Sight Reading: Rhythms and Reading advice needed

Alternate Fingerings, Scales, Tone, Studies, etc.

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Sight Reading: Rhythms and Reading advice needed

Post by sakuramimato »

I have problems when it comes to sight reading when it comes to associating the music (notes) with rhythms. I'm already in the 11th grade and at an Honor Band rehearsal last night, I felt like I was the only person in my section of 8 who couldn't play or try to sight read half of the fast-paced music.

I know rhythms pretty well and I can play notes from C below the staff and twice above, but putting them together becomes frustrating and discouraging when I sight read. It seems like a junior high problem...

One of the directors conducting in the Honor Band told us that "If you're staring at the whole note you're playing and not looking at the notes that are coming ahead, that's just stupid. Many professional musicians are able to know what they're going to be playing up to four to eight bars ahead of what they're playing, and that's what makes them very successful."

I wasn't offended by his statement in any way (I have a lot of respect for him), but what he told us made me realize that that's what I do when I sight read--I keep my eyes on the notes that I'm playing and if I try to look too far ahead, my mind can't keep up.

I want to be able to sight read well since I know it helps with reading and playing music, but I'm prone to going back and fixing a mistake even if it's just a couple of notes. At faster tempos, I begin to lose pulse from the anxiety. And I'm begin to think that I'm not very good with technique as the other flutists. When I lose track of tempo and pulse I get lost even in eight note rhythms. Ties, dotted notes, and 16th/32nd notes confuse me while sight reading although I can pretty much clap and sing the rhythms and music fine while I'm not playing, I seem to have problems when it comes to playing. I think it's a problem with associating my fingers to the notes..

If you have any advice, it would be greatly appreciated--books, music, websites, articles, practice methods, etc. (I've written a lot.)

Thank you very much. :)

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Post by Phineas »


There is no easy road to sight reading, you just have to practice it. There are books out there that are suppose to help, but they turn out to be not much better that just reading the piece.

Rhythm and pattern recognition are the key to sight reading. Part of the problem with sight reading rhythm is knowing what he rhythm sounds like. Triplets are a an example of this. The more rhythms you can memorize, the better your sight reading will be. The example you gave about the whole note. The instructor is right, you should already be reading ahead cause you have already seen the note, and know that it is 4 beats. If you see 8 sixteenth notes, you should already know the rhythm is going to be 1-e-and-a, 2-e-and-a etc.... You get the idea?

Another part of sight reading is recognition of a pattern, and what it sounds like. This is a little harder, but can still be done quickly. You will find that note patterns in different pieces repeat themselves. How many times have you seen C-D-E-F-G-F-E-D-C or C-E-G-D-F-A-E-G-B
These are excercises that you may practice on everyday! (Or are suppose to!) Now, how do these passages look on paper? How do they sound? If you ever wondered why it is good to practice your scales, and arpeggios, now you have just found out.

Memorizing and recognizing paterns is the best way to better sight reading, and music knowledge as a whole. Once you memorize basic rhythms and patterns, now when you look at a new piece, all you are looking for are unsual rhythms and passages, and concentrating on those!

As far as speed is concerned, you cannot play something fast that you do not know, or have not practiced. This falls into the same catagory as what you need to be a better sight reader. Music should always be practiced like Tai-Chi! Slowly. Once you know something very well slowly, you can play it as fast as you want to because you know it.

Now that you are in junior high school, this would be a good time to take your playing to the next level by doing a more daily practice of scales, arpeggios, rhythms, patterns, etc... If you start now, in a month you will see a big difference over all in your sight reading. Even if you do something like go to your local music store, and pick up a piece that you know is too advanced for you to play, and start practicing the piece slowly until you can play it to meter will help you greatly! Practice on a difficult piece or excercise and this will surely get you over some of your issues.

What ever you choose, only you know the best way to teach yourself.
I hope this will send you in the right direction, and good luck to you!


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Scales are important!!!

Post by Cass »

Phineas was right about the sight-reading technique, but I feel he didn't stress enough the importance of scale exercises. When you practice your scales, don't use the same rhythm every day. One rhythm a week, then switch to another one to work on. The hardest will be the Scottish "kick"--the sixteenth connected to a dotted-eighth rhythm. There was an excellent publication in Flute Talk that had a full page of scale exercises. My flute teacher gave me a copy of htat page and I cherish it with my soul. ;) It's called "Super Scale Exercises" from May/June 2003 of Flute Talk, page 15. You do those exercises on every scale--it's patterns, and you learn how to spot them in your music eventually. It also drills you on articulations and slurs. The last one on the page is double-tonguing. It's a handy little exercise page.

Another important exercise is to work on tone production with scales. Fluidity is a big part of becoming a professional flautist, as well, so work for evenness and tone consistency on your scales. If you are running a scale on eighth notes and hear the place where your tone changes over, go back and adjust your technique so you can't hear that tone change. It should be smooth and even--the tone will change, but it cannot be a sudden occurance in the middle of a passage... For example, it would be like hearing someone sing: "La la la la la LAH LAH LAH LAH LAH" etc... very disconcerting. ;)

Whatever you do, be sure that you are enjoying yourself. If you aren't, then move on to something else then come back to it. Never surge ahead if you have messed up when you practice scales--"I'll come back to it later" never happens. I've been playing for 12 years and I can tell you that it's the truth.
Cass <><

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