What is sight reading?
Sight-reading is the ability to take a page of music you’ve never seen before and play it in time and with the correct notes and expression. It is a valuable essential skill for all players – beginners and advanced. The better your sight reading skills, the more pieces you can tackle and the more enjoyment you will get out of playing. However sight reading can be notoriously difficult – in many cases players may even think their difficulty with sight reading means they can’t really read music, even though they have a grasp of standard music notation.
Why is sight reading important?
- Sight reading is part of the music grade exams – improving your skills will improve your overall score or grade
- Sight reading makes playing fun – you can tackle new pieces with confidence
- Get together with other players and tackle new pieces together
- Children in particular get very frustrated and discouraged when they cannot read new music, even simple tunes, although they have worked hard and practised
- Opening up a book of music and tackling new pieces is rewarding, relaxing, and entertaining – we could all do with improving our sight reading skills so that we can tackle a much wider repertoire
Why is sight reading so hard to learn?
Just as every child learns to read differently, and requires a range of sources to help, the same is true of sight reading. And it is a difficult skill: let’s take a look at what you have to do. If you play the piano or keyboard, you have to learn to read to lines of music at once, in two clefs, each line will have different notes and rhythms, and each hand must work independently. But reading the notes is not enough – there is the timing, the expression….. it sounds impossible doesn’t it? In a half hour lesson with a teacher, when you have to fit in work on new pieces, scales, aural tests, theory, it is no wonder that there is little time to work on this skill too.
How can software help?
- Interactive – in some packages you get instant feedback on whether you played the right notes with the correct timing
- Rewarding – you can improve your score over time and monitor the progress you have made
- Fun – many software packages have pieces with built-in backing tracks so you can play along with the band or orchestra while improving your sight reading skills
- Suitable for all abilities – most software comes with a range of pieces so beginners and advanced players can all benefit from the technology
- Practise when you choose – the software is always available and can enhance everything you learn in conventional lessons
- Invaluable if you are working for an exam and need to know if you are right – with limited lesson time this is almost as good as having a teacher on hand to help
- Graphical representations of your keyboard or guitar fretboard will show you which note to play next if you are stuck!
- Work at your pace – you can always slow the tempo of the software down to your level
Which sight reading software?
Many of the software packages we sell can be used very effectively to improve your sight reading skills, and often have other benefits besides: below we have summarised how each product might help – follow the links for more information. Whatever your price point, you will find we have a product to suit.
image – eMedia Piano Method Platinum
eMedia Piano Method Platinum is a piano learnig software package which covers all the foundations of piano playing and then has plenty of improver tools with interactive notation, ability to practise slowly and feeback to help correct your playing errors so it is perfect to help you generally play better and specifically to improve your sightreading skills. Plus it has instant feedback so you can see straight away if you are playing the correct notes
image – Music Ace
Music Ace , Music Ace 2 and Music Ace Deluxe , perfect introduction to sight reading and theory skills for kids – learn note recognition, scales, harmony, rhythm, ear training with lots of games to motivate them. All the essential skills you need to be able to sight read.
More Sight Reading Tips
If you can, memorise a lot of tunes, phrases, etc. 99% of music comprises bits and pieces of stuff you probably already know. Once your fingers have learned a mass of material, they’ll respond when your eye spots a particular phrase, riff or chord shape.
Scales, arpeggios, chord shapes: make sure you’re totally fluent in all of these in all the keys you have learnt. Same reason: As soon as your eye recognises a particular scale pattern in a piece, your fingers will lock onto it without you having to think any further.
Play through masses of music – anything you can lay your hands on (this is where the software can help with the range of built-in music).
Use playalong tracks – either book and cd combinations or the software mentioned above. They force you to keep going whatever happens!
Try silent reading – ie take a piece of music and sit with it away from the piano, ‘read’ it through and try to hear everything in your head as you go through. You should eventually try to know what it sounds like without ever making a sound!
When you listen to music on CD or radio, try to visualise the dots on the page as you’re listening. Imagine a sort of music score scrolling past in your mind’s eye as you hear the sounds. This is really difficult to do to begin with, but if you keep at it you’ll be amazed at what you can “see”.