Joy of Piano: Conversation with a teacher: Sight-reading with Cynthia Sanger

October 22, 2021 Stephen Reed


Sight-reading: similar and different from reading a book

Steinert & Sons inaugurated its “Conversation with a Teacher” interviews with this look into the process of sight-reading, specifically a pianist’s first read of a new piece, with Cynthia Sanger.

Cynthia is the owner of B Sharp Musical Studio in Newton and is also a piano instructor at Brookline Music School.  Cynthia has lived in the Boston area since 1988 and has been teaching piano at B Sharp for ten years. M. Steinert is proud to partner with Cynthia and B Sharp.

Steinert’s Education Department’s Patrick Elisha explored with Cynthia a variety of factors involved in a sight-reading of a new piece.

Cynthia noted that sight-reading a new piece is both similar and different from starting a new book.  On one hand, both a musical piece and a book are similar in that they have a beginning, middle, and end.

But whereas book readers are discouraged from flipping ahead to see what happens at the end, a pianist needs to read over the end in order to anticipate what’s coming and to discern how each part of the piece ties together.

Some specific elements Cynthia looks for immediately in a sight-reading include the title, the key signature, and the meter.  “The length of the measures is important, as I try to figure out how I’m going to have the same number of beats in each measure,” explained Cynthia.

Cynthia noted that she also looks ahead to see any repeated themes and their variations. If the piece has a key change, she notes that as well as if the piece returns to the original key and familiar themes again.

For sight-reading exercise, choose a piece at a slightly lower level

Cynthia encourages those looking into a new piece to find one at a bit lower of a level than what they can play.  This avoids the student getting demoralized at trying to play a more difficult piece.

We appreciate Cynthia helping us to kick off this first “Conversation with a Teacher” at M. Steinert!

Please watch the full interview between Patrick and Cynthia or go straight to Minute Mark 15:17 for the split-screen of Cynthia playing Haydn’s Suite 54 in G Major.

If you are a teacher interested in learning more about working with M. Steinert & Sons, visit our Educational Partner page.


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