If you would like to learn to sight reading and develop it as a competent skill or it’s something you want to be excellent at doing. The journey will require lots of practice, training and persistence.
Here are a few things you can be doing while practising to help improve your ability to sight reading, make fast progress at it. The easier it is, the more fun it is!
Just like when you learnt to read a book when you were a kid, reading a little every day with your parents. Sight reading is the same. Do a little every day, at least 5 minutes. If you want to make fast progress, then you want 15-20 minutes a day minimum on top of your usual guitar practise routine.
The great thing is that you can practise sight reading away from the guitar. An example is by reading score while you are travelling on the train or bus. Practising this way will enable you to improve your recognition and identification of notes and rhythmic patterns as an isolated exercise itself.
Make sure it’s focused practising
While sight reading, don’t have the TV on, your phone going, any other distractions. You want to be able to concentrate till your brain is hurting. Make sure you are hydrated and not tired. Practising sight reading is difficult. Your mind might not be able to focus for that long at a time. Build your stamina up slowly so help with this.
There are hundreds and hundreds of guitar books out there. You want one which has the level appropriate for you. It might seem baby and childish to start right from the beginning if you can already play the guitar well. Your sight reading ability needs to catch up using songs that are below your level of playing.
You want to be counting out loud, especially in the beginning. Counting out loud will help sunk in what’s happening on the page and link it the beats. Make sure the beats are landing at the same time in the bars.
This exercise is useful outside of sight reading and should be something that’s often practised already.
Learning about rhythm and keeping time
There is no point just reading the notes on the page without the rhythm. Rhythm makes up so much of a piece of music. If you can’t figure out the timing, then start slow and slowly increase your speed.
Again, you can practise timing and rhythm without score music or a guitar.
There are many patterns in music, whether it’s scales, arpeggios, chord shapes. Even riffs and different sections. Many things repeat as well. If you are trying to sight read a full piece, then being able to recognise repeating in that piece or common patterns that come up across in music will help speed up your sight reading.
Yes, you want to start slow when you first learn, but also make sure you push yourself to go fast as well. Try practising pieces at different speeds to improve your reading speed.
Singing it out loud before playing
You can practise signing the piece out loud so that you get good at recognising intervals in your head and seeing the score as music.
If you are very good at ear training, do this as a separate exercise. Otherwise, you will rely on your memory to play the song rather than sight read it off the page.
I hope these few tips help you with your practice and gives you a few more ideas of exercises you can do to improve your sight reading ability.
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