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Lesson 12
Sight Reading

Sight Reading
Sight Reading:


There is no 'royal road' to the acquisition of reading music at sight. The essentials are a knowledge of the Elements of Music and SYSTEMATIC PRACTICE, and PRACTICE is perhaps the more important. If you will take the trouble to practice reading music for a few minutes daily, on the method described in the following pages, you can eventually arrive at the stage when you will be able to read simple music as easily as you read ordinary script.

It is of first importance that you should learn all the major scales, and the harmonic and melodic minor scales, in such a manner that any can be played as soon as named. Then the arpeggios of the common chord in each key should be learned, that is, the tonic or key note, with its third and fifth - C.E.G.C.in C. major - as the majority of florid passages are composed of scale passages and arpeggios.

You should also familiarise yourself with the appearance of the Chromatic scales. Good musicians do not need to READ a Chromatic scale - they learn to recognise one at a glance - so that it is necessary only to read the first and final notes. As the average person, when reading ordinary English print, does not distinguish each letter, but views the word as a whole, so will you read music with a little intelligent practice.

Make a special note of the following practice:-

EXERCISE A. Take a sheet of any old torn music, and write under each note the name of that note, for example, G.A.B.F, etc. using a pencil and writing lightly, so that it may be erased. Do this not only with single note music (melody) but with chords also, commencing with the lowest note and spelling out the chord, for example:- G.E.C. If done systematically for ten minutes or more every day, this alone will effect a wonderful improvement in a very few weeks.

EXERCISE B. In addition you should play at least one short piece of new music every day - music that you do not know, and easy music initially, but afterwards more florid music with ledger lines.

For pianists, hymn tunes and chants, Kuhlau's and Clementi's Sonatinas and Bertini's Easy Studies are recommended. For Violinists, Kayser's and Maza's Studies. For cellists, Kummer's Studies and Lee's Duets.


The technical names of the degrees of the Sca1e (read across):-

1st note, the Tonic, or Key Note. 2nd note, the Supertonic. 3rd note, the Mediant. 4th note, the Subdominant. 5th note, the Dominant. 6th note, the Submediant. 7th note, the Leading note. 8th note, the Tonic, or Octave. For example, in the scale of C. Major - C is the Tonic, or Key note, D. is the Supertonic, E. is the Mediant, F. is the Subdominant, G. is the Dominant, A is the Submediant. B. is the Leading Note, C. is the Tonic, or Octave.

In the Major Keys, the last sharp added is always the Leading Note and the last flat added is always the Subdominant, for example, in the key of G, F# (the only sharp) is the Leading Note, and in the key of D, C# (the last sharp added) is the Leading Note.

In the Minor Keys, the last sharp added is always the Supertonic, and the last flat added is always the Submediant, for example, in the key of E. minor, F# (the only sharp) is the Supertonic, and in the key of B minor, C# (the last sharp added) is the Supertonic.

The relative minor of a major scale commences on the minor third below the major key note, and has the same key signature, for example, the relative minor of the key of C is A minor.

If the Theory of Music is a new subject to you, carefully study the examples, and work out others for yourself in all the major and minor keys.

Every sharp key is a fifth higher than the previous key. C is the natural key, having no flats or sharps. The key of G has one sharp (F# the Leading Note) and commences a fifth higher than C. D has two sharps (C# is the Leading Note) and commences a fifth higher than G, or one string higher on the violin or 'cello. A has three sharps (G# is the Leading Note) and is one string higher than D; and so on.

The consecutive order of the Major Keys is easily memorised by learning the following mnemonical sentences.

SHARPS. Good Days Are Ever Being Found.

FLATS. Flowers Bloom Early And Decay Gradually.

The initial letters of the words tell you the name of the key and the consecutive ORDER of the words indicates how many sharps or flats there are in that key, for example: -

SHARPS. The key of G (initial of 1st word) has one sharp.

The key of D (initial of 2nd word) has two sharps.

The key of A (initial of 3rd word) has three sharps: and so on.

FLATS. The key of F (initial of 1st word) has one flat.

The key of Bb (initial of 2nd word) has two flats.

The key of Eb (initial of 3rd word) has three flats; and so on.

The knowledge of the key in which the composition is written is a great help in reading. Look at the key signature: if, for example, it is in three flats, you know that it is either Eb major or C minor - the mnemonical sentences tell you this.

Then look at the last note IN THE BASS - if a chord or arpeggio the lowest note. THIS LAST NOTE IS ALWAYS THE KEY NOTE. Work out a dozen examples for yourself by means of these sentences and you will in future be able to name the key at a glance. (Editor's note: the lower note of a chord or arpeggio in the bass is not necessarily the tonic, or key note.)

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