May 20, 2021

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Sight-reading is the ability to read music upon seeing a piece for the first time. It is useful when you have a new piece to study as you will be able to learn it efficiently. Sight reading enables you to play pieces even though you are not familiar with them and being able to sight read proficiently is like unlocking yourself to a library of countless pieces of music.

Sight-reading is one of the skills that every musician will find extremely useful when mastered, it is essential to piano players especially when it comes to accompanying other musicians. Learning how to sight-read also takes time to acquire but there are ways to speed it up. In this article, we will be sharing tips on how to improve your sight-reading skills.

Practise Sight-Reading Regularly

Yes, that’s right. Aside from practising your scales and arpeggios, you also need to include sight-reading as part of your daily practice. Learning how to sight-read does not come naturally, it is a skill that needs practice… tons and tons of practice. Good sight-readers did not get the skill without doing anything. It is developed through plenty of hours of regular practice.

When you include sight-reading in your regular practice, you have to make sure that you are always reading a new piece. It is best if you are totally unfamiliar with the piece. Doing this will help you to develop the skill to adopt quickly to any kind of music when given the opportunity. The pieces that you read when you practise sight-reading do not have to be advanced. It can be as simple as children’s songs as long as you try to read the music with as few mistakes as possible.


Analyze the Piece Before Reading

When you find yourself in something that you are not familiar with, you would want to get as much information as possible so that it will prepare and help you to know what you will be dealing with. Knowing information such as key signatures, time signatures, patterns, and many more, before reading a piece, will give you a head start because you are already aware of how the piece will flow. Knowing the information beforehand will truly help you greatly in sight-reading a new piece.

One of the most important details that you should be aware of when you analyze a piece for a performance is the tempo or speed, because it will indicate how fast or slow you should play. You would not want to perform a piece slowly that is supposed to be at a fast and moving pace.


Master All the Key Signatures

Another way for you to sight-read proficiently in the piano is to master playing in all keys. Being knowledgeable with all key signatures enables you to distinguish the key of the music, in which you would know how much sharps or flats were put in the music. The number of flats or sharps in the key signature tells which key you are going to play in. It will help you to know which piano keys you will be mostly using, and which keys should be played on the black keys.

Being adoptive in different keys in music will come in handy as a piano accompanist, because there will be times when you will need to read music in a different key from what you are familiar to or which the singer prefers to sing, because he or she could possibly find the original key too high or too low for his or her range.


Warm Up Before Getting Started

When you sight-read a new piece, it is likely that you may not be able to analyze and familiarise yourself with every single detail before you start playing due to lack of time or some other reason, and it is truly challenging to memorise every single detail. You might not be able to see what passages you will encounter upon reading the music sheet so the best way is to prepare yourself by doing warm ups beforehand to lessen the restriction of your movements when you shift in different hand positions while playing the instrument.

Warming up does not only prepare you to execute different passages efficiently but also minimises the chances of getting an injury because sight-reading can put a lot of pressure on you and your body as you will be needing to play the instrument on the spot without being completely prepared.


Don’t Panic, Always Look Ahead and Keep Going

One of the vital rules of sight-reading is to never stop once you have started. Even if you make small mistakes, you have to keep in mind that you should never ever stop or even slow down when you are playing, especially when you are playing with another musician or accompanying a vocal performer. Pausing even for a second could knock you off of your rhythm and momentum. Music has to have a pulse and it needs to be steady so that the flow of tunes is uninterrupted.

When you read the notes of the music, you would want to read ahead and not get stuck in each bar or measure. You should look at the notes in advance from what you are playing at the very moment. For example, when you are playing the notes at the last beat of bar no. 1, your eyes should already be looking at bar no. 2 so that you can anticipate the next passages to be played.

It is important to remind yourself not to panic when it gets a little complicated in some areas of the piece. It can get overwhelming if you happen to see loads of notes written side by side. If that happens, just take a deep breath and remind yourself that you can do it. You might make some small mistakes but it is okay as long as you keep going.

Sight-reading does not have to be intimidating when you are attempting to read a new piece. The skill can be improved. It may take some time to get used to it but when you get the hang of it, you will surely enjoy reading new music.

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