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#65777 - 10/06/15 02:37 PM Transfer Students Struggling with Note Reading
Beartime Offline
New Member

Registered: 04/25/15
Posts: 5
Loc: UK
Hi, I have a few transfer students who are no longer beginners in their standard of playing (about 2A and 2B levels) so they play quite well. But they really struggle with sightreading the notes (and even knowing what the piano keys are) when they first play something. I think it is because their previous teachers wrote in nearly all of the key names and fingerings. I don't want to do that as then I feel they will never learn it, so I want to try and remedy it some way, without going backwards too much.

Are there some good exercises or pieces that I could go back to just in the lesson in previous PA books that would help? I do have quite a few of the books but haven't been teaching very long so not sure what would be best for this. My students who began with me are fine!

#65781 - 10/08/15 10:45 AM Re: Transfer Students Struggling with Note Reading [Re: Beartime]
EllaCat Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 04/03/08
Posts: 365
Loc: Atlantic Canada
I've seen this a lot too in transfers, including a brother/sister pair who've been with me for less than a month now.

What I tend to do is a combo approach. First, I tell them what I'm doing - and frame it that every teacher teaches differently and emphasizes different things, and one of the things that I do is get my students to read music without writing notes in, and that's what we're going to work on. So both the students & parents know what's happening.

Then, I keep them going in their current book, but supplement with other easier material that's new to them - anything, really - and use that easier stuff to be "tough" on about not writing notes in. Changing up what the challenge is - technically easier music, but upping the reading challenge. Keeps them encouraged to have something to be successful on more easily.

Part three of the approach is we spend time every single lesson playing note-reading games. A lot of it is flash-cards in disguise, but turn them into a game and it becomes much less of a slog. Susan Paradis has a ton of awesome free resources if you want to try that sort of thing.

Hope that helps - let me know if you want more info about any of it! smile

#65783 - 10/08/15 11:49 AM Re: Transfer Students Struggling with Note Reading [Re: EllaCat]
J.Baker Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 02/03/15
Posts: 21
Loc: New York City, NY
Hello Beartime,

The Faber "Primer Level Sightreading Book" from the Piano Adventures is, in my opinion, the best on the market and I use it with every elementary student. I will even use it with transfer intermediate students if they have a real terror of sight-reading.

The books proceed to level 1A, 1B, etc.

The reason I like this books series is its simplicity with large print and sensible patterns. I have also found that if a student gets to the end of one of the books and it is getting a bit challenging for them I simply have them read through the book again from the beginning - they will not have 'learned' much less memorized any of the pages from their first reading, and this gives their eyes and hands time to get more comfortable with the process - then we proceed onward from there to another book.

I will supplement the sight reading series with the most elementary beginner books of any publication that are clearly below the level of their finger-technique. If sight reading process isn't rather easy then it is not a useful learning process, it is mere hunt & peck, and that really does no good at all for the student.

The sight reading must absolutely be part of the daily regimen - even if it is only 5 or 10 minutes. Real progress will be noticeable sooner than one might expect as long as the process is kept simple and 'easy' and consistent. I say 'easy' because, once again, if the student is struggling to sight read every note then it is not productive.

From my perspective, the important point is not how difficult the sight reading music is that matters, it is simply that they are getting used to actually sight reading as opposed to playing the same memorized notes over and over.

Another point of great usefulness - as we sight read in the lesson I make a point of making the student scan through the entire little piece with their eyes first. This cannot be over-emphasized. I sometimes have them sing (I with them so they do not feel alone) through it first, then play it.

I also make a point of stating that wrong notes are 'allowed' and not to be regretted - it is a free-wheeling process and not a note-perfect performance. The biggest enemy of effective sight reading is the presumption that it must be note perfect as we aspire to in formal repertoire, however - the greatest sight readers have a somewhat loose approach to the process, so that freedom is an attitude that must be cultivated for the process to succeed.

Best regards,


#65784 - 10/08/15 04:08 PM Re: Transfer Students Struggling with Note Reading [Re: J.Baker]
Beartime Offline
New Member

Registered: 04/25/15
Posts: 5
Loc: UK
That is a great help, thank you! I have ordered Primer-2B Sightreading and also the Accelerated Book 1 as well for my older pupils. I think I will use them in the lessons for now as I don't want to ask parents to pay for yet another book, but may end up doing that further down the road.

I think your idea of going to the most elementary material is great - I wish I'd thought of that before. But now I know for next time!


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