Eric Daniel and Friends's Blog

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Quick Tips for Improving Your Sightreading

Posted by ericdanielandfriends on February 23, 2009


I’ve been getting some questions about this so here goes:

Some quick tips for improving your reading (and especially sightreading) skills:

• Look over the part(s) before you begin to play.
(This may seem too obvious to mention but it’s surprising how many mistakes you can avoid this way.)
Check the following items: Time and Key signatures, any repeat signs with their respective 1st, 2nd, or 3rd endings, D.S sign and Coda markings, eventual time signature, tempo and key changes, dynamic and articulation markings, and unusual technical passages.

If you do this you will eliminate many problems before they have a chance to become problems.

• Break down unusual rhythmic passages by “sub-dividing” the rhythms into smaller time values (eighth or sixteenth notes for example). This will allow you to determine the
exact placement of all the notes in a phrase;

• Try to “read ahead” of the notes you’re actually playing, as you do when reading words aloud. Your eyes must always be ahead of your fingers. It’s important to keep your
place all the way to the end;
• When playing in fast 4/4 tempos (“tempi”), try to feel the groove in a “Two feel” (as if you were playing in “Cut time” (Instead of feeling it as a fast four). In other words, you will concentrate on where “one” and “three” are felt.
(Just for laughs, try patting your foot in a fast 4/4 tempo. Go ahead, try it…
Okay, now count off the same tempo but this time tap your foot only on “one” and
“three”. See how much more relaxing it is this way? You will play more relaxed at fast tempos if you get used to feeling and “seeing” fast tempos this way.
What do I mean by the expression “seeing” fast tempos this way?
By “seeing” I mean that as you are “reading ahead”, picture an “imaginary bar line” placed right on beat “three” of each bar, dividing the bar exactly in half. This way you will have “target points on “one” and “three” which your eyes and mind can lock onto when calculating where to place the notes in time.

Try actually marking a few bars of any music, in 4/4 time, that you have handy in light pencil. That’s right, place a vertical “imaginary bar line right through beat “three”. Notice how your eyes lock onto where “one” and “three” are.
As you get more experience sightreading at quick tempos, you will begin to appreciate this way of visualizing the bars, without having to actually mark them in pencil.

* For more tips about Saxophone Survival check out my book “The Saxophone Survival Kit, A Guide for Aspirng Professional Saxophonists…or just anyone!”

My CD “Old Sax Nu Soul” is available at

See you soon!




Eric Daniel plays sax and flute and is the ringleader of Eric Daniel & Friends. Their CD “Old Sax Nu Soul” is on the Quatro Miglio Quality Music label and can be purchased online from iTunes Store and

His new book “The Saxophone Survival Kit, A Guide for Aspiring Professional Saxophonists…or just anyone!” can be ordered or downloaded here:

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One Response to “Quick Tips for Improving Your Sightreading”

  1. Good blog, I generally have a quick glance at the key and time signature, scan the sheet and plough in. I would probably learn a piece quicker working as you suggest.

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