Challenge 2: improving my sight reading skills

A new month has started so it is time for a new challenge! Since I am not so good at sightreading (especially not when having to read 2 different clefs) I decided that it is time to work on this. But before I tell you about my new challenge I will take you back to the first challenge I did last month.

Looking back to challenge 1: practicing for at least an hour a day

Let me start by being honest with you: when I decided to give myself  these ’30 day challenges’ I knew deep down that I never completed a 30 day challenge before. But this time I did! My first victory! And what is the result? I wanted to investigate the influence of a daily one hour practice on my piano lessons. Due to the holidays (Easter and a Dutch holiday called ‘May holiday) I missed a few lessons, so I don’t know if my teacher noticed any difference. However, I did and I am satisfied with the results. In the second week of April I started on the Venetianisches Gondellied (op 19 no 6) of Mendelssohn and with a bit of luck I can fully play this in my next lesson, the third one. While normally this would take at least 5 lessons or so. I hope I can indeed pull this off in just three lessons. (Edit: I did!!) As I wrote in my previous blog I was inspired by a book written by Charles Cook. I followed his suggestions of using this one hour of practice as good as possible. This means the practice consists of: technique (15 minutes), sightreading (10 minutes) and practicing the difficult parts (‘fractures’) of the pieces you are working on (35 minutes). Of course you can spend more or less time on one of these items, depending on what you want to learn.

The new challenge: the SASR test

Thanks to this same author I found my next challenge: improving my sight reading skills. I can read notes, but playing straight from a sheet of music is a huge challenge for me. When I have to learn a piece, I work on memorising either the whole piece or at least one part (left hand or right hand), so that I can sight read the other part. My piano teacher sometimes says that he thinks it’s very clever that I can play some pieces by heart, but I am more impressed by people who play straight from sheet music.

To practice this, Charles Cook recommends collecting a lot of sheet music and take 10 minutes each day to play through some random pieces. Of course these pieces have to be easier then the pieces you normally work on. I must say that he wrote his book in 1941. In the meantime we’ve got modern techniques to learn this skill. And this is what I have found: the SASR test. SASR is short for ‘standard assessment of sight reading’. With this test you can see on what level you are now and you can see your improvements. More information on this test can be found on standardassessmentofsightreading.com. To do this test, you need an account on pianomarvel.com. Withe a free account you can take the test 3 times. If you want to take the test daily, you’ll need a premium account.

The research question for this challenge

To find out if this challenge is really getting me something, each challenge comes with a research question. The question for this challenge is:

What is the effect of taking the SASR test every day on my sight reading skills?

Yesterday, one day before the start of this challenge I did the test for the first time to determine my startingpoint (and to see how this works 😉 ). I scored 371 points. To put this into perspective: the maximum score is 1900 points. My score of 371 points puts me on the level of a late beginner. If I can improve this score with a bit more then 100 points (473 or higher) I can reach the next level of ‘intermediate student’. That seems like a great goal to me: a score of 473 points at the end of the month!

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