Lesson 45

Sight Reading: Steps & Repeats

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Hello and welcome back.
I'm Joseph Hoffman.
Today is pretty exciting for me because we are beginning to learn how to sight read music at the piano.
Sight reading is a skill that means playing music that you have never practiced before on your first try simply by reading the notes from the page as you play.
It's an extremely useful, and I believe enjoyable, skill.
Let's start with the useful side.

It's happened to me where someone has called me up and said,
Mr. Hoffman, I'm supposed to sing in church tomorrow,
and I don't have anyone to play piano for me.
Can you help?
My wife calls this a musical emergency.
I say, "sure no problem."
They come over and hand me the music.
I've never seen the music before,
but no sweat I played on my first try,
and then we perform it in church the very next day,
no extra practice needed.

That's because I've trained myself to sight read.
Then there's also the purely enjoyable part of sight reading,
like when I was in junior high the famous musical, The Phantom of the Opera,
came out. I loved the music and so my parents bought me the music book.
I had so much fun sight reading all the songs in the book while my sister or I sang the Phantom of the Opera.
Sight reading is all about training your brain to turn the music that you see into music that you play and can hear,
so let's get started with learning to sight read.

For sight reading at first,
we're going to be reading note heads on this kind of one line staff.
Once we've mastered that,
we'll be moving on to sight reading on the more typical five line staff that you're used to seeing.
So with a one line staff,
you'll see there are only three possible positions the note can be.
Here we have a line note,
and with the note head right on the line going right through the center of it,
or we can be below the line like this,
or the note head could be above the line.
Both of these would be considered space notes.

So first let's point to each note head and say how it's moving,
either repeat, step down, or step up like this.
We'll always say start for the first note so I'll show you once.
We say start, repeat, step down, step up, step up, repeat, step down.
Now can you do that by yourself?
Point to each note head and say how it's moving.
Start for the first note. Go.

Good, now let's try to play this on the piano.
For these one line staff sight reading exercises,
you can choose any white key to start on,
and we're always going to use finger 3.
You can do it in either right hand or left hand.
I mean we're going to start on finger 3.
So for this one let's choose,
I'll choose this first one and then when you practice these on your own at home,
like I said you can choose any white key,
but so we're playing in the same place.
Let's choose G for this one.

So I'm using my right hand finger 3 on G.
That will be our position.
Then what you're going to do is keep your eye on the page,
and just trust your fingers.
They're going to move based on what your eye is showing them,
so while you keep your eye on the notes,
your finger 3 is going to play the first note,
and then it repeats so you play that again,
and then you step down, you step up, you step up,
then you repeat, and then you step down.
You're going to do all of that without glancing down at your hand at all.
You're going to just let your eyes follow from note to note.

Okay, let's try it together now.
Take your right hand finger 3, place it on G,
and out loud say what the notes are doing as you play them.
So keep your eye focused on each note head as you play it.
Go. Start, repeat, step down, step up, step up, repeat, step down.
Great job, you just sight read your first musical example.
Let's look at another sight reading example.
Let's first point and say how each note is moving.
Say start for the first note and then try to say it along with me.
Ready, go. Start, step up, repeat, step down, step down, step up, step up.
Great, now let's try to play this one on the piano.

Okay, once again let's use right hand finger 3 on G.
This one I'm going to let you try on your own first, so go ahead and press pause,
and with finger 3 on G keep your eye on the notes,
and one note at a time say what they're doing.
Press pause to try it on your own,
then press play when you're ready to try it with me.
Okay, let's try playing it together.
So right hand finger 3 on G.
Let's say what the notes are doing.
We're going to start on G then step up, repeat, step down,
step down, step up, step up. Great, let's try another one.

Here's our next sight reading example.
This one can you try it on your own?
Point to each note and say how it's moving,
stepping or repeating. Say start for the first note.
Go.
The correct answer is, start, step down, step down, step up,
step up, repeat, repeat.
Great, let's try to play this one on the piano.
Okay, for this one let's give the left hand a turn.
So I'm going to place my left hand in the C major pentascale.
Like I said, we're always going to start on finger 3.
When you're doing these on your own choose any white key,
but I'm going to choose for today so we can play the same notes together.

Let's put finger 3 on E,
which like I said places us in the C major pentascale.
Our first note will be E.
Let's try this one together. Ready,
finger 3 left hand on E, go.
Start, step down, step down, step up, step up,
repeat, repeat.
Now I'd like you to press pause and try playing this a few times on your own.
Follow the notes and see if you can figure out what song this is.
This is a song you're probably familiar with.
Press pause to try to solve the mystery,
and then press play when you're ready to go on.

Okay, did you figure it out? These notes are from "Mary Had a Little Lamb."
Okay, let's try another one.
Here's one more sight reading exercise to try.
Can you point and say how the notes are moving?
Say start for the first note. Ready, go.
The correct answer is start, repeat, step up, repeat, step up,
step down, repeat.
Now let's try to play it.
Okay this time let's take left hand again, finger 3.
Let's place it on G this time, okay, and press pause.
On your own try and play each note and say what it's doing as you play,
keeping your eyes on the notes.
Press pause and then press play when you're ready to try it with me.

Okay let's try it left hand finger 3 on G.
Let's say what the notes are doing as we play.
Go. Start, repeat, step up, repeat, step up, step down, repeat.
Great, you're sight reading!
So this week I'd like you to continue practicing your sight reading,
and follow these same steps we did together.
First point and say whether it's repeating, or stepping up, or stepping down,
and then try to play it while you continue to say the steps or repeats.
You can do any white key,
and let's always start like I said with finger 3,
and then you'll you'll never run out of fingers by going too high or too low.

Let me share one expert tip about sight reading,
and that is to always keep your eyes on the music,
not on your hands, not even for a second.
When you're playing a song from memory, or by ear of course,
it's okay to look at your hands,
but when you sight read it's best to keep your eyes glued to the page,
and trust your fingers to play without looking at them.
If you look down even for a moment,
you can lose track of where you are on the page and miss the next note.

Excellent work getting started with learning to sight read.
From our website, as a premium member,
you can access additional sight reading exercises and games to get even more practice with sight reading.
Please practice your sight reading skills every day.
Thanks for watching and see you next time.

Oh Scuba, why do you have some paper with music on it stuck to your face?

Well I was practicing my sight reading,
and Mr. Hoffman said to keep my eye glued to the page,
so I glued my eye to the page.

Oh! Are you okay? We need to get you to a doctor. This is serious.

Okay...

You really put glue in your eye?

Well, just on my mask, really.

Hmm...

Don't try this at home kids.

Yes, Mr. Hoffman was only speaking metaphorically.

Yeah, meta formerly.

Metaphorically!

Sorry, I can't hear very well. I have paper glued to my eye!

Huh. Come on!