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I'd like to learn how to sight-read on my own, but practicing the same song over and over again just causes me to memorize it, and filling out worksheets is boring.

Is there any good software for learning how to sight-read? I'm envisioning something that just drills you with note after note, then later chord after chord, until you can react instantly to seeing it in sheet music.

Bonus points if it supports a MIDI-interface, so you can play with an actual instrument while you learn. It would also be nice if it had ear training, but perhaps that's another question...

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Please, if you want to answer this question (which is borderline and might be closed), just one software proposal by answer, and be very careful not to enter duplicates. If someone has already suggested your favorite software, vote it up, and add comments if needed. –  ogerard May 4 '11 at 5:49
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+1 This is a question I've wondered about for ten years now. –  jprete May 4 '11 at 15:48
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One thing to note is that if you want to learn how t sight read fluidly, it's important to be able to read the intervals between notes, not just the notes themselves. Emphasis on just quickly reading each note sells you short. –  zeronyne May 4 '11 at 18:24
    
Asymptopia Software also has a free MIDI Sight Reading Trainer, which could be a cheap solution... –  Tom Wijsman May 13 '11 at 19:57
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Also, learning from the PC (besides easy practice) additionally gave me one extra benefit: I noticed that I immediately gave up looking at the keys when practising with a program! This is clearly a double-win approach. (I've tried Jalmus from this list.) –  Kos May 26 '11 at 19:53

17 Answers 17

One option is to use (and abuse) Impro-Visor. Impro-Visor is a jazz improvisation trainer, but it has built into it a "lick generator", which builds melodies over existing chord changes using grammar rules. (The program is of course also capable of generating chords.) By putting in various grammar rules you should be able to adapt the program to also work for other styles of music that is less directly related to Jazz.

(And yes, it supports MIDI interface.)

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Heh, funny; I actually looked into those before for something completely separate, but never put any thought into it for this. I'll take a look at it - thanks! –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 4 '11 at 15:18

I was looking for something like this once too.

One I've used and liked because first I can put the note names to be Do, Re, Mi, Fa... or A, B, C, D... and it's free if you used it on the website is this one: http://www.emusictheory.com/practice.html

They drill you with note after note and you need to say which it is. It also has the average time it takes you to identify each note. You can set a goal to lower it. No MIDI though.

They have a bunch of "drills" as they call them and are free as long as you use it them in the site.

Personally I wouldn't use something like this with the instrument necessarily, but I guess it depends on what you play just because being able to read the music and playing them on the instrument are different things. You can know the name of the note you are reading and even the fingering, but have bad intonation. You can also have great intonation and not be able to read music. They are separate skills.


Another (free) site that allows customization of exercises: http://www.musictheory.net/exercises/ I like this one because it allows you to work out acute kinks one by one (through customization) and then broaden your fluency.

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It's not free to hook up to a midi keyboard. However, this is exactly what I was looking for, so if I can't find anything better, I think I will have to pay the $12. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 19 '11 at 4:52

The best one I've found so far is Noteable.

It drills you on different notes, allowing you to choose which notes and/or key signature(s) you want to practice, and even learns which notes you're suffering on and drills you on those ones more. It supports MIDI interface.

As far as I'm aware, though, there's no support for practicing chords, and it's not free.

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Another one I just found: Finale. It claims to have flash cards and "music-themed puzzles and games" to help learn various aspects of music playing and theory. However, I've never tried it.

It supports MIDI interface, and is not free.

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Finale is a bit feature rich for this purpose and not exactly intuitive. –  zeronyne May 4 '11 at 18:23

Musition 4.0 is available for Mac and Windows and is very broad in its coverage of theory and solfège, so it exceed certainly what you are looking for.

About note reading, it covers among other things individual notes, chords, all kind of scales, both letter and solfège name for notes and interactivity with a midi keyboard.

Compared to previous version, there are more elementary lessons, more progressive on most topics.

It is not free, but you can download a functional demo.

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Are you sure you want a software solution at all? An alternative is a large supply of small pieces, like Bartok's Mikrocosmos. Just keep playing different ones. One level of that will keep you entertained for quite a while. I particularly like the song about the foxes and the chickens.

Sight-reading is not just about connecting your eyes and your fingers. It's not just about translating notation into notes. It's also about reading the idea of some music -- learning to anticipate a bit (when the composer is not planning to pull the rug out from under you in the next measure.) Software is not going to help so much with that, unless it passes a sort of musical Turing test.

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+1 for Mikrokosmos! –  user370 May 8 '11 at 14:58
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Playing small pieces is fine - but to learn sight reading, you need feedback to tell you if you've played the wrong note or rhythm. A teacher can do this, but having software do it would be convenient and maybe cheaper. –  slim Oct 8 '12 at 12:15
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I hope you can hear you played the wrong notes. At least if you're playing tonal music... @slim –  11684 Nov 3 '12 at 15:26
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@11684 If you've never heard the tune before, and just have a score to read, how do you know how it should sound? Only through skill at sight reading. –  slim Nov 5 '12 at 15:18
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@11684 If the player can stay within the scale (particularly easy, for, say, a beginner pianist playing in C major), there's not much of a way to tell. Unless of course, your aim is to play what YOU think sounds nice, rather than what's written. –  slim Nov 21 '12 at 11:45

Jalmus provides what you are looking for and it has a MIDI interface. It is also free open source, is cross platform (written in Java, it works on Windows, Linux, and Mac), and is available in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Danish and German.

