Most students just starting out are apprehensive about sight reading. While the fear may be unfounded, sight reading takes time to muster, and even experienced musicians will have a hard time performing some difficult music pieces by sight reading. But the fact is that sight reading is an essential skill for being a good musician. Practicing sight reading makes performances smoother as the musician is able to read ahead and anticipate notes. It also makes performing with different instruments easier. How can one improve sight reading skills?
Practice the sense of touch
Practicing how to move the hands and fingers without looking at them frees your eyes to concentrate on the sheet music. For a piano, this can be done by mastering the placement of the black keys. The group of 2s will help find C, D, and E, while the 3s will help find F, G, A and B.
Improving tactile awareness works on finger technique which allows placement of fingers without looking at the hands. This can be practiced by playing arpeggios and scales in the dark.
Memorize the four groups of lines and spaces
Many music instructors will recommend memorizing phrases like ‘Good Boys Do Fine Already.’ The effectiveness of this is questionable as one has to go through a 2-step mental process when reading. The better way is to memorize this directly.
- Lines in the Treble E G B D F
- Spaces in the Treble F A C E
- Lines in the Bass G B D F A
- Spaces in the Bass A C E G
Get the rhythm first
What is the tempo and rhythm of the kind of music you are playing? Mustering the beat and time signature of the song helps anticipate unusual rests, change in note sequences, and tempo changes helping adjust your hands faster.
Work on fingering and pitch separately
Concentrate on the right pitch with the correct fingering to help the brain focus on the right notes. The rhythm can then be worked in.
Play the easy pieces first
Practice playing the easy pieces first, at the correct tempo, while ignoring the mistakes. Work on them repeatedly until you smooth out the mistakes. Practice difficult pieces slowly trying to make as few mistakes as possible. This improves your accuracy.
Hum the music
Read the music while humming audibly, without playing the instrument. This gives an audio sense of the music, which prepares your brain for the rhythm. Do this repeatedly for difficult pieces before playing them.
Learn music theory
Music theory helps ground a musician notes and chords. This helps faster reading because when you get the overall chord, you don’t have to read every note.
Have a good practice day!
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