Should I sight-read hands separately or hands together?

Try to always sight-read hands together. Having said that, if you’re a beginner and you’re still learning the treble and bass notes, consider starting hands separately and then hands together once you’re familiar with the notes in both clefs.


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

General Questions on Sight-Reading

When sight-reading, try to look at least one beat ahead which can mean looking several notes ahead, depending on the piece. To do this effectively, learn how to read groups of notes.


FOR MORE INFO >> How to Look Ahead when 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 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

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

Questions on Sight-Reading Practice

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.

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.

Try to practise sight-reading daily or as often as possible during the week. It is far more beneficial to practise five minutes a day every day than one hour once a week.


FOR MORE INFO >> Piano Sight-Reading 101

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.


Load More

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay up to date with all the latest content.

    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    You may also like...

    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.



    Follow Me

    On Instagram

    On Youtube

    Take the Quiz!