Reading Notation, Teaching Piano

Using Duets to Improve Sight-Reading

Most of the time, my students get plenty of practice sight-reading just from trying out their new pieces each week during their lessons.  If necessary, I will have students purchase a dedicated sight-reading book.  However, my favorite way to improve sight-reading with students is through frequent duet sight-reading together.  

At each lesson with students who need improvement with sight-reading, we save the last 1-3 minutes of the lesson for playing a duet or two together.  It is a wonderful way to end a lesson!  

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Why do duets work so well for improving sight-reading?  There are many reasons: 

  • Because the student is playing with another player, s/he is more accountable for keeping a steady beat and executing their rhythms properly.
  • Because the student is playing with another player, s/he is forced into the “keep going” mentality (even through mistakes) that is an important element of good sight-reading.
  • The two skills mentioned above are challenging to develop.  Solo sight-reading often puts the teacher in the position of “pushing” the student to continue through mistakes in order to develop the “keep going” mentality the student needs to develop.  Playing duets, however, turns the task of sight-reading into a team effort, which creates a more positive experience for both parties.
  • Duet-playing can be motivating to students because they make the student sound more advanced and it is exciting to discover how the music will sound together!
  • Sight-reading duets is economical because the teacher can purchase studio copies to be used with multiple students during their individual lessons.

Just as with solo sight-reading, it is important to choose music that is one or two levels below the student’s normal reading level.  This lends itself to not only a more positive and successful experience, but also to greater improvement in the student’s sight-reading skills.

Stay tuned!  Tomorrow, I will share about some resources that I have been using recently for duet sight-reading.  Update: Read the post here. 

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