How To Get Better At Sight-Reading

Get better at sight-reading with these tips

Last week we talked about why sight-reading is an important skill to have. This week I will let you in on the simplest, yet most effective techniques to up your sight-reading game.

Sight-read a little daily

Although sight-reading should be fairly easy at the beginner/intermediate levels, the majority of young players have a hard time due to lack of exposure. If your private teacher hasn’t been doing this with you ask them to incorporate it in your lessons.

Remember, if you don’t do it, you will not get good at it. 

To start reading every day you can use my 10 simple melodies, use your music books or a friends, dig through your band’s library and ask you teacher to borrow books. 

Stuff is out there, so go get it!

Rhythm is king

When practicing sight-reading focus on the rhythm first, notes later. This will seem weird at first but in the long run this is how you become a proficient reader. You know the notes, it’s the rhythms that get you. So, if you focus on the rhythms 100% of the time they will eventually become second nature, just like notes.

When you focus on rhythms you might find yourself missing more notes. That’s okay! Miss notes for now and focus on keeping the rhythm intact. If you practice this daily you can see results in as little as one sitting. You read that right. I have seen it time and again with my students. They struggle to sight-read, but once they shift their focus to rhythmic accuracy everything falls into place. 

Use a metronome

Although you won’t normally have access to a metronome in a sight-reading situation such as an audition, it is good to use for practicing.

The metronome acts as a constant reminder to keep your rhythm steady. Turn it on to an easy going tempo like 86bpm and make sure you wait for…

The 4-click count off

I can’t tell you how often I see students turn on a metronome to sight-read, only to completely ignore it from the get go. If this is you, get in the habit of listening to the click for a full 8 beats, then do a 4-click count off in your mind before you begin, as if someone was counting you off.

All together it should look like this:

*click* *click* *click* *click*

*click* *click* *click* *click* (put your trumpet up)

One, two, three, four (breath on 4)

Play on the downbeat of 1

Waiting in this manner lets the tempo “sink in” and sets you up for success.

That wraps it up for the best sight-reading tips. If you missed last week’s post on why sight-reading is a great skill to have check it out to complete this post’s teachings. Get to work and let me know if these tips helped you!

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