Sight-reading on guitar is an invaluable skill that you need to acquire, especially if you are keen on becoming a session musician.
Unfortunately, sight-reading is one of those things that often falls by the wayside.
Why you need to learn guitar sight-reading
One of the chief reasons why you should learn how to do guitar sight reading is that few people can do it exceedingly well. In fact, guitarists, whether right or wrong, have earned the reputation of being poor in sight-reading.
By learning sight reading on guitar, you’ll be able to master a skill that very few guitarists can do well.
Apart from this, learning guitar sight-reading will enable you to learn compositions more quickly. This, in turn, will help you increase your repertoire as you will be able to memorize more songs.
Sight-reading on guitar can also help you improve hand-eye coordination while giving you a solid foundation on reading sheet music.
But why do most guitarists ignore sight-reading?
To put it briefly, sight-reading on guitar is quite difficult, especially at the start.
For one, sight-reading is not just recognizing notes on sheet music. Guitar sight reading is about reading and playing notes.
In a fraction of a second, you have to decide on multiple things, like knowing where to play a specific note on the fretboard.
Set clear practice goals for sight-reading on guitar
Like other skills that you need to acquire to become a better guitarist, sight-reading on guitar needs to be practiced deliberately, not haphazardly.
To do that, there are a few critical things that you need to bear in mind.
Develop the right habits
Consistent practice facilitates the development of good habits. But what habits should you develop while practicing sight-reading on guitar?
The most important habit that you need to develop is to keep moving your eyes forward. Do not worry about missing or misreading notes. You cannot recover from the notes you missed. Instead, you just move on to the next notes.
As you develop this habit, you will be able to read faster than you can actually play. In turn, this allows you to see potentially problematic notes and plan your next actions accordingly.
Get 60 to 80 percent of the notes right
Understandably, you won’t be able to hit the right notes correctly all the time, at least at the start. That is part and parcel of learning sight reading on guitar.
However, your primary goal is to get at least 60 to 80 percent of the notes correctly.
If you cannot reach this target, try slowing down until you improve your percentages.
On the other hand, if you have become at least 80 percent efficient on sight-reading, it is time to challenge yourself.
You can do that by increasing your speed. Alternatively, you can try more difficult pieces.
Things to avoid in your sight-reading practice
If there are crucial things that you need to remember while practicing sight-reading, there are also a few things that you need to avoid.
Do not strive for perfection
Novice guitarists strive to perfect their technique. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But with sight-reading, the ideal is to keep moving forward and not pay attention to missed notes. If you strive to hit all the notes correctly and go back to the notes that you missed, you’ll be defeating the goal of developing the habit of moving forward.
Do not worry about accurate fingering
There’s a time and place for accurate fingering. And that time is not when you are practicing sight-reading.
Sight-reading is about reading and playing the notes on your instrument. To do that, you have to play the note without minding which fingers you use.
Do not remain comfortable
As you progress, you’ll be able to up your accuracy. And while that’s well and good, it can lead to complacency. In turn, complacency can hamper your progress.
Once you have mastered sight-reading a piece, speed things a bit or choose a more advanced piece.
Guitar sight-reading practice tips
Use the following tips to help yourself get the most out of each practice session.
You do not have to spend hours and hours each day practicing sight-reading. You do, however, need to practice even a bit every day.
Practice this skill a few minutes each day before working on your other guitar playing skills.
How long should you practice sight reading? Initially, you should target practicing for about a minute. This is more than enough for beginners, considering the complexity of learning sight reading on guitar.
Read the music sheet first
Before starting any practice session, especially if you are working on a new piece of music, it is good to go over the sheets first.
This will help you get an idea of tricky spots and allow you to determine your plan of attack.
Invest in a metronome
If you do not own a metronome, this is the time to buy one for yourself.
A metronome is an invaluable practice tool that guitarists should have. This is particularly true if you are learning sight-reading.
Start with easy songs
Even if you are an advanced-level guitarist, choosing easier pieces can be beneficial if you start to learn sight-reading. Move one to two levels down your current skill level.
Choosing easier songs allows you to accomplish a few things. For one, you won’t be too frustrated to ditch practice. Second, you will develop your skills which will make you ready for more complex songs.
Progress comes with patience
Sight-reading is not an easy skill to acquire. That’s why few guitar players can brag about it. Sure, it can be difficult at first. But with consistent and dedicated practice, you’ll be able to do something that few guitar players can do well.