Do you have your students sight read everyday? Colin Thomson has created an effective Sight Reading resource for students called Sight Reading Academy.
As Colin was preparing his audition at the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music studying music composition, he would spend countless hours prepping the 3 pieces he was going to perform. While he definitely worried about the sight-reading portion, he put almost no time into preparing for it, considering it impossible to really prepare for sight-reading. He shared with me that he showed up, played his three prepared pieces, and they all went quite smoothly.
Then… a professor handed him one page to sight-read. He knew it was coming, so he nervously took it and started in. About halfway through the second line the professor stopped him and said, “Colin, do you want to take a quick look at the key signature, and try again?” He had been reading it in a completely incorrect key.
He continued to share, “Considering how intensely I had prepared for the audition, this was a bit of a traumatic experience for me. I started back in, and fumbled through the piece. I honestly don’t really remember anything after that. But thankfully, I was still excepted to the school, so the story has a happy ending! But ever since that time, I have wondered how a student is supposed to prepare for sight-reading? Does one have to own a library of music, in order to have access to new music for every day of practice? How can a student effectively practice sight-reading, as well as the disciplines (like looking ahead in the music) that play such an important role in sight-reading?
What I’ve developed is meant to function as a sight-reading method book for teachers to use with students, and to allow students a never-ending stream of level-appropriate sight-reading material, as well as innovative video exercises to help them read ahead. I often consider how my own sight-reading abilities could have been transformed early on through the use of a program like this, and I plan to start a revolution in the extent to which music education focuses on one of the most practical skills a musician can have: sight-reading.”
Sight Reading Academy includes sight-reading exercises from levels 1-8. Here are some notation samples so you get an idea of leveling…
The Sight Reading Academy exercises does not give feedback or scores, it is simply a sight-reading tool. At first I wasn’t sure how I liked not having any immediate feedback for students, however I have had a chance to take some time with SRA. I quickly realized that when students are playing their pieces at home, they are not getting immediate feedback from me. They need to learn to listen and watch carefully. The purpose of sight reading everyday is to improve reading skills (not focusing on mistakes) and become more fluent in the language we call music.
When students learn how to read words and sentences in school, they are required to practice their reading daily. I really believe if we as teachers required a daily sight-reading assignment at home in addition to learning their pieces, our students would become much more fluent readers of music.
Sight Reading Academy has done all the work for teachers, all the assignments are done and ready for students to begin. An optional feature that will be coming eventually to SRA will be for students to opt in to receive encouraging emails when the assignment is complete with the next assignment waiting for them in their inbox. Stay tuned for that feature to be function-able.
Each level includes a video where tips and tricks are shared to help them with their assignment. Students receive positive reinforcement, reminders and tips along with their daily exercises.
Some of the exercises a student will see in a lesson are:
Quick Mem– seeing one measure at a time
ForeSightReader– practice reading ahead of the bar (memorizing as you are moving forward)
Blackout– blacks out the measures as you are moving forward
Some of these exercises, especially the foresightreader and blackout were a bit tricky for some of my students. But they quickly understood why it was important to read ahead.
“Sight Reading Academy is a way for musicians to get new, unseen, level-appropriate music in their email inbox every single day, and includes innovative exercises to help them read ahead. It is my belief that a considerable amount of time should be spent in sight reading exercise. The student who neglects this aspect of study will be woefully unprepared for many of the challenges that will come both during more advanced study and any further performing that may be done later in life. I have gone so far as to say that it is probably the most practical skill that a musician can acquire.” Colin Thomson
How it works for teachers:
The teacher account is always free. After you sign up with your account you can either signup your students or invite them to sign up themselves. Either way you can track their progress.
Not sure if Sight Reading Academy is right for you? Colin is giving a limited time offer: Get your free teacher account and signup 1 student for a full month. Completely free. The limited time offer for the free student expires in 6 days so don’t wait to sign up for your free account and 1 free student. You can check it all out here, be sure to watch the video to really get an idea of what SRA is all about. And while you are there, you may want to take some time to read some articles on his blog.