Advanced search

Advice please, DD 13 taking grade 5 piano struggles with sight reading.

(26 Posts)
apprenticemum Fri 23-Aug-13 14:59:18

I shall start by stating the DH & myself are in no way musical which is no help to DD. She has always had a good ear for music and has flown through her piano exams so far. However, in every exam she crashes and burns on sight reading while getting full marks for the rest which pulls her through. From what I understand, she can sight read very slowly which is fine when learning a piece which she can memorise easily but cannot not play straight fom sheet music. As the grade 5 theory looms, she is giong into freefall despondency and I am at a loss to know how to help. She took a year off exams on the condition that she learned other pieces. She chose Einaudi Le Onde which she plays so beautifully that even her rufty tufty uncle was moved to tears, all from memory. These may seem like silly questions but is there some kind of intensive workshop specialising in helping with sight reading and perhaps building the confidence of those who struggle. Her perri teacher seems to think DD is doing ok but DD is so frustrated that I fear she will walk away rather than battle on. The subject has been raised by her on several occasions and up till now, I have managed to talk her round. Can someone please point me in the right direction.

haggisaggis Fri 23-Aug-13 17:25:55

Is it just that she finds reading music difficult? There are some good apps (I use them with my dd who is dyslexic and finds reading music really hard) which help with practise.

nextphase Fri 23-Aug-13 17:55:18

I'd suggest getting a book of grade 3 or 4 pieces that she doesn't know, and tries to sight read them (maybe just one hand to start with) at a reasonable speed. She can then go back, and work the piece out, so she knows where she's struggling, and can then work on that aspect (e.g. is it rhythm, notes, fitting the two lines together).
Sight reading (and singing in tune) are my big problems.

MrsFrederickWentworth Fri 23-Aug-13 18:02:32

Get her lots of the sight reading tests, starting at the easiest, prob about G 2 or 3, and work.up.

And make sure she knows her key signatures and scales. It's much easier if you look at it, say 3 #, ah, that's A major, must remember the G #, or whatever. Make sure she understands them for the melodic, not just the harmonic, scales, as they usually throw in a melodic element.

Also test her on her ledger lines, ( the ones above and below the stave). If she recognises those instantly it will be easier.

If she is dyslexic, then think of putting a coloured sheet over the music in a colour she finds helpful.

I was v poor at sightseeing and these are the tips I worked out for myself.

apprenticemum Fri 23-Aug-13 21:58:10

She has the lower grade books to do and struggles through. The problem is that we cannot read music so she has to wait a week for her peri teacher to look at it and most of the lesson is spent on that, which although essential detracts from the playing which is what she enjoys. I can only imagine it is rather like learning to drive, in the beginning, you can't imagine how you will be abe to to do so many things at once but as son as you are doing it all the time, it starts to come naturally. Unfortunately because she can work out how to play most things by ear, I expect it is the easier option to her. I will try the coloured sheets to see if that helps.

MrsFrederickWentworth Sat 24-Aug-13 09:33:06

I know you can't read music, but can you use her theory books to ask her how many sharps and flats there are in the key signatures? She'll probably remember which they actually are by herself.

And then as a poster above says, get her first to do one hand, and I would suggest the left hand because it often sets the rhythm but because it doesn't have the tune people find it harder, then the right hand, then put them together.

Primrose123 Sat 24-Aug-13 09:41:08

I would get this book.

It goes right back to the beginning, so she should be able to work through it alone. It helps pupils recognise notes, timings, key signatures etc. gradually and I have found it very good. I have also used book 2 which is good too. There is a book three, but I haven't used that.

Theas18 Sat 24-Aug-13 09:48:41

Doing lots of it is the only way. If you can't help maybe it need a few extra lessons - a coupe of times a week say instead on once for a month or so. If you can't sight read it's pretty impossible to learn on your own.

Ultimately it's only a small number of marks and perfectly possible to do fine without passing that section.

It might be possible to do higher grades for another board that have less maks for sight reading but it worth even taking 6 mo or a year out of exam progression o get this bit sorted if she's likely to do much music in future as its a vital skill for career and fun musicians.

Does she sing/ play another instrument? Group work is bril for sight reading and of she can say sight sing or hear in her head how it would be on her instrument that will really help

YonilyDevotedToYou Sat 24-Aug-13 09:57:04

I improved my sight reading by practising sight reading the left hand only. I don't know about your DD but for me sight reading the bass clef much more difficult. Also, counting out loud while practising right reading- my teacher always said that if you get the rhythm right and play the piece steadily with some wrong notes, it gives you more marks than getting the notes right but playing v slowly and hesitantly. Good luck to your DD smile

Nacster Sat 24-Aug-13 10:06:55

I find it very useful to make sure you have the pulse.

Clap through the rhythm, keeping the pulse going. As PP say, knowing the key sigs is very useful.

There's loads of sheet music online, print off and practice, practice, practice. Repetition is key.

Sight reading is so useful, like theory, far more helpful to see it as a skill worth aquiring rather than something you have to do to pass the exam. Most music is fairly predictable, the more she does, the better she'll get.

