Robert Estrin - piano expert

Sight Reading - Part 1

The importance of sight reading in music, from concert pianist Robert Estrin

In this video, Robert gives you a first glance into the secrets of music sight reading.

Released on April 30, 2013

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin here at with a video for you today, the importance of sight-reading. Sight-reading; being able to take a musical composition you've never seen before and read it, play it at sight. Boy, what a great thing that is to be able to do. I remember as a child, growing up, I developed my piano playing but my sight-reading was quite miserable for a long time until much later. I thought, "Wouldn't it be great?" I'd see people who could sight-read well like my father who could seemingly sight-read anything beautifully the first time."

Well, why is sight reading so important? You know, there are a number of reasons. Number one, as you study an instrument, you get to study certain pieces which you will work on very hard on a performance level, perhaps you'll memorize them. These are very limited number of pieces you can learn in the course of a year or even over a lifetime. Yet, you want to be able to play a lot of music to familiarize yourself to even know what you want to learn.

Instead of just listening to recordings, wouldn't it be great if you could just sit down and get a sense of a piece? Well that's exactly what sight-reading enables you to do. The good news is the more of it you do, the better you get at it. So I strongly encourage you to sight-read through as much music as you can so you develop your reading. If you start with music on a more elementary level and do it every day, you'll find that your reading level will grow over time.

Now there are other benefits to sight-reading. Sight-reading is absolutely essential for playing with other musicians. You might want to get together informally. Perhaps if you get together informally reading with other musicians, it not only is enjoyable to explore new music. But if you like what you're doing, maybe you'll decide to do a venture, a concert together, things like that. There are endless possibilities for collaborative music in all sorts of groups from duos, trios, quartets, and up to orchestras and choirs and all the rest of it. Sight-reading is great for that as well.

Now, what else is sight-reading important for? Well, when you're learning a piece of music, if you can sight-read through the piece a few times, you can get familiar enough with it that you know the trouble spots or spots that you really need to pay attention to so you can earmark your practice to certain key areas, maximizing your effectiveness in your practice. So there are many benefits to sight-reading; to reiterate, to familiarize yourself with a large amount of music. You couldn't possibly learn all of those pieces. Secondly, to play with other musicians informally so you can develop a relationship and see what it's like playing with other musicians. Lastly, to optimize your practice so that you know what's ahead in the piece you're currently learning.

Thanks for joining me. Robert Estrin here at
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Terry nealon on November 28, 2017 @5:30 am PST
I have just bought a flute and a I am trying to learn to read music so that I can play it I am a seventy year old pensioner and I have always wanted to play music so I have purchased a key boards I used to pled music when I was a young lad but it was only do ra me version but I have never able to play the ordinary scale so what I would like to learn to play is a clarinet but I do not know how to read ordinary music thank you for your consideration on this matter
Robert - host, on November 28, 2017 @11:38 am PST
Good luck with your musical studies - enjoy!
Rocky Avila * VSM MEMBER * on February 25, 2015 @3:24 pm PST
How do you read and memorize a piano piece if you are away from your instrument? Do you use the solfege method? Thanks.
Robert - host, on February 26, 2015 @3:04 pm PST
It is best to learn the piece at the piano. Then, challenge yourself by playing mentally. This is a great way to reinforce the memory referencing the score to clarify any uncertainty you may have. Here is a video on the subject:
Tim Goebel on February 25, 2015 @12:39 pm PST
Robert, thanks for this very inspirational video! I really love your Amadeus outfit, you Rock it! I'm a music producer and I'd Like to get your opinion on this band I finished producing:
I think you have great insight and I'd like to tap into it. Thanks Robert for your time and your inspiring videos!
Robert Estrin - host, on March 25, 2021 @7:57 am PST
Glad you like the video - keep up the music production. (By the way, the link doesn't work.)
Teo on June 7, 2014 @10:44 am PST
Thanks googols Robert! I saw you on LinkedIn and am glad I followed you here! Keep up the great work buddy! Wishing you the best, Teo
Humberto Cruz on May 6, 2013 @1:45 pm PST
Robert, I very much appreciate your suggestions and advice
Humberto Cruz
Humberto Cruz on May 5, 2013 @9:06 am PST
Robert, continue to enjoy and benefit from your videos.
For the past several days I have begun to tackle Chopin's Etude Op. No. 10 No. 3 which is the most challenging piece I have ever attempted (one year ago I would consider it "impossible" to play). Up to measure 21 I have followed the techniques you showed earlier for emphasizing the melody note in the right hand.
For measures 22-33 I would appreciate any practice suggestions, including tempo (how do I exactly interpret poco piu animato? In the Virtual Sheet Music score there are also marking I do not understand, including the notations I C. and 3 C. in some measures (below the bass clef).
Finally, the most difficult part of the piece are the series of augmented fourths with rapid hand movements before reverting to the soft melodic endings. Practice suggestions for this part would be extremely appreciated! Thanks
Robert - host, on May 5, 2013 @12:09 pm PST
The writing starting around measure 22 is more complex because the right hand melody is in 6ths. On top of that, there are mostly 16th notes, so this section is much more difficult to control than the slower, simpler preceding section. However, bringing out the top line is still important. I suggest practicing first right hand alone. To clarify the melody in your hand, practice playing the lower notes staccato from the fingers and the upper notes legato. This is very difficult but will provide you with the control necessary to balance the voices within one hand. Then you can add the left hand and eventually the pedal and you should be good to go.

Poco piu animato simply means a little animated. So, you can let it move a bit more. Allow an uneasy tension to develop.

The 1C. and 3C. indications are a mystery to me!

As for the complex series of broken diminished 7th chords, you must establish good fingering. Practice each slurred group as a chord (even if they are beyond your reach and you have to break them). Then you can play as written. Do not use the pedal until you have mastered this section so you can hear the legato connection of notes from the fingers.
Jerry on May 2, 2013 @3:52 pm PST
"The imPROtance of sight reading....?" Might want to fix the typo.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on May 2, 2013 @4:18 pm PST
Wow, thank you so much! We have just fixed it Smiley Face
Nancy Forbes on May 2, 2013 @11:24 am PST
Keep the videos coming, please. They are so helpful and interesting
Robert - host, on May 2, 2013 @3:55 pm PST
Thank you - there is much more to come!
Kathryn Bowman * VSM MEMBER * on May 1, 2013 @8:52 am PST
I love the videos! They are wonderfully helpful. Thank you!
Marget on May 1, 2013 @7:19 am PST
What is the cost to go to Estrin's Livng Piano ?
Robert - host, on May 1, 2013 @4:54 pm PST
The price is $22. However, there are a limited number of complimentary tickets available. Please email me your request.
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