The objective of the sight reader
should be to give a general idea
of the piece that is being read.
Keep in mind that sight reading is not supposed
or expected to offer a finished performance.
Especially in the advanced stages of reading,
do not expect an always perfect, finished performance.
The objective of the sight reader
should be to give a general idea of the piece
that is being read. While attention to musical
details is desirable, such details should not be
paid for by the sacrifice of general outline.
However, let me make one exception. I believe
sight reading should be approached on various
levels, beginning for example with single line
Play 90-95% of the notes and rhythms
correctly. But a finished, concert-ready
performance every time, no.
melodies in all positions. Then, two part music
in first position. Then two part music in all
positions, etc. I do recommend that one achieve
a semblance of mastery of one level before
progressing to the next. Perhaps play 90-95%
of the notes and rhythms correctly. But still, a fin ished,
concert-ready performance every time, no.
One can be hindered
in music reading by an inability
to perceive combinations of notes.
Reading notes rapidly presents many of the
same problems as reading words rapidly. Part of
the reason "why Johnny can't read" is his inability or lack of training to perceive combinations of letters as syllables, combinations of syllables as words, combinations of words as whole phrases. Does he read c-o-m-b-i-n-a-t-i-o-n-s, or com-bi-na-tions, or combinations? Similarly, one can be hindered in music reading by an inability to perceive combinations of notes as melodic lines or chords, and combinations of chords as familiar progressions. The sight reader must take in as much of the notation as possible
The sight reader must never think about what he is doing!
at a glance and must look ahead deliberately in the score. He can appreciate the problem of deliberately looking ahead if he has someone else to keep covering each measure while it is being played. The sight reader must never think about what he is doing! He must always think about what he is going to do. To look ahead the sight reader will be doing two things at once- recording mentally what is coming while playing from memory what was previously recorded mentally. One does not play the notes at the same moment that the eyes see them!
Proficient sight reading is playing from memory.
In a sense, proficient sight reading is playing from memory. While the fingers play what has already been seen, the eyes are looking at what must be played next. At slow tempi the eyes need be only a little in advance of the fingers. Faster speeds naturally require that the eyes be looking farther ahead of the fingers. The eyes
Reading in this manner means one cannot afford to look at the fingerboard.
must maintain enough of a lead to insure that the
fingers will be directed to the correct notes in the
correct rhythms without haste or anxiety. Reading
in this manner also means one cannot afford
to look at the fingerboard. The reader loses not
only time but also his place in the score when he
has to keep looking at the fingerboard to locate
I mentioned having someone cover each
measure as it is being played. Another way to
encourage the reader to look ahead in the music
is to set a metronome to the proper tempo and
A little faking
is an important part
of sight reading.
stick with it no matter what. This may induce
a degree of "faking." But a little faking, if it is
the intelligent kind that depends on perceiving
harmonic outlines and omitting only unessential
tones, is an important part of sight reading.
Now let us return to reading our example
from the violin book. Again, it is assumed the
intermediate guitarist will have no problem reading
from this type of book in first position. Our
main emphasis then will be to read this example
in the upper positions. Thus our example can be
played as follows:
Click to see the full-size sheet music: