Review: Flute Sight-Reading – A Progressive Method

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I’ve reviewed a lot of sight-reading books for piano in my time, but never any for flute sight-reading. These new books from Trinity seek to provide everything a candidate needs in order to prepare for the sight-reading element of their graded flute exams, from Initial to Grade 8. The three books in the series cover:

For each grade, 10 sequential lessons are offered, with a step-by-step approach to sight-reading, leading to a teacher-student duet. At the end of each grade, example sight-reading tests are given.

James Rae is a name well-known, not just to flautists, but to woodwind players all over the world. He has written and produced countless books, all very much in common use by teachers and students.

Review: Flute Sight-Reading - A Progressive Method
A Progressive Method

As with other Trinity publications, one thing I like about these books is that they seek to make a connection between practical music-making and theoretical knowledge. For example, at Initial Grade, players are asked to: identify the key note/tonic; circle crotchets; identify the number of As; identify repeating rhythmic patterns; and to suggest whether the piece will sound happy or sad.

The 10 lessons for each grade cover a range of topics, for example, at Grade 3, introducing swung quavers, and at Grade 7, reading music in the key of F minor. The progression is logical and reflects the requirements Trinity have laid out for their sight-reading tests. It would have been useful to have the flute sight-reading parameters replicated in these books for quick and easy reference.

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Although each grade is divided into 10 lessons, the guidance given is minimal. For example, Grade 1 Lesson 6 is designed to introduce changing dynamics. Whilst five sight-reading examples are given, all of which include forte and piano dynamics, no guidance is given as to what the difference is. In some ways, that might be too much to expect from a book designed primarily to improve flute sight-reading skills; however, it does mean that students will need to draw on existing theoretical knowledge, and teachers will need to plan accordingly.

Review: Flute Sight-Reading - A Progressive Method

Perhaps the greatest selling point in these books is that they include many, many sight-reading examples, and therefore could be treated as ‘drills’ (an unfashionable term these days). Overall, as mentioned above, my opinion is that the books alone won’t teach a candidate all the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the sight-reading element of their flute exam, but they do offer a framework around which to prepare.

Review: Sight-Reading - A Progressive Method

The best teachers will make sure that connections are drawn between repertoire, theory and sight-reading, rather than treating these in isolation. In that sense, these books will be particularly useful. Each book contains 76 pages, and with each one covering three grades, they are excellent value for money. They are clearly presented and laid out, though on balance, the stave size diminishes as students move towards the higher grades. By Book 3, the stave size feels small, particularly with the teacher duet parts given in an even smaller size stave.

There are few flute sight-reading series available which cover requirements sequentially as these do. Therefore, these books are a useful addition to the marketplace. They cover a lot of material, with a huge number of practice exercises included. They will, however, require some work to make sure connections are made with the wider acquisition of skills and knowledge.

The books are also available for clarinet, oboe, saxophone and bassoon.

Flute Sight-Reading: A Progressive Method by James Rae is published by Trinity College London Press, and available in three volumes: Book 1, ISBN 9780857368416; Book 2, ISBN 978085736842; Book 3: ISBN 9780857368430; RRP £14.00 each.

I was sent a review copy of this book free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.

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