How to Teach Piano Sight Reading with a Rainbow

Piano sight reading can seem like a chore, for both students and teachers. And like many chores, it often doesn’t get done at all.

How to teach piano sight reading with a rainbow

How to Teach Piano Sight Reading with a Rainbow and why you need colour in your piano teaching studio!

Is this where you’re at with sight reading right now? Dreading it or barely doing it at all?

Well, today I want to share with you a little trick that can flip that on its head. All you need is a rainbow.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, and so are you if you didn’t read this article about the foundations of great music reading. If, and only if, you have those essential skills in place with your students, then we can talk about piano sight reading.

Good to go?

Don’t be Afraid of Unerasables

If you’re like me, you weren’t allowed to write on your music in anything other than pencil growing up.

If you’re like me, you carried this through to your teaching and gasped when your student picked up a pen.

But, unlike me, maybe you’re still sticking to this rule now. Why?

Now before you click the back button in your browser or swipe away, let me be clear. I don’t want us to start writing in permanent marker all over your precious Beethoven sonatas.

We’re talking about method books, tutor books and books of easy quick pieces that students are using for piano sight reading. When it comes to those what argument is there for keeping them clean?

Surely, it’s better to use them as thoroughly as possible and glean as much as we can from them? And make a beautiful rainbow in the process?

Piano Sight Reading Rainbow Design

So here it is. Now we’re going to get started on those rainbows!

  • Get a set of colouring pencils for your student. It can be literally a rainbow of 7 colours, but anything between 5-10 will do.
  • Have your student make a chart in their practice diary or folder with a box for each of the colours.

piano sight reading rainbow chart

  • Decide on certain things to look for in your student’s pieces and designate one to each colour. This depends on your students level but could be things like: intervals of more than a fifth, articulation marks, accidentals, etc.

piano sight reading rainbow chart

Once you have your chart all it needs is lots of outings. 🙂

Piano Sight Reading Rainbows in Practice

I suggest you have a designated book for your student to practice their rainbows in, but it doesn’t have to be a sight reading exercise book.

Any book with short pieces, a couple of levels below where your student is at will do. I have some old and slightly battered method books at various levels for just this purpose.

Work on one of these pieces at each lesson and have your student mark it using the rainbow colours they chose. Ask guiding questions to help them think through the piece as they circle and colour.

Then, ask your student to play their piece. Ask them what they could’ve done better, and ask them to play it again.

That’s it. That piece is finished.

Over time, this will make a difference as your students will get faster and faster at spotting all the elements of the rainbow. This is what effective sight readers can do – they can see the important things as if they were circled in neon highlighters.

Up Your Sight Reading Teaching Game

The Sightreading Supercharge course was just released in the Vibrant Music Teaching library, and I’ve just opened sign-up for the free webinar about sight reading skills. Click here to register for the free webinar.

If you liked this fun and colourful idea then you’ll love the webinar. Plus, it’s free, so you’ve no reason not to come along!

How do you teach piano sight reading?

Do you encourage students to create rainbows on their scores like me? Do you have some other magic sight reading trick to share?

7 thoughts on “How to Teach Piano Sight Reading with a Rainbow”

  1. Dear Nicola,
    that is a great idea. Can I ask you just for one example of already marked peace? Just to get an impression.
    Thank you.


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