How do Piano teachers sight-read? | Top Tips
Far from being a gift as it is sometimes believed, sight-reading represents a complex skill that needs to be worked out throughout your piano lessons and practice time. Its real meaning refers to the ability of playing an unfamiliar piece without prior rehearsal.
Getting ready to sight-read
Allow yourself some time to answer these questions before sight-reading a new piece:
- Which are the clefs? Pianists associate the treble clef with the right hand and high notes and the bass clef with the left hand and low notes. However, it is advisable to ensure as sometimes both hands might be written in the same clef.
- What is the key signature? Sharps and flats showed at the beginning affect all notes of one letter.
- Are there any accidentals throughout the piece? Make sure you have found all accidental signs scattered over.
- Where should I place my hands? Identify the highest and lowest notes and choose a suitable hands position.
- How should I decide my tempo? Pay attention to the quickest values and determine an steady pace in relation to them.
What to remember
At this point we will have some valuable information about the piece without having played any note yet. Always bear in mind the following tips while playing:
- A good sense of rhythm is more important than playing all the notes correctly. Try not to stop and keep counting. In case you can’t continue playing both hands, decide quickly which one can be sacrificed for the sake of the music flow.
- Music rests are as important as the notes themselves. Do not hold on when there should be silence. Rather, look ahead and read further to gain fluency.
- Pianists like Angela Hewitt recommend to get used to the habit of keeping your eyes on the score, feeling the keys before pressing them, and only looking back at the keyboard to secure large leaps.
- A good understanding of harmony and music theory will provide you with knowledge to conceive scales, broken chords or arpeggios collectively and stop recognising them note by note.
In Hampstead Piano Academy we encourage our students to practice as much sight-reading as possible. Not only it builds up confidence and self-esteem, but it is also an ability that stays with you all your life.
Play lots of music, it pays off!