. When you are proficient in sight reading, you can look at a sheet of music, know the notes, and get a sense of the rhythm, harmony, and flow. You might even be able to hear the tempo in your head—it seems like a superpower too good to be true, but that’s just the beauty of sight reading. Despite its importance, you might find it quite surprising that many instructors do not include or prioritize sight reading in their lesson plans.
Instructors may not include sight reading in their lessons because it is quite difficult to learn and teach. To understand why it can be challenging, it would help to think of sight reading as an entirely new language. With language, you must learn consonants, vowels, and countless other components in order to be able to understand, read, or speak it.
The same goes for sight reading, as there are many distinct aspects you have to learn. Moreover, you must be able to incorporate each aspect together in real time. When you sight read, you must consider the rhythm, the notes, the key signature, hand-eye coordination, and stay in time all at once. What a brain workout! However, just because it can be difficult to teach and learn does not mean you should give up on it entirely—keep reading for our tips on how to help your students learn to sight read sheet music.
You can certainly tell and understand why sight reading is so challenging to teach. It is not necessarily as exciting as just playing a piece, which can cause many students to shy away from it. However, it is incredibly useful, so we made sure to include sight reading in our piano education software. At Piano Marvel, we seek to make every aspect of learning the piano a fun challenge that entices students to continue further.
Our Standard Assessment of Sight Reading (SASR) is an incredible tool that allows students to test themselves and practice their sight reading. The SASR includes 18 levels with 90 individual sub-levels in between, so you can constantly aim for improvement. Our highest world score is currently 1,863; download our app today to see if you can beat it!
If you want to learn how to sight read, you must teach the basics—you wouldn’t expect a child to speak full sentences without first babbling, then learning the alphabet, words, and so on. Such a process can take years, which is why it is so useful and necessary to guide your students in the right direction by starting with the basics.
As such, ensure that your students know the musical alphabet in every which way, meaning they should be able to recite the alphabet starting from any letter. The reason this is so important is that some students will only be able to recite the letters when starting from a certain point. That would be like needing to recite the entire English alphabet to know that s comes after r.
It can be incredibly exciting to have a new piece in your hands just waiting to be transformed into beautiful music. That is why your students are likely eager to put the pedal to the metal, press those ivory keys, and fill the room with sound. However, before they start practicing, it is a great idea to have them “play” through a piece without depressing the keys on the piano, or in other words, ghost-play each piece. Ghost-playing helps students focus on the notes, tempo, and beat rather than diving right into playing the music, which helps improve their sight reading.
A fun way to encourage your students to see the value in sight reading is to trick them (just a little). Consider placing a piece of music in front of them that you know they are familiar with. However, make sure to cover any lyrics and the name of the piece. If they realize what song it is beforehand, you won’t be able to use it to sight read.
Once you have your piece, prompt them to ghost-play it and as they do, make sure they count the rhythm aloud and move their fingers over the keys without playing. This will better help them understand the tempo, beat, and rhythm as they practice. Once they have practiced enough, they can then play it, or you can play it for them. Discovering that the music they thought they knew so well is completely unfamiliar to them in another form is sure to fascinate your students! Such a breakthrough can entice a student to learn more about the piano—after all, there is so much to know about this wonderful instrument.
One thing that can entice people to learn the piano is the magic they feel when playing a piece of music. That is why many people will learn how to play a piece on the piano but not actually learn how to read piano music—there is a huge difference. Sight reading can be a guiding light that can aid students along their journey.
The truth is that sight reading is an important component that you can incorporate into your lesson plan to help your students continually improve their sight reading skills. As a student progresses, the pieces they learn will increase in difficulty, which also means their sight reading skills should improve as well. That is why we made it a priority to include the SASR in our software. With our app in tow and these tips to help, you have some great resources to support you as you teach your students how to sight read successfully.