The Piano Guide Review

Ask the Piano Teacher 
by Georgia Zoe Schohl   

How to Sight Read Music

 Sight reading written music happens when you attempt to play music you never saw before for the very first time.  Some pianists love the challenge of sight reading music—and others despise it (especially if they have to learn how to sight read for a testing program!)   You may have heard of the piece before, but the music will be completely new to you as a performer.  People can get impatient with themselves if they expect that they can play the music  (especially if they are unfamiliar with the piece) perfectly on the first attempt.  So you can get inundated  if you try to play the music on the first try.  You can learn a few tricks or tips to improve your sight reading.

 1.  What is the key signature?   Be sure to remember  the individual  sharps or flats are listed in the key signature.   Keep in mind that these sharps or flats may or may not be in the piece you will be sight reading.  This is a must!

 2.  Next, note what key is the piece in?  Is it minor or Major?  You can find out by check the final chord (most of the time) at the end of the piece or excerpt.   Then, check and see what note you will begin on and what note or chord you will end on.  What hand starts on which key in the beginning measure? Which finger is on that key?  Check out the last chord and see how the piece ends.

 3.   Observe the time signature.  The measures will not make much sense to you if you do not know how many beats there are in each one of them.  If you do not know what kind of note makes up a beat, you will be lost. 

 4.  You should examine the piece for some changes in the melody line, such as accidentals (extra sharps or flats or cancellations) . Observe how the melody line(s) run—are there leaps or big stretches and skips, or are the notes written in steps?

 5.   Next, check out the left hand.  Does it carry the melody or does it accompany the right hand?   Note if there are any rhythmic patterns that are unusual or predictable.  That will help you play it with more ease.  Again, check for changes such as accidentals and unusual leaps or stretches.

 6.   Check the dynamics and expressions written on the music.  The more you observe these markings, the more musical your  playing will become.  Also note the tempo of the music, make your playing as close to the original tempo as possible.  It is true that when many people sight read music quickly for the first time, they tend to make a few errors—so you may want to slow down.

 7.  To be an efficient sight reader you must be able to keep going even though you may be playing a few wrong notes.  Keep the rhythm steady as accurately as possible.  Don’t forget that later you can actually learn the piece and take it apart in sections so you can really learn it . Also, you have to keep picking up different pieces and styles of music and play through them.  Do it often because you will become a much better pianist and sight reader. 

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