What is sight-reading?

We’ve been back out and about on social media again this week asking you to share your thoughts about this and other questions related to this important topic.


Back in 1778 Mozart wrote that the goal is ‘to play the piece…so as to make believe that it had been composed by the one who plays it’.

Samantha Coates, author and creator of  the How to Blitz Sight-Reading series says that it is: ‘the ability to instantly convert music notation to sound, ultimately including fluency and expression’.

In a past blog post I have argued that the ability to read at sight exists along a continuum of rehearsal that ranges between playing without preparation to performing after rehearsal. In between the two points there are many shades and varieties. CLICK HERE TO READ THE BLOG

Yet is the sight-reading ability of an elementary pupil, who is still learning instrumental and physical control and co-ordination alongside the development of reading skills, different from more experienced players? According to researchers Andreas Lehmann and Reinhard Kopiez it is. They suggest that: ‘sight-reading ability at lower skill levels may partly emerge from general instrumental skill whereas expert sight-reading necessitates extensive deliberate efforts to improve performance’. [1]


How do you encourage your pupils to practise reading at sight? We know that it is important to engage in the process on a regular basis but it can be difficult to motivate them can’t it?

One key factor is to give pieces that are really simple and that ideally they know. We liked Rachel’s suggestion that: ‘books like very simplified film themes seem to hit the spot. Christmas carols or folk tunes are popular too. They usually come back excited about a piece they have chosen to try’. [*see below for our suggestions for this]

Thanks also to Leon for recommending that: ‘From early on encourage a sense of curiosity about what the written music will sound and feel like to play’.


No shortage of ideas here! Here are some that you recommended:


Improve your sight-reading series, Paul Harris. CLICK HERE
A piece a week, Paul Harris CLICK HERE
Joining the dots, Alan Bullard CLICK HERE
Sight-Reading Cards, Piano Safari CLICK HERE
Piano Adventures SIght-Reading books CLICK HERE
How to Blitz sight-reading series, Samantha Coates CLICK HERE

* For example: John Thompson’s First Showtunes CLICK HERE


Piano Maestro
Rhythm swing
Sight-Reading Trainer
E-Music Maestro


As you can tell there are many questions around this topic that we need to be exploring and re-evaluating. And that’s just what we are going to be doing at Redefining Expectations, our Curious Live events in Belfast and Oxford in February.

Samantha Coates, author and creator of BlitzBooks is going to be leading the sessions on sight-reading and she will be challenging us all to reconsider our own expectations on this important subject.

There’s still time to book your place to be part of this conference with a difference!

CLICK HERE to book your ticket for Curious LIVE Belfast on Tuesday 20 February

CLICK HERE to book your ticket for Curious LIVE Oxford on Tuesday 24 February

[1] Sight-reading, Lehmann, Andreas C. and Kopiez, Reinhard. p. 349-350, 2011 Ch. 32 in The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology. OXFORD

This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart, Co-Founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers


  1. Sandy Holland at E-MusicMaestro

    Thank you so much for listing E-MusicMaestro online piano Sight Reading!
    E-MusicMaestro Learn to Sight Read: Piano Book 1 is now published, with books 2 and 3 following very soon, available from music shops, Alfred, Faber and from the E-MusicMaestro website.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. The Name, Email and Comment fields are required

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.