10 must know tips to accelerate your sight reading

Like many guitarists – sight reading is far from my strong point. However with some dedication and hard work I have improved dramatically. The following is a list to help you get better.

1. When you begin to read music, make an attempt to learn in the middle of the neck (around the 5th position). The reason for this is that almost all melodies can be played in this range. It also forces you to use your pinky and develop a balanced hand.

2. Practice training your eye by reading down the page or diagonally. By this I mean not reading linearly from left to right but to force your eye to jump to another bar which is directly below the one you just finished reading or diagonally across from it.

3. If using a pick, use downpicks for downbeats and up picks for upbeats. This will develop a system to your playing and accelerate the learning process.

4. Tap your foot, count. Many great players (Tommy Emmanuel, Al Di Meola) talk on the importance of tapping your foot to keep with the pulse of the music.

5. Visualise note groupings for rhythms. The more familiar you become with seeing these note groupings the more information you will be able to take in and process. This results in reading ahead and developing a much more fluent and less stressful time sight reading.

6. Follow the roadmap of your chart or piece by watching out for common signs: Fine, Accidentals, Dynamics, Key signatures, Da Capo (DC), DC AL Fine,Dal Segno,Coda. The definitions of these can be found quickly via Google or a Music Dictionary.

7. Think of positions as sharp keys and flat keys for reading areas on the neck: 1st position is flat key reading, 2nd position is sharp key, 3rd is flat key etc.

8. Study harmony and theory, rhythm guitar and also playing along single strings rather than just positions.

9. Find a duet partner, or someone who reads better than you if possible. The best way to get better at something is to find someone who does it to a higher standard. This will give you the drive to raise your standards and be forced to get better.

10. Look out supplementary materials for single note instruments like woodwind duet books, violin books etc.

Remember that like all new skills they require practice and applied as often as possible to see the fastest improvement in your ability.

Perseverance is what’s needed!

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Richard Callaghan is a classically-trained guitarist with an Honours Degree in Music from Edinburgh Napier University. He's also a respected and in-demand guitar tutor.

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