Why I Sight-Read

Why do I sight-read? Why would anyone sight-read? Why do some people sight-read while others don’t? And why should you sight-read?


the reason I sight-read




The other day I was thinking to myself, “why do I sight-read?”


I realized that it’s something I’ve never talked about so I thought I would share a little bit about why I sight-read as it might shed some light on why some people sight-read and why others don’t. And why you may want to sight-read or not.


What’s interesting is that I never really intentionally thought of learning sight-reading. It’s not like one day I woke up and thought, “OK, from today I’m going to learn how to sight-read! I’m going to do 5 minutes a day!”


No, it didn’t happen that way.


I think it’s something that I just started to do. I don’t think I even knew what I was doing. I was just exploring.


I would practise the pieces for my lessons and then, from what I remember, I would just try other pieces.


Usually, my pieces were inside a book, which is quite uncommon these days. Usually, people just print music off the web so they’re on single sheets of paper. But in those days, you bought books with lots of pieces inside, and so after I practised my pieces I would usually just flip through the pages and try some of the pieces.


And it was really out of curiosity. I was thinking, “what does this one sound like?” And, “I wonder if I can play it?”


I was curious about how a piece sounded but also curious as to whether I would be able to play it myself, so it was these two things that were driving me to explore.


Plus, I enjoyed producing new sounds. It’s not just that I wanted to know how it sounds because I probably could have just looked at the sheet of music and imagined how it sounds, but actually physically trying out the piece and producing the sounds. I think that’s what I really enjoyed and still enjoy today.


When I was trying out these pieces, it never bothered me if I played mistakes. The point wasn’t to sound amazing or to impress anyone. It was for me to just explore. And if I happen to make some mistakes, well, so be it!


Another thing is that I always tried pieces hands together. I think that’s key to how I became a good sight-reader. It’s because I always tried pieces hands together.


The thing is that when you try out just one hand, you don’t get the full picture.


You have the melody, you have the harmony or other melodies. You only really get the full picture when you put the hands together and I wanted to get the full picture. So that’s what I did.


Now you may wonder, why didn’t I just stick to my pieces?


I could’ve done that. I could’ve just practised the pieces that my teacher gave me and then call it a day but I guess that part of me wanted more. I wanted to explore other pieces.


I’ve never enjoyed just playing 3-4 pieces for a very long time. It doesn’t bring me joy. I need to keep learning new pieces and hearing new sounds and keep being challenged. Although I did the pieces for my lessons, I always wanted to do other things besides that.


I understand that not everyone is like that. Some people are happy to just stick to the pieces they’re given and they don’t even think beyond that. They’re just happy polishing and mastering their pieces.


I have a close relative who learned the piano. She’s always been happy to just play her pieces and to master them. For her, the joy is to just play a handful of pieces really well. And she’s happy just playing the same pieces over and over. She doesn’t get tired of it. Whereas for me, I can’t do that. I need to keep doing new things.


There’s nothing wrong in being one way or another. It’s for you to figure out what kind of person you are, whether you are okay just sticking to your pieces and polishing them, or whether you prefer exploring.


If you’ve been playing the same pieces for a while and you don’t have a lot of motivation and you’re a bit bored then it might be an indication that you need to go out and explore a bit. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing that. In fact, I think it’s great. That’s how I became a good sight-reader, just through exploring pieces after pieces.


As long as this exploring doesn’t distract you too much from the work you’re meant to be doing for your lessons because otherwise, your teacher might not be too happy! But feel free to talk to your teacher and say, “I’ve been a bit bored with this piece. Can we do something else?” I think it’s okay to do that.


In a nutshell, I sight-read because it brings me joy. It allows me to explore lots of different pieces and lots of different styles and composers and it keeps my practice interesting. And that’s what I enjoy.


I’m not afraid of making mistakes because, for me, the goal of playing music is just to be surrounded by sounds. It’s never been about sounding perfect.


It’s for you to decide. How do you like to do things and what gives you joy? Do you think you’re more of an explorer or are you someone who likes to stick to their pieces?


READ MORE >> How I Became a Good Sight-Reader


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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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