3 Tips for Sight Reading Music

Have you ever admired those musicians who can effortlessly launch into a piece they’ve never played before? Sight reading is a useful skill for musicians to practice, and it can make learning a piece much easier and more enjoyable. Although it can be scary for beginners, these tips and a little practice will have you sight reading like a pro in no time.

Get the basics down

Knowing your time signatures and key signatures is the backbone of your sight reading. Familiarize yourself with and practice a wide variety of time signatures so that you’re ready to tackle any piece. Before you begin sight reading any piece, memorize the key signature and scan the page to see if it changes. You can then move on to practicing your scales and/or chords until you know them like the back of your hand. Try practicing guitar chords with this video:

Know your instrument

Once you’ve got the basics down, try playing your instrument without looking at your hands. Get to know the feel of your instrument’s keys/frets/fingerboard so that your eyes can stay glued on the piece. You can practice by closing your eyes or staring at a nearby object, then fully concentrating on just the feel of your instrument. Check out this person playing the Pirates of the Caribbean theme on the piano — blindfolded!!!

Play through your mistakes

Some say the biggest difference between amateurs and pros is the ability to play through your mistakes. This point is especially important in sight reading, which is almost never going to be perfect the first time you play a piece. Whatever you do, don’t stop the music! Just keep the time going and let the mistake go. It’s much easier to cover up a wrong note than a slip in rhythm. Play like nothing happened, and it’s almost guaranteed nobody will notice. Watch Wilhelm Kempff slip up, yet keep playing “Moonlight Sonata”:

Like almost any other skill, you’ll need to continuously practice your sight reading in order to improve. But if you do keep it up, you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment and be able to pick up any piece in the world – immediately!

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Amy Jiang has a passion for writing and for discovering new talented music artists, especially in her favorite genre R&B/Soul. She loves to dance and bake, while listening to great music.

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