Sight Reading Tips For Your Audition

So……. you’ve practiced really hard, done all of your preparation work and got plenty of rest the night before.  Now, you’re at the audition with your stomach tied in knots over what the sight reading excerpt could possibly be.  You try not to pass out when one of the judges places the music on your stand and instructs you to take a minute to look it over before you proceed to play.  What do you do when your heart starts to race and your mind temporarily draws a huge blank?  Below is a checklist that I recommend going through (in your head) to help you make it through any sight reading ordeal:

  1. Take slow, deep breaths.  This will help you to calm down and prevent hyperventilation.
  2. Make sure you look at the time signature, and try to make a mental note of where the main beats are as you briefly glance through the notes.
  3. Look at the key signature as well when you look at the time signature.  While you’re looking over the excerpt, try to quickly identify any fingering patterns that you’re accustomed to playing for certain note sequences.
  4. Pay attention to where any accidentals occur so that you’re not completely caught off guard when you start playing.
  5. Find the most difficult passage in the excerpt, and select your tempo based on how fast you feel you can comfortably play that segment.
  6. Remember that you should always go much slower than the indicated tempo marking.  If you don’t see a tempo marking, then pick a reasonable adagio speed.  The judges will be more concerned with the accuracy of the rhythms and the intonation of the notes rather than how fast you can play them.

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Improving Your Sight Reading Skills

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Improving Your Sight Reading Skills

Whether you’re a member of a music group or preparing for an audition, you’re going to have to know how to sight read sheet music.  As you continue to practice and go through the rigors of learning new music, you will naturally become better at sight reading.  When my students want to focus on improving this particular skill set, below are the two elements that we work on exclusively:

  • Understanding rhythms
  • Reading through music in all key signatures and registers of the piano or cello

Understanding Ryhthms

In my personal opinion, the best foundation for improving your sight reading skills is to have a firm understanding of rhythms and note patterns in different time signatures.  I usually have my students clap and count rhythms out loud so that their brains are actively engaged in understanding where each note falls in relation to the main beats of the measure.

EssentialsForStringsFor both my piano and cello students, I get rhythms for the clap-and-count exercises from the “Essentials for Strings” book.  What I really appreciate about this book is that each section of rhythms starts off with a diagram illustrating how to count each note type in the specified meter.  After clapping and counting out loud, I then have the student pick either one key on the piano or one open string on the cello and play the rhythms utilizing a metronome to keep a steady beat.


Practice Reading Through Music

I think it’s important to practice reading music in all of the key signatures and registers of the instrument.  First, I like to concentrate on finding music excerpts that represent each major key.  By playing in all of the keys, you will start to internalize the finger patterns and hand configuration changes associated with the different key signatures.  When it becomes 2nd nature to process any indicated sharps or flats, you’ll be more confident about where your fingers go when reading through new music.

It’s also necessary to practice reading and playing notes across as many positions or ranges that you can.  When you understand all of the notes that are available to you in various positions and ranges, you’ll always have an idea of how to approach any piece of music that is put in front of you.  Since cellists have to know how to read notes in 3 clefs, I also make sure that my cello students get adequate practice switching between bass, tenor and treble clefs.




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☆ Star Student Spotlight ☆

I’m so proud of my student, Samantha.  She recently attended the Campbell orchestra retreat with her school orchestra where she was recognized for her excellent playing technique.  She was asked to do a playing demonstration that was used as a model of bowing style for her fellow section members.  In addition to becoming a leader amongst her orchestra peers, she has also been “A”-cing her playing tests.

Samantha has been studying cello with me for a few years now, and I have had the pleasure of watching her blossom into a more confident musician.  I enjoy teaching because it brings me such happiness to share the joys of music with others.  Students like Samantha make my job so much easier and validates for me that I made the right decision in choosing to pursue a career in music.

Not only does Samantha shine as a cellist and maintain good grades in her other classes, she’s also a member of her school’s lacrosse team.  She’s definitely an inspiration to us all.



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