There are a great deal of apps for notenaming, theory and sheet music, but the ABRSM Sight Reading app from Wessar is the only decent one for learning sight-reading. Wessar originally created a sight-reading tablet, but with the invention of the iPad, they reinvented themselves in the form of this excellent app. There is a free version of the app which has plenty of content to explore before you decide whether you would like to purchase the paid app.
How does it work?
You are given 30 seconds to preview the piece. Then it vanishes and you click ‘start’. When it reappears, the whole piece appears at first and you are given two bars count in. However, this is where it gets interesting as the pulse keeps ticking along but the music vanishes after you should have played it. It vanishes so that you don’t do some of the classic sight-reading errors of staying stuck on a bar trying to repeat notes that you have already played, whether correctly or incorrectly. The golden rule of sight-reading is “Keep Going, No Matter What Happens”. Because there is no “going back,” stumbles are eliminated and fluency quickly develops.
Wessar also helps you improve your pulse which is one of the main complaints of examiners that there is often no discernible beat in the sight-reading exercise. With repeated practice, you learn how to keep time in a metronomic fashion.
The sightreading app is not cheap to buy. It starts at £2.99 for Grade 1 and then increasing with grade, or there is a bundle of Grades 1 – 5 for an eye-watering £21.99.
I will be trying out this app in lessons this week with students. Used in conjunction with ABRSM’s new aural app, these will be a powerful combination of tools for students to practice both at home and in the lesson for thorough exam preparation.
It is a very simple idea – something that perhaps could be achieved with a metronome and a teacher covering up the bar of music as it should have been played, but that wouldn’t be as stylish as doing it on the iPad! Here’s a video of the app in use with a Grade 1 student: