Sight-reading Superstars!

Turn your students into sight-reading superstars!


  • One of the most important musical skills
  • Enhances every aspect of music making
  • Good sight-reading leads to more accurate performances and enhanced musicianship
  • Helps create the complete musician
  • Promotes the enjoyment of music
  • Example: Studio musicians (time is money)

What should I do?

  • “Sell” it to your students – challenge them!
  • Integrate into the curriculum on a daily basis, a little each day
  • Strategize to help you find your students’ strengths and weaknesses

Required Skills

  • Tracking
  • Reading
  • Technical
  • Tactile senses
  • Aural: Listening & Responding
  • Adjusting
  • Synthesis

Application of Skills

  • Rhythm reading is usually most difficult aspect of sight-reading
  • What activities and musical training can make students better sight readers?
  • What other activities do you use?

It’s curricular!

  • Where is it in your written curriculum?
  • Daily integration – small ideas
  • Weekly, Monthly – larger ideas
  • Systematic/sequenced
  • Assessment


  • Clap/Tap to a steady beat
  • Say letter names in tempo
  • Say finger numbers (strings)
  • Pizzicato (strings); Vocalize with syllables (ta/ti)
  • Finger with sizzle
  • Play


  • Large group
  • Small group or partners
  • Individually
  • Home practice/drills
  • Start small!!  Work your way up to longer & more difficult repertoire

What to look for…

  • Notes
  • Rhythms
  • Time signature
  • Key signature
  • Tempo
  • “Road map”
  • Bowings, tonguing, articulations
  • Accidentals
  • Dynamics
  • Style

What are the priorities when sight-reading?

Use mnemonic devices such as the word STARS

  • S – signatures (time and key)
  • T – tempo
  • A – accidentals
  • R – rests & rhythmns
  • S – signs (road map items like D.C. and coda)

Teaching strategies

  • Tracking – tap and say notes rhythms simultaneously
  • Movement – clapping, stomping, conducting, etc.
  • Keep going!!  No stopping!
  • Count out loud
  • Cover notes being played, forcing student to look ahead
  • Counting rests as with an emphasis on their importance
  • Skip a particular note or beat each measure
  • Pass the melody – measure at a time
  • Change the key

Advanced strategies

  • Interval training
    • Have a m2/M2 day, etc.
  • Triad/Arpeggio training
    • Teach chord construction, alteration

More ways to develop

  • Playing by ear and improvisation can improve students’ ear, eye, and hand coordination.   Also removes the variable of sight!
  • Students need to develop their ability to render the sound they imagine audible.
  • Inner hearing along with the development of technical proficiency.

Audience provided examples

(from FMEA and TMEA 2014 presentations)

  • Sight-reading jar – pull out musical snippets
  • Student-created rhythms & melodies
  • Folders loaded with different pieces, read them little by little
  • Reverse rhythm reading
  • Rhythmic rest patterns book (101 rhythmic rest patterns)
  • SmartMusic sight-reading exercises
  • Binders of fun!


  • How should sight-reading be assessed?
    • Large group – adjudication first comes to mind
    • Individual
      • Auditions/All-State/Collegiate
      • Classroom assessments


  • Sheet music (most used)
  • Supplemental method books
  • Alternate method books or exercise books
  • Create your own!
    • Finale, etc.
    • Noteflight – cloud-based music notation

Websites & Apps

iPad screen mirroring via AirPlay is made possible by Air Server software., $15.


  • Stress the importance of sight-reading.  Make it an important ingredient to your curriculum
  • When sight-reading is infused into your curriculum and daily lessons it can make a huge impact on music making
  • Start small
  • Be creative!


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