How long should I practise sight-reading for?

As a general guide, I recommend you practise sight-reading for at least:

  • 5 minutes a day, if you’re a beginner
  • 10 minutes a day, if you’re intermediate
  • 15 minutes a day, if you’re advanced.

There is no time limit though. Sight-read for as long as you wish and stop when you feel your focus waning.

 

FOR MORE INFO >> How to Practise Sight-Reading & Improve Faster

General Questions on Sight-Reading

Sight-reading, also called a prima vista (Italian meaning “at first sight”), is the ability to read and perform a piece of music you’ve never seen or played before. This could be a piece you’ve never played before, a piece you’ve heard before but not played before, or a piece you’ve played but haven’t committed to memory.

 

FOR MORE INFO >> What Is Sight-Reading?

If you’ve been playing piano for a while and you still can’t sight-read music, it could be due to several reasons:

  • you don’t practise sight-reading on a regular basis
  • you memorise the moment you learn a new piece and don’t use the score
  • you always learn pieces hands separately
  • you lack music theory knowledge
  • you lack technical skills

 

FOR MORE INFO >> 10 Habits to Avoid When Reading Music & How to Break Them

Sight-reading is hard because of the number of complex tasks you have to accomplish simultaneously in real-time. When sight-reading, you have to:

  • produce the notes,
  • produce the rhythm,
  • stay in time,
  • remember the key signature,
  • coordinate the hands,
  • look ahead,
  • etc.

It is especially demanding on keyboard instruments because of having two or more lines of music to read and play.

How-to Questions on Sight-Reading

To read two clefs at the same time, you need to be able to read both clefs fluently as well as play both hands together. Work on your note-reading and on coordinating your hands with hand independence and two-handed rhythm exercises.

 

FOR MORE INFO >> How to Sight-Read Both Clefs at the Same Time & FREE Exercises

To sight-read like a pro, you need to have a good knowledge of music theory, a sound technique and good aural skills. To become a sight-reading expert, keep developing your skills in these three key areas while practising sight-reading on a regular basis.

 

FOR MORE INFO >> How to Become a Sight-Reading Expert

                               How I Became a Good Sight-Reader

To read ahead when sight-reading, learn to play without looking down at your hands, read chunks of music at a time (not individual notes) and use your working memory to always remember what you just played so you don’t need to look back.

 

FOR MORE INFO >> How to Look Ahead when Sight-Reading

Questions on Sight-Reading Practice

As a beginner, aim to play the notes and the rhythm accurately. Play the whole piece at the same tempo by starting at a tempo that will enable you to play the notes and the rhythm accurately without having to slow down. Go as slowly as you need to and keep your eyes on the music so that you can always read ahead.

 

As a more advanced sight-reader, aim to also play musically by following all the dynamics and expressive markings.

If you’re just starting out, I recommend you use graded sight-reading books or graded repertoire books because these are progressive and offer a structure to follow. If you’ve been practising sight-reading for a while, use sets of pieces or sheet music by your favourite composers or composers you are curious about.

Ideally, you should only sight-read a piece once. But if you have trouble sight-reading the piece at a slow tempo, either try again slower or choose an easier piece.

 

Questions on Sight-Reading Resources

The best sight-reading books out there are Piano Sight-Reading: A Fresh Approach, Sight-Reading Exercises Op.45, Improve Your Sight-Reading and How to Blitz Sight Reading.

 

FOR MORE INFO >> The Best Sight-Reading Books for Piano – Review & Buying Guide

To improve your sight-reading, I recommend you use several books such as a sight-reading book (like Piano Sight-Reading: A Fresh Approach) a method book and a graded repertoire book (like the Essential Keyboard Repertoire series). Look for books that are progressive and provide a structure to follow.

 

FOR MORE INFO >> The Best Sight-Reading Books for Piano – Review & Buying Guide

The best sight-reading apps out there for iOS are: Read Ahead, Note Quest and Piano Marvel.

 

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    Emmanuelle Fonsny

    Emmanuelle Fonsny

    Emmanuelle Fonsny, or Manu, is a piano and violin teacher, composer and accompanist based in Sydney, Australia. She is passionate about sharing her love of music and her sight-reading and practice tips to help other pianists become more confident sight-readers.

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