I'm curious what the best route would be to become proficient in sight singing & ear training, along with polishing my technique on my preferred instruments (guitar & piano). I have a broad understanding of theory (rhythm, harmony, voice leading, etc.) but I have never taken the time to develop my reading and writing skills.

My goal is to be able to transcribe whatever I'm hearing in my head even when I'm away from my instrument. I would love to be able to look at a brand new piece of music and read/sing through it just as effortlessly as when I read a page out of book.

  • 2
    Regarding the sight-reading: do you already practices this when playing piano and guitar? Or do you for example play by ear or use TAB notation for guitar?
    – Arsak
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 18:42
  • I normally play by ear, but I have played in a jazz quartet where we'd communicate using chord charts and fragments of the notated melody.
    – LSchira
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 19:04
  • But no, I have neglected any serious practice routine when it comes to sight-reading with my instrument. I'm basically at the point where I can look at a lead sheet and understand what's going on harmonically from the accompanying chords, rhythmically from the time signature and common melodic phrases - but when it comes to reading notation on the spot, I am a complete beginner. I purchased the Berklee Method 1,2,3 for guitar.
    – LSchira
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 19:08
  • 1
    The part of your question looking for "suggestions on reading material, online instructors or courses" is off-topic, since requests for external resources are off-topic.
    – user39614
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 21:56

2 Answers 2


I like your analogy

read/sing through it just as effortlessly as when I read a page out of book.

because you basically hit the spot already.

Remember how you learned to read books?

You had (very) short and simple texts and put together the letters / syllables and words. This was slow and sometimes frustrating in the beginning, but with enough practice you became more and more proficient and could read longer and more sophisticated texts.

So, for sight-reading, pick very short and simple songs, and try to play them note-by-note with your instruments. Start slowly first. If you play piano, start playing each hand separately. Focus on correct pitch and rhythm first, if you are confident, increase speed. If this becomes easy, pick more complex pieces.

For sight-singing, I would recommend as a first step to look at melody sheets of (simple!) songs you know while slowly singing them and try to follow the notes while singing. Furthermore, practice intervals: first, listen to them and learn to distinguish them by ear. Then practice singing them (control yourself using the instruments). Next, pick a simple, but unknown (to you) song and try to sing the melody by putting together the intervals.

Intervals are also handy for your wish to transcribe melodies. If you have practised distinguishing intervals by ear, you can put together the intervals you hear and write the melody. Again, start simple.

And to come back to your analogy: expect it to be tiring, frustrating at some times, but whenever this happens, don't give up. Take a break, try another piece and consider taking lessons from a teacher.


Sight reading can be split into two separate entities - timing and pitch.

They are unrelated until put together to make tunes. Start with tapping rhythms from the dots, counting all the time. Eventually, you'll get to recognise some common patterns - just like you do with groups of letters that make words.

When, on a tune, you have established its rhythmic shape, then play the notes written, in that rhythm. Start with simple tunes that don't stretch too much, particularly on piano, so your hand doesn't have to float all over, but is stable. One hand at a time initially.

Look ahead, just like you have to when reading text out loud. Sometimes a metronome can help.

Get some sight reading material - ABRSM produces books for this purpose - the grades keep you on track.

Guitar is somewhat different, with so many different places to play the exact same notes. Learn some scale patterns, and adhere to them while sight reading.

Learn intervals, especially using the key root as a start point, rather than plodding through thinking 'C-E, M3, E-G, m3, G-A, M2. Instead, M3, P5, M6.

Sight singing, best done at the piano. Sing a couple of notes, after giving yourself the start note (obviously!) then play them, to check.

It's a long process, and needs doing very regularly, but it obviously worked when you began to read words, didn't it?! Playing with others is another opportunity to get better, once you're happy reading at more than the beginner stage. Good luck!

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