Sight reading is the act of playing through a never before seen piece of music. It’s a key skill in learning any instrument. It just happens to be especially difficult with the piano, which has a unique set of difficulties. Being able to play through pieces and passages quickly and early is skill that will help you as you practice.
Even if you aren’t playing perfectly immediately, you’ll lay down a foundation for practice.
1. Listen. Listen to yourself play as you sightread. It can be overwhelming to follow a new score and still, this is music. So training your ear is as important as it is training your figure. After you’ve sightread through once, listen to the piece along with a recording while following closely along with the score. If anything surprises you or is interesting, this will be great information for future sight reading.
2. Skim the entire piece before you play. Note any rhythms, key changes, codas and any other tricky notations that may be marked on the score. You’ll want to notice time signatures and tempo changes especially
3. Rhythm is more important than notes. Keep a steady tempo. When you practice sight reading skip notes if you have to catch up. Imagine you’re playing with another player who will continue through. This will prevent the instinct to rewind frequently
4. Voicing. Look for the melody and bass lines. If necessary, it’s okay to drop middle notes as you site read
5. Music theory. Chord progressions and voice leading are helpful. What’s voice leading? It’s the movement of notes within chords. Imagine each note is a singer with their own melodic harmonies
5. Practice sight reading regularly. Even if it’s only a few bars or a few minutes in every practice session, make a habit of sight reading.
6. Have fun and relax. Stay positive. Have a great attiude
7. Look for patterns. As you play, glance at the measure. If you can spot a chord ahead of time, it’ll help you know where you’re headed.
8. Collaborate. Piano duets, accompaniments, and playing along with records are great ways to force yourself to read music more often.
9. Read through pieces with one hand or the other.
10. Is the composer familiar? Knowing the typical sounds, chords and styles that a composer uses can aid in knowing the direction of the piece even before you’ve played
11. Familiarize yourself with the keyboard. Get to the point where you can almost always play without looking at your hands. When we memorize we tend to give ourselves the chance to look at hour hands more. For reading, we’ll want to focus on the music as much as possible
12. Read through pieces you know. While this isn’t technically sight reading, being able to read and follow a score is a key part of learning to play new music quickly.
13. Sight read very easy and simple music. Even if it’s way below your full capabilities, easier music will be very accessible to a sight reader.
14. The metronome is your friend and enemy. Practice occasionally with a metronome. Get used to the feel of a steady beat. Most of the time, you’ll want to hear the notes and your own playing so keep metronome use limited.
15. Read ahead