All about sight-reading, why it's important, and a checklist to help you get things right first time!
From Sight to Sound ...
'Sight-reading' is the term used to describe the reading and performing of music without any previous preparation; to sight-read is to play, or sing, or 'hear in our heads' (audiation) the notated music we see ... at first sight!
Sight-reading is an incredibly important skill; the better you can sight-read, the quicker you can learn new pieces, the more music you can play! It also means that you can focus more on technique, interpretation and performance practice instead of merely note-learning and rhythm-deciphering!
The aim is to sight-read with such accuracy, musicality and conviction that the listener, real or imaginary, has no idea you are sight-reading! It should sound as if you've been practising it for months! And it's not only the pitches and the rhythms you need to get right. Every aspect of the notation needs to be realised - dynamics, articulations, tempo markings, performance directions, bowings etc. Many aspects of music-making are not notated but rather 'felt' - character, style, emotion, atmosphere, phrasing etc. - these aspects should also be realised as fully and convincingly as possible.
At ViolinSchool, we think sight-reading is such an essential skill that we are releasing a new piece of sight-reading every single day! Ideally, you should aim to sight-read something every time you practise. The more you do it the better you will get!
Skilled sight-readers will always be looking ahead, processing information ahead of time and storing it in their short-term (working) memory. As you develop your sight-reading skills, you'll get better at knowing when to look ahead and by how much. Factors such as tempo, visual and technical complexity, predictability, print size (!), will dictate how much you are able to look ahead. Long notes and rests are your friends!
And, in order to sight-read well, you need to be able to play without looking at your instrument, or at your hands and fingers.
We hope you enjoy developing your sight-reading with ViolinSchool's Sight-Reading Exercises! Try each excerpt a few times, and at least once with a metronome! If the excerpt seems too difficult, then try playing each note, one by one, at a slow tempo, without worrying about the rhythm, dynamics, articulation, bowing etc. If it seems fairly easy, then imagine you are in a concert, and perform it first time, as perfectly, musically, and confidently as you can.
Happy sight-reading! 🙂