If you're a self-taught pianist that's got some basics under your belt, you're probably wondering what you should work on next. While you'll want to continue on with notation and theory, you should also start working on sight-reading.
1. Ignore the Metronome
You don't want to use a metronome with sight-reading because then you'll get bogged down by mistakes and become overly concerned with details. Think of sight-reading like language learning. Things like theory, rhythm, and key signatures are like grammatical details—helpful to build basics in a classroom setting. Sight-reading is about natural responses and working on your fluency within the piano language.
2. Keep Practicing Those Scales and Arpeggios
If you've been playing it safe in C major or with scales that only have 1 or 2 sharps, now's the time to increase your scale proficiency. There are 12 major scales and 36 minor scales—and even more in non-Western music—that you can explore. While scales and arpeggios can be a bit dry, they are the bread and butter of sight-reading. They will train your hands to play common patterns in music. Arpeggios are great to learn because the broken chords are often found in harmonies. Learning different scales and arpeggios will train your ears to differentiate between keys, so you'll catch mistakes more easily.
3. Start With Just one Hand
Sight-reading can be intimidating for a beginner, so break down your practice into three steps:
Play the song with just the right hand's part
Play the song with just the left hand's part
Play the song with both hands together
Then rinse and repeat. By separating the treble and bass clef, you'll have a better chance at pushing through your mistakes. As you get more comfortable with sight-reading, you can then play with both hands together on the first try.
4. Look at the Big Picture
JazzAdvice.com says that while an inexperienced musician would look at every individual note as they sight-read, an experienced one would look at the piece in chunks to see where the major downbeats were. This is incredibly important advice because you'll want to be able to eventually sight-read a piece as close to its BPM.
5. Print Off New Sheet Music Every Time You Practice
If you are using the same piece of music over and over to sight-read, it's not really sight-reading. You want to have a fresh sheet of music every time you warm up so that you can challenge yourself. Since getting a new arrangement could be expensive, try printing off free sheet music at databases like The Sight Reading Project. If you stumble upon a sight-reading piece that you really like, you can hold onto it for further practice.
As you get better and better at sight-reading, you can feel more confident tinkering around on a Bosendorfer piano and not just your electronic keyboard. For more information, contact Las Vegas Pianos or a similar company.
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