Prima Vista is Italian for ‘first view’ and in music it is also called ‘sight-reading’. In TACO, we sight-read as an orchestra every time we get together, playing through a piece of music for the first time as a group. How do we do it and why is it important

Sight-reading is important because it helps you become familiar with a lot of repertoire. In contrast to learning one piece in greater depth, sight-reading many pieces improves your musical literacy. You learn to look ahead and predict what’s coming in the music, and with time, you get better at reading notes and rhythms faster. You develop the ability to play under pressure and the more you practice sight-reading, the better you get at it.

We take for granted as musicians what the process is for sight-reading or sight-singing, however, there is a methodical strategy we go through. The first step is to relax, take deep breaths, and start to look at the music. At all skill levels, nerves can get in the way of your ability. However the basic requirement of sight-reading is the same no matter what your technical skills:  you need to know how to read the notated rhythms and pitches to play on your instrument. If you can read music, you can sight-read. Simple. Breathe again!

Knowing the composer’s name tells you the period and style, from which you can make guesses about what the music should sound like. Then look at the title which may summarize the vision of the composer and give you some clues as to the intent and meaning of the piece.

Then we look at the tempo, check out the time signature, note the key signature, look through the music for changes, check out the dynamics, look at the beginning again, skim over the easy parts and review the challenging parts, look at the last line of music. Then we go back to the beginning and now play it.

It’s always helpful to play first at a slow tempo to get a feel for the notes, before we play a piece at the intended  tempo. Sometimes in TACO, we play through errors and the group as a whole stays together. Other times, we stop and start when we really get off or different sections are too apart to pull back together. There is value in both fixing mistakes and in being able to continue playing despite mistakes.

In TACO we become familiar with huge amounts of repertoire by sight-reading through many tunes each time we meet. And with practice sight-reading, musicians of all skill levels develop the ability to play each new piece of music more easily.

We’ve got lots of fun new music to play over the next six months and we always have a lot of fun doing it! Join us. And breathe!

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