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Sight reading melt-down - how to approach?

(16 Posts)
OverAndAbove Sun 12-Mar-17 08:07:54

It's ten days until her piano exam, and sight reading is becoming more and more of a problem. She has been practising religiously but is really finding it hard; we've been working through the Paul Harris book and shes now panicking when faced with just 30 seconds for the ABRSM samples.

What can I do to help? We've looked at the "golden rules" in the Harris book but her inclination is still to go over and over the first few notes and then not nphave her fingers in the correct place, and she's mixing up notes that she never used to do. It's like she's suddenly out of her depth (but usually in the past she's been fine). It's G3 btw

Any advice please on how to stop her melting down, as has happened a couple of times already?!

raspberryrippleicecream Sun 12-Mar-17 12:28:49

I can't advise about the actual sight reading, but I'd remind her it's a tiny part of the whole thing. I'm pretty sure if she gets marks for an attempt.

OverAndAbove Sun 12-Mar-17 16:29:48

Oh thanks - yes, I have told her (as I read it somewhere on here!) that even just doing it gets (?) 7 marks - and also that there'll be no problem with the first couple of bars, because she'll have her fingers in the correct place at the beginning.

The poor thing has really got a mental bock with it though, and I can see it going spectacularly wrong in the exam. I'm wondering if it might boost her confidence to go back one grade and do some easier work for a few days...

Fleurdelise Sun 12-Mar-17 18:30:16

Dd was also struggling for grade 3 our was because there wasn't much practice on it. Her teacher finally decided not to push for it anymore when Dd was literally in tears every time the words sight reading would be said two weeks before the exam. So she told her not to worry, Dd got 10 points if I remember right and the comment that this is the area she is struggling with.

Since then dd is doing the Paul Harris book twice each grade to raise her confidence, she is now approaching grade 5, she's in the middle of the book and will finish it in about 3 weeks and then we'll start it again.

Try and focus on one thing only, so if she struggles with finding the notes initially spend the 30 sec only on that.

Dd is struggling not to correct mistakes for example so we're working on the keep going side of things

GrassWillBeGreener Sun 12-Mar-17 18:38:53

I agree that going back a step is a good plan, along with continuing to remind her that it is a small bit and just having a go is enough in the actual exam.

As well as going back to grade 2 examples for a confidence boost, maybe try sightreading one hand only (don't forget to do this with both hands). And then if she's still in a massive panic a couple of days before the exam you could suggest she finds the first notes with both hands, but then focuses on whichever hand seems to have the most interest and try to play most of that line.

OverAndAbove Sun 12-Mar-17 20:17:06

Thank you - it's very helpful for her (and me!) to have some things to try

Looking at one hand only I think will work well for her - she knows her notes well and her music theory is really good so she can get herself to the right place. I just hope the panic doesn't take over - or she'll spend the 30 seconds blinking like a rabbit in the headlights!

Ferguson Sun 12-Mar-17 21:10:46

You seem to have left it rather late to ask for advice; I will do a link to some suggestions in a moment.

But I always advise people to NOT concern themselves with the NAMES of notes for sight reading, but to get your FINGERS to know where they should be - if you do think of the names of notes, that is introducing an extra, unnecessary step which the brain then has to translate to the fingers.

During the 30 second familiarisation period, look for the ESSENTIAL things first - key signatures, time signature and tempo; then look for unusual or unexpected accidentals, 'markings' and 'phrasing', and particularly aspects that you know you are weak on. Try to convey the 'mood' or 'style' of the piece; I don't think examiners expect a 'perfect' sight reading, but you need to show them that you have a REASONABLE grasp of where the tune is going.

These are probably ideas worth considering:

timtopham.com/whatever-you-do-dont-stop-5-sight-reading-tips-for-piano-teachers/

I wish her luck, and give the examiner as enjoyable experience.

