One of the absolute hardest things for me to learn was to sight-read on piano. It’s even harder for piano players since we’re the only ones with two clefs. I would always have to squint and look for hours on end in order to start playing a piece of music, even on the easy pieces!
I finally received a piano teacher who told me to stop what I was doing and showed me some interesting ways to sight-read before I developed my own tricks. I’m writing this article to share this knowledge with you so you don’t have to struggle like I did!
1. SIGHT-READ ON A DAILY BASIS
I know this one almost seems like a no-brainer, but it has to be said. Sight-reading becomes much easier if you do it on a daily basis. Here’s the trick: you don’t have to be at the piano to sight-read! There are plenty of apps and books that will help you improve your sight-reading without having to sit in front of the piano. I'd recommend searching "sight reading" in the app store for some free sight-reading apps.
I want to make a note that it’s best to sight-read in front of piano, however if you don’t have time to practice something new that day or you don’t have a piano at home, then you can do it on the fly as well!
2. READ EACH CLEF SEPARATELY
I want to reiterate what I said earlier: piano (including instruments such as organ, keyboard and clarinet) is the only instrument that has two clefs. This makes it a little more difficult for us piano players since we have to look at two staves instead of one.
Whenever you get a piece of piano sheet music, nine times out of ten it will have two clefs. Go ahead and read both clefs separately first and play with two hands separately.
This can help tremendously with pieces that are incredibly easy to ones that are really hard. When you feel like you’ve got both hands down separately, begin playing both hands together! This brings me to my next point:
3. PLAY SLOWLY STARTING OUT
I see so many people put a piece in front of them for the first time and they take a look and try to blast through it. Many times this results in countless mistakes and if you practice mistake after mistake, then your hands will get used to playing mistakes.
When you get a piece for the first time, SLOW DOWN! Remember the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race. When you’re playing a new piece, play it slow until you can play it at that speed with no mistakes. Then feel free to crank up the speed when you’re ready!
Sight reading is definitely one of the harder abilities to master on piano. I didn’t want to master this skill when I began playing and it truly hurt my abilities in the long run. Use these tips to become a sight-reading master and you’ll be one step closer to being a master pianist!
Lorenzo H. is a RockHome Instructor that specializes in piano, guitar, and voice in Denver, CO. He is a performer and educator that is passionate about spreading awareness on all the positive benefits music has to offer. Lorenzo also contributes to the popular music blog milehimusic.com.
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