From the website:

Jalmus is a free, open source music education software helping the musicians, especially pianists, to improve their sight-reading. You can train to read music with both exercises on notes or rhythms.

Update development of Jalamus stopped at version 2.3, but the software is still available for download at sourceforge

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There are lots of good answers, and I haven't had a chance to try them all yet (I'll mark my favorite as accepted, after I've tried them all). However, I am giving this one the bounty because, though it is very ugly, it not only looks like it does everything I'd like, but it's open-source! I may even consider contributing to this if I like it enough... –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 13 '11 at 19:11
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Just noticed that Jalmus has been discontinued: jalmus.net/News,1183.html –  evanrmurphy Jun 20 '13 at 18:27
    
@evanrmurphy not "discontinued", but "fixed" at version 2.3; development has stopped but the software is still stable and available. –  David Jun 20 '13 at 18:59
    
@David their news feed says "discontinued", which is why I used that word. Point taken though that version 2.3 is still available. –  evanrmurphy Jun 20 '13 at 19:07

A free online site that supports MIDI is Sight Reading Practice, set it up and pick MIDI See-and-play.
It supports a lot of configuration settings so you can practice under different settings...

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One per answer please :) –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 13 '11 at 19:11

Adventus Piano Suite Premier Piano (course-based), eMedia Piano & Keyboard Method (feedback-based) both allow you to learn sight-reading and supports MIDI, they are however not free. There are tips to improve your sight-reading on their introducary page...

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I've seen "eMedia Piano & Keyboard Method" in the past and was not impressed. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 13 '11 at 19:59

Here's another one: PrestoKeys.

The free version has pretty much all the features of Noteable, but with nicer graphics. It also supports accidentals, and a timed scrolling mode. and supports practicing songs (stored as MIDI files) rather than just random notes.
However, it doesn't support MIDI input.

The good news is that there's a paid version which does support MIDI input. It also allows you to practice chords and key-signatures.

The paid version is $30.

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I personally use Band-in-the-Box for the purpose of practicing (or better say upkeep) my sight-reading.

  • It can generate endless songs in all styles You can dream of

  • You can slow it down to match you reading skills

  • It generates, chords, melodies and solos so You can practice different qualities of sight-reading

  • Those are songs - so You learning in real musical context no just exercise for exercise

  • You can loop generated songs. (You can choose keys, styles, postions and so one - nor to songs will be the same)

Of course this is not a learning software, so maybe You will need some preparatory exercises done elsewhere. it's not quite cheap (regarding only this feature)

But regarding all other great feature BIAB sports for musician this cool another use case.

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If you have an iPad, try sightread4piano by Wessar.

You can buy individual grades from your music authority of choice, or if you really fancy it, you can buy over 1,100 pieces of music covering all the grades from some of the World's top music examination boards.

The concept is amazing and it really does teach you how to sight read.

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Is there any good software for learning how to sight-read?

I've spent the last year working on a software product called SightReadingMastery to help people with sight reading. A few things about it to note:

  • It's web-based, so you don't have to download or install anything
  • It's not free, but there's a 7-day free trial, so you can try it out and see how you like it without paying
  • It works by giving you real pieces of music (I team up with professional composers) at the difficulty level you choose; you sight read these from the comfort of your instrument
  • Each piece comes with a correct performance in high-quality audio; you're encouraged to listen to this after sight reading and use your ear to check if you played the piece correctly, rather than relying on any kind of MIDI-based evaluation system to tell you how you performed

Feel free to comment here or email me at evan@sightreadingmastery.com if anyone has questions. Thanks for considering my product.

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Is there any good software for learning how to sight-read? I'm envisioning something that just drills you with note after note, then later chord after chord, until you can react instantly to seeing it in sheet music.

I have a program that does this. http://PianoCheetah.com

  • It displays midi files in piano roll format and sheet music format
  • displays the notes you play (via MIDI) -on top- of the sheet music you're playing
  • It can also pause on any note that you miss until you play it.
  • for "drilling", if you load a song called RandomSong, it will auto-generate a random song of chord progression in certain arrangements that are always playable with 2 hands.

(no ear training stuff, though, really)
(My original answer seems to have been turned into a comment, and then deleted for a reason of "see the FAQ"... grumble)

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You may also want to consider Piano Marvel, which does not randomly generate notes and chords like Jalmus; it is more thorough than the any of the other programs listed thus far for developing functional sight-reading skills. With it you sight-read actual compositions, more of them than you could ever dream of buying or borrowing--it includes a large library of classical pieces updated daily, ranging widely in scope and difficulty among the traditional repertoire, IE, from a Schubert Ecossaise, to J.S. Bach inventions, to Debussy preludes, and even Chopin's etudes and some gospel. They are decently prepared editions including fingerings, dynamics, and tempo markings. It runs very smoothly and relatively bug free as far as I can tell, and it does score you. It is free for the first month and costs $15 a month after that, but the quality is on par with the ear trainers Auralia, Ear Master Pro, and the theory trainer Musition.

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A website that my band teacher uses is Sight Reading Factory. I think that it is a very nice piece of software. It has a lot of good features

  • It allows you to choose almost any instrument, including vocals.
  • You can choose a difficulty from one to 6
  • You are able to choose any of the major or minor key signatures
  • Can choose from 4 different time signatures.

This does cost money, but there is a trial version, where they give you 5 free samples for every set of samples you do. So if you only change one thing, such as the key signature, you get five more free pieces. But if you want to buy it, it is $30/year

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I have answer this also in another topic. for quick reference you can find some info from the screenshots.

Notable Notable Notable

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