First, sight-reading is a skill not an inborn talent. Patiently working through the steps, will in short order improve your skills.
A short story, a student of mine years ago came to me barely able to read music even though he was working at the advanced intermediate level on piano. He resisted all my attempts at helping him improve because of his ability to play from ear. Then he goes to high school and takes up the sax. Each day in class he sight read music he didn’t know. They started simple. He was surrounded by his peers. By Christmas he was sight-reading at his level. By June he had surpassed his level. Why?
- Daily practice
- Peer pressure
- Sequenced material from simple to advancing complexity
Classical piano students
If you sight reading is weak, you might start at level 1 Royal Conservatory of Music Books and work through the exercises. If you use a metronome at slow tempi, you will see results in short order.
They ask you a series of guided questions to teach you to see patterns, not individual notes. For instance, in level 1 cover the following concepts.
- Rhythm clapping
- Directional reading
Jazz piano students
If you just play be ear, I would recommend following the classical piano student routine. If you are a good sight reader of written piano music but struggle with sight reading jazz lead sheets here are some suggestions and concepts.
- Jazz piano students sight read chord charts in a jazz band.
- Jazz piano students play chords and melody in a piano trio
- Practice writing out the chord voicings for simple tunes like Blue Bossa and Autumn Leaves
- Practice jazz chord etudes that use the circle of 5ths until memorised.
- Practice sight reading chords from lead sheets with the metronome playing at a slow tempo. Don’t worry about playing every chord, just stay in time and play the chords you know. With practice you will hit more of the chords.
Sites like www.musicnotes.com allow you play the first page of popular piano piece for free. Find your favourite piece, print out the free page. With the sound of the music in your head, work it out.
If I can help, call me.