Sight reading can be a difficult skill to master, but one that is invaluable in the music industry. For those of you trying to master the skill, we’ve put together some top tips to help learning it that much easier.
Learn the basics
Before you are ready to start learning to read music, you must get a sense for the basic information that everyone who reads music needs to know. The horizontal lines on a piece of music make up the staff. The treble clef notates the higher registers of music, so if your instrument has a higher pitch, such as a flute, violin or saxophone. The bass clef notates the lower registers of music, so if your instrument has a lower pitch, such as a bassoon, tuba or cello.
There are also some really great mnemonics—or word cues— that can help you remember. For example;
• The Treble Clef five lines, from the bottom up, represent the following notes: E G B D F, or , "Every Good Boy Does Fine"
• The Treble Clef four spaces, from the bottom up, represent these notes: F A C E (That one’s pretty easy!)
• The Bass Clef five lines, bottom to top, represent these notes: G B D F A (Good Boys Don't Fool Around).
• The Bass Cleff four spaces, bottom to top, represent these notes: A C E G (All Cows Eat Grass).
Everyone has heard the time-old phrase ‘practise makes perfect’, but learning to read sheet music can be like learning a whole new language, so understand that it will take time. Practise sight singing and playing without looking at your hands to help you along. The best way to learn though is to keep at it, keep practising and don’t give up!
Learn songs you love
It’s so much easier to practise and learn from songs you like and already know well by ear, to help match the note on the sheet to the note in your head. This way, it will stop you from giving up as easily as well as if you were playing a piece of music that didn’t interest you.
Just like you are taught as a child to read ahead of what you are reading out loud, the same goes for reading music. As you learn to automatically associate written notes with the correct fingerings, begin to try to look at least one note ahead of the note you are currently playing, and if possible a full measure. Professional sight readers can sometimes take in a whole line of music at a glance, helping to anticipate what is coming up and transition to it more naturally.
Anything under pressure is harder and daunting, so breather! Relax into the music and enjoy yourself; It makes it a lot easier! If you make a mistake, don’t panic or correct yourself, just keep moving along.
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