Sight ReadingSight Reading. Does it excite you? Or make you cringe? It’s definitely one of the more neglected aspects in an everyday piano lesson – after theory, technique and repertoire we rarely seem to have time for it in my students’ lessons. And we do some sight reading every week after all as we learn new pieces… Believe me, I know there are plenty of excuses for putting off getting into a sight reading book. But this semester, one of my goals is to get more of my students into a routine of sight reading so they can improve their skills in this area.

During my undergrad years, I had an amazing teacher who compiled tons of research on sight reading and how to apply these findings into teaching. So below are a few tips and ideas I learned from Dr. Yu-Jane Yang.

  • Students were found to be worse in bass clef, left hand, and ledger line reading – thus try focusing on these from the beginning or choose examples to strengthen one of these aspects.
  • The majority of sight reading errors are in the rhythm. For struggling students, try adding a step of tapping the rhythm into their sight reading routine.
  • More solid piano technique = better sight reading. To quiz your students when technique drills get boring, see if they can do it with their eyes closed or at least not looking at their hands at all!
  • Because sight reading is a complex interaction of several skills at the piano, the saying “the younger the better” does NOT apply. Wait until students feel more comfortable with reading, technique, and so on.
  • Guide students through a check list to help them prestudy the score. Find problem spots, talk about patterns so they learn how to simplify or “chunk” different parts of the music quickly.

Sight Reading BookmarkSo keeping with the last suggestion, I’ve spent time at each lesson guiding my students… Only to have them come back the next week and have forgotten exactly what we checked (even if it was written in their notebook). Thus I’m trying something new – a bookmark! We’ll paper clip it to the page(s) they’ll be sight reading and hopefully, it will remind them daily to follow the steps we practiced at their lesson. I’m sharing our simple bookmark – nothing fancy but there are two versions (one for my younger students, one for my older students). Very simple colors because when you’re printing off more than 20, that’s a lot of ink right?! Hope it’s useful for your studio.

Download: Sight Reading Bookmark





Author: Whitney

Whitney Hawker, NCTM, teaches group and private piano at Weber State University, Utah. She loves surprising students with the perfect piece or a new exciting game! After graduate school, she missed sharing ideas and resources daily with colleagues so she and her friend, Spring, began blogging together at