What is sight reading?
Sight reading sheet music is a technique that allows you to look at the paper and instantly know the note you are looking at so that you can play the song smoothly without having to stop and think about it. A good way to describe sight reading music would be like comparing it to reading words. How often do you have to stop to figure out the meaning of a word in a sentence? If you can read this article fluently, than you should be able to sight read sheet music in the same way.
But all those notes, lines and squiggles in sheet music can make things complicated for the average beginner. Luckily there is a way to get around that. First take a look at my guides to Basic Music theory and Intermediate Music theory , they will give you an idea about sheet music and how it is put together to help you get started. From there you can start learning about sight reading to improve your musical skills.
Learning how to sight read
The best way to learn how to sight read is with practice, lots and lots of it. There is a book by Mel Bay titled “Sight reading for contemporary guitarist” written by Tom Bruner, there is a link on the side of this article that will take you to the Amazon page so that you can take a look at it. The book was made for the guitar but it can pretty much be used with any instrument. There is a button under the picture that you can click on so that you can actually see exactly what is inside the book before buying it.
That entire book will help you to learn how to sight read, but in all honesty you don’t need the book to learn because you can teach yourself. All you need is some sheet music that doesn’t have any TAB on it to practice reading the notes. What you will be doing is learning to train you eyes and mind to memorize the position of every note on the staff line so that you can spot the note out and play it without thinking about it. It is harder than it seems though, but practice makes perfect and you will eventually get the hang of it.
There is a website called Free-scores.com, it is a great place to go to download free sheet music for whatever instrument you are playing to help get you started on playing music and learning how to sight read. I grabbed a link for you so that you can learn how to play Auld Lang Syne.
For those of you that don’t know the song, it is the exact same song that is played every year at New Years Eve. The version that I got for you is one of the easiest versions of the song, that way you don’t have too much music theory thrown in there, just a few simple notes to look over. The goal here is to try to memorize the position of the notes so that at first glance you know what you are playing. This will eventually help you to play the song in your head just by looking at the sheet music because you will also be memorizing how each note sounds. If you find Auld Lang Syne to be too difficult or too easy there are other songs you can use on the web site as well. The point is to use sheet music that doesn’t have any type of TAB on it so that you are memorizing the notes without “Cheating” so to speak. Taking the time to read the sheet music without actually playing an instrument is a great way to learn as well because you will be memorizing the notes without associating it with playing the song. When you learn how to sight read you have to treat it like learning how to read a new language in a book. This may sound a bit daunting, but you can do it soldier!
The book “Sight reading for contemporary guitarist” is a good place to start though because it rearranges the notes into different patterns to help you memorize the staff position of every note and not just the melody of a well known song. As always, try to take your time to read and practice slowly so that you can properly learn how to sight read to help your mind actually comprehend and remember what you studied in the day. Eventually you will get the hang of it and start playing music and sight reading like a professional.
Now that you know where to start, the only thing left is for you to pick up your instrument and start practicing.
The first link on the right will take you to the Auld Lang Syne sheet music page (Voir PDF= View PDF).
The second Link will take you to the Amazon.com page for the book “Sight reading for contemporary guitarist”.