5 Sight-Reading Tips for Becoming a Master Instrumentalist

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Roughly 5% to 10% of adults in the United States play a musical instrument. Since you’re reading this article, whether you’re an adult or under 18, we’re willing to bet that you practice an instrument at least moderately.

While most people that know their way around a musical instrument can learn how to play various kinds of music with practice, few can proficiently play a piece without ever having played it before.

This is what the music world calls “sight-reading”.

There are several sight-reading tips that exist which can give musicians an edge in rehearsal and competition settings. Here are the ones that we think can have the deepest impact on your success.

1. Know-How to Perform Across Several Time Signatures

Sight-reading a song that’s written in a time signature you’ve never performed is a recipe for a disaster. That’s why practicing music across several time signatures is among the most valuable sight-reading tips that we can give you.

Tricky time signatures like 6/8 time should be among the top rhythm patterns that you experiment with given how much it differs from common time signatures like 4/4 time.

2. Take Time to Examine Your Music

In competition, you’re almost always allowed time with your music before you’re asked to start playing. If you have 10 or 15 minutes with a song, take that opportunity to read through it thoroughly.

As you do, write notes on your music to help you identify difficult sections. Be sure to also circle any dynamic notes since expressing elements like dynamics when playing can have a profound impact on your competition success.

3. Hear It in Your Head

Practiced musicians should be able to look over a piece and make out what it sounds like in their heads. By doing this once or twice before performing, you’ll give yourself more context on how well you’re doing when you play through the tune.

If you’re not able to hear a piece in your head by reading, don’t worry. This is a skill that comes with a familiarity of keys and musical notes, which comes with practice.

4. Push Through Mistakes

There is nothing worse than playing through a sight-reading piece, realizing that you’re not doing well and throwing in the towel.

From a practice perspective, giving up on a sight-reading piece doesn’t do you any favors since you won’t be able to stop when competing. From a competition perspective, stopping a sight-reading piece may disqualify you or will substantially lower your score.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

All of the sight-reading tips in the world aren’t going to help you get to where you want to go if you don’t practice sight-reading regularly. Going to jamesguthrie.com or public domain repositories to find sheet music and sight-reading the pieces as if you were in competition will improve your musical confidence substantially.

As you practice sight reading music, explore pieces from different genres to get the most out of your rehearsal time.

With Our Sight-Reading Tips, You’ll Be a Master in No Time

Implementing sight-reading tips into your practice will help you become better at the medium. While practicing can be cumbersome, believe us when we say that with a little bit of effort, you’ll be sight-reading like a professional in no time.

If you’re hungry for more content related to music, pop culture and more, keep reading the latest write-ups on our blog.