I have 2 beginner questions with sub questions for (sight) reading.

The first question (this might be a rather dumb question), but i've been struggling with this for a while now. How do I count the rhythm in my head like (1 e 2 e 3 e 4 e) and also think to myself "oh, these notes are A - B - C - G etc". Whenever i focus on reading the note i sometimes lose track of rhythm. Whenever i focus on rhythm i notice i start unintentionally focusing on different stuff, for instance i look at the distance between the note and the note after (or it shows the fingering and i look at that). I might just read the first note and sort of follow along, but i find myself losing track of where i am especially when there are bigger jumps involved or when there are eight notes. When someone would ask me can u start again from the note D, i would have to search the whole part i just played to find it. Can anyone tell me what the process in your head is while sight reading? Do you think the rhythm and notes outloud or do you think 1 outloud and do the other subconsciously?

My second question has to do with reading both treble and bass clef and also involves the question above. How do i then convert this to reading both clefs. I've heard u read down up, so first note of the bass clef then treble clef and so fort. I usually start at practicing the clefs seperate. But when i try both together i find myself gravitating to the treble clef depending more on memory in the left hand then actual reading. So in the corner of my eye i see that there is something else played in the left hand and in my memory i think to myself "A came after the B so i have to play the B now". I don't actually read that note (i think), i might see that the note goes up or down but the distance seems harder to identify and i can't seem to read the actual note. I tried slowing down the metronome alot but my teacher says below 40 BPM is ridiculously slow and i should force myself to keep making mistakes. My question is how should i practice reading both? should i focus on other skills before doing this? What do i look at what can i ignore? should focus my eyes to look at the white space between the treble and bass clef?

Whenever i ask my piano teacher these questions he doesn't really give me a direct answer.. He gives me pieces like 'Minuet in G' and acts surprised that i struggle with it. Even though we only did a little bit of reading like songs which have the chords names above the treble clef and try to play along the music not really fosuced on being in rhythm with melody. We now start focusing more on just rhythm without pitch, which is going decent compared to what it was.. But when it comes to reading sheet i feel so lost and not taken serious by my teacher.

PS: Sorry if my english is bad, It's not my native language. Feel free to ask me more questions if my problem is too vague.

  • This is mainly aimed at Music Stack Exchange regulars: I have a bad feeling that the second question is a duplicate, and both questions combined are too broad. Sadly, until both are fixed, I've had to vote to close this. Editing this question and asking a new one are still in your power, SeanD!
    – Dekkadeci
    Apr 16, 2021 at 12:43
  • First consideration might be a different teacher! Teaching sight-reading is not the easiest of jobs, but there are many strategies that a lot of teachers don't use.
    – Tim
    Apr 16, 2021 at 13:10

1 Answer 1


First, I think your music teacher is wrong to say practicing slower than 40 BPM is ridiculously slow. As I've written elsewhere, if you allow yourself to keep making mistakes as you practice then you are practicing your mistakes.

As for the rest of your question, the point of practicing is to improve and if you keep on practicing (as long as you are not just practicing your mistakes) you will improve.

It's like learning to drive a car (if you've had that experience). At first there is so much to think about all at once that it seems overwhelming. But as you gain more practice you find that you can perform more and more of the activity with less active concentration, freeing your mind to think about more advanced aspects of the activity.

So back to your specific question, as you gain experience you'll be able to keep track of simple rhythm without actually having to think about it. At first that will be the regular pulse of the time signature - you'll start to 'feel' it rather than having to consciously count it. With more experience you'll subdivide beats and recognise certain rhythms without having to think about it. As your experience builds you'll start recognising more complex rhythms and syncopations.

It works the same way with note pitches. At first you probably have to spell out the lines and spaces names for every note. Eventually you will have learned the clefs so you can recognise the pitches directly. You'll start to recognise small intervals, which will make it faster reading chords. You'll start reading both clefs as a unit rather than separate entities. At some point you'll start recognising chord shapes and probably won't even need to think about the individual note pitches anymore.

You asked what the process is in the head of someone who is sight-reading. Well, it depends entirely on their level of experience. A novice will be counting beats and perhaps even spelling out pitches. A professional will be considering their phrasing and blending with the other musicians, or perhaps even just what they will be having for lunch after the rehearsal.

So keep on practicing. Choose material that stretches you a little but is achievable. And be patient with yourself.

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