5 advices for a better sight reading

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As a collaborative pianist, sight reading is my everyday’s life. Many people asked me how did I learn or practice to get this ability, and it’s hard to answer! It is not a skill you can really develop with a teacher or at the school, it comes progressively. So, for the ones that are interested to improve their sight reading, here are some tips.

 

Train every day.

Sight reading isn’t a superpower that comes from the genie’s lamp! You may be more or less gifted, but every kind of talent needs to be trained. Just as you practice your instrument, you should work regularly on your sight reading, even if you just have half an hour a day. You should start with an easy level of pieces (classical: Mozart, Haydn..) and raise every time your level to harder works.

 

Don’t stop.

If you make a mistake, don’t stop to try to play it better, because then you are practicing! This is not sight reading any more. You have to imagine the situation: you are at a concert, sight reading a chamber music piece with another instrument. Would you stop then? If you need to improve your sight reading with the aim of working as a collaborative pianist, it means you have to be prepared to this kind of emergencies.

 

Read in advance.

While sight-reading, I always read one bar ahead of what I am actually playing. Why? Like that I don’t get any bad surprise! At the beginning it might be hard, but if you get used to it, your brain will do it automatically and the fingers will follow.

 

Practice your scales, arpeggios and cadenzas.

When you sight read and you see the shape of a scale or an arpeggio, you can’t analyse tone by tone what you have to play, that’s obvious. Many sharps and flats? That’s a chromatic scale. You don’t have any time to loose for the details! That’s why you should have it ready in your hands. I remember my harmony teacher making me learn all the cadenzas an their combinaisons, and I thank him so much for that.

 

Don’t play everything.

Even more important: if you aren’t sure of something, better avoid playing what you couldn’t read well. When you have complicated chords, thirds, sixths, only play the upper voice. Your left hand is like Chopin Revolutionary etude? Just play the bass tones, and focus on the melody and the important harmonies.

 

If you are interested in learning more about collaborative pianists and you want to search jobs in this field, I recommend you to visit the blog of Chris Foley: The Collaborative Piano blog

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