How to Practice Sight-reading

Sight-reading music is different from practicing or performing music. The goal in sight-reading is to capture as much of the music as possible without stopping. In sight-reading you are allowed to leave out notes, or one hand, or even an entire measure, but you must keep the beat going.

The best way to become a good sight-reader is simply to do it every day. Sight-reading make you better at sight-reading —and vice versa. Keep these things in mind as you practice sight-reading.

take it easy

The biggest mistake people make in sight-reading is using music that is too difficult. Use only pieces that are at least one level below your normal level of repertoire.

keep going

We all hate wrong notes. But when you are sight-reading, if you make a mistake and then stop to correct it, you have made two mistakes, not one. Promise yourself that you won’t lose a single beat from beginning to end. Turn on the metronome.Pretend the metronome is your duet partner. Since it never stops, you can’t stop either!

make sense

Group the notes and musical ideas together. When you read a book, you don’t spell out each word letter by letter, so don’t sight-read note by note. To make this easier, examine the piece before sight-reading it to discover patterns that you recognize. What key is it in? What chords or scales look familiar? Are there any repetitions?

look around

Increase your field of vision: Fix your eye on the tempo mark of the piece. Play the first line of music, keeping the tempo mark in your peripheral vision. When you can do this easily, try two lines. Play an entire piece without taking your eyes off the music.

rhythm

Find every spot in the music where the rhythm looks tricky.  Clap or tap out the rhythm of each spot, counting aloud. Tap with both hands to show RH and LH parts. Or do this through the whole piece. As you play, count aloud.

cover up

You will need a partner for this.  Ask your partner to cover a measure as soon as you have played the first note of it. Repeat on every measure as you play through the piece.

When you have no one to cover the measure, see if you can still keep your eyes one measure ahead of the measure your hands are playing.

keep score

4 points for perfect continuity

3 points for perfect rhythm

2 points for perfect notes

1 point for dynamics

A perfect score is 10. Anything between 8 and 10 is very good. If you get a score of 5 or below, that’s a poor score.

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