Sight Reading


Beginner - Advanced


Saying the sentence “let’s practice some sight-reading” often gets a response of pure fear and dread! But don’t worry because we’ve set out some tips for you to help tackle sight-reading.


If you keep practicing your sight-reading, eventually you will be able to play anything that gets put in front of you! That’s the dream...


First of all you need to take in the information


1 - What is the key signature?

Once you have figured this out, remind yourself what sharps/flats you need to watch out for - scan the page for a raised 7th so you can identify if it is minor. That gives you a really good start for how the music might sound. 


2 - What is the time signature?

It sounds obvious but make sure you check the time signature especially if it’s a slightly more difficult one.


3 - What is the speed?

Now that you know the time signature, look at any indication of what the speed might be. Is there a tempo mark? Are there words like allegro, largo or andante? Once you have decided what speed to take the music count through a few bars in your head. 

Also scan the music for any rits. (slow downs) or accels. (speed ups)


4 - What is the dynamic range?

How loud and quiet do you need to go? Are there any dims. or cresc.? This information will help you decide what dynamic level you should start at. 


Once you have figured out all this information it’s time to look at the notes 

Yes, there is so much to look at before even looking at the notes!! Here are some things to think of:


1 - Which part of the piece looks the hardest/most technical? 

Finger through this section ready for when you have to play it all the way through. Check; are your hands in the right starting position AND do you need to move them during the piece?


2 - Is there any articulation you need to do? 

Remember articulation is really important to get the right style of the piece. Be extra careful to do your sluts and staccatos!


3 - Are there any performance directions? (ADVANCED)

If you see the word dolce (sweetly) you will be playing very differently to agitato (agitated). We have a handy performance directions sheet that you can use to revise these words!


Now that you have all the tips it’s time to get practicing!


  • Make sure you vary what you practice 
  • Don’t just practice “boring” sight-reading! Get out your book of Disney or look on the internet for a part from an orchestral piece 
  • Try reading through a piece from one of your old books 
  • Sometimes it’s good to just play through a new piece for sight-reading practice and other times it’s good to practice the whole process as if you are in an exam 
  • You can also practice sight-reading with friends and family by a playing a new piece all together


Now, take a deep breath and  give it a go!