As a piano teacher, the biggest goal from parents and students is they want to gain the ability to read sheet music with fluidity.
This skill comes from two major skills, note reading and rhythm reading and being able to set your sight-reading pace based on your skill level.
A more detailed answer, is gaining the coordination by practice to notice patterns, repeated notes, and rhythms by skimming music before starting to play and also setting a pace to look ahead to notice these patterns as well.
A non-music example:
If you were given a short story to read and answer comprehensive questions for a timed test, you would skim the story by speed reading through the prepositions and looking for the keywords that help to answer your questions in a timely manner.
How do you improve your sight-reading skills?
- Flashcards – memorize not just your note names, but where they are on the piano
- Warm-ups – whether you’re learning scales, arpeggios, chord cadences, Hanon, or Czerny, warm-ups not only get your fingers ready to practice, but also help your mind and fingers learn patterns and rhythms that are recognizable in your music.
- Practice Regularly – More important than focusing on sight-reading, focus on what you are doing each week to learn more during your practice. If you aren’t practicing enough to complete your assignments, you probably aren’t learning what you need to achieve your goals. The more you learn each week, you will inherently achieve a high level of reading.
- Practice Sight-Reading –
- If you are in a level 2 method book, practice sight-reading your old pieces, or any level 1 pieces. Remember, we’re trying to practice the skill of playing at first sight so anything at your level or higher will be too difficult to sigh-read. Set your metronome at a slow, slow beat, then try reading your selected song 1 time. You will probably make 2 or 3 mistakes. Try 2 more times, if you still are making mistakes, either the song you chose is too difficult, or you need to set a slower speed on your metronome. If you are still struggling, try reading just one line, or one hand. Overtime, you will improve your sight-reading skills and be able to read quicker and easier.
Or, there’s an app for that!
JoyTunes has an app called Piano Maestro. Piano Maestro really helps support sight-reading strength. It starts on a music journey at a very beginner level, if this is too easy, you can skip levels by passing a test. Each level includes multiple songs you play and need to pass to get to the next level. You play by setting your iPad on your music stand, select either keyboard connection, or acoustic piano, or directly on the iPad (I recommend on your piano) and it accurately recognizes the notes you play. Your notes and rhythm are evaluated as you play and stars are achieved to graduate to the next level.
Most important, you know you are not missing any rhythm or notes because you can see when your rhythm and notes are incorrect so its impossible to make any sight-reading mistakes!
It’s available only on iPads right now and for a small subscription fee, but it’s definitely worth it!
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