Introduction: How to Sight Read Sheet Music the Best Way

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Practice, practice, practice! We spend a lot of time doing this as piano students, don't we?!

Well, we have to in order to learn how to play well and play more advanced music.

There's one part of piano playing that doesn't involve practicing, however, and that is the topic of today's lesson.

Sight reading is an important part of every piano players abilities and really adds fun to your playing. It's a technique that every piano player needs and is one worth taking the time to develop.

Let's find out what sight reading is exactly and learn some important tips that will help you learn how to do it the best way.

Step 1: What Is Sight Reading?

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Sight reading is simply playing through a piece for the very first time. You've never even seen the piece before, at least not long enough to figure any of it out. Don't mistake sight reading for playing through a piece the 2nd or 3rd time, even if you don't know it all yet. That is more practicing, which is different from sight reading.

It also means that you play through the entire piece the very first time that you play it, instead of stopping to fix anything that you might play wrong. This is important because it will help you learn how to keep going in performances if you happen to miss a note.

Let's now go over some important tips that will get you sight reading the best way to improve your piano playing.

Step 2: Tip #1 Sight Read Every Day

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There's a reason that this is the first tip...it's the most...most...most important one of all!

Sight read piano music every single day.

Think about anything that you do with frequency, especially most days of the week. Does it get easier or harder each day when you do it again?

The same applies to sight reading...the more you do it, the easier it gets!

The best way to incorporate this into your warm-up routine at your keyboard is to start with a few scales and arpeggios and then go right to sight reading some new music. Then you can zoom in and start practicing on specific spots in your pieces and exercises that you need to work on.

*Find out why I recommend sight reading before you do other things in the video at the end of this lesson*

Now let's talk about the best kind of sheet music that you need to start with when you begin sight reading.

Step 3: Tip #2 Play Easy Music When You First Start Sight Reading

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This is important.

Don't try to sight read something that you know you won't be able to play through. That will only frustrate you.

Pick something that is really easy at first, in a key that you know well and an easy time signature. That way you won't be trying to learn too many things at one time!

Remember that as you get better at sight reading, you'll be able to try and get through some harder material, but you'll do it when you know how to "read" all of the different aspects of the music; including the different rhythms, notes, articulations, etc.

Also...you don't have to try and play both hands together in the beginning stages of sight reading. Feel free to play one hand at a time for your first run-through, then you can try both hands together.

If you find that the piece you've chosen is too easy, then just pick one the next time that is a little more difficult, and you want to continue this progression each day as you make sight reading a part of your daily piano work.

This next tip will help you sight read faster...but you won't be playing any faster! Let's see what tip #3 is.

Step 4: Tip #3 Play Slowly - and You'll Sight Read Faster

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Now, how does slowing down make you sight read faster?!

Playing slowly when you first sight read a piece allows you to focus on playing the right notes.

If you try to play too fast, you won't be able to really focus on much of anything and your time wasn't well spent.

A common challenge that all players face is thinking that the beginning of a piece will be like all of the rest of it, and often times it isn't. We can start out playing one tempo in the beginning, and then when we run into harder sections in the middle of the piece, we have to slow down.

You want to try and play everything at the same tempo as this is an important part of the rhythmic structure of the piece...so start out slower than you think that you need to be, just to make sure any faster or more challenging sections won't derail you and make you have to stop playing.

Playing slowly...isn't the only thing to focus on when you're sight reading, so let's find out what the other areas are that need your attention so you can really grow in your reading abilities.

Step 5: Tip #4 What Other Areas Need Your Focus When You're Sight Reading

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Notes are the first thing that you want to concentrate on getting right and remember that the best way to do that is by playing slowly.

You want to continue playing slowly because there are a few other things to bring into focus besides just the notes.

We have to count each measure correctly too, which means that we have to be aware of our rhythm: time signature, what types of notes we are counting in the piece, and what types of rest we have included as well.

Next, we need to look at other things, such as dynamics - how loud or soft we're supposed to play; articulations such as accents, slurs, and dotted notes; and then even verbal instructions written in the music.

Notice that notes and rhythm are the most important, especially when you first start sight reading. As you get better at it, you'll actually be able to focus on all of these at the same time, but give yourself plenty of time, in the beginning, to develop your skills well so they help you accomplish this fun part of piano playing.

Are you ready to get together with me at your keyboard and do some sight reading together? Make sure you watch the video in the next step as I'll give you some great free resources for sight reading material that you can access online...so grab your computer too!

Step 6: Come Practice With Me!

This video goes over what we've discussed here in the lesson plus I'll give you several great online resources for additional music specifically geared towards helping you sight read better.

You'll want to make note of the different sites I show you online so you'll know what samples to start with according to your level of playing and sight reading; including beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.

I also go through a couple of these with you to show just how easy they are and how to apply the tips in this lesson at the keyboard, so you can practice with me.

Sight reading is a fun, challenging, and very special part of playing the piano and making music. It can help you learn traditional music faster as well as improve your improvising skills and let you play your own music one day.

Including it in your playing each day will be one of the most beneficial boosts you can do for your own growth in your playing, so make sure you take advantage of these resources so you'll have plenty of music to read through and be able to watch your skills grow!

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