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This article is from the Guitarra Magazine archives and was originally published in the 1970s. It's part two of guitar great Douglas Neidt giving instructions on professional sight reading!
Please click here for Sheet Music Reading Technique part one.

Beginning violin methods are easily found in music libraries. They can also be bought in stores, of course. Remember, we are sight reading. Once you have read through a book once, which may take only one or two weeks, you will not use it again. Buying music to sight read can become very expensive.

When opening a beginning violin book one will probably come across something like:


Click to see the full-size sheet music:
neidt sheet music reading

Now most intermediate guitarists could certainly read this in first and second position perfectly.

But could you read it in fifth position?

Or seventh position? Your goal is to read both the notes and rhythms accurately without a break in the rhythmic line. Nothing is achieved, and only harm is done by retracing of steps to correct a wrong note or other mistake. The thread must not be broken even if it becomes snarled here and there. The motion of thought, ears, eyes, and fingers must continue forward.

Deciding whether to go on or back up to correct a mistake will only throw the sight reader into confusion, resulting in bewilderment at all the symbols coming at him at once from all directions. The reader must set a pace he can handle comfortably at which the piece can be played musically.

If it is a bit slower than the known tempo, that is o.k. in the early stages of sight reading. It is better to play Dixie at M.M.=50 for a quarter note so that it sounds like a piece of music than at the "correct" tempo of M.M.= 80 for a quarter note where you might have to stop and start in a confused manner.

In reading music at sight there are five factors which are essential to keep in one's mind:

1. The key in which a piece is written. This must be so firmly fixed in the mind that there is no doubt as to tonality.

2. The meter in which a piece is written. This is so important that if one must choose between perfection of notes and perfection of rhythm, there can be no doubt that the latter should receive preference.

3. The tempo in which the piece is indicated to be played. Real understanding of the meaning of a piece cannot be achieved without approximate correct tempo. However, in the early stages it is permissible to choose slow tempi to gain better basic familiarity with the fingerboard.

4. Obedience without predisposition to what the eyes see. Many students tend to sight-read music according to what they assume the sound to be, especially when reading music they have already heard. One must read exactly what is on the page.

5. Maintain forward motion irrespective of any errors that may be made.