Improve at Sight-reading





Introduction: Improve at Sight-reading

Whether your instrument is the piano, oboe, drums, or your voice, sight-reading is an essential skill for a musician to have. This Instructable will teach you how to improve your sight-reading skills on your instrument.

Step 1: Commit and Learn the Basics

The first step to improving at sight-reading is committing to consistent practice. A good starting point is to practice fifteen minutes on sight-reading every day.

Before you can start sight-reading through the Mozart symphonies, though, you must know the basics of reading music. Kevin Meixner presents the basics in a written article format in this website, and Ricci Adams' helped me to test out of Theory I and II in my freshman year of college. But perhaps the best source is someone you know who is an experienced musician: your band director, piano teacher, and choir director will all be more than happy to talk with you about music.

Step 2: How to Practice

When choosing material to sight-read, don't choose material that is very hard at first. Always start your practice session with a piece that you can play at the written tempo without much difficulty. Once you have played through that as a warm-up, move to something that requires a little more concentration.

Always take the piece at a tempo that is comfortable for you and do not stop playing, even if you make a mistake. If you are in an audition, the judge will not want you to stop playing just because you've messed up.

Step 3: Tips

-Make sure your music is where you can see it comfortably. There is too much to concentrate on without having to worry about whether you can see the music.

-Use a metronome! It isn't just for drummers. Using a metronome will encourage you to keep going when you make a mistake.

-Learn scales! You must practice scales every day. Not only do scales help you get familiar with your instrument, scales appear everywhere in music (eg: Joy to the World is just one big major scale at the beginning). Once you can play scales, you can recognize them in music and it makes sight-reading tons easier.

-Finding sight-reading material can be difficult, but be creative. Read out of a hymnal, a piano book, a band workbook, anything!

-Do not get discouraged when you make a mistake. It's always tough when you first get started, but once you get the hang of it it can be quite fun.

I hope you enjoy the music you make.



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    How do you explain to someone what a "partial" is if he/she has little technical knowledge of music, brass instruments, etc?  I just found out about them a few years ago after playing piano all my life.  I thought to myself, "partial what?  what is it a part of?  Playing trumpet now, I know what they are, but I still can't explaiin them!

    I didn't really find this helpful since I am a busy student and cannot manage to practice sight reading every day! lol...I play the clarinet and am trying to branch out to piano and violin. My sight reading sucks!!! I want to get better and will at least attempt to follow your instructions when I get a little more time on my hands!!!!!!! I also have a sight reading and concert contest coming up. Wish me luck! Thanks for trying to help us strugglers!

    I've tried to learn to read for years. I have ADD. I get to the point of knowing where the notes are and then I just can't make the rhythm and notes work together! It's SO frustrating! I'll try your system and see if it helps.

    4 replies

    i've played piano for 3 years, and i stil suck at sight reading! don't worry!! you'll get better with practice! do you play anything??

    Apparently not. lol. I thought I played Violin, Guitar and drums, but hey, I can't read so phooey.

    Sorry! I didn't mean to insult you! I just mean that even after I've played piano for 3 years, I still need to work on sight-reading!

    Not responding to you— sorry!! You didn't insult me at all... I just feel "left out" a lot as a non reader... it's a personal thing, lol. I appreciate your comments and input. :—)


    Great tips, but you forgot the most important part: the only way to get better at sight reading is to do it literally every time you practice. It sucks at first, but you'll improve quickly just so long as you do it every day. This is especially true for brass instruments-- I play the tuba-- because for each valve combination there are many partials, and being able to pick out specific partials without chipping notes is an essential skill for a brass player. My suggestion is to pick up a cheap book of etudes and read one of them every time you practice. That's what I did, and before the month was out I was more or less proficient.

    One of the most important parts of sight reading is learning how to read ahead of what you are actually playing at that moment. That is, playing one bar while reading the next bar at the same time. Takes quite a lot of concentration at first but with practice becomes second nature.

    Good instructable! One thing to remember when sight-reading is not just the notes, but their duration. There are a lot of pieces with tricky, unexpected syncopation, and often you're just five little pixels away from getting off the beat. Different publishers write the same rhythm using completely different notation. These sorts of pieces are favorites in auditions, because it shows them who pays attention the most.

    Great instructable! Now all i need to do is remember how to play piano!

    3 replies

    Ditto that. My mate's giving me his keyboard tomorrow, so I should get on that soon.

    dude, you got this. that website plus a quick search of scale fingerings is all you will ever need to know.

    thanks for the positive comment.

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