I’m the type of person who can eventually learn the tunes I’m playing by ear.
This seems great at first because it means I toss the sheet music over my shoulder after a certain point and just play. Of course, I’m also only memorizing simple tunes at this point, so I have no idea how this will relate to more complex songs in the future.
Talking with my brother-in-law, who is a music teacher (but not of orchestra), one of the first suggestions he told me was something I already knew deep down: I needed to try to learn and practice sight reading even if I tend to memorize the music instead.
But when you don’t even mean to memorize songs and it just happens, how do you find fresh material to practice on daily without trying to learn another song?
I did some research and I found a solution that has worked wonders for me: Sight Reading Factory.
Yes, it costs a low yearly subscription to maintain, but it has been absolutely worth it in the long run. SRF generates a new random “song” each day – or as many as I want to try – and challenges me with truly different notes to read every time. It’s not so random that it doesn’t sound like it could be a song, too.
I adjust the difficulty of the exercises, as well. Just lately, I felt like level 1 sight reading had gotten pretty route and easy. So I tuned it up a notch to level 2, and boy am I being challenged again. In a good way!
Since most of the methods books I play rely on notation (along with a CD), I’ve found myself much more comfortable and confident in approaching practice tunes now that I practice reading notation consistently now. I have a feeling that this is only going to become more important as I move into more difficult music, so I’m certainly glad that this is a practice habit I’ve built into my plan!