Sight-reading is just that: sit down, open the book, and play the piece–as we say, read the music at sight. The goal is not to play perfectly. The goal is to capture as much of the music as possible without stopping.
Many piano students spend all their time learning pieces and none of their time sight-reading. When they finish lessons and become busy with other parts of life, they find that even though they might remember a piece or two from a recital, their reading skills are too poor to learn new music. Over time, they may lose their piano skills completely. Don’t let that happen to you!
Sight-reading requires a whole different set of skills than what we use when learning a piece for a recital. And sight-reading has to be practiced–every single day. There are tricks to becoming a good sight-reader. Make a mental check list to help you. For example, here’s a cartoon you could use.
If you can remember that, you’ll remember to go through the sight-reading checklist before you play:
Signatures: time and key
Clefs: bass, treble
Accidentals: flats, sharps
Tempo: The title or tempo marking may describe the mood.
Patterns: big patterns, like overall structure; little patterns, like repeated measures, familiar chords, scales.
Odd things: a big leap, a double-sharp, a strange chord, an unexpected rest, or anything that only happens once.