Three Ways to Use Sight Reading Factory in Full Band Rehearsal
Sight Reading Factory (SRF), one of the software tools in the MusicFirst suite, can be used in all kinds of ways to support and reinforce your students' musicianship. If you’re not familiar with SRF, it’s commonly used as an individual assessment tool. Short melodic exercises are automatically generated for students to play and record on their devices. Key signatures, time signatures, note values, dynamics, and even articulations can all be customized in SRF. There are even built-in levels from very easy to difficult. Not only can SRF be used individually, but it can also be used with an ensemble in rehearsal using a projector or TV monitor. In this article, I’ll show you three ways SRF can be incorporated into your next band rehearsal. Let’s get started with the equipment set-up.
LCD projector or monitor large enough for students to view
Audio out cable or Bluetooth audio connection to sound system
Sight Reading Factory subscription
1. Rhythm Only
Focusing on just the rhythm is an effective way to help students and ensembles reinforce rhythmic skills. Teachers can use the built-in levels 1-6 to quickly get started with an exercise after selecting the time signature. With built-in levels, ties and dynamics will appear in the exercises depending on the level of difficulty.
SRF also allows teachers to customize and choose only the rhythms and rests they want to appear in the exercises. For example, if students just learned how to count sixteenth notes, rhythmic figures with quarter notes, eighth notes, and four sixteenth-note patterns can be selected to only appear in the exercises. There is any number of options and configurations to choose from for your ensemble’s needs. Additionally, in the customization mode, a rhythmic difficulty level can be selected and ties and syncopated rhythms can be turned on or off.
2. Ensemble Unison
With the ensemble unison function, SRF generates a unique melody for the ensemble to play. The advantage to selecting Ensemble Unison is that all parts play the same pitches and rhythms, including articulations and dynamics if you choose. There are parts for all band instrument keys, bass clef for the low brass and even a snare drum part. As with the Rhythm Only function, there are built-in levels or you can use the customization feature to create your own configuration that works best with your students. All of the same customizations available in Rhythm Only are available in the Ensemble Unison function and Multipart, except key signatures obviously. All major and minor tonalities are available, including the ability to select natural, harmonic, or melodic minor modes.
If using SRF with younger students, an alternative to playing the exercises is to have them say the note names out loud or say the note names and finger along on their instrument as a way to reinforce note-reading skills. There is even the option to show the pitch names under the notes.
3. Ensemble Multipart
For more advanced ensembles, the Multipart feature creates multiple parts with different notes, rhythms, and articulations that add an extra challenge. The dynamics that appear in the exercise depend on the difficulty level, but all dynamics align vertically between the parts. Please note that only the built-in SRF difficulty levels are available to use in the Ensemble Multipart function.
Audio Playback is a feature that enables you to playback the entire SRF exercise. Other features include metronome sound, synth audio, moving cursor, looping the exercise, and selecting measures for playback. Audio Playback is available in Rhythm Only, Ensemble Unison, and Multipart. In Multipart, the audio for each part/line can be turned on or off for playback.
Additional Recommendations for Ensemble Use
Give 30 seconds to silently play or finger through the exercise before playing. Gradually shorten the time for an added challenge.
Choose the number of measures in each exercise from 4 - 24 measures.
Incorporate dynamics, ties, articulations, or syncopation to challenge students.
Set the ranges and leap style (example: no more than a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th) to the ensemble's skill level.
Choose simple or compound note groupings with Advanced mode.
Use the built-in SRF metronome or your own.
Teach a student how to run SRF so that you’re available to move around the room and not be tied to your computer.
As you can see, there is a lot of versatility in using Sight Reading Factory because it can be used both individually and with an ensemble. If you've used SRF before, I'd love to hear how it's making a positive impact on your band program. For a free trial of MusicFirst and to check out Sight Reading Factory, scan the QR code. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions.