Sight-Reading – HOW TO START
The ability to play most of the music that is put in front of you – correctly – the first time you see it, is one of the most useful skills a musician can have. Like any other skill, the ability to sight-read doesn’t just happen – it is developed by practicing it specifically.
Sight-Readying PRE-Check List
- Visually scan the selection for key, key changes, repeats, DC’s and DS’s
- Look for bad chord jumps or accidentals
- In your “MUSICAL EAR” – SING the tempo, rhythm, phrasing, then the notes
- Use the “Absorb, Block, Vertical” technique to visually scan the selection (see 5 Steps to Practicing)
- You can even “cheat”! Don’t pull your bellows – and play the selection
- Identify the sections. Knowing these will be your “regrouping” points. If you lose your place or count – look for the next section – and jump back in.
- Use a metronome set “under” tempo and keep a good beat.
Try to have a wide variety of music on hand. A large fake book, old sheet music you have failed to learn, even a church hymnal will do. The idea is to have simple to intermediate level selections that you do not know – to practice sight-reading. AND you do not have to do the entire song – determine at least 16 to 32 bars to start. Over the months – you will be able to sight-read many more.
Set aside 10 to 15 minutes every time you practice to sight-read. The goal is to PRETEND someone offered you a $50 tip to play a song you do not know – but VOILA – the music is in your Fake book.
Sight-Reading RULES after you start:
- Play the selection straight through
- Do not stop to correct errors
- Do not slow down or speed up
- Honor all dynamics
- Watch for phrasing
After completing the sight-reading – you may want to do a little work on the song – particularly where you found you were stumbling. This will help you on the next selection you sight-read – if it has a similar part like you stumbled on.
If large portions are too difficult for you to sight-read, begin with something easier – even something that is rediculously TOO EASY (just set a faster tempo). Over a period of a few months, try to work up to reading more complex passages.
A perfect way to double-check yourself – is to tape or video the sight-reading. If it sounds like a well rehearsed solo – YOU HAVE ARRIVED!!! Now pick a harder song the next sight-reading session! If you are fumbling – you need to review steps 1 through 7 at the top – you need to slow it down, you need to be aware of where you hand is going to, etc.