Improving Sight Reading as a Beginner Musician

When it comes to reading music quickly and effectively, the ability to sight read is fundamental. Think of it like learning to read a book as a child. It may have been difficult at first, but over time, you will have quickly learned to recognize letters, sounds and words. Similarly, reading music is something that needs continuous practice – especially when you also have the dynamics and tempo changes to keep in mind!

For starters, you always want to start scanning the track and noting armor, beat, tempo, melodic patterns and overall structure. Look forward to any rhythm disturbances or complexities, so you are not be caught off guard. If this seems too overwhelming at first, do not worry! As an absolute beginner, reading-only and understanding the rhythm and notes is a great place to start. Eventually, you work your way to the recognition of the smallest details in the song.

Here are some tips to consider when sight reading is practiced.

1. Maintain a steady pace.

Make sure you are always counting, even when you have a break. You should know where you are in the song at any given time. Even if you can’t play with 100% accuracy of pitch, tempo and rhythm should be maintained at all costs. While practicing, students often “Woodshed” notes first and then strive for the correct rate. This can be very harmful in the long run because the rhythmic precision should always take precedence over pitch. This is a good time to practice with a metronome.

2. Performing errors.

Just before you start playing, you must promise yourself that you will get to the end of the piece, without ever stopping. People like sight reading done without interruption, even if it goes a little wrong in the middle. So if you make a mistake, just keep going, as if playing in an orchestra. Serious students tend to seek perfection and become dissatisfied if they can not play an error free passage. To efficiently notation, however, we must temporarily set aside our goal of perfection and accept the possibility of errors.

3. Breathing.

For wind and brass players, it is easy to make mistakes simply because you can run out of air in the middle of a phrase. Because you can not plan breathing in advance, you should learn to detect the end of a phrase.

4. Stay focused.

Keep your eyes on the notation at all times. Never look away from the page. Keep your head and body still.

5. Relax!

Tight muscles are more difficult to play music, so try to keep your fingers, hands, arms and body as relaxed as possible.

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