Success in the Sight-reading room
Now that you know the basics for All State sight-reading, below are some tips that are specific to your practice time and strategies to try during the sight-singing round.
Tips for your practice time
- Your goal during your practice time should be to sing all of the pitches out loud using no rhythm in 30 seconds. Rhythm slows you down during your practice time, and our brains process rhythm almost instantly, unlike pitches and intervals. If you struggle making it through all of the notes, use a timer and start with unlimited practice time, then 45 seconds, and gradually work down to 30 seconds to figure out the pace you need to go.
- If you are just starting out and have trouble identifying solfege then begin by identifying the solfege, then by practicing the intervals.
- If you have trouble remembering where ‘Do’ is, then sit at the piano and find Do on the keyboard. Play “do” on the piano every time you are to sing it in the exercise.
- For issues figuring out a tricky interval in your practice time, fill in the interval as a scale, THEN (everyone always forgets this), go back and sing the interval as written at least twice. For example Do-Mi= Do-Re-Mi, Do-Mi, Do-Mi
Setting your Tempo
• Take a deep breath and then count a slow full measure (1-2-3-4) in the tempo you plan to take for the entire exercise. (Remember the “click track” on the 90 Days to Sight Reading Success book? That’s what it’s for!)
• The tempo should be slow enough that eighth notes don’t feel rushed, but not so slow that half notes seem like an eternity…you are likely to go into double-time. I suggest a tempo between quarter note= 60-40 on a metronome.
• In general we do DO NOT recommend subdividing (actively pulsing every eighth note instead of every big beat) because it is easy to lose track of the beat under pressure. Many times students end up going back and forth between subdividing and double-time and get into real trouble. We recommend subdividing using the motion of your solfege hand with distinct motion for “on” and “off” the beat, for instance, away from your body and then back toward your body. Using Do as an example, count “one” (fist moves away from body) “and” (fist moves toward body).
Treat it like the real thing!
- The “90 Days” book comes with a CD, including prompts to practice just like the actual audition. The prompt plays the tonic triad (Do-Mi-So-Mi-Do-So-Do) and then announces to begin your practice time followed by thirty seconds of silence at the conclusion of which, the tonic triad plays again. If you are not using the prompts in the a sight reading book set a timer with an alarm for thirty seconds so you practice with the correct amount of time.
- Ask your choir director if you can have access to the actual sight reading prompts your region uses. They may or may not have them but it doesn’t hurt to ask. We do this with our students and sometimes they bust out laughing because the prompt voice has a very distinct “Texan twang”. I’d hate for anyone to hear that for the first time in their audition and be distracted!
There are many methods to perfecting your use of practice time and strategies in the sight-reading room. I encourage you to try out many different methods, but stick to one (and only one method) that is most comfortable in the end. Please don’t let any well meaning friend or instructor tell you that your way is “wrong” or should change in the days leading up to the audition. Having a plan and executing in the same way every time is 90% of the battle!
Happy sight reading!
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