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Resources I Love: Improve your sight-reading! by Paul Harris

This is the first in a series that I will be publishing called "Resources I Love." Over the course of my teaching career, I have tried a lot of different resources with my students with varying degrees of success. In this series, I will highlight resources that have consistently worked really well with my students. Note, I don't receive any endorsements, sponsorships, or other benefits from recommending these resources. I'm just hoping to share helpful resources with you!

"Improve your sight-reading" by Paul Harris is a genuinely fabulous resource! It teaches sight-reading, but more than that, it teaches music in a sequential manner, offering Grades 1 through 8. Additionally, each grade is broken into multiple stages each gradually building on the skills from the previous levels. Over the course of the series he introduces more complex musical components, giving students confidence as they work to improve their sight-reading while continuing to more advanced levels of performance.

The stages offer a variety of different types of exercises: rhythmic, melodic, improvisation, composition, prepared pieces, and "Going solo!" I love how the book breaks down the music into different elements, helping the student develop specific skills, but concludes each level by integrating the skills in a short musical performance.

Throughout each section, the author also makes excellent use of guiding questions & directions. For example, he provides the following direction in the saxophone book at Level 2, Stage 1, "Going solo!":

Before playing each piece describe what you see what as much detail as possible. Mention key, melodic shapes and patterns, rhythm (particularly quaver patterns and tied notes), repeated rhythmic patterns, dynamics and character.

Perhaps what I love the most is that the music (even at the earliest levels) is good. The music is musical, expressive, and explore a variety of different styles. The character terms used for the music are also really helpful for young students. Rather than using Italian words students may not yet be familiar with, he uses phrases like "Boldly," "Cheerfully," "Delicately," and "Dancing." These words help students to conjure images and are great starting point for how to convey concepts through musical performance.

Of course, you don't need these books to have these discussions about music, but they are a great starting point and my students have enjoyed working with them. I also think it is helpful for students to think about the music differently just because it says "sight-reading" on the cover. It's a great opportunity to fill in some gaps that might have been missing earlier in their musical journeys.

Based on the excellent sequence of materials and the high quality music, I strongly recommend this resource to anyone who wants to improve their sight-reading!

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