• Sandra Howe

Why is Sight Reading so Difficult and is There an Easier Way?


Piano especially, has a reputation for being a difficult instrument to sight read. With two lines of music to read, two different clefs, 10 fingers, 88 different notes and a few pedals it can be tricky in that department.


I had been very comfortable with sight reading with saxophone. Learning new pieces excited me and I often jumped at the chance to play a new piece through. When I began learning piano, however, I faced this difficulty and found it frustrating to say the least. The main advice given at the time, would be to play lots of new music and my teacher provided me with lots of different music, plus I gathered quite a collection myself to play. My progress was slow and arduous, I even began to fear learning new pieces. I wondered if there was not only an easier way, but if there was a reason why so many found it difficult. Could we be using a different approach?

I researched musicians who were good sight readers and learned the different techniques they used. I studied sight reading material, experimented with different learning techniques and read scientific studies on the brain and how we learn music. I found that certain teaching approaches often neglected or negatively affected sight reading skills. I realized that sight reading was a complex process but that it could be broken down into different facets which could each be trained separately for a less frustrating way of learning.

I created a syllabus from resources to specifically give anyone I teach a good foundation in sight reading. I give my students exercises to do which help train the different facets within sight reading enabling progress to be quicker and less frustrating. Adults who have found learning frustrating benefit from my approach even when they have thought it wasn’t possible.

What I find the most rewarding about teaching sight reading is seeing the independence it provides my students. When a student has come into a lesson and can show me pieces they have learnt outside our lessons, in addition to the work we have been doing, it is fantastic. The fact that they have learnt pieces without help and have begun to explore their own musical tastes is the whole point of my teaching. It provides them with a freedom to learn and try music they find.

#sightreading #sightreadingpiano #learningpiano #difficulttosightread #easierwaytosightread

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