Grade 3 brings with it longer pieces (now up to 8 bars, before only 6), a new time signature, four new key signatures, and two-note chords in the same hand. Try this free piano sight reading exercise to get a sense of what you can expect in grade 3. In grade 2 piano sight reading, as in grade 1, each hand is locked into a five-finger position throughout the exercise. Try this free piano sight reading exercise to get a sense of what you can expect in grade 2. Sight reading is essentially what its’ name implies: the ability to look at a piece of music and play it with very little to no prior rehearsal time. Sight reading is a skill in which every pianist needs to become familiar, even if it means that he or she is only able to sight read pieces that are at or below his or her level of repertoire-performance.
Overall phrase shape, texture, and mood should all be considered when sight reading a new piece.
As displayed in the introduction scenario, it’s easy to see why sight reading would be useful in a plethora of situations. Options such as working as an accompanist, being a pianist for a choir, a studio musician, a church pianist, and multiple other options, are always in constant demand.
Additionally, a pianist who has strong piano sight reading abilities will often be able to learn music at a much faster rate than those who can’t read as well.
It’s essentially the difference between reading one letter at a time and reading one word at a time.
It’s surprising to see how many new pianists unknowingly take the second, more difficult approach to reading. With the 9 piano sight reading exercises below, I will give you some options to help speed up your reading and quickly get you to a higher level of piano sight reading ability. But before we get into the piano sight reading exercises, take a quick look at this 5-minute video on the basics of sight reading from Pianist Magazine.
If you spend just 10 minutes a day working on it, you’ll have the majority of the notes that are within the lines (not on ledger lines) on both the Treble and Bass Clefs memorized within several weeks.
It’s very easy to get sucked into thinking that you have to play all of the notes perfectly and forget the innate musicality of what you’re playing. Even in piano sight reading, therefore, think of the musicality that defines the piece and do your best to bring that out. After you have enough notes memorized to get the starting pitches on passagework, don’t try to read every note of a passage. By taking this approach, you’ll be able to easily read passagework that would take significantly longer to read if you were trying to read every single note separately. In a particular passage, do you see a succession of notes that seem to be going way up or down the staff?


If you ask yourself questions like these throughout you’re playing, you’ll find that many of the scale-like passages within pieces use fingerings from scales that you probably already know. There are even some great piano sight-reading book series out there, specifically by Lin Ling-Ling and Boris Berlin, that utilize this idea. In essence, students should practice pieces that use five-finger positions that don’t give them the note-names or finger numbers except for the ones at the beginning of a piece. This forces students to look at the contour and internally distinguish what finger is playing each note.
Even if they don’t know the note names yet, this method of reading is highly effective and produces great results. In essence, after you read something, you should already be reading notes ahead of what you’re playing. Practice reading each hand separately, but preparing the other hand for its section well before it actually needs to play. I’ve noticed that the biggest obstacle my students often face in piano sight-reading is the lack of preparation of the opposing hand. Piano sight-reading is as much about reading notes as it is about supporting the other people you’re playing with.
In many cases, a sight-reading pianist is often playing in combination with an ensemble of some type. Even if you can’t read all the music, always keep counting and play what you can, when you can. Play at a manageable speed in which you can read as much music as possible and continue to play and count even when you make mistakes, no matter how severe they are. Try not to repeat pieces you’ve already played, because then it’s no longer sight-reading, it’s just practice. As an important side note, don’t use this method when practicing repertoire – always try to avoid learning incorrect notes. This step is incredibly important for students who are more on the intermediate side of piano sight reading. By having a solid foundation in the notes that make up chords, you’re saving yourself tons of time down the line.
The ability to sight read well is a skill that every pianist should aspire to do, as it opens up career opportunities for a pianist. For a student, this skill set will enable you to learn music faster, more accurately, and spend less time working on trying to read every note.
I hope that some of these tips will be helpful and give you some new insight into the world of piano sight reading!
While grade 1 exercises are perfect for beginning piano sight readers, they may be challenging for pianists with no previous music reading experience.


Try this free piano sight reading exercise to get a sense of what you can expect in grade 1.
Unlike grade 1, they are now playing together, making this the first grade where pianists have to sight read multiple notes simultaneously.
For instance, a pianist should be able to take musical queues and respond appropriately when paired with other instrumentalists or singers. These concepts are often reinforced by the other people you’re playing with, who can help you interpret the way to play a new piece.
Just imagine how long this article would take to read if you could only read one letter at a time.
These will assume that you have at least a few minutes to look at a piece before you have to play it. When something becomes too “note-y” and ceases to sound musical, what’s the point of playing it?
When sight reading anything, you always need to be a few notes ahead of what you’re actually playing. While I don’t think that students should stay for a long time in the hands-separate world, I do think that the method of preparing the opposite hand early is extremely important.
Make a goal to learn all the major and minor chords that can be played on white keys, (C, D, E, F, G, A, B Major & Minor). There will come a point in your reading in which you’re seeing things more as chords, and less as individual notes.
It’s much like the difference described earlier – reading entire words at one time compared to reading individual letters.
Enjoy live interaction and real-time performance with friendly teachers in a fun group setting. Exercises in grade 1 are very approachable because the hands remain in a five-finger position and always play separately. You're expected to already be familiar with the treble and bass clef, several time signatures, key signatures and other music reading fundamentals at this grade level. This is also the first grade where hands aren't bound to a five-finger position, adding new fingering challenges that must be dealt with along with everything else.
It's a signature challenge of playing the piano that singers and most other instrumentalists (except guitarists) never have to deal with. This introduction of hands-together playing, coupled with the addition of several key signatures, makes grade 2 a significant step up from grade 1.



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