Curated from the Smartmusic Music Educator Blog –
Being able to look at a brand new piece of music and play it at sight is a pretty amazing skill to have. Just think—what we’re trained as musicians to do is to simultaneously scan and identify various symbols and visual cues, register and process each one (both individually and collectively), and effectively communicate those instructions to other parts of the body to physically produce the correct sounds. Each element of that split-second process requires its own individual development and understanding, spanning everything from pitch, timing, and dynamics, to harmony, rhythm, and technique—all of which are essential to becoming a well-rounded musician and capable sight reader.
Because of this, for most of us, sight-reading is a skill that takes time to develop, often improving in the background alongside overall musical ability. Similar to learning to read a book, a student’s musical vocabulary and comprehension requires years of deliberate practice (and patience!), and will naturally grow as time goes on the more they are exposed to new elements of the language.
Being able to successfully sight read music on the spot helps musicians measure their ability and overall progress, and affirms that hard work pays off. Plus, strong sight readers gain an edge in auditions and other professional settings.
Improving sight-reading fluency also improves the ability to quickly interpret rhythmic patterns combined with interval training and pitch matching.
Being able to hear the music before playing or singing a note is another incredible skill that sight-readers develop, also known as audiation. Even if it’s not possible to sing the exact pitches out loud, sight-reading helps the ability to feel the rhythm and get the general direction of the melodic notes and harmony just by looking at the music. This improves overall accuracy tremendously because of the ability to anticipate the pitch and rhythm before playing.
Playing the same or similar warm-ups and routine drills can often become monotonous. Being able to pull out any piece and play or sing it can be fun, challenging, and rewarding.
Strong sight-readers may find additional opportunities to to be of service to other musicians. For example, pianists who sight-read well might find themselves accompanying soloists and choirs. They can also play individual parts for rehearsal purposes.
Musicians who are strong sight-readers will find learning new music far less stressful, which can ultimately create more enjoyment and connection with their instrument and encourage long-term playing.
While sight reading often improves in the background alongside general musical ability, when it comes to deliberate sight reading practice, there are various ways to ensure success. Inspired by the recent blog article, 9 Tips for Sight-Singing Success by Andy Beck, here are some practical tips for optimizing sight reading practice:
Learn how to host a fun sight reading challenge with your students using SmartMusic’s Sight Reading Builder! This DIY “recipe” will help students make a healthy habit out of sight reading and help promote consistent progress.