Improving your sight-reading is not just about getting a good score in an examination. It enables you to derive more pleasure from your playing through discovering new music and broadening your repertoire. It also opens up more possibilities for enjoying making music with others.

improving your sight-reading

As with any skill, it requires practice and can be challenging to develop. The following are some tips to help make sight-reading less daunting and practising it more enjoyable!

  1. Use pieces you like – Instead of playing through numerous dry exercises, find pieces you want to play and treat your sight-reading as a journey of discovery. There are many collections of varying styles on sites like the Petrucci Music Library which are suitable for sight-reading. Examples at an intermediate to advanced level include Bach Chorales, Czerny Studies, Schumann’s Album for the Young and Bartok’s For Children.
  2. Keep your eyes on the score – Avoid looking at your hands and focus on the score. You can test your ability to do this with this diagnostic test and this simple, but effective device can also be useful for training your eyes.
  3. Read ahead – Our natural tendency is to look at the notes we are currently playing, but this leaves no time to prepare the next move. Reading ahead is one of the most important skills in sight-reading. A good place to start is to use natural resting places e.g. long chords, phrase endings, fermatas as opportunities to look ahead. You can also use this app which provides an interactive way to develop this skill.
  4. Keep going – Sight-reading is different to practising because it requires us to play a piece straight through, without stopping to correct errors. A more flexible attitude is required to keep going no matter what, even if this means accepting wrong notes and botched details in favour of maintaining rhythmic cohesion!
  5. Identify and simplify – There’s usually not enough time to read every note when sight-reading. Instead, try to recognise harmonic figures and patterns and simplify where necessary. The best sight-readers are not the ones who play all the notes accurately, but those who know which notes to leave out in order to play in time!

If you’d like to learn more about how to go about practising sight-reading, then you may be interested in our upcoming online workshop – please see further details below!

How to Practise Sight-Reading on Your Own

Online Workshop – Wednesday 19th @ 15:00 BST

In this online workshop, Ken Johansen shows how to choose repertoire you enjoy and use it to develop your sight-reading skills. The workshop will include demonstrations of fundamental techniques using examples of varying styles and difficulty. Click here to book your place or click here to find out more about how our online workshops work.

Further Reading & Resources

  • Introduction to the Advanced Sight-Reading Curriculum – Click here to view a general introduction to the curriculum
  • Eye Training – Click here to view the introduction to the first part of the Advanced Sight-Reading curriculum
  • The Joy of Sight-Reading – Click here to read a collection of free articles by Read Ahead developers Travis Hardaway and Ken Johansen on the Online Academy
  • Read Ahead – Sight-reading exercises for elementary to intermediate levels on the Online Academy – Click here for level 1, click here for level 2, click here for Level 3 or click here for Level 4