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The Significance of Sight Reading

What is sight reading and why is it so important?

Sight reading is playing (or singing for vocalists) a piece of music that one has not seen before.  This ability includes being able to keep going with a steady beat, no matter how many mistakes might be made from reading it for the first time.  Sound difficult?  It is!  That said, sight reading is an ability that any musician can improve on with consistent practice.  Before we get into tips for doing this (see next month’s blog!), let’s talk about why it is so important.  What is so special about being able to sight read through any new piece of music without pausing, or having to take a longer time to practice and learn it first before being able to play through it confidently?

Let me give just a few specific examples that can help explain why it can be so useful…

Good sight reading ability would allow a musician to get paid to accompany vocalists.  Imagine that you have been taking lessons awhile and decide to turn your ability into a profitable side job while in school.  If you have the ability to sight read through music quickly and confidently, you could offer your services to vocalists who are singing for events like solo and ensemble, a wedding, or a community performance.  If you are able to read multiple parts at the same time, you could be hired to accompany a choir.  There are many situations where an accompanist is needed within a short amount of time and only those with great sight reading ability can successfully provide this service. 

These situations are not only applicable to accompanists.  There are also many circumstances when a soloist is needed for an event, and may need to learn several pieces of music within a short amount of time.  Let’s say a violinist had to cancel a wedding event due to illness and another is needed with only a day’s notice.  A violinist who can quickly sight read through new material could easily be hired for this job.

Let’s apply sight reading ability to a less advanced level musician.   Imagine you just saw a movie like Frozen 2 and you are so excited to purchase a book of sheet music so you can learn a song for your next APA recital.  Your teacher asks you which song you would like to choose, but you have no idea how they each sound and the idea of trying to learn them all to get an idea of which one you want to play seems like it will take forever.  Here is a perfect moment where the student’s ability to sight read can make this decision much easier!  A student who can sight read well, can take a few moments to play through the first page of each song to get an idea of what it sounds like.  A student whose sight reading isn’t as strong would have to completely rely on the teacher to play through the music.

Good sight-reading ability gives a musician the power and confidence to play more music, and for those who are in the business, it makes a musician much more profitable.  It really is like a super power for a musician, and is incredibly useful to any musician-beginner to advanced!  

 

 

Stay tuned for next month’s blog for sight reading practice tips! 

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