Sight Reading

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Angela said: Jan 3, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
York Springs, PA
33 posts

Sight reading has changed in the last 30 + years. I grew up as a Suzuki kid and went into teaching. When I learned to sight read it wasn’t until Violin Book 4 and that is also when shifting was introduced. In my early years of teaching it didn’t seem that reading was that big of a deal. Now I have been noticing more parents and kids want to read their music instead of doing it by ear. I of course have been fighting that the ear needs to be strong before really diving into reading the music. At what stage / age (everyone is different) are teachers now introducing sight reading. I have a first grader that is at the end of book 3 is she “ready”? I have a seventh grader who can’t get out of book 2 (lack of practicing) that wants to read is she “ready”? Etc. I guess I’m afraid that if I dive in with both feet on reading to soon I won’t be able to get them to use their ear. To strengthen ear training we do, do weekly by ear tunes where students pick a song (not from Suzuki book) and figure it out on their instrument. I do give extra music that they have to work on their reading. With the revision of the books some things are being introduced sooner than when I had learned as a kid. Is reading one of them?

Angela Schlessman

Alice Wright said: Jan 3, 2015
Alice Wright
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Anchorage, AK
11 posts

Some expert teachers say that a teacher should teach the regular books by ear, and provide other material with which to sight read.

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Carrie said: Jan 4, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

I find that the students so love playing by ear that they don’t put a lot of effort into reading. I start a separate sight-reading book towards the end of book one. Even the ones that do get right in to the reading, I do not allow to use the Suzuki book one. That one is for ear training only. Some of the students take a long time to catch up their reading to their Suzuki playing, so we do more Suzuki books by ear. A few can start reading book two with a little help.

carebear1158

Sera Jane Smolen said: Jan 4, 2015
Sera Jane Smolen
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
Ithaca, NY
24 posts

I really stress the process of learning by ear. I shamelessly believe that music is really Sound, and this is one of the great legendary hallmarks of Suzuki teaching. We sing, and do “listen and play” , singing with “air bowings” and many more games like this.

In book 1, depending on how you teach, students can learn the names of the notes in the octave they are learning. I begin reading by hand writing “mystery songs” for them to “solve” using note names, in different colors with goofy titles.

The JoAnn Martin “I can read Music” series is very excellent, with big notes, rhythmic reading and many other benefits. I recommend this after we have done some “mystery songs”. This way we can champion their ability to read and really work on it with them while they also learn to audiate with their repertoire.

When we learn to truly hear the music of children,
we learn to hear the music of the future.
—Michael Deeson Barrow

Angela said: Jan 4, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
York Springs, PA
33 posts

Thanks for everyones input. It sounds like others do the same as I do. What age / stage are you introducing reading? After book 1 regardless of age? Age 9 / 10 regardless of book level? What would you all say is the average time to start? Is sooner better than later etc.?

I also just want to say how thankful I am to be able to have SAA creating the discussion site to be able to talk to other teachers for answers, questions or just a pick me up. I am not alone in this journey. I have been teaching 20+ years. Its nice to have this site.

Angela Schlessman

Alice Wright said: Jan 6, 2015
Alice Wright
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Anchorage, AK
11 posts

If a child wants to learn to read notes, then memorize, sometimes I tailor the lessons that way, particularly with an older student.

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Maeve O'Hara said: Jan 7, 2015
Maeve O’Hara
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Oak Park, IL
5 posts

Hi Angela, good topic! A Suzuki student myself, I didn’t really learn note reading fluently until I was in middle school. The emphasis of my lessons were on learning / developing my ear, which was not time wasted by any means. I do agree with Sera (hi!) that it is a hallmark of the Suzuki philosophy, and while I teach note reading to students much younger than I was (and my former teachers do as well), I still feel strongly that I want my students to learn primarily by ear/listening. To this day, I fiercely listen to recordings while looking at my score as part of the learning process of any new piece.

I do however think that we are cheating our students if we delay reading too long. There are so many community musical programs as part of schools, youth orchestras, state-wide musical organizations, etc, that consider this a requirement, and considering how well most Suzuki students play, I would hate to see my students students lose out on any opportunities to play with their peers by not including it in our lessons.

Most of the programs where I teach offer a separate theory or musicianship component to all students. However, the act of playing violin while reading is something else entirely, so I have to cover it in lessons, even though those classes prove helpful in that I don’t have to explain where a note is on the staff, or the treble clef, or musical alphabet…etc.

I feel like if a child can read, and can play up to Go Tell Aunt Rhody with a good level of posture, tone and polish, we can begin to introduce sight reading concepts at lessons. Upon the recommendation of one of my teacher-trainers, I start them first with flashcards for all of the notes they know (one octave, A major). Then I spend somewhere between 3-10 minutes on this at lessons, depending on the lesson length. For rhythm, I like using the Blue Jello words from Music Mind Games.

I have a set of these—and have the parents buy index cards, and write/draw copies for themselves— for parent education— I don’t let them photocopy or buy the set. The front side has the staff with a note, the back shows you what string, finger, and note name it is. First we only do open strings- I show them a card, and they have to identify either A or E string, and then play that pitch on taka-taka stop stop. Once they can do that easily without having to think, then we add first fingers (F# and B)…eventually we get to all of the notes. As you progress through the book and learn notes outside of the 1 octave A major scale, you add those cards to the flashcard set. There are all sorts of games you can use with the flashcards—you can set out a few at a time, etc.

Once they’re getting pretty proficient at the flashcards, I incorporate Joanne Martin’s I can Read Music or Suzanne Schreck’s Note Reading Skills for Suzuki Violin Students. It’s a skill we develop separately but alongside our other ear training concepts.

Hope this helps!

Sarah said: Jan 30, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
9 posts

I teach sight-SINGing and teach rhythm reading right from the start. But, this reading initially happens separately from playing the instrument when the student is just beginning. For example, clapping the rhythm or singing note names instead of playing them on the instrument. I use a combination of several resources: Joanne Martin’s book, Denise Willey’s Music Reading Primer, original compositions and rhymes, flash cards, technique books, games, theory worksheets, my old college sight-reading textbook, music manipulatives, solfege hand signs, and whatever else I can find or think of. I believe the students can be introduced to both reading and ear training right from the get-go, regardless of age. I prefer to teach Suzuki Book 1 by ear, but I combine reading and playing non-Suzuki material as soon as the student is able to successfully do so (maintaining decent tone/ intonation/ technique/ finger coordination/ rhythmic accuracy/ etc).

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