Tips for successful sight-reading:
- Scan through the whole piece, identify potential problem areas and work them through in your head very quickly.
- Go back to the beginning and very carefully look at the time signature, key signature and tempo of the music (you are now ready to start).
- Choose a good speed (not too fast), mentally count yourself in and then start positively, confidently and rhythmically.
- Now that you have started – DO NOT STOP! Keep going in tempo and ignore any errors that you may make.
- The absolute key to successful sight-reading is that you must purposely read the music a small distance ahead of which you are actually playing.
- Each individual needs to experiment as to how far ahead they can comfortably read. For instance, I try to read approximately 2 beats ahead of where I’m playing.
- We all need to trust and also train our instant short-term memory in order for this to work.
- When the music is more than 1 stave long, mistakes often happen when moving onto the new stave, because often ones eyes get stuck at the end of the stave looking at the music being played at that moment, instead of reading a little bit ahead and moving onto the next stave.
- The technique of reading music a small amount ahead may feel uncomfortable to begin with, but if practised on a regular basis will become instinctive when presented with a new piece of music.
- Try to perform the music as much as possible. Imagine you are in a prestigious concert hall with the best symphony orchestra in the world or playing with your favourite band in Wembley Stadium.
Sight-reading practise - time required
Contrary to common belief, practising sight-reading does not take much time. This is since you should only play each example once (or maybe twice in order to reflect on a few mistakes that could have been avoided). However, it is incredibly important to practise this skill on a regular basis, and of course with relevant examples for your level.
Undoubtedly it is vital to practise sight reading in preparation for a specific circumstance, i.e. examination/audition, nevertheless it is equally important, if not more so, that it is practised regularly so as to improve this area of an individual’s playing.
Either way, this website is full of sight-reading examples for every student/pupil/teacher/professional to practise.
Aside from the scales/rudiments and aural sections of a graded instrumental examination, sight-reading is often the element of the exam the candidate dreads the most. This is often because the student has not had enough practice at this part of the exam, either in their lesson with their teacher (due to lack of time – I unfortunately found this with my teaching preparation) or within their individual practice time.
Sight-reading can be practised easily and successfully at home, however, to ensure constructive practice is achieved, the student needs to have relevant examples available to them – often not the case.
This website provides many relevant examples of sight-reading rated at levels that the student can expect to receive in their exam.