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Sight Reading Tips: Developing Confidence at the Piano

Updated: May 8

woman stressed with hands on her temples

The question I get asked many times from my adult students is, "How do I get better at sight reading?" Imagine that you are at a cocktail party with a piano and someone hands you a piece of sheet music. You have a couple minutes to sit down, glance at it, and start playing! I know those nerves are kicking in! Your mind might go blank, you might imagine people judging you for your mistakes, your hands might start to sweat too. First of all, it is okay to have these feelings and doubts! Sight reading is a skill that takes time to develop, and with patience, can become more natural and less stressful of a process. Here are some tips for getting started!

  • Patterns, Patterns, Patterns

Like regular piano practice, sight reading is something that must be practiced consistently. You are looking for patterns in music and the more patterns you become familiar with, the more comfortable you will feel with sight reading new music. The key is to pick sight reading materials that are easier than your current piano reading level. This will prevent frustration and help you achieve more wins with your sight reading goals! Some books that I recommend for sight reading include:

ABRSM Sight reading books:

Paul Harris Sight reading

Diane Hidy/Snell Sight reading

These books listed provide sight reading exercises that are short! You could easily pick up any book and try to sight read. However, by focusing on small passages of 4-8 measures of an easier reading level, you can hone in on melodic/rhythmic patterns and details of the passage (articulation/dynamics).

  • Fundamentals Really Matter

For sight reading to be successful, having a firm grasp of the fundamentals matter greatly. Note naming on the staff, rhythmic values, and recognizing intervals are important in your pattern development and identifying patterns quickly. This will of course take time and patience, and in turn, build confidence! There are many apps out there now that you can quickly download and practice with at the click of a button. A few apps that I recommend include Tenuto, Rhythm Lab, Staff Wars, and Note Rush. The last two options are more catered to children, but can be fun for adults as well!

  • Enroll in a sight reading course

If you really want an organized, systematic approach to sight reading, enrolling in a self paced course might be for you! I highly recommend Ashlee Young's Secrets of Sight Reading Digital Course. She is a wonderful pianist and excellent teacher with the busy adult student in mind. Her course breaks down week by week an easy to follow process on how to approach sight reading. She gives weekly manageable assignments to her students to complete and encourages attainable wins. Areas of focus for her course include pattern recognition, motor planning, and motor execution which she discusses in more detail. This course can be accessed indefinitely once purchased! By the end of the course, you will have the necessary tools to tackle sight reading with more confidence and ease.

For a free webinar on sight reading hosted by Ashlee, here is the link: Speed Reader. For access to the full 6 week course, here is the link: Secrets to Sight Reading Course.

Enter discount code: HANNA for 10% off!

Final Thoughts:

As with practicing repertoire on piano, sight reading is a skill that takes patience and consistency. If you are taking private lessons, your teacher can help you improve on this skill as well. Self-taught students can use the book resources mentioned above or other similar books focused on sight reading. For those who do well with a course and like to see it through to the end, I highly recommend Ashlee's course. Don't forget the discount code!

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DISCLAIMER: Links included in this description might be affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service with the links that I provide I may receive a small commission. There is no additional charge for you! Thank you so much for your support!

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