How Long Does it Take to be a Good Sight-Reader?

How long does it take to become a good sight-reader? Months? Years? A lifetime? Read this article to find out.


good at sight-reading


“How long does it take to become a good sight-reader?” “When will I be good at sight-reading?”


If you ask yourselves these questions, then it’s a sign that you’re human!


Because as human beings, we tend to focus all our attention on reaching goals but we sometimes forget to enjoy the journey in reaching those goals.


But the most rewarding part of working on goals is actually the process and the transformation we go through to accomplish those goals, not the achievement of those goals. Because when we do reach the goals, what happens? We immediately think of new goals to reach!


So rather than focusing on goals, focus on the journey.


This article is meant as a reminder that the process is as important, if not more important than the destination.


But to return to the question…


How long does it take to become a good sight-reader?

Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer on how long it takes to become a good sight-reader.


It all depends on how much time and effort you devote to reading music every day. If you only sight-read once a week, it’s going to take you much longer than if you sight-read every day.


Music is like a foreign language

Learning how to read music is like learning how to read a foreign language. You have to read lots of material every day before you can become fluent. You have to expose yourself to lots of rhythmic and melodic patterns, lost of different chords, and lots of different styles to become fluent. The only way to do that is by reading through large quantities of music.


And just like when you’re attempting to speak in a foreign language, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t worry about the mistakes you make when you sight-read.


Keep going and try to create music out of the dots on the page. If you can do that, then you can sight-read.


Sight-reading alone will only get you so far

Bear in mind that practising sight-reading alone will only get you so far. To become a fluent sight-reader, keep practising your instrument, keep developing your technique, practise your scales and arpeggios, learn your theory, etc. All of these skills combined will develop your musicianship and help improve your sight-reading ability.


READ MORE >> How to Become a Sight-Reading Expert


What will happen

I can’t tell you how long it’s going to take but what I can tell you is that it will take time. You won’t suddenly wake up as a good sight-reader able to sight-read any piece!


What will happen is that pieces that were once hard for you to sight-read will become easier, and as you keep practising sight-reading, you will gradually sight-read harder and harder pieces.


And even when you get to the stage where you can sight-read most things, you’ll still come across pieces that will give you a hard time, but that’s ok. It just means there is still room for improvement.


Enjoy the process

So instead of obsessing over the destination and how fast you want to get there, enjoy the process. Sight-reading should be fun. Find lots of music online or in second-hand stores that are manageable for you to sight-read and play through them. You’ll discover new pieces, new composers, new sounds, new styles.


Rather than ask yourself: “How long is it going to be until I’m a decent sight-reader?, ask yourself: “What do I need to do each and every day to become a good sight-reader?”


READ MORE >> For tips on how to practise sight-reading, see How to Practise Sight-Reading & Improve Faster.


Work on your weaknesses

To keep improving your sight-reading, keep pushing yourself and work on your weaknesses. For example, if you know you’re not comfortable sight-reading in certain key signatures, then try sight-reading pieces in those key signatures. Or if you’re not comfortable sight-reading fugues, then do that. That’s the only you’ll get better.


Final words

Remember to have fun with it and be kind to yourself. Pick pieces that are manageable for you to sight-read and go from there.


Happy sight-reading!


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    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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