Thoughts on composing, teaching and performing music, by Fergus Black

Cartoon of a cat sitting at the piano, reading the score of Three blind mice

How to Sight-Read at the piano

This page is a note about how I teach sight-reading. I've posted it as a matter of public service. Usual disclaimers about no responsibility taken if it doesn't help you, or makes matters worse!

Sight-reading is different from learning for performance

Some people have never been told that sight reading iis different from learning pieces for performance. Andreas

Lehmann and Victoria McArthur, writing in The Science and Psychology of Music Performance (Oxford UP 2002) enumerate five strategies which differ for pianists when practicing for rehearsed performance as opposed to sight-reading.

Practicing for Performance

  1. Correct your mistakes
  2. Look at hands when playing
  3. The details are important
  4. Correct fingering is crucial
  5. Avoid errors and omissions


  1. Maintain rhythm and metre
  2. Avoid looking at hands
  3. The big picture is important
  4. Get to notes however you can
  5. Errors and omissions are OK
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