Learn piano sight reading

learn piano sight reading

11. Sight Reading¶

“Sight Reading” has been used loosely by many beginner students to mean playing compositions that have not been memorized, by looking at the score. These compositions may have been played before and the melodies may already be familiar. The correct definition is reading unfamiliar music that had not been practiced before, and it is the topic of this section. It means playing unfamiliar music at the correct speed and is a skill that is distinct from the mere ability to figure out the notes in order to learn a new composition. Beginning students should be taught reading first, then memorizing, and then sight reading. At advanced levels, sight reading involves the application of basic music theory, such as chord progressions and harmonies, and interpretation of the music. Here are the basic rules for sight reading (also, see Richman):

  1. Keep the eyes on the music; do not look at the keyboard/fingers. Glance at the hands occasionally when it is necessary for large jumps. Try to develop a peripheral vision towards the keyboard so that you have some >e. Playing (Wide) Chords, Finger/Palm Spreading Exercises and f. Practicing Jumps above; therefore, you should practice the jump maneuvers in conjunction with the sight reading practice.
  2. Play through mistakes and make them as inaudible as possible. The best way to do this is to make it sound as if you had modified the music – then the audience does not know whether you made a mistake or changed it. This is why students with basic music theory training have such an advantage in sight reading. Three ways to make mistakes less audible are to keep the rhythm intact, maintain a continuous melody (if you can’t read everything, carry the melody and omit the accompaniment), and to practice simplifying those parts that are too complicated to sight read. The first thing that must be done is to eliminate the habits of stopping and backtracking (stuttering), at every mistake. The best time to develop the skill of not stopping at every mistake is when you begin your first piano lessons. Once the stuttering habit is ingrained, it will take a lot of work to eliminate it. For those with a stuttering habit, the best thing to do is to dec > C ‘s, then fill in the others, beginning with notes closest to the C ‘s.
  3. Look ahead of where you are playing; at least one bar ahead, but even more, as you develop the skill at reading the music structure. Get to the point where you can read one structure ahead. By looking ahead, you can not only prepare ahead of time but also anticipate flubs before they occur. You can also anticipate fingering problems and can avo >j. Establishing Permanent Memory, Mental Play ), some of the common structures that you encountered.

Keep adding to the “tricks of the trade” as you improve. Practice the art of scanning through a composition before sight reading it, in order to get some feel for how difficult it is. Then you can figure out ahead of time how to get around the “impossible” sections. You can even practice it quickly, using a condensed version of the learning tricks (HS, shorten difficult segments, use parallel sets, etc.), just enough to make it sound passable. I have met sight readers who would talk to me about some sections of a new piece for a while, then play through an entire piece with no trouble. I later realized that they were practicing those sections in the few seconds they had while they were distracting me with their “discussions”.

Gather several books with easy pieces. Because it is initially easier to practice “sight reading” with familiar pieces, you can use the same compositions to practice sight reading several times, a week or more apart. “Sonatina” books, Mozart’s easier sonatas, and books of easy popular songs, are good books for practicing. For the easiest pieces, you might use Beyer, the beginner books listed in c. Beginners: Age 0 to 65+ , or the easiest Bach pieces for beginners. Although you can develop a lot of sight reading skills with familiar pieces, you should also practice with pieces that you had never seen before in order to develop true sight reading skills. The most useful skill for help with true sight reading is sight singing, which we now discuss.

© Copyright 2014, Chaun C. Chang. Revision 700fa974 .

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