Grade 1 Snare Sight Reading

An explanation of what you might see in a grade 1 sight reading test that uses just the snare.

Sight reading at grade 1 will be pretty straight forward. There a few different options for what you will see depending on which board you are taking your exam with and in this lesson I will be showing examples based on the 'Rock School' exam board. Sight reading with this board at this grade will be a four bar snare pattern built from Minims, Crotchets and Quavers and there appropriate Rests. It is unlikely that you will see quaver rests at this grade. You will need to be familiar with how these note values are notated and how to count them. There are several lessons on applying counting in our Note Value Theory section. Everything you need to know will be covered in lessons linked on that page so here I will be focusing just on giving example exercises so that you are confident with what you will see.

In the grade 1 exam situation you will be given the notation for the short snare piece and will be left for around 90 seconds to work out the part. Before leaving you the examiner will give you the tempo using a metronome. 90 seconds may not sound long but it is actually more than enough time to work out your part. By the time you take the exam you will hopefully have taken many practice tests and whatever is presented to you will look a lot like something you've learned before. This means there should be no surprises in terms of rhythmic content.

In those 90 seconds I've found the best approach is to start by trying to play the piece. If a metronome isn't left running for you, tap your feet at an appropriate speed then play a long to that. During that initial play through note any parts of the piece that you can't work out. Spend some time getting the counting straight for these troublesome parts then try the whole piece again. Repeat this until you are confident.

At grade 1 there won't be any dynamics or odd stickings to worry about. You may be awarded more marks for appropriate sticking and using good technique. All you need to know in terms of appropriate sticking at this grade is that if the beat is counted with a number use your right hand, if it is an '+' use your left. The tempo shouldn't be any higher than 80bpm.

Below are five examples of four bar snare rhythms a long with a counting box for each. Set yourself a 90 second time limit to get the counting correct.

In the counting checker box, count rests as normal notes. So bar one of example 1 will be '1 2 3 + 4'. Only count the first beat of a minim, so bar 2 of example 1 will be '1 3 4'. You may put as many spaces between counts as you like and can use '+', '&' or 'and' to represent quaver counts.


Example 1

A grade 1 four bar snare sight reading exercise. Check Your Counting:


Example 2

A grade 1 four bar snare sight reading exercise. Check Your Counting:


Example 3

A grade 1 four bar snare sight reading exercise. Check Your Counting:


Example 4

A grade 1 four bar snare sight reading exercise. Check Your Counting:


Example 5

A grade 1 four bar snare sight reading exercise. Check Your Counting:


Example 6

A grade 1 four bar snare sight reading exercise. Check Your Counting:


Tasks

  • Get the correct counting for each exercise.
  • Play each exercise to a metronome.
  • Work out what the best sticking for each exercise would be.