Sheet Music Sight-Reading Tips for Singers and Musicians

Can you sight-read sheet music? Enjoy singing unfamiliar pieces at holidays? Learning to read sheet music at first glace can be pretty challenging, because sight-reading doesn’t just depend upon your musical proficiency. For singers, it can be really difficult because different vocal techniques sometimes require practicing the song measure-by-measure rather than in its entirety. If you play an instrument that uses vibrato or other modifying techniques, trills, phrasing and fast tempos can throw a wrench into your sight-reading ability.

Here are some tips to help you improve your sight-reading of new sheet music that you’re interested in playing or singing. Two of these tips were recommended to us by Twitter user @kittskrafts, and we’d like to thank her for taking the time to mention these tips.

  • The more you practice sight-reading the easier it gets! From Twitter @kittskrafts
  • Be sure of your key signature before you begin. From Twitter @kittskrafts
  • For singers, chant or speak the lyrics to the beat before you start singing, so you get a feel for the song’s rhythm.
  • Clap out beat by beat–including rests–to distance yourself from the notes so you can get the time signature down right before you play.
  • Try playing the piece your first time through without all the bells and whistles. Skip phrasing, trills and other embellishments to focus on getting the notes right.
  • If you have a really complicated piece for two hands, play through the piece focusing on just one or the other.
  • Attempting to speed up your fingering skills? Try playing the piece in a slower tempo before attempting a presto pace.
  • If you’re listening to what the song sounds like before you’re playing it, fiddle with your stereo dials to amplify the vocal line.
  • To ensure you’re singing is in tune, try singing an “f” to a “b-flat” when you warm up. That way, no matter what song you’re trying to sing, you’ll have a starting point.

Some of our Musicnotes YouPerform contest winners offered their tips when they were describing how they read the sheet music for our contest. You can read more about their tips on our Musicnotes YouPerform contest page. Just look for the previous contest winners.

Are you an excellent sight-reader? Have you more tips to share? We invite you to comment and share your thoughts!

Leave a Reply


  1. Teena

    How do you memorize sheet music?

    • unknown

      play it over and over and over again until you think u got it in ur head

    • anonymous

      I like to start from the end when memorizing and work backwards measure by measure or phrase by phrase. Slowly take your eyes away from the music until you’re doing it without looking at all. Try to focus on looking other places (hands if playing an instrument, the wall, etc.)

  2. Barbara


    I memorize sheet music by taking one line at a time.
    When I get that line memorized I move on to line # 2.

    Good luck!

  3. Philip Mc Grory

    Is there a course or learning books to sight reading music sheets?

  4. cletus

    i realy need this,and i ve question to ask about voice.

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