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Exercises to Help you with Piano Sight Reading

Sight reading is an important skill for all piano players that makes pianist able to read different musical pieces for performances. Knowing sight reading skill widens the spectrum for a pianist. It opens up opportunities for work as pianists with sight reading skills can become a studio musician, church pianist, accompanist etc. It may appear to be a difficult approach for playing piano but once learned, this skill makes playing piano much simpler. Sight reading is about reading words and recognizing patterns that enhances your skills as a piano player but it does need your time, efforts and some practice to get good at it.

Exercises for Sight Reading:

1. Learn with Flashcards:

One of the best ways of learning to sight read is with patterned flashcards. These flashcards have focus on notes and patterns that helps in memorizing notes. Flashcard programs are great to learn notes. All the notes within lines are memorized. Flashcard programs involve use of flashcards with notes that a pianist can learn and review each day whenever you get some time. These can be easily carried anywhere and you can practice them. Piano players at all levels can use flashcards to learn sight reading skills. With flashcards, you will not only learn names of the notes but will also be able to memorize their locations.

2. Reading Ahead:

Reading ahead is an excellent exercise for gaining hands on sight reading skills. Spend some time of your day for practicing to read ahead. This involves trying to read some notes ahead of what you are currently playing on piano. It enhances your reading skills. Reading ahead prepares you for what is coming next so you already know what notes will follow to what you are playing now. If you remain caught up in looking at the notes that you are playing, you might lose the notes to follow. This happens because neither your brain nor your hands would be prepared to play them. Many of the expert sight readers are usually witnessed looking some beats ahead to what they are playing and that is the best way. You should be able to measure the notes before playing them. Although it is a bit tricky but by practicing this exercise; you will get better at sight reading piano.
3. Learn Combinations of Notes:

Music is all about combination of notes to create melodies and harmony. Music involves all the different kinds of chords that are varied combination of notes in different patterns of keys. Memorizing these letter combinations (chords) is another great form of practicing sight reading. Learn all the major and minor chords and memorize notes involved. Memorizing piano chords would enable you to improve your sight reading as with practice you will reach a point where you will no longer be reading notes but will be reading more of chords involved. This is similar to reading words rather than reading letters that makes up those words in a sentence.

4. Practice Rhythm Exercises:

Sight reading for beginners should begin with practicing rhythms which is the most significant part of playing any music correctly. Beginners can start with any sheet music to practice rhythm sight reading. Reading and following proper rhythms would aid you in staying at the right place and not only your rhythms would sound good but you will remain in correct pitch. Especially when you are sight reading for a performance on stage or elsewhere, you need to look at the larger frame of music in order to find proper rhythms. One exercise that could make you familiarize with most of the rhythms is to look at the music sheet and follow half and quarter notes to write down all the possible rhythms that can be made. You can then follow similar exercise with other music intervals too. Knowing and understanding different rhythms would enable you to quickly identify those rhythms while sight reading. With these exercises, you will be able to identify arpeggios, fragments and other aspects of piano music too.

5. Practice Each Hand Exercises:

Sight reading should be practiced with each hand separately. As you practice playing something with your one hand, it will automatically prepare your other hand for playing before it actually hit the keys. This exercise is most important as when you are working on one of your hands for playing piano; your opposing hand is getting prepared at the same time. Varied hands and finger exercises would make your work with line of music much easier.

Important Thing to Remember:

As a beginner, you are bound to make mistakes that would work as learning stones for your skills. But when you make a mistake, do not stop even for a second. Avoid any nervousness or you may lose your rhythm. Mistake has already been made and it is not history. So best would be to forget about it and pay attention to notes and rhythm to follow. Continue through your track and you will get back on it quickly. More at


A little attention to details, concentration and regular exercises can make sight reading pretty much easier for a pianist. This aspect of musicianship can be improved and your ability to sight read would have direct affects on your piano playing skills. Just examine the way you can read music and adopt varied ways to make improvements in this skill. Implement these important basic exercises that we have shared here in your daily practice regime and you will be able to improve your sight reading chops within days and weeks.
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