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  • Writer's picturemargueritelevin


One part of auditions for district and state ensembles as well as professional orchestras and concert bands is sight-reading. Sight-reading gives the adjudicator a good idea as to whether you can keep a steady tempo, read basic rhythms, play with style and of course observe the key signature. Playing with a steady beat and good rhythm, believe it or not, is higher on the priority list than playing correct notes.

With district and state ensembles, you will be expected to learn music at a rapid rate so being able to play unfamiliar music on the spot is a major plus. For the musician taking a military band audition, it is IMPERATIVE that you be able to read new scores and learn music quickly.

I can also attest that as professional musician, I have on more than one occasion, due to someone's illness or family emergency, had to go in a sight-read a high-profile performance. Being able to sight-read well has been a foot in the door for me. If all goes well, you are a rock star, your colleagues are thankful, the conductor is relieved and if you are lucky, your name moves up the call list.

So, how do you become a MONSTER SIGHT-READER?

· USING A METRONOME, DAILY PRACTICE scales, scales in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, arpeggios, broken chords, etc. Scales and similar exercises keep our fingers, ears and brain in shape. As a woodwind player, we constantly have technical passages in our repertoire. You will start to recognize these patterns as they show up in music. You will stop reading because your eyes and ears see/hear what is coming, and like magic your fingers take over. FUNDAMENTALS ARE ESSENTIAL!

· When I was a young clarinetist, I would allow myself time to just play for fun. We had piano books and hymnals in the house and I would pull them out and play. Now days, all you have to do is to go to your computer, search sight-reading music, and voilà, it is all there at your fingertips.

· Even better, get a subscription to SMARTMUSIC and the program has numerous levels of sight-reading and will assess your performance.

· Get together with another musician and sight-read duets.

· Trade old books with another woodwind player and read their music. Flute books are the best for clarinet players.

· Make sure your private teacher is giving you sight-reading (this can be alone or reading duets with them). Ask politely if they have not done this with you.

At the Audition

· Take time to assess the example. Count on at least 30 seconds and use it.

· Notice time signature, key signature and expression/dynamic markings.

· If a metronome marking is indicated, you need to have some awareness of the rate of time. You should always be able to figure out quarter note = 60. (one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand). For quarter note = 120, I use the opening to The Stars and Stripes Forever.

· Scan the page and look for challenging rhythms. Finger the passage silently with your instrument.

· Before you play the example, count to yourself the speed that you will play.

· As you are playing, keep one eye ahead and use your peripheral vision. This is very important as you reach the end of a musical line.

· Look for groups of notes that are familiar.

· Do your very best to not stop. If you miss something up along the way, it is best to not repeat that part. No need to call attention to your mistake.

· And if you make mistakes, move on and play like it never happened.

· Playing with a great sound, steady rhythm and musicality can many times override a wrong note or two.

AND, WHEN IN DOUBT, PLAY OUT!!!! I always tell my students if you are going to play a wrong note or rhythm, at least do it with the best tone possible!

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