Practice Tip of the Week:
Know How to Sightread

Many musicians are worried that their sightreading skills are not
strong enough. Yet, sightreading is seldom made a regular part
of practicing.

It’s important to spend a little time at each practice session
reading something new. Don’t worry about getting every note. The
main goal is to go through the music at a steady tempo—without stopping.

The key to playing without stopping is constant counting. If you
can’t play the notes in one measure, just keep counting and jump
back in at the next downbeat. Do not lose your place!

Even if sound stops coming out of your instrument, you are staying
in time and following along visually. This counts as “not stopping”
when you’re sightreading, so keep your eyes on the page!

Being willing to count even when you’re missing some notes may mean
changing your usual concept of playing a song “correctly.” Instead
of focusing on playing the right pitches (even if you occasionally
stretch time), you’ll need to focus on correct rhythms (even if you
occasionally play the wrong pitches).

Keeping this rhythmic integrity in your music will make your sightreading
stronger over time. Eventually, you’ll be able to play more and more of
the notes.

Sightreading is an unusual process. Unlike reading language, in which
your only task is to interpret the meaning of symbols (letters and words)
on the printed page, sightreading music contains an extra element:

Your brain must interpret the symbols (notes) AND send messages to your
muscles so they can play your instrument.

This is a complicated process. To keep your muscles in shape for sightreading,
they need regular practice. Much like speaking a foreign language, sightreading
is a “use it or lose it” skill.

So, keep some sightreading materials in your practice area and take a look at
them every day.

And, remember: Never stop counting!

To Your Musical Success!