Joe's Blog

Rhythmic coordination between the hands in sight reading

June 3, 2018

At a recent lesson, Irving* tried to sight read from “For Children” by Bartok, and experienced difficulty keeping the two hands coordinated rhythmically.

Isolating rhythm from pitch:

We tried to isolate rhythm from pitch so he could focus more entirely on the former.  This is similar to what happens in mathematics when all but one of the variables are held constant, while focus is concentrated on the remaining one which is still free to vary.

This is the particular procedure we used at his lesson:

We closed the fall board so it could act like a drum surface.  Then we tapped out the right hand rhythm with the right hand, then the left hand rhythm with the left hand, and then the two together.  This separated the rhythm from the pitches.  This step had the extra benefit of making him aware of how much of his reading difficulties were rhythmic in nature, both in one hand, and regarding rhythmic coordination between the hands.

Then, with the fall board open, he played the actual left hand.  Then he did that again but added his right hand, focusing on rhythm by playing only one constant pitch as a universal place holder for all the different written pitches.

We then reversed things.  He played the right hand as written, and played just a single pitch in the bass at the moments the left hand was expected to play.

Doing these things made sight reading the piece easier for him.

*Name has been changed

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