OverAndAbove Sun 12-Mar-17 23:36:22

Thanks for the tips - yes it's only lately she's got herself into a panic with it - so I'm really hoping she can get herself out of it! She does work very hard with all her practice and I think perhaps spending a couple of days just in sight, with no scales or pieces, so she can really concentrate, may be the way to go. And yes, thinking about all the essential things. The Paul Harris book is good for that, at least

I remember now how much I hated sight reading as a child. I'm actually ok at it now but I'd hate to do it under pressure!

HemiDemiSemiquaver Mon 13-Mar-17 09:47:09

Also, you get some choice over the order of the elements in the exam - I can't remember just how much. The sight reading and aural tests usually come after the rest - you could perhaps get her to ask for her preferred order, or have it written on her entry slip (e.g. it's pieces, scales, aural, sightreading or something). Then at least if the sightreading is a disaster, it doesn't affect the later components of the exam!

There are lots of different sight reading books/series, as well as apps that generate sightreading examples at different levels, so you could always change series, and perhaps go back to easier ones without it being obvious to her, so that she's building up her confidence and is more willing to give it a try.

BeyondThePage Mon 13-Mar-17 15:11:27

A cautious approach with most of the right notes, mostly pitched right, and a bit of continuity will garner around 15marks.

DD does the head down, remind herself of key signature, legato/detached/staccato, count rhythm out loud approach for her 30 seconds - never does stunningly well because she also tends towards rabbit in the headlights for sight reading 30 seconds - but generally makes a go of it and comes out between 14 and 19 points.

At G3 it really is only about 8 bars, so easy points to be had for even a cautious approach, notice the dynamics in there and even better.

OverAndAbove Mon 13-Mar-17 21:00:03

Yes the order thing is important - she likes to do scales & arpeggios first, then pieces. Then usually sight reading, then aural - I didn't know you could swap those two around...

She's actually done not too bad tonight, skipping the pieces, and just concentrating on the sight reading and doing a mix of the earlier Harris book, her choice from the ABRSM book and even a couple from G3 Harris. Clapping out the rhythm seems to give her the best shot - but she's still "rabbit in headlights" about it all. I'm hoping over the next week she can at least get some of her resilience back!

Helenluvsrob Tue 14-Mar-17 17:54:27

I think my technique at this late stage would be to de escalate the fear.

What's the worst that can happen? You fail....and......

And nothing bad will happen! You'll feel sad and disappointed but no one will shout or thump you, the sky will not fall - chicken liken was wrong smile. You can try again, or even learn to play and not take exams till you want to do them.

Look at the maths. If you got no points for sight reading and good marks in other areas you'd pass. So get a few points for starting on the right notes and every other point is a bonus.

Music exams aren't the be all and end all that teachers say ( I know...you are grasping your pearls at the thought) and sometimes, for perfectionist children they are the safe place to fail and learn about failing and dusting yourself off and going again , that they need.

Greenleave Wed 15-Mar-17 20:23:46

Mine wasnt great with sight reading in the past either, she improves massively after taking her theory exam. Sight reading now is for fun rather than worrying like what she used to have.

Cadenza1818 Thu 16-Mar-17 17:17:49

Does she understand why she's sight reading is my first question? As a piano teacher I always explain that sight reading is great cos you can pick up any of your favourite music and play it (that's the end result). Sight reading excerpts are sooo boring. Get a piece that she likes, Disney, pop stuff etc and get her to bash through. That'll build confidence and the rest should follow! Good luck for exam!

OverAndAbove Thu 16-Mar-17 20:54:58

Thanks for this. I agree that studying theory alongside really helps. Also that the world won't cave in if she does badly - but it probably will feel like that to her!

The last couple of days have been a little better; she's been focussing on getting the rhythm and putting her fingers in the right place, and whilst she hasn't been responding to any of the dynamics, she's got through to the end at least.

I've got her the Matilda score for after the exam - she knows it's there and can't wait. It'll be lovely to hear her get into something different, just for fun

Notcontent Sat 18-Mar-17 15:12:56

Can I just say that my dd has the same issue! And also grade 3. She is pretty musical but sight reading is just not her thing... I was the opposite - not very musical but pretty good at sight reading.

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