Sight-Reading Mastery
By ,
Stuart Hunt

Sight-Reading Mastery. In 4 minutes or less, your students can master the 3 most important sight-reading skills that will transform every rehearsal.

Practice does not make perfect …. it makes permanent. Read how to overcome your frustration because, in your heart, you KNOW your students could perform great music….if only they could read better and accurately.

As conductors, recognizing that the reason that our choirs do not:

  • Sing more accurately
  • Sing higher and better quality music
  • Engage bell-to-bell in rehearsal

has to do with consistency in our instruction. There, I said it. WE are the ones responsible to educate, motivate and equip those who chose to sing in our choirs. Not blame…but a reason for us to use an intentional focus.

3 Basic skills

Whatever method you use, singers must learn to:

  • Count accurately
  • Sing intervals in their head (audiate) before singing with their voice
  • Sing parts independently

There is much to learn, and little time to accomplish skills ….while still enjoying the learning experience (which makes them want to learn more on their own).

The lessons in our K-University, sequential books require minimal preparation, and are designed to create a learning experience that achieves maximum results in a concise timeframe. The saying “trying fails, awareness cures” is important to remember as you train singers to hear correctly and correct mistakes efficiently. Allowing and repeating mistakes, because of rushing and not being trained looking ahead builds frustration, because, later, we must stop rehearsal to correct them. Better to sing correctly in the first place.


FUNdamental Music Mastery (K-5), Foundations of Choral Mastery (where all choirs should start), and 4-Minute Mastery (Books 1, 2, and 3) tackle and train the 3 Basic skills in 4 minutes and less, as skills improve. Patience and consistency, when applied with a high bar of standards, helps singers learn, life-long skills of accuracy and focus. There is no need to apologize for being politely obsessed with pitch accuracy, counting accuracy, expressive singing (and many other skills). It saves rehearsal time and trains our singers to accept only the best of themselves….and the choir. You are developing efficient rehearsal skills. I will cover more specifics in future blogs.

Start your timer

Picture ALL of the basic skills on one page, projected (best) or printed as the students arrive to rehearsal. You’ve turned down some lights to help them focus on the screen and taught all to read a time signature so getting started promptly at the tone, they look at the line 1 time-signature as you give them one measure, in the time you choose, to prepare and start. Voila ! Rehearsal has begun on time and they are working together instantly. That high bar comes into play as you accept as correct or just point where you wish to correct a mistake (they can figure it out). If a brief comment is needed, you are developing rehearsal protocols, so keep it very short. The seven word rule works well to get right back to the challenge.

TFC lessons have:

  • 2 lines of rhythm (always in different meters)
  • 2 lines of interval training (ascending and descending)
  • 2 lines of duets (coordinated with lines 1-4 above)

Skill MASTERY is the key

If you find the skills are not up to the challenge today, then stop … to return tomorrow and MASTER those skills ….because, if you choose to let mistakes go, they turn into inaccurate habits. Again, practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent ! Ever find yourself mentally kicking yourself for not solving skills earlier in the year? Start the solution process from day 1.

Students can direct lessons

Huh? Imagine having students in front of and coaching their peers to become accurate; starting rehearsal on time; celebrating their accomplishments, while you are:

  • Walking around the choir
  • Sitting in with specific sections
  • Noting how they are learning
  • Noting who is leading and who is following
  • Planning how to improve their skills

Now imagine your administrator “dropping in” to rehearsal and seeing students teaching students. And how about the student who is on the periphery…not the most “popular” or

outgoing…maybe fairly introverted…LEADING rehearsal and gaining self-confidence and street-cred by accurately leading their peers. That is transformational !


All Tools for Conductors™ writers are seasoned music educators, with a combined experience of over 90 years of professional experience. Our lessons are “STANDARDIZED” because we partnered in writing the skill-set just adopted and posted by NAfME :

Each lesson meets levels now recognized by NAfME and, soon, Canada as skill targets for all vocalists. Lessons are sequentially composed, K-University, and utilize concept reinforcement.

From possibility to actuality

Now, all over the world, our books are delivered PDF for you to project, print, or send to students for practice at home or on internet devices. They are available from Tools for Conductors™ (customized for your choirs), or JW Pepper:

  • FUNdamental Music Mastery (Kindergarten-Grade 5)

  • Foundations of Choral Mastery

  • 4-Minute Mastery


What do you do to assess singers? Really. How much time does it take?

All of our lessons coordinate with our on-line assessments available through

You Won’t Miss a Beat” assessments for elementary, band, choir, and rhythm (orchestra soon). Likewise, they take about 2 minutes can be found here:

Our assessments are inexpensive and can be done on any device (works best with Chrome). If you would like to view an actual assessment, this is what happens:

More on this in a future article.


Rehearsal time is “sacred”. Don’t waste a second. When singers (school, private, community) are trained to correctly audiate, rehearsals SOAR, singing great music you (as conductor) and your choirs never thought possible. A posse ad esse: From possibility to actuality.

Contact Stuart Hunt at: