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Sight reading level
#2909550 11/08/19 12:56 PM
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As with most I'd like to improve my sight reading. I made a start a while back with the (ABRSM) grade 1 sight reading book by Harris, although I never quite got around to doing more than the first page or two smile

I'm now planning to do this properly with a few minutes practice every day at the start of my practice session.

What I'm curious about is, at which grade level would you receive pieces that are grade 1 material and be expected to sight read.

Also, any suggestions for a good source of levelled material to practice with in case I reach the end of the Harris grade 1 or grade 2 book without feeling ready to move on ? Once I hit a point where I have advanced far enough to start sight reading practice with actual grade 1 pieces, then I'll have ample material to pull from, but until then, I'm not sure of the best place to look?

I'm also tempted to buy some more actual grade 1 material (whether it's the abrsm exam pieces, or rcm repertoire or just similar levelled material such as the Connections for Piano book 1) as those are pieces I can learn quite quickly in a few days to a week. Even though they're actually above my sight reading level they might help push my sight reading along further through sheer volume of reading pieces?

Last edited by Gary001; 11/08/19 01:00 PM.

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Re: Sight reading level
Gary001 #2909552 11/08/19 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary001
What I'm curious about is, at which grade level would you receive pieces that are grade 1 material and be expected to sight read.

The "rule of thumb" that I've seen is that one should sight-read pieces roughly two levels below what they can play repertoire pieces. So if you are playing ABRSM grade 3 repertoire comfortably, you should be striving to sight read ABRSM grade 1 repertoire. This is at least a target - I'm definitely not there, myself - no way can I sight-read RCM level 2 pieces, yet.

This said, it is unclear what "Grade Level" Harris Grade 1 really is (from a standard grade level perspective). Just because Harris calls the book Grade 1, does this mean the pieces are about the level of ABRSM Grade 1 repertoire, for example? Or the sight-reading material roughly at a Preparatory level because it is sight-reading practice for ABRSM Grade 1 level students? I am guessing not, but maybe someone actually knows the real answer to this question.

I found Harris incredibly hard myself. I needed something more remedial.



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Re: Sight reading level
Gary001 #2909560 11/08/19 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary001

I'm also tempted to buy some more actual grade 1 material (whether it's the abrsm exam pieces, or rcm repertoire or just similar levelled material such as the Connections for Piano book 1) as those are pieces I can learn quite quickly in a few days to a week. Even though they're actually above my sight reading level they might help push my sight reading along further through sheer volume of reading pieces?


I think you should try following your intuition here. The power of "sheer volume" is often underestimated. The more music you read, the faster you will get better at sight-reading. It is not crucial that you play every note correctly. (I have a blog post about this)

Re: Sight reading level
Gary001 #2909606 11/08/19 03:46 PM
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Tyrone: The Harris Grade 1 books are certainly not Grade 1 piece material that's for sure.

I think the book is "Grade 1" in the sense that it's the level you're expected to be sight reading at for a grade 1 exam. A you say, that is going to be a few levels below your actual playing level and the level of an actual grade 1 piece.


PW Recitals: LVI, XIX, XIV, XII, XI
Recent Recording: No. 9 - Nana de Mercedes (Javiere Navarette)
Re: Sight reading level
Gary001 #2909629 11/08/19 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary001
Tyrone: The Harris Grade 1 books are certainly not Grade 1 piece material that's for sure.

I think the book is "Grade 1" in the sense that it's the level you're expected to be sight reading at for a grade 1 exam. A you say, that is going to be a few levels below your actual playing level and the level of an actual grade 1 piece.



Yep, that sounds about right then.


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"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
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"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: Sight reading level
Gary001 #2909632 11/08/19 04:25 PM
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Good project; I keep wanting to practice more sight reading, but then it falls off due to more pressing issues on the piano. Keep us posted!


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Re: Sight reading level
Gary001 #2909694 11/08/19 05:51 PM
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I think Paul Harris has written quite a lot of books so I'm not sure which you're referring to - is it Improve your Sight reading? That's a Faber book, so I guess not. The series is good as it teaches you techniques and isn't just pages of tunes. The ABRSM exam books are updated every few years, so if you run out you can always purchase an older edition from Amazon or abebooks etc. Also Trinity publishes graded sight reading.

Last edited by Brahms4; 11/08/19 05:52 PM.
Re: Sight reading level
Gary001 #2909740 11/08/19 07:03 PM
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Sight reading is an additional skill that does not necessarily equate with one's skill level of general playing.

Playing the piano is so complicated (reading, looking ahead to the next measure /phrase while playing the previous, tempo and dynamic control, etc,) that each person's ability in each aspect of playing is different. Therefore, assigning a level upon which to start is problematic.

I have had students (adults) who could play quite well, but stumbled at sight-reading very simple music.

Therefore, going "2 levels below" or whatever, is sketchy at best, especially because the "levels" themselves are somewhat vague, and do vary according to whoever is compiling the list.

So, because sight reading takes so much brain power, and is new to those starting out with it, I have found that the best approach is to start sight-reading at the very lowest level, the bottom.

Begin by sight reading the most simple things, entry level music, basic drills such as "A Dozen a Day". When you are comfortable there, go up a (small) notch. Starting at the bottom provides plenty of available repertoire that gently increases. I find with adults that kids level 1 and up books are great...big notes, easy to read, simple to play.

The benefits to starting at the bottom, and rising up by playing ever more complicated music, you accomplish two things:

1. You will be practicing sight-reading with the least chance of error, thus building the skill.

2. As you improve, and can sight-reading increasingly difficult music, you will automatically find your "level", which is where you should stay for a while and gently increase it from there.


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Re: Sight reading level
Gary001 #2909751 11/08/19 07:22 PM
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the rule of thumb about sight reading two levels below your playing level can be misleading. I advanced quite quickly to grade 3 & 4 pieces but because I didn't read from the score (and largely skipped early material) my sight reading never advanced below a negative value smirk

I have the Paul Harris Improve your sight reading books grade 2-7. The series I have are noted as being workbooks for associated board exams; I presume ABRSM, but they are also compatible (mostly) with my AMEB requirements. These are great books and I just found out recently you can hear/download all the exercises being played from the Faber website, which is a great resource.


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Re: Sight reading level
Gary001 #2909901 11/09/19 07:09 AM
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I would say you should start at the most basic and simple level. Then if that works for you, you can slowly tackle more advanced pieces. Reading is really specific to each person and it involves different skills, knowing the notes, the position on the keyboard, rythmic values, ornaments, .... so it is a complex capability which develops over time. Then some people pick it quickly and for others it takes more time. In any case i would not connect you playing level with the sight reading as those can be completely different.

Re: Sight reading level
Sidokar #2909923 11/09/19 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
In any case i would not connect you playing level with the sight reading as those can be completely different.

That said, the graded exams (ABRSM, RCM, AMEB, etc.) do connect sight reading level to each grade level.


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"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: Sight reading level
Gary001 #2910322 11/10/19 10:13 AM
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There was a trick I learned at a university Group Piano Course. We were tested frequently on sight reading. We were allowed 5 minutes to review the music before playing but we couldn’t touch the piano. We could practice on an “air piano” for the 5 minutes. That little trick really helped reduce mistakes. I also found an app that uses “flash cards” to improve sight reading skills. Thank heavens I’m not a studio musician that has to sight read at a moment’s notice.


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Re: Sight reading level
Gary001 #2910541 11/10/19 07:40 PM
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I agree with Sidokar - start with the easiest material you can find and move on from there.


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