The Seven Steps of Sight-Reading

1. Title (top, center) The title of a piece often gives us valuable clues about the piece itself. Sometimes the composer gives specific information or the title may be familiar, all of which help us prepare to read the piece.

2. Composer (top, right) Knowing the composer - or sometimes the culture from which a piece comes - can help us understand what to expect from the piece. If we are familiar with a given composer's work then we may better understand how they wrote and how they want it to sound. If we understand the culture from which the piece came then we may better know how it is to be performed.

3. Tempo (top, left) It's absolutely critical that we know at what tempo the piece should be performed. The composer had a specific "speed of the beat" in mind when he/she wrote the piece.

4. Clef (first sign on the staff) Never be fooled! Many instruments use a single clef exclusively while others might use two, or even three different clefs depending upon a number of factors. Be familiar with the different clefs your instrument might use and be prepared to read the music accordingly.

5. Key Signature (just to the right of the clef) Very Important! Sharps and Flats always are placed in the same pattern. The key signature tells us which pitches are "sharped" or "flatted" throughout the piece. It doesn't matter where a particular pitch is placed - all notes of a given pitch is either sharp or flat (based upon the key signature) regardless of how high or low they are.

6. Time Signature (just to the right of the Key Signature) The Time Signature has two components: the upper number tells just how many beats there are in each measure while the lower number tells us what "type" of note gets one beat. While not a fraction, the upper number functions like a numerator in that it is counting the number of something - just like a numerator in a fraction; the lower number functions like a denominator in that it is naming the type of note receiving one beat.

7. Scan the Piece...It's important to "scan" through the entire piece so that you understand what to expect as you play. Look for things like repeats, dynamic markings, and potentially difficult passages in the music.