Sight-reading – Rhythm and Aural Training

Having looked into the importance and the nuts and bolts of sight-reading, now it’s time to see how rhythm and aural training fit into a good programme of teaching your choir to sight-read.

Reading rhythm first

Correct rhythm is essential in sight-reading. For the singer it’s the next stage after mastering the text.

Get the rhythm right before you go on to the pitch. It helps to move you along and predict things, as so much in music is sequence and repetition. It’s always a good idea to tap out rhythms before adding the melody to the mix.

Reading ahead

Read visually at least one note ahead. You can achieve this surprisingly early in your sight-reading career. You do this when you read text anyway, and it leads to a more rapid reading technique.

Gradually extend this ability by reading two notes ahead – and then by a whole bar or phrase. When you return to a single note you’ll notice the difference!

Long and short rhythms

If you look at a typical page of music, you can or should see at first glance the basic sub-division between long and short notes – the “white and black” notes or the notes with or without tails or braces. It helps enormously to bring this out in your reading as it helps in not getting lost. And this will help the overall confidence of your choir.

Aural training

Using aural training in conjunction with sight-reading techniques is very helpful in terms of developing requisite skills such as melodic and rhythmic memory, and pitching the notes of triads and scales. Use aural tests for the different grades as a starting point.

Step, Repetition & Leap

Music moves melodically by step, repetition and leap. Repetition is very common and you don’t need to read a note twice!

Personal preparation

Ensure you practice techniques as a separate operation – on your own and at your own pace – as well as within context. It’s vital to do this as you can regulate things on your own you can’t do in a group.

In other words, work out the problems first.

Andrew Wright Master of Music, Brentwood Cathedral

These articles may also be of interest to you:

Symbol and Memory – Sight-reading – Symbol and Memory

Sight-reading – Sight-reading – How it’s done

Composition – Church Choir Music composition – write music yourself

Choir Development Skills – Forming a choir – the skills you need

The Psychology of Choir Practice – The Psychology of Choir Practice – getting the best from your Choir