Few professional musicians would question the value and usefulness of sight reading, meaning that skill which allows us to play music that we’ve never heard, just from the notation, and without preparation.
As a teacher who allows my students considerable freedom to choose the music they want to learn and bring along to the lesson, I find myself relying on this skill very regularly. And yet some teachers and students treat the development of sight reading as an afterthought, and a rather dull one at that. Compounding the problem, while sight reading has traditionally been an element of public grade exams, it is decreasingly so.
Trinity College London include sight reading as an optional test in their piano grade exams, but some teachers choose only to introduce it with “serious students” after intermediate level, and on the basis that players will at that point miraculously “get it”.
Perhaps this lack of enthusiasm will change with the launch of Trinity’s excellent new series, Sight Reading: A Progressive Method, a suite of three books offering a clear route for teaching sight reading skills from the get-go.
In common with most sight reading resources the series is linked to the grade exams, but happily it goes far beyond specimen tests and basic exam cramming, and can be used as a powerful resource to actually teach and develop sight reading ability.
As Trinity explain,
“The study of sight reading is valuable because it enables musicians to enjoy music that is new to them, either on their own or in a group. As with any other skill, confidence in sight reading comes with training and regular practice.”
So let’s take a look and see how the series can support teachers and students in those aims…
Barely were the pixels dry on my review of the first threeSolo Xtreme books when Books 4-6 landed on my door mat. While the initial books in the series were suitable for Elementary level players, these new additions are for the Intermediate pianist.
My favourable impression and comments about the first three books equally apply to all these. Indeed, the presentation, feel and quality is unchanged, the concept a simple extension of the series. Please therefore consider this review an addendum to the previous one, and once again be sure to read that first.
Like the previous books, each book includes a selection of new compositions which are billed as “X-traordinary and Challenging Piano Pieces”.
The levels covered by Books 4-6 are:
Book 4: Early Intermediate to Intermediate (ABRSM Grade 3)
Book 5: Intermediate to Late Intermediate (Grades 4-5)
Book 6: Late Intermediate to Early Advanced (around Grade 6)
Grade equivalents are necessarily vague, because as with the previous books they are not so much designed to fit snuggly into any particular assessment system, but rather to bust out the player beyond their current level.
What remains to be written, then, is an evaluation of the music in these new collections…
Over recent years, piano teacher and composer June Armstrong has steadily developed an enviable reputation as one of Britain’s most prolific and distinctive educational composers.
Armstrongs’s impressive range of self-published – and beautifully produced – titles now stretches to some 15 collections of pieces suitable for players at most levels from beginner to advanced.
Along the way, she has gained a cult following from teachers-in-the-know – and no doubt gained many new fans following the recent inclusion of several pieces in the graded syllabuses of the examination boards.
I have reviewed a number of Armstrong’s publications on Pianodao; you can find out more here: