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(I don't know what the proper term is for instant playing of chord symbols... is sight right correct? Anyway, here I am using the term "sight reading chord symbols" to describe the ability to instantly play a song when you are given the chords)

Some context: For about a year, when I'm at the piano and I lose interest in practising, I've been noodling around by whipping out chord charts for pop songs and just playing. I've actually gotten quite quick at sight reading the chords with [often] nice voicings, and keeping rhythm. But I have hit a plateau and I am not getting any better or faster. I want to formalise how I learn, to continue to improve.

A quick example: I was playing Ed Sheeran's I See Fire, which has the chords A#m F# G# A#m. When I first picked it up I instantly chose a fingering and chord voicings that made it super easy. (Standard inversion on the A#m, first inversion on the F#, so I only changed on note). So in this case I could sight read chords instantly, and it sounded great.

But there are other songs that have the same vii V progression I've come across, but in a different key, where I don't see the relation so obviously. And if I don't see the relation I end up voicing both chords in standard inversion and I'm hopping my hands up and down the piano, and it all sounds very dull. Even in C I've been guilty of this boring voicing. This makes me realise that there are certain key-dependent patterns I can detect easily, and certain I can't. And if I want to play new stuff confidently at speed (or someday modulate on the fly), I need to fix this.

My question: is there a good recommended resource (app/Youtube video series/book) that gradually teaches more intricate chord progressions and voicings so that I can build good sight reading?

(Caveat: I have a singing teacher I can bounce piano questions off, but I don't have the time/resources for a piano teacher as well)

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  • Requesting resources will get this close very rapidly. If you can re-phrase so it doesn't mean 'tell me what recommendations you know' it stands a chance of staying.
    – Tim
    Feb 13 at 12:49
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    To me it looks like you only need more practice. There is no trick or product. Feb 13 at 12:56
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    Practice, practice, and more practice are the three tricks that helped me. Feb 13 at 15:14
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Pick songs that require you to utilise the keys and chords causing you the most trouble.

Learning chords in the context of songs (as opposed to studying chords is isolation) is often more fun, and will likely improve retention and accelerate your results.

Additionally, by doing this, you will eventually build a repertoire of songs that covers all keys, which makes the listening experience more interesting for your audience and the playing experience more interesting for you.

Even better, once you have mastered twelve songs in twelve different keys, you will have an excellent body of chordal knowledge from which will contribute greatly to your goal of developing faster sight-reading ability.

The likely reason you don't see the relationship between chord shapes in some songs as well as others is simply that you haven't practiced the 'more difficult' chords nearly a much. By learning these chords in the context of songs you like, you will enjoy your practice more, be therefore more likely to practice more and therefore likely to improve more quickly.

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