Read Ahead - Level 3
Read Ahead is a complete sight-reading curriculum based on high-quality music, carefully graded and supplemented with a wide variety of exercises to help instill the habits essential for fluent reading. The Online Academy will feature the first section (Section A) of each level. For further material, the complete levels (Sections B & C) are available from Amazon as a printed book, the Apple App Store as an iPad app and will also be published in eBook format at the Informance store. For more information and to download the app, visit readaheadapp.com
This section of articles features Level 3A from the Read Ahead syllabus and provides suitable sight-reading material for students studying repertoire at the late intermediate level (Associated Board grades 4-5).
How it works
The pieces in these articles can be read on your screen, or printed out. In either case, the experience will be greatly enriched with the inclusion of the Read Ahead iPhone app. Each article constitutes one day or practice session. The exercises on each day are identified in both the article and the app with the following icons:
|Touch exercises introduce patterns or technical issues that will be encountered in that day’s practice.|
|This icon indicates a Memory exercise. Touch it on the corresponding day page in the app to practice a passage while training your short-term memory and decoding skills.|
|Read Ahead exercises are complete pieces of music for sight-reading. Instructions, quizzes and tips on how to read them more effectively can be found in the app along with a built-in metronome preset to the correct tempo for each piece. In the iPad app, the music disappears in advance as you play, forcing you to read ahead.|
|The Sight-reading pieces have fewer suggestions for study, encouraging students to think independently and apply the strategies and techniques they have learned.|
Students are encouraged to use the app timers on the Touch and Sight-reading exercises so they can keep track of time spent practicing. The My Progress page displays this and other useful information about your sight-reading practice. Teachers can also follow their students’ progress by signing up for a free Read Ahead teacher portal account.
Each lesson can also be downloaded and printed for use at the keyboard.
Suggestions for Practising
The aim of sight-reading is to play a piece you have never seen before as well as possible the first time you read it. For this reason, it is essential to spend a few moments studying the piece with your eyes before playing it. As you play, try to keep a regular pulse, and don’t stop to correct mistakes. As you improve, you will be able to avoid looking down at your hands, and you will start to read ahead of where you are playing. If your sight-reading of a piece was not as good as you would have liked, make a mental note of what could have gone better, and play it a second time. Don’t continue to practice the pieces however, because then it is no longer sight-reading.
For the most part, we have not added fingering to these pieces. There is already so much to take in when we are sight-reading—notes, rhythms, expressive markings, and so on—that there is little time to also look at fingering. More importantly, the ability to find our own fingering on the spur of the moment is an essential skill in sight-reading. To this end, we provide several exercises that help students to see fingering “packets” in the music. Students should also learn to use the preview time to search for fingering difficulties and work out a solution before sight-reading.
Sight-reading should not be considered an exercise in note-reading, but an opportunity to make music and explore new repertoire. Even a first reading of a piece we have never heard before can, and should be, an expressive musical experience. Many of the Romantic and 20th century pieces in these articles contain detailed performance indications, and these should be studied closely during the preview time as they are helpful indicators of musical character. Most of the Baroque and early Classical pieces, however, contain few, if any, expressive markings. We have not added editorial markings to these pieces because, once again, we believe it is important for students to find the musical character themselves. While this may be a challenge for players with limited experience of these musical styles, it is an exercise of the musical imagination that yields profound rewards. After all, musical expression is not a matter of following instructions, but of feeling rhythmic character, sensing harmonic tension and release, and giving shape to each phrase. To help students find these elements in the music, we offer many suggestions in the instructions before each piece. Quizzes (on the phone app) question students about musical terms, structural features, key changes, dynamics, and rhythmic elements. Many of the Touch exercises show outlines or reductions of phrases from the pieces, helping students to feel the overall shape of the phrase, and its harmonic ebb and flow. Other Touch exercises help players to economize their eye motions, so that they are able to keep their eyes on the score, read ahead, and concentrate on the music.
Resources & further links