It is hard for me to practice lately the piano. But i really want to sight read well and keep advancing, even if it is outside of it.

  1. Is it possible to sight read outside the piano by reading piano pieces from books?

  2. How would you suggest to approach such technique that will enable me when getting back to the piano to be able to play it easily?

  3. Can you please recommend me on books for advanced beginner? For example moonlight sonata is the kind of piece that i can read well.

Thank you!!!

  • I don't see, how you define sight reading; if you don't play what you read, how is the successful reading confirmed? (WIth the instrument, your ears would confirm that.)
    – guidot
    Jan 27, 2020 at 7:52
  • 2
    By any chance, can you sight sing?
    – Dekkadeci
    Jan 27, 2020 at 8:20
  • Reading sheet music learning to identify notes patterns pitch and the piano pattern. I know it is using imagination and the ability to hear the music. @dekkadeci i can not sight sing but i am a singer.
    – LoveIsHere
    Jan 27, 2020 at 8:25
  • Do you mean that you have some physical pain when playing, currently, or that you don't have access to a piano currently? If it's the latter, you may want to spend $15 on a melodica, and work with a piano sight reading book or series of books. Jan 27, 2020 at 15:48

4 Answers 4


Simple answer - learn how to sight-sing. As you are already a singer, it's a valuable weapon to own. If there's an instrument around to give you pitch, then great, but if not, it doesn't really matter. Not having absolute pitch is no excuse! Look at the dots (one hand at a time), ignore chords - they're much too hard to sing... And get used to identifying intervals - any note following another on the line/space above will be a third. There are two in common use - major and minor. Get used to the difference in sound. Any two notes on lines with another line between are fifths (same for spaces). Get used to how they sound consecutively.

Learn tonic sol-fa, and be able to sing doh>soh, mi>ti, etc. That works in any key, and will help when you are back on keys.


Even I am a great protagonist of solfege and ear training I would like to complete the other answers and comments telling what I still practice everyday (even independent of the absolute sound and pitch of the notes I'm reading!) Of course the pitch of the note and the question which key you have to press down is the most important aspect aside of the note length and the fingerings. But there are some other things you can practice without out sitting at the piano:

  1. analyzing the piece: parts, motifs, phrases, figures (give them a number, a name, a term (formal analysis)

  2. analyzing the chords: chord names and Roman numbers (harmonic and functional analysis)

  3. analyzing the rhythm: make a reduction of the rhythmic 8( and also of the melodic motifs, play the rhythm without an instrument (practicing the l. and r. hands just playing with or without fingerings).

In German we have an expression for this kind of training: "Trocken-Schwimmen" (= "dry swimming", that means swimming without water, as some trainers teach swimming outside of the pool. That's the way I've taught myself crawling at the age of 50!)

You can call this also brain-gym, cross-crawl, mental training, (mind that a good training of your memory also is a condition for sight reading.)

What I'm proposing is what I do everyday - and night! (with and without sheet music ...)

You can imagine that the benefit for sight reading must be great, when you look at the sheet music and you can easily detect the harmony, the chords, the rhythmic patterns, because you have a term for each element, phenomena and appearance and you also have the skills to cope the technical problems.

Can you please recommend me on books for advanced beginner? For example moonlight sonata is the kind of piece that i can read well.

The music I am learning or practicing is still the same I was playing when I started piano playing: Bach Inventions and Bela Bartok Mikrokosmos.

At the moment I practice these elements with the invention in a-minor and BWV 999. (A technique, that helps me to develop my skills is also to transpose these pieces in C-major (as this is to me like a root scale), or changing the #-assignments in flats (parallel key) or playing it through all keys. A-propos scales: of course playing scales and chords in all keys is a very helpful to acquire the skills of sight reading, fingerings and all kind of technical (rhythmical and melodic) problems.

I train first the pattern with the hands, than with the fingers (if possible): BWV 999 is a good example. (about the voice leading and the chords I still discover new aspects ... after playing this piece for 10 years now! but I know every single new aspect I find out will be a benefit when reading a new piece (transfer of learning!)

What I'm also doing is: I notate the new insight as a memo with the date and on the sheet or in a booklet. So I get a whole diary of the development of my skills I have got and my discoveries I have got.

Try out the preludes of the WTC (C-major, C-minor, C#-major, D-major, D-minor), the Inventions and sinfonias, and later the fugues. Suddenly you will see that you can sight read Chopin.

