I am not asking for some unrealistic method by which a person can learn to site read over night. I know that practice cannot be replaced.

I merely want to know if there are any methods that can help in learning sight read in less time and more robustly. I know that practice makes perfect.

I am not looking for a software solution. Any general method that is considered to be very robust to learn sight reading is acceptable as an answer.


5 Answers 5


There are no tricks.

Just a lot of practice with songs at a level that you find easy. Strive to stay in time and just read as well as you can. This is a separate practice in addition to learning new songs/keeping repertoire fresh/improv exercises/etc etc etc.

In a year with lots of practice it'll get noticeably easier. Past 2 years (again, with lots of practice), you should be pretty solid at it.

Or you could do what I do and switch to notation that is faster to read. Not saying it'll work for you, but it does for me. Here's the notation I use in my little midi file piano practice program http://pianocheetah.com/tutorial/screenshots.html

Of course, your mileage may vary. Good luck to ya.


As a string player, I found playing in small and large ensembles very helpful for getting more solid with sightreading. Playing with others forces you to keep going even if you missed a little something along the way. And it helps you get in the habit of looking slightly ahead so you aren't too surprised by a sudden key change or whatever.

Pianists are at a disadvantage in this respect, working alone most of the time as they do.

Frankly, if you are at least at an intermediate level, finding some ensembles to play in, or even just a friend to play some duets with, would be the most helpful thing you could do.

If you are somewhere in the beginning realm, I would recommend a series of sightreading training books by Paul Harris.

It is also helpful to keep the key you are in clearly in mind. Identify the key, play the scale, get the tonality solidly in your ear, and make sure you know which black notes are part of the key, before you start playing.


One thing to avoid is music with "aids for beginners" like fingering on every note, or letters for the pitch names. You can fall into the trap of unconsciously "reading the fingering" not "reading the notes".

Also, you need to be "really sight-reading" using music that you have never seen before. You can get an endless supply of that for free from a website like http://imslp.org/. If you are a beginner, you might consider sight-reading music for other instruments which only play single notes, or the vocal parts of songs, played on the piano with one hand, so "learning to sight-read" doesn't get conflated with "learning piano technique".


Learn to visualize the keys in your minds eye. This is not as easy as it sounds but if you can keep it up it will help.


Here are some tips for the piano on how to sight-read

  • Avoid looking at your hands while sight-reading. This will help you "memorize" the keyboard, so your eyes can stay on the music and allow you to look ahead in the music
  • Avoid the urge to play the piece at performance tempo right away. Play the piece at half speed or maybe even slower if that is what you need to get it right
  • Try to pay attention to any dynamics/articulations you see.
  • Try to keep going even if you've hit a wrong note. Keep the rhythm intact ahead of everything else

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