Anyone who plays an instrument or sings will eventually want to learn how to improve their music sight reading. I don’t blame them, I do too.
Why is this? I think it’s because they have learned a little secret that you should know about too.
Here’s the big secret that’s not really a secret (and also a fact): The better you are at sight reading, the less you have to practice.
How is that for a deep and profound thought?
Better Sight Reading = Less Practice
Now, would you like to practice 2 hours a day or 30 minutes a day to learn the same material? Of course, you want to practice less. No one enjoys sitting on a hard piano bench or being sandwiched between a chair and a music stand for very long.
Practicing is the experience everyone dreads…yet everyone needs. What do we need to do in order to practice less? How about taking the time to pay attention to your music before you even start playing?
Look For The M.A.R.K.S.
Meter – Look at the time signature. How many beats are in a measure? What type of note will receive 1 count?
Accidentals – Are there sharps, flats, or naturals in your music that do not appear in the key signature? Watch closely for all accidentals.
Rhythms – Do you notice any rhythms you are unfamiliar with? Take a moment to figure them out. Write in the counting for any rhythms that look questionable to you.
Key Signature – This is a big one that most people miss! Pay attention to the flats, sharps, or lack thereof in your key signature. If you are newer to reading music, I highly suggest you write the flats and sharps into your music. This alone will save you a lot of time, energy, and frustration.
Signs – The signs I am suggesting include anything that indicates form (repeat signs, 1st and 2nd endings, etc.), articulation, dynamics, tempo, etc.
Why Take The Time To Do This?
Taking the time to “think” through this process may seem tedious, but it will save you a lot of time in the end. Getting impatient by being in a hurry will actually waste more of your time in the end.
You are in control of what you do. Don’t you want to set yourself up for success instead of failure?
Provide yourself with a good start by scanning through everything on the page first. Make notes wherever you need to.
Beginners, this may even include writing in notes until you learn how to read them well on the staff.
I like to think of writing things into your music like training wheels. Most of us need them at first until we eventually learn how to ride a bike without them. The same is true in music reading.
Don’t be afraid to mark things into your music.
By the way, marking things into your music is also practice. The more you write in things, the faster you will get in learning and remembering them.
Just as getting better at something needs practice, these steps for better music sight reading need practice too.
Make it a habit to look for the M.A.R.K.S. in your music before you even get started. In time, you will notice less things that need to be written in and faster learning of the material.
Better Sight Reading = Less Practice & More Confidence
Just knowing you have a plan to activate in order to tackle a problem will give you the confidence you need to keep going. Write down the M.A.R.K.S. plan above and keep it with your music.
Put it into action every time you have something new to learn.