Sight Reading 101 – 10 top tips for Sight Reading Like a Pro!

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Sight reading can be challenging for some people. Usually it’s because they’ve never been taught how to do it effectively! Beginning and self-taught piano students usually need some guidance in order to become excellent piano sight readers.

Watch this video or read the tips below to improve your sight reading right now!

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First step: Preparing to Sight Read.

Lots of people skip this step and just dive into reading the music. It’s important to take a moment before playing and get an understanding of the music before you begin to play- especially for beginner piano players.

Effective preparation is key to effective sight reading!

5 Things to Check Before You Begin Sight Reading:

  1. Check the Time Signature – knowing how many beats are in a measure is important for playing with steady beat and rhythm.
  2. Check the Rhythm Patterns – look over the music to see what rhythms are used, and tap or clap the rhythm to secure the overall rhythmic flow of the piece.
  3. Check the Key Signature – you need to know where the tonal center of the piece is and if you’re tracking any accidentals (sharps or flats.)
  4. Look for any fingering – this will help you set up your hand placement for the piece.
  5. Look for the distance between the notes – checking for neighbors and skips will ensure that you’re ready for any jumps or leaps when they show up.

Now that you’re prepared to sight read, there are a few things to do as you begin to play!

Ready, Set…Sight Read!

  1. Choose your tempo carefully – look for the hardest part of the piece and choose a speed that you will be comfortable when playing that part.
  2. Count yourself in – counting one measure before you play will set your pace and give you a chance to study the first measure before you play it.
  3. Read ahead – as you play the first measure, have a look at the second measure so you’re ready to play it when you get there. Keep your eyes moving to the coming measure as you play with a steady beat.
  4. Look for patterns – music often repeats rhythmic or note patterns, seeing these will help you to read with ease.
  5. Remember those sharps or flats! – thinking of where in your hand shape any accidentals will fall can set you up for success when playing these notes correctly.

Finally, I have 3 bonus tips for you to keep in mind to really ace your piano sight reading:

  1. Don’t stop!!! If you make a mistake, don’t stop to fix the mistake. If you do this you’ll have made 2 mistakes: the wrong note, and the extra note you played to fix it!
  2. Keep the beat steady. Once you’ve established your tempo, it’s important to keep that one speed for the whole exercise. Don’t speed up on easy parts or slow down on harder ones.
  3. Nail the ending! – It’s always a good idea to know how the piece will end, so you can finish it on a high note (haha, get it – high note! womp womp.)

Follow these tips and practice your sight reading every day, and you’ll see steady improvement and comfort when sight reading piano music!

I recommend Sight Reading Factory as an excellent sight reading tool.  It has many levels of reading and generates a new exercise every time!  Get it here, and use code Lisa88 to save 10% if you opt to get or renew an annual subscription.

Download the PDF version of this post – Sight Reading 101 – 10 top tips for Sight Reading Like a Pro!