This is really confusing. Sight reading basically is recognizing the notes. How do you actually “improve” on something like that? Can someone please give me advice on how to improve? I have a MTAC (Music Teacher’s Association of California) test in two days! I’m really nervous, I need help! I personally is really bad at reading notes. Please help.

  • 3
    Practice every day. Just like word reading. Mar 2, 2019 at 5:36
  • Is this a test to become an accredited music teacher? If so, strategies for improving sight-reading should have been well covered by now. It's a skill that takes a lot of time, regularly trying to read, on a daily basis, like so many other skills. Sorry, it won't suddenly improve for tomorrow, whatever happens.
    – Tim
    Mar 2, 2019 at 7:38
  • Any way it’s too late now to start with training ... Mar 2, 2019 at 8:40
  • musictheory.net/lessons Mar 2, 2019 at 9:06

2 Answers 2


Sight reading is "basically recognizing the notes", but in two dimensions: pitch and rhythm.

If you're really talking about "sight" reading (being able to read something in real time that you haven't seen before) you want to isolate those two skills.

Get some snare drum music. Everything is written in the third space of the staff, so it isolates the rhythm. Choose any pitch on your instrument and play the written rhythms. Do a different exercise each time you practice - you want it to always be something you haven't seen before!

One you're competent in reading rhythms, then you add melody. Again the key is to play things you haven't seen before.

It takes time to learn to read "at sight" - for a melody it takes the average person a couple of years to do it well. For harmony (reading vertical chords at sight) add another couple of years.

Because you need new music every time you practice, you'll need access to lots of music. When I was really working on improving my sight reading the resources were a little more limited, so I made do with what I had - I would take music that I'd already played and repurpose it by playing the measures in reverse order, or by reading down columns of measures. Fake books are good for practice, since they usually have 200+ different tunes. And you can practice sight reading from music written for any instrument that uses your clef - if you're playing clarinet, you can read violin music, or oboe music, or flute music... anything in G clef that doesn't exceed your range. You don't need to worry about it being for a transposing instrument unless you're going to play with someone else, so that can increase the amount of music available.


It looks as you are an absolute beginner: Maybe it will help you when you know what the clefs are meaning: Violine clef is developped of G, the Bass clef was originally an F.


also the sharps and flats can give you some indications ... you must know where they are placed and which tones are altered by them and also know the spelling. You will not learn it in 2 days by reading and memorizing.

Draw a grandstaff with distance of lines and transcribe/write any sheetmusic instead of the dots right the name of the notes across and between the lines. Measure the time and count how many notes/min you could copy. So you can measure your improvement.

Start with children songs and well know pieces. Google the title and look up images or sheet music.

Reading the rhythm will be a quite different problem ...


  • 2
    Trouble with starting with well-known pieces is that if someone's good with their ear, they'll tend to play by ear rather than read the dots.
    – Tim
    Mar 2, 2019 at 12:13
  • @Tim, I was assuming that OP has no idea of sheet music at all - as he asks how to improve his sight reading in 2 days for a test. Mar 2, 2019 at 14:13

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