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"Sight-Reading & Harmony" Description


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SIGHT-READING & HARMONY: Progressive Pieces for Keyboard, Grades 1-10, Selected from Four-Part Chorales by J.S. Bach by DR. CORY HALL (228 pages, spiral binding, BachScholar Publishing, 2017).

The ideal book for:

  • PRIVATE TEACHERS:  Piano/Organ/Harpsichord instruction in the studio at home, college, or university. For children (with the aid of a teacher) through adults. Teachers and students will love the 150 pages of beautiful Bach chorale excerpts as well as 10 full chorales at the end. In addition, teachers and students will come back time again to the practical scale, chord, and cadence exercises presented in Part 1.  
  • CLASS PIANO:  The systematic and structured layout is tailored specifically for all levels of readers (Grades 1-10), which makes the book especially effective for college and university group keyboard lessons with a diverse group of varying skill levels.
  • EAR TRAINING & SIGHT SINGING:  The unique system of increasing complexities in Bach's four-part chorales makes it an especially practical book for playing and singing melody and bass lines as well as dictating three- and four-voice textures with and without passing tones. 
  • MUSIC THEORY/HARMONY INSTRUCTION:  The broad spectrum of Bach's chorales chosen (excerpts from 150 chorales plus 10 full chorales) featuring a chart on each page listing the chords and cadences encountered make the book especially ideal for college and university theory and harmony classes.
  • "SELF-LEARNERS":  The easy-to-understand systematic and structured layout and easy-to-follow exercises make the book ideal for adult learners who prefer to learn by themselves at their own pace.   

Welcome to a remarkable book, SIGHT-READING & HARMONY, available in both hardcopy and digital PDF formats. The hardcopy, printed with 9-inch by 12-inch paper, is heavy-duty and extra durable with laminated front and back covers and has black spiral binding for easy page turning. The printing and manuscript quality is superlative. The digital PDF e-book version (non-printable), created with Adobe, is of the highest quality and looks crystal clear on iPads and tablets as well as computer screens.

SIGHT-READING & HARMONY is a multi-faceted book written for a broad audience, which includes piano teachers and students of all ages and levels, ear training and part-writing students and professors, group piano/theory classes, organists & harpsichordists, as well as self-learners of all ages and abilities. All keyboardists and all those involved in the teaching or learning of music theory need this book!

SIGHT-READING & HARMONY uses the most effective music for the learning of sight-reading and chord analysis, the four-part chorales of Johann Sebastian Bach. The book uses Bach’s chorales as the basis for Dr. Hall’s tested and trademarked system, called the 5-TIER SYSTEM OF FOUR-PART HYMNS & CHORALES™. Complementing this system are indispensable exercises such as scales and diatonic chords, circle of fifths progression exercises, finger independence exercises developed especially for hymn & chorale playing, practical cadence exercises derived from Bach’s chorales, as well as a detailed table of contents and various useful indexes.

In addition, the entire book is accompanied with over 900 videos which dramatically simplify the learning process. These videos can be viewed 24/7, seven days a week on BachScholar’s subscription website, “The Well-Rounded Pianist” at SIGHT-READING & HARMONY is the first and only instructional music book to be accompanied exclusively with high-definition videos. The age of accompanying CD’s has gone out with the dinosaurs! Today is the age of videos, which will never be replaced by anything better!

Let us now take a tour through the book:

The front cover and its text is very descriptive and in just a few dozen words encapsulates the entirety of the book. Laminated and heavy-duty front and back covers with spiral binding make it a durable and long-lasting book:


The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 contains a table of contents as well as several useful indexes. Especially helpful to scholars and professors is the detailed cadence index, which categorizes all the 300+ cadences encountered in the chorale excerpts in Part 4. Bach’s cadences are categorized into six general types and then sub-categorized after this according to their characteristics.

Part 2 contains all the text and instructions for using the book. It begins by providing instructions on how to take the exams leading to the sight-reading diplomas and the master of harmony diploma. Following this are important practice recommendations, an essay on the current state of sight-reading and its remedy, concluding with detailed descriptions of the content and interpretations of Parts 3 & 4.  

Part 3 is entitled “General Exercises.” It begins with major & minor scales and diatonic chords, up to 4 sharps and four flats, which are laid out on opposite pages so that each scale may be seen along with its related chords. Following this are various useful and innovative finger independence exercises especially designed for hymn and chorale playing, a practical circle of fifths progression exercise in major and minor keys, and a summary of Bach’s common cadences to be studied and played as exercises. Shown here are the first two pages of the "Finger Independence & Legato" section:


Part 4 represents the “meat and potatoes” of the book. Each of the first 150 pages presents a four-part chorale excerpt (usually two phrases that always fit onto one line) stated in five versions or “tiers” that represent “grades” or “levels” from 1 to 10.

