HOSTS- Jeremy Burns, Matthew Scott Phillips


TYPE- Special Topics




BUMPER MUSIC- "Reverse That! Strike It!" (Area 47)

ANNOUNCER- Mike Cunliffe


Reading music is a complex but essential skill for one who wants to learn and reproduce new melodies or songs. On this episode, we will discuss some tips and philosophies on how to approach reading and sight reading music. We will also share some of our own experiences and challenges in this endeavor.


TABLATURE- A system of music scoring that involves finger positioning and fretting suggestions instead of notes. The lines on the staff often represent the strings of the instrument it is written for.


NOTATION- This the the standard form of music scoring that involve a more accurate representation of how the music is intended to be played. It involves: note pitches and durations, dynamics and other queues that signify mood and emotion. The lines on the staff represent the notes of whichever scale is indicated in the key signature.


ANNOTATION- These are notes and queues within standard notation that tell the musician how quickly or slowly to play (tempo) as well as how loud or quiet to play (dynamics). These may also indicate which parts of a piece to move to and when to do so.


To learn more about rhythm, check out:

 Episode 03- "Theory Basics Part 2"


To learn more about major scales and key signatures, check out:

 Episode 05- "Major Scales and Key Signatures"


To learn more about minor scales and key signatures, check out:

 Episode 08- "Minor Scales and Key Signatures"



1-Familiarize yourself with a variety of rhythms. The author says, “Sightreading can look different based on whether you are an instrumentalist or a vocalist, but there is one thing both groups have in common: rhythm.” Don't just learn the meters (4/4, 3/4, 6/8, 2/4). Learn their "character", their feel!


2-Memorize key signatures. Some quick tips on finding your key signature:


- If it is in a major key with sharps, the note following the LAST sharp will be the tonic of that major key.

- If it is in a major key with flats, the note a 5th above the LAST flat will be the tonic of that major key.

- If it is in a minor key with sharps, the note a M2 below the LAST sharp will be the tonic of that minor key.

- If it is in a minor key with flats, the note a M3 above the LAST flat will be the tonic of that minor key.


3-Know Your Scales- Instrumentalists can get their major and minor scales into their muscle memory by learning and practicing these scales. The key signatures then become tangible patterns and positions. Vocalists tend to rely on singing the syllables of solfege or the numbers of the scale degrees to familiarize themselves with the intervals associated with the scales. Be sure to give major and minor equal love.


4-Practice Without a Safety Net- The authors say, “An instrumentalist might look down at their hands while they attempt to sight read. A vocalist might use a piano to define those hard to read notes” Try to avoid this. It’s okay to make mistakes (maybe even constructive).


5- Practice Sight-Reading Different Types of Music- Because you’ll never know what you’ll be presented with, it’s good to have a well rounded notion of the different genres. Different styles have rhythmic and thematic conventions that are often surface with some regularity.




6- Examine The Piece You’re Sight Reading- Before you start playing, try to “mentally digest” the piece in it’s entirety. Some ways to do this: 1) Tap out the rhythms 2) Read through the notes. 3) Try to understand the structure of the song. 4) Preempt your page turns.


7- Identify Annotations in the Piece- Music is so much more than the pitches and rhythms. Look ahead and be prepared for tempos, meter changes and dynamic marks.


8-Make Markings on the Paper (tablet)- Assuming this is your music, that is. If not, maybe make a copy then mark it. Regardless, we would recommend a pencil.


9-Sound the Whole Piece Out In Your Head- Try to give a “mental performance” of the whole piece from start to finish. Hum it if that’s allowed in your location. Ask yourself the following”


 -Where is the climax of the song? How to identify

 -What is the main melody? A main melody will often repeat throughout a piece.

 -Are there any other patterns repeated throughout?

 -Does the piece have definitive sections?


10- Breathe, Relax and Keep Going, Even If You Make a Mistake- Sight reading is not going to be perfectly executed every time no matter how advanced you are. Don’t focus on mistakes during a performance. Don’t go back and correct mistakes during a performance. Just keep on moving and remember that by challenging your reading abilities and by making an error or two, you’re ever improving your musical abilities just by sitting down to do it!