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Sight Reading Story Number 1

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

I started learning to play the piano late. I was 11 years old when I started studying the piano. I loved it so much, and I practiced a LOT!

But I wasn’t a very good sight reader. I was slow to learn my pieces, and I often just committed them to memory rather than read the score.

My mother on the other hand, who also played the piano, was an excellent sight reader. If she heard me struggling to play a new piece, she would ask me if I needed help. And then she would come over and sit down at the piano and proceed to sight read my piece with total ease. I really envied her for being able to do this. And I felt bad that I couldn’t. I think I thought that I was just one of those people who couldn’t sight read and that she was one of those people who could. And I didn’t think that that could ever change.

Well, I found out that it could.

Later on when I studied piano at university, I found out that you can learn to become a good sight reader. And I’ll never forget my very first lesson in this. I was halfway through my programme of study, and every year – actually, every semester – we had to take a piano exam. And I was about to take a very, very important piano exam. It was particularly important, because the jury would decide whether I could continue with my programme of study or if I was going to be kicked out of the performance programme.

I remember that semester, I had a brand new teacher, and I’d learned so much with him. I practiced really hard all semester and had made amazing improvements in my piano technique in just a few months. I was really confident with my pieces and my scales and my arpeggios, but I hadn’t really worked on my sight reading.

Just before the exam, my teacher gave me a quick piece of advice. He said to me, “If you play all of the rhythms correctly and without stopping, you will pass your exam. Even if every single pitch is incorrect, if you play the rhythm correctly and you don’t stop, you will pass.”

And you know what? I played every rhythm correctly, and I didn’t stop. And I passed! And I went on to achieve a dream from my childhood, which was that I completed my degree in piano performance.

So this was my first lesson in becoming a good sight reader, and that lesson was:

RHYTHM FIRST! (and never stop)

Even if all the pitches are incorrect, you must first learn to play with good rhythm and a consistent tempo.

Well, of course, it’s important to also learn how to play the correct pitches in time without stopping. Look out for my next blog post to hear about the next lesson I learned in sight reading.

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