Do these books offer challenges for higher grades?
Sight reading is not a skill you can learn by “cramming.”
The more often a student picks up an unknown piece of music and plays it at sight, the more confidence they will have with the next new piece. Students preparing for higher level exams can use Sight Reading Secrets Grade Five, as well as leafing through any other piano books they have at home. Book Five gives plenty of musical examples by Baroque and Classical composers (plus a few Romantic and contemporary) so that your child has lots of new pieces to read while focusing on the elements that will be assessed in the exam. Each time they practice their repertoire, they should allow a little bit of time to read something new.
Here are some instructions you can recommend to your child:
1. Think in the key
Don’t fall into the mindset of “adding in” sharps and flats. Instead, be certain of the key before your fingers touch the piano. The pieces in the first chapter of the book are transposed into several keys - with up to three sharps or two flats - to heighten your awareness of the sound of each key. They will also familiarise you with the feeling of accidentals experienced in each minor key. Many of the Classical pieces in Book Five have common chord progressions which will be useful to confirm in the keys you are focusing on.
2. Be aware of style
The title of the piece will, in many cases, affect the way you perform. A Sarabande will be played very differently to a Courante. If any of these dance styles are new to you, ask your teacher for their own stylistic definitions and to give you some more experience of playing dances.
3. Play musically, not mechanically
Express the articulation and dynamics with some exaggeration if you need to, but try to convey these musical elements even in the shortest examples. (Many of the Baroque pieces in Book Five were not originally scored with dynamics or articulation, but use your knowledge of this period to play appropriately).