How to Practise Sight-Reading

Updated: October 5, 2016

In this feature, we'll take a look at how often you should practise sight-reading, what music you should use, and how to structure your sight-reading practice to get the best results.

When and what to practise

sight-reading2Sight-reading is an important skill that you should be developing regularly during your usual violin practice sessions. A good approach is to try at least one new piece of music every day (or every time you practise). If you have lots of time to practise (e.g. 2 or more hours per day), then of course you can do more than that!

Sight-reading practice doesn't have to take long. You can just choose a very short piece of music to read. Try to get into the habit of playing something new 'at sight' as often as you can. If you're a member of ViolinSchool, you can start with our library of sight-reading exercises - if you have time, try a new one every day!

When it comes to developing the skill of sight-reading, consistency and regularity of practice is far more important than length or difficulty. If you practise sight-reading simple pieces a lot, then your sight-reading skills will improve, and you'll find it much easier when you eventually try to sight-read longer and more difficult music.

But if you start trying to sight-read repertoire that's too advanced for you, you will struggle to develop your skills correctly, and you may become demotivated. So be sure that you're not trying to tackle pieces that are too hard.

How to practise sight-reading

So you're in your practice room and you've chosen the piece or exercise that you want to use to develop your sight-reading skills.

But what do you do next?

Here's a useful method we've developed that will help you stay focused in your practice:

1)  TRY IT!

sight-reading-checklistGlance over the whole piece that you're about to play, and make sure you consider everything on 'The Sight-Reading Checklist', so that you're clear about exactly what you need to do.

Then, try playing it through once - straight through from beginning to end. Don't stop, don't go back, just perform it as best you can.

2) PRACTISE IT!

Now it's time for a second look. Play through the piece again, but do it slowly, carefully, and fastidiously... this time, you can stop and practise any bits that need practising.

3) METRONOME IT!

Play it through again - this time with a metronome! One of THE most important things to consider when you're sight-reading something is the timing - particularly the pulse of the music and the rhythm of the notes.

Don't worry about making mistakes - it's usually much more important for the music to STAY IN TIME than it is to get every note 100% right.

This is especially the case if you are playing with other people; even if the notes aren't totally accurate it's still possible to keep playing together, but if one person gets the timings wrong then the whole piece will fall apart!

4) PERFORM IT!

Imagine you are giving a concert, and try to give the best performance you possibly can - make it confident, convincing, accurate, and musical. Remember, you're now practising performing as well as sight-reading... so whatever you do, don't stop! You can always go back and fix any mistakes afterwards.

**

Remember this list to help keep your sight-reading practice efficient and effective!

  • TRY IT
  • PRACTISE IT
  • METRONOME IT
  • PERFORM IT!

**

Always remember that sight-reading is a learnable skill, so the more you do it, the better you'll become. Sight-reading is a critical skill for succeeding in a group environment, so you'll also rapidly build up your confidence - which is especially useful if you're playing with other people.

By making time for sight-reading on a regular basis and ensuring that you are always practising in a clear, ordered way, you will also be improving your overall musicianship and performance skills, as well as your violin technique.

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