First 10 seconds:
Scan the "vital statistics" of the whole selection.
- What key signature? (Does the key change?)
- What time signature? (Does it change?)
- How fast?
- How loud/soft? (How do they change?)
- Any odd rhythms?
- What accidentals?
Second 10 seconds:
Memorize as much of the opening as possible. Once again, after 10 seconds, look away from the music and try to play it from memory.
Using just these 20 seconds you'd be surprised how much you can accomplish.
The extra 10 seconds? Well, I believe the South Carolina all-state audition gives you 30. You can use those remaining seconds to carefully look over tricky rhythms.
One other sight-reading tip: keep the time steady. Don't stop and re-start. If you're reading with an ensemble, you can't raise your hand and say, "Everybody please stop and go back for me. I was confused about that rhythm."
"OUT OF THE BOX" IDEA:
One problem with sight-reading. You always need lots of material to read.
Somebody should start a website devoted to sight-reading and lot people contribute to it a la wikipedia. Hmmm ... sightreading.org.
I would suggest that material on the sight be broken down by difficulty level and searchable by different categories. For example:
- examples with lots of sharps
- examples with wide leaps
- examples in 5/8 time
- examples exploring the high range
- examples with changing beat subdivisions
If someone pulls this off (and does it right) it will be a huge contribution! Any takers?