The ability to read and play a piece of music that you have never heard, seen, or played before is called sight-reading. It is also called prima vista, meaning “at first sight” in Italian. It is a skill that will help you learn a new piece of music, play along with other musicians, and perform when you have not rehearsed a tune.1

Most learners are usually eager to begin sight-reading so that they can play their instruments like a pro, and this skill becomes one of the most important milestones in their learning journey. Sight-reading, however, goes beyond just learning how to read music notes and names. So, here are five areas to work on to learn how to sight-read music and get to your pro-level skills faster! 

1. Learn Your Scales, Key Signatures, and Rhythms

Memorizing scales and key signatures is absolutely essential for instrumentalists. It helps you prepare for the sharp and flat notes that appear in your sight-reading exercises. Practicing scales will also improve your muscle memory and execution of key signatures, making it easy to remember hand placements when you sight-read music.2

2. Be Okay With Making Mistakes 

Try not to look at your hands or use any other shortcuts while practicing how to sight-read music. This will quickly bring your weakness to the surface so that you can immediately narrow down your practicing efforts to improve them. Using shortcuts may delay the process of learning how to sight-read effortlessly. Learn how to get comfortable with making mistakes even during performances so that you can recover from the errors and continue playing.  

3. Practice With Different Music Styles  

As a musician, playing different styles of music is inevitable. It is best to be prepared to sight-read music for any genre so that you can handle any piece of music with ease. Get familiar with sight-reading music from different genres so that you can familiarize yourself with different kinds of rhythms, languages, and scores.  

4. Review the Music Before You Begin Sight-Reading 

Read the music before you begin playing so that you know the material you are about to perform. It will help you to mentally prepare for the type of rhythm, notes, any unpredictable changes, tempo, time signatures, and other elements that can cause delays during the performance. It will be easier to sight-read when you know what’s coming next and you are prepared for it. Highlight the areas that you may have to be extra careful and aware of if you are allowed to make such notes on your music sheet. 

5. Do a Mental Practice Session 

Once you feel confident that you are ready to perform, do a mental practice session of the entire piece of music. This will get you even more comfortable and relaxed when you are sight-reading during a performance. This will help identify mistakes that may not have been detected during your normal practice sessions and help you rectify them prior to sight-reading. 

Keep in mind that sight-reading can vary depending on the instrument and the skill you are learning. There can be different challenges for instrumentalists and vocalists. It can be harder to do on a piano than on a guitar. So, make sure you stay patient during the process of learning, as it is a skill that can be developed with regular practice and constant effort. 

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Improve your sight-reading skills and more with BYJU’S FutureSchool’s guitar and piano lessons. Our one-on-one music classes are customized so students love their journey and start a lifelong passion for music. Book a free music trial with us today! To read other interesting articles on music visit the BYJU’S FutureSchool blog!  

1. What is sight-reading and can it be learned? – Piano Sight Reading. (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2022, from
2. 10 Tips and Tricks for Sight Reading Music — Musicnotes Now. (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2022, from