There is already a large body of technical exercises for pianists based on common-practice music, such as major and minor scales and arpeggios or the books of Czerny, Hanon, etc. These exercises are indispensable for my own practice of sight-reading, since these patterns frequently come up in common-practice music.

I would like to strengthen my sight-reading of non-common-practice music. Are there techniques that I can practice which distill the "molecules" of the much broader musical practice of the 20th and 21st centuries, to improve my sightreading? Are there specific excercises that can improve those techniques?

For example, recently I have been playing Messaien's Modes of Limited Transposition in all positions on the keyboard.

  • Briefly, many composers wrote Etudes that reflect their techniques: Ligeti and Philip Glass come to mind immediately.
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 16:37
  • @Aaron Thank you for your comment. Indeed, I am familiar with these sets of Études, but I am looking for something more on par with exercises and scales: the "molecules" of non-common practice music instead of those great purified solutions. Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 16:39
  • Hi Joshua, unfortunately external resource requests including exercises is off-topic. If you have a specific area you want to study or practice, we can focus on answering that instead.
    – Dom
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 17:08
  • @Dom Please consider re-opening. Although this is a request for resources, I think it's one of genuine and lasting value for the site that does not run afoul of the "opinion-based" reasoning behind the usual resource-request closures. i
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 17:18
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    I've personally found pieces with several parallel quartal chords in a row (e.g. some video game music, Rautavaara, Sonny Chua) to be quite helpful at sight-reading quartal harmony.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 13:43

2 Answers 2


I've personally used Bartok's Mikrokosmos for practicing sightreading. It helps me pay more attention to what notes are really there, and avoid trying to anticipate the harmony of the piece (which, for most contemporary music, is impossible).

The Mikrokosmos also has a wide variety of difficulty levels, so you should be able to find something easy enough or difficult enough for your sightreading needs.


First of all, technique doesn't come from exercise books or more practice, it comes from moving properly. You can practice ten hours a day but if you move incorrectly, you won't improve. If you are unlucky, you will brow beat your technique into the wrong muscles which will result in eventual injury. You will know you are moving wrong if you wake up in the morning with stiff arms and hands.

Sight reading comes from your knowledge of music theory and having a technique which can play what your brain sees. Your ear will also aid in discerning what is coming next. Much like reading words. It deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Music is the same.

You don't need exercises nor exercise books. Only real music. You'll get all the technique you need from therein.

  • This doesn't answer the question, which is about developing the "knowledge of music theory" and "technique" that you mention. Of course one learns from playing real music, but it is an extreme to say, for instance, that one should not learn major scale fingerings on their own and merely learn it piecemeal whenever it comes up in a piece. Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 14:50

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