Sightreading: Just DO It!

A lot of students approach sightreading a little like they approach vegetables – “Do I HAVE to?!?” And the answer is … well, it depends on what you want to be able to do as a pianist. If all you want to do is be able to play a few of your favorite pieces, then by all means skip your sightreading. BUT if you want to be able to

Master new pieces quickly

Learn music from any period, style, or genre

Accompany singers or other instrumentalists in church or other settings

Sit down at the piano and play any music you want

… Then yes, you really do have to learn to sightread!

For those of you who aren’t (yet) musicians, sightreading means playing a brand-new piece of music without ever having seen or practiced it. Being a good sightreader unlocks so many possibilities for any pianist! As with any skill, though, it takes consistent practice to learn. There’s no shortcut or “magic word” – you just have to DO it. Practicing a few minutes a day of sightreading will pay off quickly!

At the Piano Academy, students focus on their sightreading skills in the pass-off room. Not only are they assigned new pieces every week from their method books, they also spend time each week practicing sightreading from the Four Star Sight Reading and Ear Test series. These books are great for use in lessons or at home! Each level (Prep level through level 10) has carefully graded exercises that guide students through principles of good sightreading and aural skills. Intermediate students are also assigned sightreading at home from the Children’s Songbook, hymnbook, or classical anthologies.

We’re especially loving the sightreading training in the Piano Marvel software we’ve recently added to the computer lab! Piano Marvel uses the Standard Assessment of Sight Reading (SASR) to evaluate a student’s sightreading abilities. The computer, connected to a digital keyboard, measures a student’s accuracy in notes and rhythm and gives them a score as they play progressively more difficult excerpts. It’s amazing to see how students get better each time they take the test!

There are lots of great ways to practice sightreading – time to go do it! If you need a little motivation, here’s one of my personal favorites….