There are a few skills that I think are key (pun intended!) to being a good sight reader. Here are my top three picks--as well as ways that I help my students to practice each of these skills.
“Chunking” the notes. A good sight reader recognizes patterns in the music, instead of just focusing on one note at a time. Intervals, repeated notes, chords and inversions—spotting these can help you to read more quickly and easily. Help students develop this skill by analyzing their pieces, looking for patterns in the music. Theory worksheets or apps that drill intervals, chords, and inversions (like this free inversion worksheet available in the "free stuff" section of my website) are also very helpful. As an added bonus, students can sight read these worksheets!
Eyes ahead of fingers. A good sight reader always looks ahead at what is coming up in the music. Ideally, your eyes should stay on the music, and be at least a measure ahead of your fingers so you can prepare for what is coming up next. Help students keep their eyes moving ahead by covering the measures of their music with a piece of paper as they play. Cover each measure as students play the first note, so their eyes must always stay a measure ahead.
Keep calm and carry on. A good sight reader keeps a steady beat and doesn’t stop—no matter what! Help students practice this skill by having them sight read with a metronome, or by sight reading duets together. I tell my students that sight reading is about perseverance--not perfection!
What skills do you think are necessary to be a good sight reader? Please chime in below! In my next post, I will share more ways that I work on sight reading with my students.