Reading music that is not intended for piano alone develops our spatial orientation and requires us to think more in terms of harmony and rhythmic gestures. In general, those who accompany in churches or get involved in musical collaborations, become (or must become) stronger readers. Do not feel overwhelmed. Pick one source and do a little exercise every day, almost like stretching before a run. Painlessly, you will do better in some time.
Practice sight-reading regularly, similar to physical exercise. It is a training for your muscles and your brain which will show results only when a regular routine is in place.
A few practical tips:
Here are a few techniques that I was required to use in my training.
1. Always scan the score from the bottom to the top
2. Only look at your hands if you must perform a large leap. Keep your eyes on the score as much as possible
3. Understand what chord the notes make and what is the position of that chord–this will help you predict the next chord or its position
4. Bass and melody are important. As long as you play 3-4 notes that represent the harmony, many filler notes can be skipped sometimes until you can read better or skipped at all if you are doing a piano reduction
5. Pedal helps but it can also blur if you don’t change in time
6. Learn to love the metronome. It reminds you how much time you have left of if you are getting late. I use a very discreet and quiet sound so it doesn’t drive me crazy
7. Do not stop to think when you play. Move on, then come back to think after you are done. Even better, think before you play.
8. Teach yourself to scan the next 1-2 measures as you are playing. Long notes are saviors: they allow you to look ahead.
9. Never allow yourself to think back, whether you made a mistake or you are happy with yourself. Think ahead. Always. You can assess your success once you are done.
10. Never, ever (!) stop. You will make many mistakes but you have to train yourself to move on and correct on the go.
Pick any art song:
learn and sing the words OR sing the note names OR just sign some syllable like LA LA LA
Any chamber music duos or solos with piano accompaniment.
Here is what you can do:
- Sing the melody
- Practice each hand’s part alone with the melody
- Practice a piano reduction: add the melody where possible, drop less important elements
Schubert Sonata for Arpeggione http://ks4.imslp.net/files/imglnks/usimg/f/f6/IMSLP16600-SchubertD821_Arpeggione_Sonata.pdf
Mozart Violin Sonatas, for example in E Minor: http://ks4.imslp.net/files/imglnks/usimg/8/83/IMSLP63029-PMLP03430-Mozart_Werke_Breitkopf_Serie_18_KV304_Piano.pdf
Read 4-part choral scores and make piano reductions.
Tenor is supposed to be played an octave lower, take as many voices in one hand as comfortable. To begin with, play only pairs of voices, then add more.
Bach Chorales piano reduction, use to sight-read and transpose: http://ks.petruccimusiclibrary.org/files/imglnks/usimg/7/7b/IMSLP318117-SIBLEY1802.26185.dcca-39087032500649score.pdf
Bach chorales in F and G clefs http://ks.petruccimusiclibrary.org/files/imglnks/usimg/6/6b/IMSLP24489-PMLP09471-CCARH_Bach_Chorales.pdf
Mendelssohn Songs arranged for 4 voices http://ks4.imslp.net/files/imglnks/usimg/c/c4/IMSLP125665-PMLP63952-Mendelssohn_-_6_Lieder_im_Freien_zu_singen_Op41_VS_rsl.pdf
Want to try something more challenging? Here’s Bach Chorales (in C clefs—good luck! When reading C clef, the center of the clef sits on the line for Middle C, notice there are different positions of C clefs) http://ks.petruccimusiclibrary.org/files/imglnks/usimg/7/7a/IMSLP04155-Bach_-_BGA_253-438.pdf
Do you want more challenge? Transpose music that you play!
Begin with the transpositions that would only require you to imagine a new key signature but the notes would be the same. For example, if the piece is in E Major, you could transpose to E Flat major, the only problem would be to rethink the accidentals.
Next, you could transpose up or down a second, when you read one note up or down everything.
Up or down a third: imagine everything misplaced by a line/a space. It’s like if you are reading a really bad scan and can’t see where the lines are.
Similar techniques can be used for transposing at a 5th