- you can improve your sight-reading dramatically by working at musical and technical aspects which appear to be unrelated -
If you want to improve your sight-reading and have never before dedicated time to it, you may be asking yourself how to to do so. In previous articles I have given practical advice. But there are other things you can do too to help develop your sight-reading skills, even as you walk around or are travelling without a guitar. Here is a list of six to be getting on with. Excellent sight-readers rely on these aspects quite often without realizing it, they just take them for granted.
Here they are:
Scanning the Score
Look at the music before playing through it. Take in as much information as possible. This includes tempo, key, rhythm, harmony, form and style.
Practise: take your time going through these aspects before playing.
Sharpen your reflexes by looking ahead, as much as a bar or two or more as you play. Test yourself on how quickly you can identify notes and chords and how quickly you can associate them with the fingerboard.
Practise speed-reading by taking in whole sentences at a glance when reading newspapers or books.
How quickly can you name notes on the guitar? Test yourself by calling out a note, any note, and identify the fret, on every string. You don't need a guitar to do it. Do it now as you read this - for example, g sharp on every string.
Practise: if you took more than 3 seconds to name any one of them then you should do this exercise every day. If you named each in less than a second, well done.
Chords and harmonic progressions
Here is a powerful key to improve your sight reading. The more quickly you can identify a chord, arpeggio or harmonic progression the more likely your fingers will go to the right shapes and notes.
Practise: make a start by taking simple studies by the Classical masters like Sor, Giuliani, Carcassi and Carulli and try to account for as much of the harmonic movement as possible.
It is not enough to be able to place the notes on the right frets, they have to sound in the right place at the right moment! What's more, if you make rhythm the driving force and not accurate note-playing, you may be surprised how quickly your fingers react to finding the right notes.
Practise: take more complicated looking rhythms and clap or sing them without playing. Don't limit yourself to easy guitar music where so much of it is unchallenging.
Form and style
This is the underpinning which adds class to good sight-reading: for example, improvising ornaments in Baroque style or playing Romantic music with expression.
Practise: where to start? Well, make a start today on listening to as much music of different styles as possible. It's free on YouTube! The surest way to learn is by listening to good playing.
For a practical guide to getting started on sight-reading read one of my previous articles Good Sight-Reading Speeds Up Learning which Includes The Five Play-Throughs' Plan.
18th May 2013, London
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