When it comes to sight reading music, some musicians love the challenge and could work on it all day. For others, they dread hearing those words. Those of you who are terrified by sight reading music, we are here to help! Here are some of the top tips from Viscount Organs to keep in mind to help you sight read a bit easier.
Practice Ahead of Time
Obviously, you won’t have the music ahead of time, but there are things you can do to make your next sight-reading task easier. Time signatures and key signatures are the most important parts when it comes to sight reading. For time signatures, make sure you are familiar with and have practiced a wide variety of signatures. That way, you will be ready for any situation. It is highly unlikely that you’ll consistently be handed pieces in 4:4 time. A mistake in pitch can usually be pretty easily covered, but a problem in tempo cannot be.
You can take manuscript paper and write out rhythms of half notes and quarter notes in 4:4 time. After that, do the same thing with quarter notes and eighth notes. Go all the way to sixteenth notes! As you play each of the rhythms, you can visualize what they look like and how they should sound. Mix and match them as you go so you are ready to handle them when you see them on the page. Once you get proficient at this, you’ll be able to execute any rhythm in just about any context.
For key signatures, memorize! This isn’t too difficult if you learn some basic tips and tricks. For example, if the key signature is filled with sharps, the key is a half step higher than the last sharp. A key signature with F sharp and C sharp, when we move up a half step from the C sharp, puts us in the key of D. The key is D Major. For flats, this one is even easier. Your second to last flat is the key. The only exception to this rule is F Major, where the only flat is B flat.
Even if you can identify your scales, make sure you know exactly how they sound and how they are played, both ascending and descending. With that being said, learn to sight sing. We know that not all of you are singers, but it will help you sight read music for any instrument, including your Viscount organ! This will help you learn phrasing, intonation, and musicality without having to worry about what your hands are doing.
Also, practice sight reading without looking at your hands! You will need to learn the feel of the keys under your fingers before you can really sight read with ease.
Before You Play
Before you start playing, take a look at the piece. Tap out the rhythm if you need, then read through the notes and the overall structure. Note any repeat bars or codas. Remember key changes or adjustments in time and accidentals. If you are allowed to do so, mark up your music where you think you will need extra concentration.
Once you’ve done your quick look of the piece, sound it out in your head. Feel the patterns in the scales and the arpeggios. If you see these ahead of time, the notes will be much easier to sight read. Instead of worrying about the notes, you can focus on other parts of your musicality. The best musicians take time to study a piece before they start playing. Most sound amazing even while sight reading because they have already studied and made a note of what is to come. As soon as your director gives you the music, take a close look and do whatever you need to do to feel ready.
Once You Start
When you begin playing, don’t forget to breathe and relax. While there may be some pressure as you go through the piece, breathing will help you keep your tempo and follow the phrasing. Also, do your best to relax and to concentrate. Keep your eyes on the page, and resist the urge to pull them away if you make a mistake. Instead of dwelling on fixing the mistake, just move on and do your best. This practice gets much easier over time!
When it comes to mastering sight reading, we are confident that you can do it if you put in the work. With time, practice, and attention to detail, you’ll be doing it in no time. There’s no better way to practice than with a Viscount organ of your own, especially when it comes to sight reading those pedal parts. Contact us today if you are interested in an organ of your own! We look forward to hearing from you.