• Elisabeth Hope

Your Daily Dose: Beginning Sight Reading

Updated: Sep 7

Sight reading is kind of like a multi-vitamin: most beneficial when taken daily in small amounts and potentially detrimental if all of the doses for a whole week are taken at once. At the Hope Violin Studio, students follow a systematic approach to sight reading in order to ensure understanding and confidence as they develop as musicians. Here is the sight reading system* that we use in the Hope Violin Studio.

I use Joanne Martin’s I Can Read Music series for most students who are beginning sight reading. Depending on their unique situation and our individualized plan of study, this may be their first sight reading experience, or they may have already completed Dana DeKalb Bowen’s The Rhythm Train series.

Parents, I would like each of these steps to be written in the front of your student’s I Can Read Music book so that they can easily flip back to see the steps if needed. You can write only the italicized step for brevity (the non-italicized information is for clarity). If your student is old enough, please have them write down the steps themselves! This will have the added benefit of helping your student learn the steps more quickly. Make sure that your student completes each step, every day. Try to keep your pitch and rhythm progressing around the same rate so you don’t get ahead in one or the other.

We will make a personalized plan for your student, but a good rule of thumb is that sight reading should take only about 4-5 minutes of your student’s practice time at the beginning level. If it’s too easy, you can increase the difficulty by having your student increase the tempo—go as fast as you can while keeping accuracy and a steady tempo. You can also increase the number of lines that your student completes each day—you’ll make it through the book twice as fast if you do two lines of both pitch and rhythm per day than if you do just one of each.

I Can Read Music, Volume 1

Pitch

  1. Explain treble clef and time signature (“This is a treble clef. The time signature is 4/4 time, which means [top number] 4 beats per measure, and [bottom number] one quarter note gets one beat.”)

  2. Name the note names (mention each note in order as it appears: “A A B C# B C# B A”)

  3. Play and count out loud. Count the beats with your mouth. Audibly. While you play. I know it’s hard, but it really works! Aim for a really steady tempo!

  4. Repeat if needed for accuracy and consistent tempo.

  5. Write today’s date. Tomorrow, you’ll do a new line or set of lines, unless you really struggled today and need the extra review.

Rhythm

  1. Explain treble clef and time signature (“This is a treble clef. The time signature is 6/8 time, which means [top number] 6 beats per measure, and [bottom number] one eighth note gets one beat.” Another way to think about it: there are this many [top number] of this type [bottom number] of notes per measure.)

  2. What rhythm values do you see? (“On this line, I see quarter notes, eighth notes, and a half rest.”)

  3. Count and clap. Use the subdivision for the smallest note value that you mentioned in step 2 (1-and-2-and if your smallest notes are eighth notes; 1-ee-and-a-2-ee-and-a if they are sixteenth notes)

  4. Play and count out loud. With your mouth. Audibly. Try to keep a really steady tempo!

  5. Repeat if needed for accuracy and consistent tempo.

  6. Write today’s date. Tomorrow, you’ll do a new line or set of lines, unless you really struggled today and need the extra review.

I Can Read Music, Volume 2

Most students who are in Volume 2 of I Can Read Music will have already gone through Volume 1 and become familiar with the steps for pitch and rhythm, easily combining them. However, depending on age and previous experience, I may occasionally start a student in book 2. Because of this possibility, I’ll spell out each of the steps. Please make sure that the italicized portion of each step is written in the front of your book, plus whatever else you need to jog your memory.

  1. Explain treble clef, key signature**, and time signature (“This is a treble clef. The key signature includes F#, C# and G#, so we’re in the key of A major. The time signature is 6/8 time, which means [top number] 6 beats per measure, and [bottom number] one eighth note gets one beat.” Another way to think about it: there are this many [top number] of this type [bottom number] of notes per measure.)

  2. Name your note names. Mention each note in order as it appears. If you have several quick repeated notes before the note changes, you can just say the note name once for the whole group.

  3. What rhythm values do you see? (“On this line, I see quarter notes, eighth notes, and a half rest.”)

  4. Count and clap. Use the subdivision for the smallest note value that you mentioned in step 2 (1-and-2-and if your smallest notes are eighth notes; 1-ee-and-a-2-ee-and-a if they are sixteenth notes)

  5. Play and count out loud. With your mouth. Audibly. Try to keep a really steady tempo!

  6. Repeat if needed for accuracy and consistent tempo.

  7. Write today’s date. Tomorrow, you’ll do a new line or set of lines, unless you really struggled today and need the extra review.

*Sight reading system credit: As with many things in the Suzuki world, teachers learn from their trainers and their colleagues. We take the ideas that other people create and adjust them for the needs of our studios. Most, if not all, of my sight reading steps come from Susan Kempter, who was both my own Suzuki teacher growing up, and my first Suzuki teacher trainer for books 1-3.

**Rules for key signatures: Sharps follow the order FCGDAEB (Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Bugs). Flats go in that reverse order: BEADGCF. To find your major key if you have sharps, go a half step higher than the last sharp. To find your major key if you have flats, the rule is “second-to-last flat, and that’s that” (B flat and E flat, for instance, gives you the key of B flat major). These two rules leave room for two exceptions: C major (no flats or sharps) and F major (one flat).

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon

Violin lessons and baby music classes, serving Texas students from Clear Lake, Webster, Friendswood, League City, Dickinson, Santa Fe, Kemah, Seabrook, Pasadena, Pearland, and Houston