ABRSM do a book of sightreading tests, definitely worth having.

apprenticemum Sat 24-Aug-13 10:30:54

Theas, Yes she is grade 5 singing and grade 3 Tennor Sax. She says that she finds sight reading for sax easy as she has herfingers on the right keys to start with so it is just a case of pressing. She also added that sax has helped with the sight reading but I think a lot of her problem is bad habbits ie. playing a lot from ear early on and wanting to run before she can walk. Personally I think she is better than she thinks but as the untrained and doting mother cannot be neutral confused

nextphase Sat 24-Aug-13 11:19:26

if she can hear whats right, what about sight reading exercises with CD to allow her (and you?) to hear how close she is to getting it right?

apprenticemum Sat 24-Aug-13 12:42:59

Sounds good nestphase. Can you get them from any music shop?

nextphase Sat 24-Aug-13 21:17:42

I'd amazon it

ISAmum1 Wed 28-Aug-13 13:28:41

My dc use books by Paul Harris called Improve your sight-reading. Each book goes through a series of stages, which slowly improve your skills. Both of my kids struggled with sight-reading and these along with ABRSM specimen paper books helped them. Little and often is best, they both do between 3 and 5 pieces a day. My kids still don't like sight reading, but they have definitely improved. Not sure which one would be best for your daughter to start with. My dd passed her grade 2 piano but failed sight reading section. She then started using these books, beginning with grade 1. She is now on grade 5 and ds in on grade 4.

Good luck to your daughter.

ISAmum1 Wed 28-Aug-13 13:36:24

Just looked on amazon and with some of the grade books of Improve your sight-reading, you can look inside. This will at least give you some idea of what the books are like.

Dam58 Wed 28-Aug-13 13:36:31

My 9 yr ols is currently at grade 5 and neither my husband or i play anything! Sight reading is also her teacher has set her targets of sight reading every day in order to raise her is working. There are internet sites easily found by googling that talk yo through stages. Dds teacher dissaproves of these although its the only way i can find to help my dd through the week until the next lesson.

LilyBolero Wed 28-Aug-13 16:48:51

Try breaking down what the sightreading consists of;


There is a pulse. This is almost the MOST important thing. Try and establish this, and maintain it.

There is a time signatures. Try and look at this, and make sure there are the right number of beats in a bar.

There are rhythms. Try and find correct rhythms.

All of these can be done before you get anywhere near the piano, and they are all credited in an exam.


There is a key signature. Try and notice what #s or flats there are.

Finally, there is a melodic line. Try and get the ups and downs at least, and when confident, then try and improve accuracy.

Golden rule of sightreading - KEEP GOING!

schilke Wed 04-Sep-13 10:35:19

Dh teaches and totally agrees LilyBolero.
He tells his pupils....Imagine you are drawing a castle. The pieces have detail:windows, doors, colour, shading etc.. For the sightreading aim to at least have a recognisable outline of a castle. Aim for rhythm and shape (ups and downs) which will give that outline. More confident players can add more detail such as articulation and dynamics.

Clap rhythms before she plays. Then, when she actually plays it, play to the same rhythm and if necessary, make it up following the note shapes. Rhythmic momentum is much more important than right notes.

If you think about a group of people singing Happy Birthday. Some might be tone deaf, but everyone keeps the same rhythm and you recognise it. If everyone sung pitch perfect, but in different rhythms, it would be unrecognisable.

Is she a perfectionist and scared of making mistakes?

apprenticemum Wed 04-Sep-13 16:09:17

schilke. I think you have hit the nail on the head! She is a perfectionist and gets irrate when things go wrong. Unlike her mother who refuses to be beaten and will plug away at a difficult task until I have beaten it, DD flies into a strop and flounces off which achieves nothing. I hope it is an age thingconfused

biryani Wed 04-Sep-13 16:17:16

I presume she's doing the standard syllabus.

Have you thought about doing jazz instead? If she has a good ear, it may suit her better. Obviously, she still has to be able to read and know her theory but there's less emphasis on reading and more on aural skills.

I'd have a look at the Abrsm's forum too: lots of advice from teachers there.

yellowballoons Wed 04-Sep-13 16:29:15

Buy her a pack of flash cards of music notes.
Helped mine enormously. And you can help her too with those!grin

schilke Wed 04-Sep-13 17:15:29

Apprenticemum - ds2 is a perfectionist. He is 13. He applies it to the violin and schoolwork, but unfortunately not to keeping his room tidy grinHe is also the type to fly off in a rage because he hasn't played a piece absolutely perfectly. It's exhausting.

1805 Wed 04-Sep-13 19:59:33

To help the perfectionists, I ask them if they would be happy with 95% in a maths test. Nearly everyone says "yes". Then they should be more relaxed with a few errors in their sight reading/general playing.

Also, get her to look for patterns (scales, arpeggios, repeated notes,) before she starts and also locate any repeated phrases or groups of notes.

She must keep going though and always move forwards, never backwards!

To begin with, I play along with the beginner pupil to get them into the habit of not stopping!!!!!

apprenticemum Thu 05-Sep-13 17:52:10

I tell her to finish the piece then go back to any part that she fluffed and just do that bit a couple of times in order crack it. Otherwise, she tends to get tense in the run up to that part and fluffs it again. Talk about mind games!

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now