Guitar Sight Reading Helpful Tips For Improvement


Guitar sight reading seems to be the area most neglected by students and even professionals alike. If we take an honest look at our ability, then we would probably all conclude that our sight reading skills could use some work. Maybe we need to rethink our commitment to sight reading.

I believe the main reason classical guitarists are poor sight readers is there seems to be no motivation and/or reason to include this into practice. Most classical guitarists play alone and work on one piece at a time until the piece is ready for performance or at a satisfactory level to enjoy. Probably 99% of all classical guitarist do not play in an ensemble like bowed string, reed, and brass instrumentalists. These instruments have a much higher standard for sight reading as a result.

I have argued in the past that the guitar has more difficulty involved in reading than an instrument like a piano. The piano only has a single place to play a note while the exact same note can be played in a number of different locations on the guitar. However, I believe my logic is unfounded in the fact that violinists and cellists have the same issue but are usually excellent sight readers.

The Benefit of Guitar Sight Reading

As a teacher and performer, I have had to constantly develop my skills in sight reading. I encourage my students to do the same. My main reason for learning to sight read corresponds to the reason I have learned to read a written language. Being fluent at reading allows me to assimilate much material very quickly and easily.

Classical guitar repertoire is written in music notation. Therefore, developing our reading skills allows us to play a piece quickly rather than laboring over the music for hours just to make even the simplest music. Would not that time be better spent working on technical and musical difficulties?

There is one more reason to consider when evaluating the value of sight reading – memorization. There is a high correlation with those who can sight read well with those who can memorize well. The reason for this correlation is the faster the notes can be transferred to instrument, the more clearly they can be seen for beginning memorization.

Tips for Guitar Sight Reading

The most important task to improve your guitar sight reading is to do it regularly. As with all things pertaining to guitar, consistency yields the greatest benefits. It is amazing how one can improve sight reading with just a little regular practice.

When choosing music, try to find music that is at an appropriate level for your reading ability. It is better to sight read something below your ability than a piece that is too difficult. You will only find frustration and will not be able to move at a consistent pace.

Begin your practice session with sight reading for the greatest benefits. Sight reading is demanding mentally. You should always do your most challenging mental work when you are fresh. The beginning of a practice session is a logical place for a clear mind.

A final note is to remember that sight reading means reading at sight. That sentence might seem strange, but once you play a piece a second and third time, you begin to memorize and you are no longer reading at sight. The more you work at sight reading the more joy you will derive from the results. Sight reading will open up much more music in much less time.