  • I really enjoyed reading your detailed answer. this is brilliant. will follow. BTW: sight-reading without sheet music? how do you do that?
    – LoveIsHere
    Jan 27, 2020 at 13:34
  • by memorizing short puzzles: 2-4 bars and fotocopying in my brain! I've learnt e.g. the violin-concerto in a-minor BWV 1041 this way by heart (just the solo part but playing on Euphonium). I memorize it by assigning each bar to a finger and counting to 24 (introduction). Another trick is: I imagine each bar on a carree (field) of a chessboard. Reading without sheet music: The same way I'm training other clefs (tenor and alto clef -> just imagination with closed eyes... so we come to composition: if you try to notate your own music - or any other melody you have in mind - you can read it too! Jan 27, 2020 at 13:45
  • brilliant. you sound like a very smart person:). thanks a lot. ( I think I will start with the inventions. as I really love bach and it is more challenging than the bartok)
    – LoveIsHere
    Jan 27, 2020 at 13:49

I am aware of classical guitarists who are able to "read" a piece of music without their instrument and then later play it. But these individuals have decades of experience before being able to do this and possibly were geniuses.

Sight reading involves merging multiple skills. It can be frustrating to get stuck or not make progress but the key to getting good at sight reading is to do it every day, like reading the news paper.

In order to translate what you see to a movement or action in your hands you must have developed some hand technique. So, without that what you read will not trigger the correct movements. However these skills can be developed and practiced separately to some extent. You also want to be able to hear what you are reading even without an instrument. If you can play by ear and hear what you see on the sheet music then the connection will be triggered in the mind.

I am not a piano player but a guitarist and I can relate some exercises that I think apply. One is to literally verbalize the note names while reading melodic lines from sheet music. I have a couple sight reading books for guitar that recommend this. It's just a way to reinforce one of many neural pathways that get triggered when sight reading. You can take a line of music from anything and do this. Read it at a steady pace, read it backwards, turn it upside down and read again, assuming the staff lines are upright (e.g. f is the top line of the Treble clef regardless of orientation). Some people have a hard time saying the alphabet backwards. Try identifying descending scale notes by name if this is a problem. Another exercise (for guitarists) that I've seen is to take simple tetrachord patterns and touching the finger corresponding to each note to your thumb (for the fretting hand). For example there are 2 basic fingering patterns for the sequence (Do, Re, Mi, Fa) on of which is (2, 4) on the E, A, or D string followed by (1, 2) on the next string. Simple two finger sequences. The exercise involves "reading" simple melodic sequences from the tetrachord while tapping the correct finger to he thumb while you read. There has got to be a way to do this with a virtual piano as well. In the same exercise you can add the extra dimension of vocalizing the notes as you tap. This reinforces the pathway of connecting a sound to a body movement. In time you will notice that when you see sheet music you hear what the notes are in your head, and your hand feels what to do. In time all this translates to better sight reading skills.

As many have suggested learning to sight sing also helps develop the ear-sheet music connection. But that won't necessarily develop the hand-ear connection as that is unique to each instrument.

You can also achieve the ability to hear what you read by using ear training software (that helped me but every person is different). I used Ear Master Pro. It shows you the notes being played for certain exercises and even when it doesn't it will show you the notes on a staff after you enter your guess for intervals etc, playing the note as it flashes the note on the staff. Over time you notice that you can hear the note you see without it being played. (At least I hope that's normal, ;-)).


I could either give @Tim's answer a significant edit, or write my own answer -- here goes. I'm going to focus on how to learn to sight sing.

Buy or borrow a sight singing textbook such as what is used in college music programs' sight singing courses. I think you will be able to do this through self-study if you have a good book to work with.

Here's an Amazon list: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=sightsinging&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

Choose something modern, and choose something that appeals to you. Don't move too quickly through the book. You probably won't need to get the whole way through the book to be able to say mission accomplished.

I had to take a one-credit sight singing course for my Bachelor's in music. I got much more out of that course than most of my non-performance courses. Working your way through a book of this type will help your musicianship immeasurably.

Adding a bit: as you learn to sight sing, you will also learn to visualize (but with the sense of hearing, rather than the sense of sight). You will learn to hear in your mind's ear what you see on the page. You will be able to look at a phrase of written music and hear it in your head. Learning to do this is a process. Sight singing books walk you through this learning process step by step with lots of exercises for each step in the process.


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