05/09/2017 Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

5 Tips for Improving your Sight-Reading

3f72ba4c-d5c3-4685-8b03-87ddc11a8fd8

 

By Melanie Spanswick

 

Few pianists are keen sight-readers, many believing a specific talent is required to read quickly. Aptitude is helpful of course, but there are copious ways to improve reading. For those who feel their skills would benefit from an over-haul, here are a few suggestions:

 

1

Sight-reading is all about the preparation. On first glance, check the score for the key signature (noting the major and relative minor of that written). Note the time signature (particularly if it changes during the piece), obvious note patterns such as scales, arpeggios, chords, octaves and the like (aim to decipher fingerings for such figurations before you play).

 

2

Separate the rhythm from the notes. Focus on the general pulse; always start with very slow speeds when learning to read (perhaps a third of the intended tempo). Then tap the rhythm of the treble clef in the right hand, and the rhythm of the bass clef, with the left hand (at the same time), keeping in mind the slow pulse you have already set.

 

 

3

Now play through the left hand alone (without adhering to any pulse), locating note patterns, hand positions changes and fingering (and remembering the key!). Then do this with the right hand. If you're preparing for an exam, you will probably have just enough time to run through each hand separately in the 20 or 30 seconds allocated inspection time beforehand.

 

4

Decide how you will keep time during the exercise. A metronome may be helpful (for ‘sitting’ on the pulse), but counting out loud along to your playing is also a reliable method (providing your count is rhythmical!). Try to sub-divide the beat (i.e. if crotchets are the main beat, count in quavers). Counting a bar's rest at the beginning can be useful too (for setting a firm tempo).

 

5

Play your chosen exercise very slowly, reading ahead all the time, whilst aiming to play through your mistakes (it's tempting to stop and correct errors, but by playing slowly, you will eventually be able to resist this urge).

 

When reading, keep in mind the overall rhythmic structure and play the notes to the pulse as opposed to the other way around. This preparation will become gradually quicker over time, as will your reading. If you can spend 10-15 minutes sight-reading at every practice session, you'll be amazed at what can be achieved. Good luck!

 

Melanie Spanswick is a pianist, author and music educator. She selected the repertoire for The Faber Music Piano Anthology, and is the author of a new two-book piano course, Play It Again: PIANO (Schott Music) intended for those returning to piano playing after a break. Her popular guidebook, So You Want To Play The Piano?, is reprinted in a second edition by Alfred Music. Melanie has recently adjudicated and given workshops in the USA and the Far East, and runs a bilingual piano project in Germany. She is a tutor at Jackdaws Music Education Trust and curator of the Classical Conversations series on YouTube, where she interviews pianists on camera.

 

 

Back to News

05/09/2017 Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

Pianist Alexei Volodin to display the allure of Medtner in ‘Storytellers’ programme

On Monday 27 November, at Merchant Taylors' Hall, London ...


Lang Lang in need of further rest

Slow recovery from tendonitis sparks career speculation as Lang Lang cancels again ...


TfL and Yamaha Music launch #Platform88 to place pianos across the Tube network

with the help of multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Tokio Myers ...


Old keyboards & new technology

Unrivalled online museum of musical curiosities opens its digital doors ...


Other News

CONCERT REVIEW: Duo Martha Argerich & Sergei Babayan receive standing ovation

With the help of her friend, Argerich's first-ever appearance in Cleveland proves to be sensational ...


Winner of 2017 Arthur Rubinstein Competition to appear in London

Szymon Nehring gives Wigmore Hall debut on Sunday 3 December 2017 ...


Why is the piano so popular?

Royal College of Music student Alec Coles-Aldridge takes a look at why the piano is such a popular instrument ...


An English Rachmaninov

Simon Callaghan talks to Peter Quantrill about his latest recording of Roger Sacheverell Coke ...