Improving Your Own Sight Reading

As we are discussing sight reading this week, I have been doing some thinking about my own sight reading.

Now, I have been sight reading for many years now, and feel pretty confident in my sight reading abilities. Because of this, I haven't been sitting down and formally sight reading regularly. Of course I play a lot and sight read things here and there, but maybe I should be doing more.

I had a great Keyboard Foundations class in college, taught by Scott Holden. Each week we had a sight reading quiz. Dr. Holden would give us a piece of music (usually pretty advanced in some way or another), and we would have to record our sight read of the piece and turn it in. It was a bit stressful because if we stopped, missed a beat or skipped a beat we would automatically fail the quiz. I loved it though, it was such a wonderful learning tool. Thinking back on it it is such a great reminder of the need to sight read regularly, to always be improving our skills and to regularly become familiar with new repertoire.

As teachers, it is so important that we are able to sight read well. I once read an article in a music journal (I will have to go in my files and find it so I can quote it exactly!) that basically said that a good pianist should have sight read through all of the major piano works of the great composers. Now that is a lot of sight reading, but just imagine how a project like that could improve your playing (and your teaching as well)!

One of my favorite assignments in my piano literature class in college was to sight read through the entire Well-Tempered Clavier (both books). Now of course this took a bit of time, but what a rewarding thing! As teachers we need to be familiar with the great literature for piano.

One of these days (probably after going through all of my belongings, packing up our entire house, finding a new place to live and driving all the way to Texas with my little family and getting settled - ya know, after I have a little more free time :)) I would love to make a goal to sight read through a new piece each day, with the end goal being to sight read through a lot of the major piano works - Bach Well-Tempered Clavier (again), Beethoven Sonatas, Mozart Sonatas, Chopin Preludes, Nocturnes, Ballades, etc.

But for now, I just wanted to share some of those thoughts. Do any of you sight read regularly? Do you have anything to share regarding this topic? Also, I just stumbled upon this neat blog, check it out!


Starving Student Survivor said...

I recently unpacked (a year after moving!) and organized all of my piano music, and was thinking it would be a good idea to work my way through all of it for sight reading practice. I might only be able to give it five minutes a day, but it's better than nothing!

Waterfall said...

I'm not a piano teacher (in fact, I can't remember how I stumbled upon your blog), but your posts on sightreading have inspired me to work on my sightreading skills. I have a six-month-old and work full-time, so you can imagine how little time I have for piano these days. For the past few days, I've sightread one piece each day and have really enjoyed it. Of course, I'm playing everything slow as molasses, but it's such a great feeling to get through a piece without a single clunker! I've been doing some of the easier Chopin preludes so far. It's been a great experience, and I look forward to reading/playing more in this vein. Thanks!

Jenny Bay said...

Starving Student Survivor - I totally agree, even five minutes a day can be worthwhile!

Waterfall - way to go, that is a wonderful goal to sight read one piece per day!

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