One App at a Time: SightReadPlus
Always being on the lookout for the next best iPad app, I tend to collect quite a few (see my Music App Directory) and they patiently "wait" on my screen until I take (and find) the time to use them. If I deem them worthy, they are placed in their new iPad screen home--an appropriately named folder. If you are unsure how to create a folder for your apps, click here for instructions (it's easy, I promise). It's hard to remember where I first learned about and purchased SightReadPlus. I must have seen an article, a Facebook conversation, something? When I finally made time to try it out I was more than pleasantly surprised. You know I like lists so here goes another one packed full of reasons why you should consider investing $7.99 to develop student sight reading skills with this app:
1) Splash Screen: I know younger kiddos appreciate the cute avatars, the bells and whistles etc, but those tend to clutter the screen and for me can be less intuitive. SightReadPlus offers a clear method of entering a new user name or finding a previous user. Because of the limited "kiddie" images, the appearance will appeal to any age which is especially handy for those older users.
2) Options--once a user name is entered, the Menu page provides an incredibly clear display of options:
- Level (ten levels are broken down by note values, intervals and time signatures which are indicated by graphics)
- Key (yes, ANY key with key signatures)
- Hand (RH or LH, hands together not an option)
- Exercise Number (there are 40 in each level)
3) Objective--to play a four-measure phrase in time with correct pitches:
- The iPad must be placed on the keyboard rack of your REAL piano (this does not require MIDI or a digital keyboard)
- A four-measure phrase is presented (I encourage readers to note the time signature, hand position and patterns, etc first)
- An option to hear the rhythm is provided with a gal saying "ta-ah" (not the standard lingo I use, but developers advise to "clap along with Kodaly rhythm syllables for timing practice" before playing the exercise which can't hurt)
- An option to change the metronome tempo is available
- The sight reader must press the record button, wait for a count off and play the phrase
- As the pianist plays, the app records and listens to the performance and features an image (green snowflake) to help track the beat
- After finishing the 4 bars, students are given a score based on note and timing accuracy (gold stars are given for passing scores and top scores set off fireworks on the screen which spark cheers from the reader as seen on your right)
- Students can see all their scores, stars and levels completed thanks to a progress button on the top right
- All student scores are kept within the app so there is no need to record scores elsewhere.
Besides exercises with various pitch and rhythmic patterns, the app also provides a visual of 5-finger patterns in every major key. The sight reader can earn points for playing each one correctly. This is a terrific tool for me as I require students to master all white and black key major (and minor 5's) and triads.
This format has been tested not only by me but also whole-heartedly approved by my early level student Matthew who breezed through a dozen or so exercises all on his own. A thirteen-year-old gal claimed the app was "epic". Ginger kept asking to complete just one more level even though the lesson had ended and her Mom was waiting in the car.
Leila's Opinion of SightReadPlus: $7.99
Application Potential: 4/5 The sequential work has been done for you in EVERY key. Plant the iPad on the keyboard rack and watch your students naturally progress from one exercise to the next. The developers have carefully "sequenced exercises, advancing from stepwise movement and basic timing patterns to more advanced intervallic reading and dotted note values." It appears there is only the "Beginning Level: Major Five Finger Patterns" but I hear more are on the way. With the various rhythmic patterns available, the level of this app will keep even intermediate students challenged for quite some time.
What you may miss:
- There is no opportunity for reading and playing hands together from the grand staff
- Many method books focus on the notes around Middle C between Treble G and Bass F. It would be nice to see a primer edition testing these notes (along with accidentals) to get beginners off and running before advancing to the 5-finger patterns in various keys
- Although there are separate scores given for pitch and rhythm, the method on how those scores are awarded is not clearly defined
- The feedback provided for accuracy is vague.
Ability to Use with Ease: 5/5 Once introduced to the app, I witnessed youngsters (ages 7+) manage this app with expertise and were extremely eager to master the next level. I have had to push students (of all ages) out the door after lessons. The fact that I can see scores and results so easily for each student with a tap makes this app worth its weight in gold. It is so challenging to keep track of student scores in my studio lab and this feature alleviates that issue!
Assessment of Investment: 5/5 One book of exercises (with no feedback) would cost as much or more than this app of 4800 exercises. My favorite feature of this app, unlike many geared towards kids/students, there are no in-app purchases. Many times students get hooked on an app and then must stop playing the game as a purchase is required to continue. I'm not interested in making this type of investment during a lesson and therefore student interest wanes and progress stops as well. I prefer to pay a little more up front and enjoy no hidden costs.
Total Score: 14/15
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Interested in learning more about using the iPad for your studio? I'm excited to announced that my new book will be released soon:
The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps
The good news: once you purchase the book you will be part of a larger environment offering updated information
and timely and friendly support for all things iPad/app related.
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Interested in a code to receive SightReadPlus for free? Melissa Harris, President of Cape Cod Music Apps, has offered one free code!
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leave a comment about how you encourage sight reading in your studio