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Sight Reading Tips

 Basking Ridge Piano Teacher

Bedmister Piano Teacher

Learning to sight read is simply a matter of persistence and practice. Here are a few tips on sight readingrecommended by piano teacher Barbara Ehrlich.

  • When you sit down to the piano and read the sheet music, speak the notes softly to yourself, and try to comprehend the overall composition without actually playing any part it. Examine the key signature, any changes of clefs, and the dynamics of the piece.

  • Check for sharps or flats, key changes, or changes in the time signature. If you are dealing with any large octave jumps, also beware of those. Double and triple check any note that isn't in the staff, that is to say below or above the staff. This will help enormously when sight reading.

  • Check your hand position. Keep your fingers well rounded! 

  • Don't drop your wrists!

  • Check your body position. Play from the hip!

  • Get a general idea of the chords and their structure and pattern. Then look for the trickiest part of the section, with difficult-to-digest parts such as a corner with complex accidentals. Try playing at a speed with which you can play even these tricky parts. If you’re having trouble, slow down. If you're still having trouble, focus on these parts with your piano teacher.

  • Try not to stop and restart when you make a mistake. This is key to sight reading. Just keep playing. You can go back later and work on that section. Keep an eye out for patterns while you are playing, and learn to read at least one measure ahead.

  • When you finish playing the entire piece or the entire section, repeat it until you feel comfortable with all the notes. After much practice and repetition, your fingers will “know” exactly how to run through the piece. Sight reading is a complementary skill to playing by ear.

  • Once you’ve mastered the fingering and the notes are easier to play, then you can approach the timing and rhythm of the composition. Keep practicing because the more you practice, the better your sight reading skills will become.

  • To help get the rhythm correct, count out loud, "One and two and three and four and..." Of course the numbers that you count depends on the piece. Use a metronome while you practice to keep your fingers at a continuously correct speed and timing. You can even read the music notes without playing the piano. Commit the piece to memory. You can move your fingers on a table as if playing the piano. You will find that over time this may become second nature.

  • Sight reading involves playing continuously; don't stop as if you were practicing to perfect the piece. Just keep playing until you're done!

Piano Teacher Bedminster
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