The new way of learning how to read musicBy Sam Jackson
“KEEP GOING!” Along with “have you practised much this week?”, this is the phrase that really sticks in my mind from my early days of learning to read music. Those of us who were lucky enough to be taught a musical instrument in our childhood no doubt share memories of that dreaded issue of sightreading: the requirement, in exams, to just be able to play something from scratch, without having learnt it in the first place. And our teachers would always tell us, no matter whether or not you make a mistake: Just. Keep. Going.
So it was with quite some degree of interest that I approached an intriguing new iPad app for sightreading. “For…sightreading?”, I thought. iPad apps are more along the lines of Angry Birds, aren’t they? Well, after exploring exactly what this app is all about, it seems to me to be a really exciting new tool in helping people of all ages to learn how to read music.
The first thing to say about Sightread4Piano is that pretty much everyone can give it a go. It’s been endorsed by all sorts of respectable types, from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music to Rock School, meaning there are a huge range of example pieces for anyone to try their skills on. It’s fun, too, and incredibly addictive. And what’s really clever is that it forces you to keep going (my teacher would surely approve) and, in the process, it apparently trains your eyes and your brain to read music more effectively. Clever, eh?
Sightread4Piano is already getting musicians talking: the conductor and pianist Howard Shelley, who we feature very regularly on Classic FM, tried it out for himself a few weeks ago, and commented: “The ability to sightread is fundamental to the enjoyment of playing and exploring music. This simple but brilliant application gives all students the opportunity rapidly to improve their skill and stretch their abilities. I wholeheartedly recommend it.”
Although currently limited to the piano, there’s talk of a whole load of other Sightread4… apps being made available later this year – everything from guitar and percussion to strings and voice. And if you really fancy a challenge (and you don’t know what to do with that fortnight of annual leave you need to use up before the end of March), you can download over 1,100 different tracks in one go, and then get sightreading the lot of them.
So, whether you’re a lapsed musician, a keen amateur, or someone who’s never dreamt of trying your hand at reading music, why not explore Sightread4Piano? It’s fun, it’s contemporary, and it’s a new way of bringing music to a generation of people who expect to be able to engage with the world around them on their phones and iPads. Just make sure that when you head into your piano lesson with iPad in hand, you’ve shut down Angry Birds beforehand…