Sight Reading Musical Symbols

Sight reading is one of the most useful skills for a musician. The goal of sight singing is the ability to sing at first sight, with correct rhythm and pitch, a piece of music previously unknown to the performer.

Sight reading is one of the most useful skills for a musician. The goal of sight singing is the ability to sing at first sight, with correct rhythm and pitch, a piece of music previously unknown to the performer. Accomplishing that goal demonstrates that the music symbols on paper were comprehended mentally before being performed. In contrast, skill in reading music on an instrument often represents an ability to interpret music symbols as fingerings, with no way of demonstrating prior mental comprehension of the score.

Sight-reading musical symbols is the means by which we explore and eventually learn new repertoire. Since this is how we get the initial impression of each new work, it is crucial that our expertise in performing (decoding) these symbols be of the highest order. Playing wrong notes, rhythms, and phrasings preclude our experiencing the real sound of what the composer has written. Therefore, we get an erroneous first impression. This could result in the outright rejection of a new piece, or be the first step in a painful process of replacing wrong responses with correct one, since habits began forming with the first performance.

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Sight reading is a skill that has to be practiced separately from playing repertoire and it has to be practiced regularly or you will not improve. To improve your sight reading skills set aside at least 20 minutes each day to practice sight reading music you have not seen before.

Find sight reading materials. This may prove to be challenging, but it is the best way to go

Find sight reading materials. This may prove to be challenging, but here are some suggestions: Ask your piano teacher for materials. Hymnals are good resources. Ask your music/ choir director or choir master if you can borrow a hymnal. Otherwise you can purchase hymnals any shop nearby or online. Start by sight reading easy music. For example, beginning level piano method and repertoire books.

Often the problem with sight reading is really a problem with reading rhythms. You should practice clapping rhythms separately from playing pieces on the keyboard. It is advisable that you have a metronome and that you practice clapping rhythms along with the metronome. Free metronomes are readily available for tablets and smart phones and you can easily download and install them from the store.

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Establish your sight reading tempo. There is a tempo that you can sight read any music, no matter how difficult it is. This may be an extremely slow tempo at first; but nevertheless, discover what it is and generally practice sight reading at a slow tempo until you gain confidence.

Establish your sight reading tempo. There is a tempo that you can sight read any music, no matter how difficult it is. This may be an extremely slow tempo at first; but nevertheless, discover what it is and generally practice sight reading at a slow tempo until you gain confidence.

Begin by sighing reading music in keys with few accidentals such as C major, A minor, F major, D minor, etc. As you progress through a book or a collection, choose only the selections in the same key. For example, you could focus on sight reading only pieces in the same key on a specific day of practice. The following day, choose a different key and follow the sequence like that.

Before you begin sight reading the selection: look through the selection to discover any unusual aspects such as accidentals, challenging rhythms, etc. And ensure you choose a conservative tempo that can carry you on.

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As you are sight reading the selection be focus, keep your eyes on the music and try not to look at your hands. You should also keep your eyes active by make them move up and down within the measure on the current beat. Don't let your eyes be static by just looking at one place always remember to make them move. Make your eyes move ahead of your hands by one or two notes, maybe a whole beat if you can. An accomplished sight reader can look ahead several beats, even whole measures.

When sight reading, it is more important to keep the tempo steady than to play correct notes. If you have to, let one hand drop out or only play a few notes so you can keep the tempo steady. Imagine that you are playing with a group of musicians and if you stop playing everyone else will keep going, so you have to "keep up." This is why it is important to begin with a conservative tempo and with simple music.

Your knowledge of key signatures, scales and arpeggios (fingerings), and chords is definitely an influence on your ability to sight read keyboard music. So you should practice the scale and the arpeggio in the key of the piece you are going to sight read.


Your knowledge of key signatures, scales and arpeggios (fingerings), and chords is definitely an influence on your ability to sight read keyboard music. So you should practice the scale and the arpeggio in the key of the piece you are going to sight read. Two octaves up and down would be sufficient. Although, advanced pianists practice scales and arpeggios four octaves. In this regard, it is not so important to practice the scale and arpeggio fast -just practice it to review the notes and the fingerings.

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Also practice the cadence in the key of the piece you are going to sight read. If you have not practiced cadences before, you can find those resources to practice.

Gaining skill at sight reading keyboard music requires you to improve your visual memory and your ability to visually recognize basic musical forms such as skips and steps, intervals, triads, seventh chords, and scales.

The ability to sight-read fluently is a vital skill, enabling you to learn new pieces more quickly and play with other musicians. The more you practice the more you are able. Practice more and bring yourself up. It is obvious that this controlled approach to sight reading development will be an efficient tool in helping anyone to be a better, more relaxed, and confident musician, happily exploring the wonderfully large and varied literature of our instruments.

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