Sight Reading & Practical Revision

Lesson fifteen is going to focus on spending some time going over all the things you have learned so far. But, before we do that, I’m going to explain to you the mysteries of sight reading!

You have probably often heard people utter the phrase ‘sight reading’ with a hushed air of reverence. This is because it can be quite a tough skill to master and only comes after a LOT of experience. You have to have a quick mind and be able to process new information very quickly. Sight reading is exactly what it sounds: it means picking up a totally unfamiliar piece and playing it straight off – and without many mistakes!

To be able to sight read well you need to:

  1. Be familiar with all scales so that you feel confident with the set of notes belonging to the key signature.
  2. Have played a variety of different rhythms so that you are familiar with certain sets of patterns.
  3. Be familiar with chords so you can play them straight away.
  4. Quickly scan the piece looking for any particularly tricky rhythms of note combinations, dynamics, key changes, and accidentals.
  5. Either read the lyrics through to give yourself an idea of the rhythm, or quietly count the rhythm to yourself under your breath.

Sight reading is a really useful skill to have - particularly if you wish to join an orchestra, band or another music group. As a pianist for choirs and solo singers, I have found that soloists in particular, have an alarming habit of plonking a piece of music in front of you and starting to sing it straight away - without leaving you any time to rehearse! If you can play, or at least partially play, music from sight, then it makes rehearsals so much easier.

Now I don't intend you to sight read just yet. The next two pieces are primarily to give you the opportunity to revise some of the many techniques and skills you have learned so far. Of course, you are welcome to try sight reading them if you want!

This first piece is called ‘ Lazy River’, indicating the flowing, legato left hand.

And now for something completely different! This second piece is the complete opposite of the first - ‘Jubilation’ means a feeling of extreme joy. To reflect that, this piece is to be played allegro, very quickly, at 120 beats per minute – 2 per second. Notice how in Bar 6 the left hand echoes the right hand in Bar 4.

Glossary of Terms

Allegro: Fast.

Dynamics: Volume of sound: the loudness or softness of a passage of music.

Sight reading: Playing unknown music directly from the score.