A Brief Guide on How to Practice Sight Reading on Guitar

We all know that we should be sight reading, getting better at reading music. Sight reading is just looking at notes on a page and playing them, but then the question is how you actually practice this so that you get better at it, because we all want to get better at it, but it’s hard. So how do you do that? That’s what we’re going to talk about.

You’ll find all sorts of articles, tutorials, and lessons on all things classical guitar. There’s a lot of free and paid resources over there and I’m sure you’ll find something worth interest. So, practicing sight reading. Let’s first talk about what are the goals and what are not the goals of practicing your sight reading. So first off, our goals are to keep the eyes moving forward.

It’s to keep going. That’s our number one goal in sight reading is to keep going. It’s also our goal in practicing sight reading to get sixty to eighty percent of the notes right, which means that we’re missing twenty percent of the notes. And if you are getting more than that, if you’re getting every single note, then you’re going to slow and you should speed up or make the music more complex. And if you are getting less than 60 50, 60, to 80%, slow down so that you’re in that sweet spot so that it’s challenging, but not too challenging.

So there are a few things that are not the goal. And what are not the goal is beautiful tone is not the goal. Getting every single note right is not the goal. Going back is not allowed It’s like being on a train. If you missed something, it’s not like the train is going to back up so you can see it and then go forward again. It’s gone. It’s ok. That note went by you missed it.

It’s ok to keep going Perfection is not the goal Fingerings are even not the goal. Putting your three here because it says three there on the page doesn’t matter. The main thing is that you keep going, that you get it as best you can, and that you keep going.

So these are the goals. So to do these, I recommend if you’re going to be practicing your sight reading as a separate thing and not like reading through music for fun or for this, but you’re actually practicing your sight reading, always use a metronome. Keep that rhythm and make rhythm a major part of it because that’s what will actually challenge you, and it will give you the feedback of whether you are getting eighty percent or so of the notes. You should be challenged It should be work, so use a metronome.

One of the things that you can do for sight reading practice, what music you can get, is to get some flute music or some violin music and play that. The reason being is that it’s single line music. There’s just one line of notes going by and it’s really nice for sight reading practice. There are actually people who, and I kind of agree with this, that when you’re practicing your sight reading as a practice, then until you’re very good and very far along, single line music is actually better because it enables you to keep going and everything without getting bogged down on the big dense chords. If you actually look at guitar music, then guitar music has stacked notes, because we’re a chordal instrument.

And so you can see five notes stacked on top of each other and then you have to process all those, and that can slow you down. So just single line music is really great for sight reading practice. When choosing music, you will also want the music to be way lower than your ability to play. So if you’re playing music at a level two, then you want your sight reading practice to be at a very low level, like preparatory level, like really easy so that you can actually build up. If you’re trying to play music that’s too difficult, then it’s not going to be as fruitful as if you just play some easier music and work it and speed it up.

Also, there are a couple of ways to practice sight reading. There are a couple of different ways you could go about it. Now, the first way is to constantly, let’s say that you have three minutes sight reading practice scheduled into your practice today. And so, one way is to just to turn on your timer, turn on your metronome, and play new notes constantly for that entire time so that you’re never seeing the same note twice. You put it on and you just go and the notes just keep flying by.

That’s one way, and that’s great. Both of these, there’s not, neither one of these two ways is better than the other. They’re just both two different ways of doing it, and they’re both great. The other way that you can do it is to take a little snip of music. Take a phrase, take a line, something like that, and see how good you can get it in that three minutes.

So, let’s say you have four bars of music and so you’re going to play through this four bars. And you’ll play through it first slowly and then you’ll speed it up and see how fast you can get it and how clean and how good you can get it in that amount of time. So you’re basically speed learning this little snippet right there. You’re not going to really memorizing it, but you might have it memorized by the end of that time. And so then, that becomes the goal So, a level of playing becomes the goal in that situation.

And so, it might be that you can do one one day and one the next, so that you actually get some variety in your practice. Both are great I think that you should have some times at least where it’s just constant new notes, because that really does bring your reading ability. However, it’s really nice to be able to work your ability to bring music up to a high level very fast. That’s a great skill as well.

It’ll help you to actually learn your pieces. It’ll help you with problem-solving. Because you have such a short amount of time and you want to get it good, you’ll figure out ways of working on “Okay, I’m going to spend ten seconds on that little spot” and you’ll actually work in that way. So it’s a really nice way to practice as well. So, as a quick review, get sixty to eighty percent of the notes right.

Always use a metronome. Don’t go for perfection. Don’t go for tone or fingering. Just go to keep your eyes moving and to keep going. Two different things you can do: constant new notes or you can have one small little section that you bring up as fast and as good as possible in a short amount of time.

Curtis is a passionate and in-demand musician and songwriter, working along with popular artists, actors and movie directors. His creations, unique sounds and soundtracks are found in movies, TV shows and documentaries.