The acquired skill of fluent sight-reading means that in an orchestral situation your music reading becomes completely ‘second nature’. This then allows the musician to concentrate on fitting in and mixing their musical sounds with the musicians around them – whether that’s with the other colleagues in your section or different instrumentalists of the orchestra that your part fits with. Equally, it may mean playing an exposed or completely solo passage of music confidently and accurately on any percussion instrument on the very first run-through.
For successful orchestral playing, this skill is essential. It could be the distinction you need in order to be successfully employed by an orchestra (e.g. if you are an ‘extra player’ or ‘on trial’).
Audition for a position in an orchestra:
If your sight-reading is accurate, confident, fluent & musical, then a panel for an audition will notice immediately and will definitely consider your application more favourably to someone with lesser skills in this area. Sight-reading is an everyday occurrence in a classical Symphony Orchestra.
Recording sessions are probably one of the ultimate sight-reading tests.
Be it a classical/film music session or a very short music recording for a TV/radio advertisement, musicians generally receive the sheet music very shortly before the session is due to start.
Recording generally takes place on only the 2nd or 3rd attempt, thus session musicians must be able to sight-read whatever is placed in front of them at a perfect level in a very short amount of time. The music is generally more advanced than Grade 8 level, and can sometimes be extremely hard, and yet musicians at this level are expected to, and will, sight-read this music perfectly from virtually the first attempt.
This is an incredible skill and would be something that even an experienced & talented musician would still need to practise.