Grades 1-2 (Tier 1):  Grade 1 is the first tier played hands alone, while Grade 2 is the same tier played hands together. This first tier played hands together builds the strongest possible foundation in music reading skills, referred to since 1725 as “first species counterpoint” (or, one note against one note, 1:1). By removing all 8th and 16th notes and difficult rhythms and including only large note values, students learn the simultaneous reading of one note in each clef.

Grades 3-4 (Tier 2):  Grade 3 is the second tier played hands alone, while Grade 4 is the same tier played hands together. This tier includes all 8th and 16th notes removed in the previous tier, creating examples of “second species counterpoint” (or, two notes against one note, 2:1). This tier is identical to the outer soprano and bass voices of the original four-part chorale, which trains students in the reading of sophisticated two-part counterpoint.     

Chord Chart:  Between the second and third tiers lies a table which summarizes all the chords encountered in the fourth tier, which consists of complete, four-part harmonies minus eighth notes and passing tones. This chord table provides a myriad of useful information for students of harmony and part-writing.             

Grades 5-6 (Tier 3):  Grade 5 is the third tier played hands alone, while Grade 6 is the same tier played hands together. This tier teaches students three-part counterpoint with two notes in the right-hand and one note in the left-hand. In this tier, all 8th and 16th notes and complex rhythms are removed, which makes it much easier for students to focus solely on the reading of three-part harmonies.  

Grades 7-8 (Tier 4):  Grade 7 is the fourth tier played hands alone, while Grade 8 is the same tier played hands together. This tier teaches students four-part counterpoint with the full “SATB” texture, minus eighth notes and passing tones. By removing the eighth notes and passing tones of the fifth and final tier (like in the previous third tier), students can concentrate more easily on the vertical reading of chords without any potential “over-analysis” and confusion that often results from eighth notes and passing tones. 

Grades 9-10 (Tier 5):  Grade 9 is the fifth tier played hands alone, while Grade 10 is the same tier played hands together. This tier presents the excerpt of Bach’s chorale in its original form with nothing added or taken away. Students who can read this tier well have reached mastery of sight-reading, since Bach’s four-part chorales represent the ultimate “litmus test” of sight-reading at the keyboard. If one can sight-read Bach chorales, one can sight-read anything.

Sample Pages:  Now, all five lines and the chord chart discussed above can be viewed on their respective pages. On the top of each of the 150 pages is the key (on the left) and the official chorale title in German with BWV number with the composer of the melody and its date (on the right). BachScholar Publishing prides itself on its extremely high standards with engraving as well attaining a clear, professional, and uncluttered appearance on the page. Here are pages 119 and 120 of Part 4, showing the beautiful engraving and layout followed throughout all of Part4:  


10 Complete Four-Part Chorales:  Part 4 of SIGHT-READING & HARMONY, which is the conclusion to the entire book, concludes with 10 of Bach’s finest four-part chorales in their original form with nothing added or taken away, arranged from easy to difficult according to the approximate Grades 5-10. For example, here are the fourth and fifth chorales:  Jesu, meine Freude and Durch Adams Fall:   


About the Author:  DR. CORY HALL leads a multi-faceted career as piano teacher, recording artist, independent scholar, composer & arranger, master music engraver, and music publisher. He currently teaches a full studio of 50 weekly students around the world via Skype, from Australia to Norway, from his home in St. Petersburg, Florida. In addition to being in high demand as an international master piano teacher, he also produces YouTube piano performance and tutorial videos (with nearly 1000 to date, with a total of over 39 million views, and over 78,000 subscribers), composes, arranges, and publishes music with BachScholar Publishing, LLC (Est. 2011) in which he is founder and editor-in-chief. His recently begun “Bach Chorale Project” led to the present publication that uses Bach chorales as the basis for improving sight-reading skills. He holds a D.M.A. in Piano Performance and M.M. in Historical Musicology from the University of Kansas, M.M. in Performance and Literature (Piano) from the Eastman School of Music, and B.M. in Piano Performance from California State University, Sacramento. He has held adjunct professorships at St. Petersburg College (Florida), Eckerd College (Florida), and served for 11 years as a church organist until resigning from all three posts to devote all his time to BachScholar® (U.S. registered trademark awarded in 2016). Between his graduate study years at the Eastman School of Music and the University of Kansas, Hall taught private piano for three years in Kassel, Germany where he learned fluent German and became immersed in German culture.

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