You may have heard someone or a even a teacher mention sight reading before. But, what does it mean? And how can knowing about these words help you with sight reading on flute?
First, it’s an easy definition. Sight Reading means that there is music being read off of a sheet that has never been seen or practiced before.
I suggest every flute player of every level practice sight reading weekly or even daily.
Basically, a person is said to be ‘sight reading’ when they are brand new to the music. Once it has been played several times, and they are familiar with what is written on the page (even slightly), then it is no longer being sight read, but rather is then being practiced.
In some countries this actually has a different name that makes a lot more sense. It is called “prima vista”. The word ‘prima’ means ‘first’, and the word ‘vista’ means view. So, the “first view” is a super way to say the player hasn’t been through the music before.
You’d think that possibly this would be the first and worst, but actually this isn’t necessarily the case. Think of it this way, there are two axioms to playing music; one is the skill level of the player, and the other is the level of the written music. The more advanced the player and the more basic or beginner the music is, the better the player can sight read it. The opposite is also true; if the player is beginner or on a more basic level, and if the music is written for advanced levels then the more difficult of a time the instrumentalist will have sight reading it well. (kind of obvious, I know).
So, how can you as a flutist get better at ‘prima vista’ or ‘sight reading’? Well, there’s actually a formula: proper knowledge combined with proper practice will do the trick as long as it’s done over a long enough period of time. Reading that sheet music gets easier and easier and easier after much repetition.
Remember when you were first learning to read words? You were probably somewhere between 4 and 6 years old. It wasn’t easy at first, and you had to start with the shortest of words. My kids used a book that had a repeated pattern of only about 5 or 6 words. It did the trick though because after reading about the “Tan Hat” and the “Ant”, those words became readable upon first sight, rather than having to sound-out each word.
Learning to read and play music is no different. Starting with slow tempos and simple rhythms and only a few notes is where a beginning flute player should start for sure. After much time and repetition, the simpler level will become old hat, and it’ll be time to move to something a little more complicated.
I suggest every flute player of every level practice sight reading weekly or even daily. This will solidify old skills you already knew, and give much needed practice on the new ones as well. So, find some new music– of any kind, from anywhere, and sight read it today!