Sight-Reading’s First Thirty Seconds

Ready, Set, GO!

The sight-reading music just landed on your stand. You have about three minutes before you’re expected to start playing. What are you going to do first? The first 30 seconds after you get the music is the most critical to your success! Here’s how you might want to spend them:

  1. Read the title of the music, if there is one. The title can tell you the style, time period, or the general style of the music (e.g. March, Lullaby, Minuet).
  2. Look at the last note of the example. Are there are any key changes within the piece? If not, the last note and the key signature should tell you the key of the composition, especially if it is in a major or minor key.
  3. Look at the tempo marking and get the speed in your head. Make 120 your "tempo central." This is the speed of a march. You can adjust the tempo up or down if you have an internal "tempo central".
  4. Look at the time signature and determine if you are in simple time or compound time. Check the composition for meter changes or mixed meter measures.
  5. Look for the compositional road-map. What are the signs? Things like repeat signs, D.S. al Fine, D.S. al Coda, Dal Segno.

Follow these five simple steps in order and you have a systematic approach to sight-reading.

Keep Practicing,

Dr. Randall Bayne, CEO