"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #30 Guest Speaker’s Tips on Reading and Sight-reading

I reached out to a very special person who is going to speak to you in this post via one of her videos. Please allow me to preface her appearance with a few thoughts and words of my own.

Two practice activities that are very often mistakenly regarded as being synonymous:

1. The practice of learning to read and sight-read music.
2. The practice of learning to play songs using a “sight-enhanced playing-by-ear” approach.

1. “LEARNING TO READ AND SIGHT-READ MUSIC”

After learning the names of the piano keys, teaching beginner students to focus on note reading in 5-finger positions, starting with the “C Position“, is and has been a widely-accepted practice for years. It’s how I was brought-up and many of today’s nationally recognized traditional method books use still this methodology. I wholeheartedly believe in the efficacy of this method and I use it with my beginner students. I also use it with some of my intermediate and advanced students who wish to go back to fine-tune or brush-up their music reading skills.

Did I say advanced students? Yes! That’s right! Some of the world’s most well-known and formidable musicians are/were not good “readers-of-music”.  From Irving Berlin to Billy Joel. From Glenn Gould to Erroll Garner. From Bela Fleck to Sir Paul McCartney.  There are loads of musicians who’ve been up-front and very honest about their music reading abilities which, by their own words, range from not-so-good to not-at-all.

As evidenced by their very successful careers, it’s easy to see that the ability to read music is in no way THE determinative factor as to whether or not you’re going to become an excellent player/musician or have a successful career.

Nevertheless, there are many musicians who, in their heart-of-hearts, later come to know and realize the importance of what they’re missing.  Hopefully, many of them will also know and realize that it is never too late to go back and get any of the things which they may have missed during their formative years. Just go back and get it! It’s as simple as that! Put it on a “Bucket List”, then find someone to help get it done! If you’re just starting out, then get it done right now so that you don’t have to go back and do it later. 

So, whatever the reason, if learning to read music is a high priority item on your list of objectives, then I recommend that you find a teacher/coach like me, my guest speaker, or someone you may know to guide you through the maze of activities that lie ahead of you. Don’t go it alone! It is difficult to do this alone!

 2. LEARNING REPERTOIRE USING A “SIGHT-ENHANCED PLAYING-BY-EAR” APPROACH

The core component of “sight-enhanced playing-by-ear” lies in the key phrase, Playing-by-ear. Playing-by-ear happens when you use only your ears to recreate the sounds (melodies, chords, rhythms) you hear. It’s a wonderful skill to have and I encourage you to develop it to the best of your ability. Later on, playing by ear is often enhanced by other things that you may learn in music theory such as intervals and “note reading”. With this method, you’ll frequently find yourself working on small sections and segments of songs… perhaps 2, 4, or 8 measures at a time. As long as your objective is to “learn to play the piece”, this approach is very good! Using written notes to assist you with your playing by ear activities is what sight-enhanced playing-by-ear is all about.

However, learning to play songs that way is NOT at the center of what learning to read and sight-read music is all about.   

Guest Speaker Video

Watch this video and spend the next 10-minutes with my guest speaker. Listen to her share some of her thoughts and tips on how to improve your reading and sight-reading music skills.  She spells out her reasoning as to why you, and piano students in general, should slowly work your way through level-appropriate music.  Everyone who is serious about either learning or brushing-up sight-reading skills should check out what she has to say. She is a real treasure!


Of all the tips and points that Margaret makes in this video, I’d like to emphasize the fact that consistent, daily work in this area is what will move you along. Practice well and be patient. 

See you next post.

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