Sight Reading Books
The most comprehensive list of sight reading books to improve your keyboard sight-reading. These piano sight reading books are supplemental to the Super Sight-Reading Secrets program by Howard Richman, but will be helpful to your sight-reading goals independently as well. To get the best benefit from these books, it is ideal to follow the special instructions included in Super Sight Reading Secrets.
For example, people have recommended using Bach Chorales to improve sight-reading for hundreds of years. But most people rarely get the results they strive for unless they follow the specific procedure on WHAT TO DO with the Bach Chorales! See also: books on sight-reading, how to improve sight-reading, books to help
sight-reading. (Also, Don’t miss our 10 amazing free secrets to improve sight-reading!)
The books below are categorized by various “levels.” Sight-reading music at various levels has a broad benefit to you. Read easy music fast to develop speed and the ability to look ahead. Don’t worry about mistakes. Read difficult music very slowly to develop accuracy. Each person’s level is different. There are four levels indicated below. Your easy level may be “1” and your hard level may be “3.” Yet another person
might be “2” and “4” respectively. Stretch yourself. Get music that is BOTH below your comfort level AND above your comfort level.
Many of the books and supplemental materials listed here are hard to find at your local sheet music store or even favorite online sheet music store. We’ve located a supplier of these items that usually has everything in stock and offers fast, easy and helpful service. We don’t sell these books ourselves, (except for a few items.) We are very happy with this supplier and we encourage you to click on the links below when you are ready to order. You will be
very pleased with their service. (Most other sheet music suppliers tend to be out of the very thing you want!)
Music Notation: Theory and Technique by Mark McGrain. This book is not essential for sight-reading but what’s interesting is that when you learn a bit how to notate (write) music, your reading of music notation will improve! Learn fundamental pitch and rhythm placement to intricate meter and voicing alignments. This book also covers the correct way to subdivide rhythms and notate complex articulations and dynamics. An excellent resource for both written and computer notation software!
When purchasing the Bach Chorales, make sure you get the version that is “reduced” for keyboard. This means that you see the soprano and alto voices together in the treble staff and the tenor and bass voices together in the bass staff. So, in other words, it will have normal-looking piano staves. The two recommendations immediately below are the correct versions. (If you’re not careful, you accidentally might pick up the “choir”
version of the Bach chorales which means you will be reading FOUR separated staves at the same time! This is ultimately good for your SCORE READING but not appropriate for the original intention of improving your piano sight-reading.) The two options below are exactly what is recommended in Super Sight-Reading Secrets.
Bach / 371 Chorales / Volume 1 371 Four-Part Chorales. A collection for piano or organ. Total 371, Nos. 1-198 in this volume. KALMUS EDITION (Please note: Volume 1 or Volume 2 are comparable - select either one.) (This is my favorite edition as the notes are larger and easy to read!)
Bach Riemenschneider 371 Harmonized Chorales. Schirmer Edition. (It’s convenient that all 371 are in one book here, but the notes are quite small. You might argue that this fact is good training for your eyes, but if you’re just starting out, I think you’ll be happier with the Kalmus edition.)
Looking Ahead Right Hand Solo
By practicing right hand alone, particularly as explained in Super Sight-Reading Secrets, you will develop the ability to read horizontally (looking ahead.) You don’t need to get all of these as they each serve a similar purpose when used in the suggested manner.
Gavinies - 24 Etudes for Violin P. Gavinies
Advanced - instrumental Series
(TEMP OUT OF PRINT)
Jazz Etudes Over Classic Jazz Changes
Jazz Books Series
This book is originally for jazz musicians, ubt we can use it for sight-reading and learning to look ahead. This is an ALTERNATIVE to the other books mentioned in this section. More than 100 original practice choruses! Terrific material to add to every jazz musician's daily routine. 72 pages.
Looking Ahead Left Hand Solo
By practicing left hand alone, particularly as explained in Super Sight-Reading Secrets, you will develop the ability to read horizontally (looking ahead.) You don’t need to get all of these as they each serve a similar purpose when used in the suggested manner.
Friedrich Grutzmacher, Etudes for Cello, Opus 38 KALMUS EDITIONS
It can be helpful to use a metronome,
particularly when you’re working on the rhythmic aspect of sight-reading. The quartz type of metronome is the best because it keeps the most even beat. The old-fashioned pendulum style is actually inaccurate because if the surface upon which it is placed is not completely level, the beat will be uneven! This can then do more harm than good. The other reason I like this particular metronome is because it just makes a simple beat. Some of the fancier electronic ones distinguish between the first and the
other beats of the measure with different timbres but those are a waste of money and a waste of time. This is because if you make a mistake, with a simple metronome like this one, you just pop right back in immediately. With the fancier types, you have to wait a whole cycle of four beats to “start” in the right place. I recommend this metronome.
By practicing reading rhythms alone, without worrying about the pitch of the note, you are able to develop this skill to a higher degree than if you always try to play the right pitches and the right rhythms at the same time. It is suggested that you pick any note of the keyboard and just read the rhythmic information. In fact, you don’t even need a keyboard for these. You can tap or clap. Start at a very slow and comfortable
metronome setting and gradually work your way up.
Modern Reading Text in 4/4, Louis Bellson, Adler/Belwin/Warner. Designed to teach syncopation within 4/4 time, the exercises also develop speed and accuracy in sight reading with uncommon rhythmic figures. A must for all musicians, especially percussionists interested in syncopation.
Just In Time A Total Approach To Rhythmic Reading, Leon White, Belwin, Alfred. This book is comparable to the Bellson Modern Reading Text in 4/4 except that the exercises are not limited to 4/4. This is a definitive rhythm study book for sight reading and technical mastery. The exercises display each rhythm using only two pitches. Problems including syncopation, special notation, odd time signatures, cut time and double time are all isolated for careful study. 116 Pages. (TEMP OUT OF PRINT)
Odd Time Reading Text. Louis Bellson, Adler/Belwin,Warner.
Now a standard in music education literature, this in-depth study takes the fear out of playing in time signatures other than 4/4. In a methodical manner, this book aids in rounding out any player's rhythmic and reading vocabulary. Perfect for all musicians wanting to play odd times with ease.
Peter Magadini’s Polyrhythms is acclaimed the world over and has been hailed by Modern Drummer magazine as by far the best book on the subject. Written for instrumentalists and vocalists alike, this book/CD pack contains excellent solos and exercises that feature polyrhythmic concepts. Topics covered include: 6 over 4, 5 over 4, 7 over 4, 3 over 4, 11 over 4, and other rhythmic ratios; combining various polyrhythms; polyrhythmic time signatures; and much more. The CD includes demos of the exercises.
“Score reading” references the conductor’s score which may be up to reading 30 staves at a time!!!! Anything that makes you read more than the normal two piano staves will help with your VERTICAL perception. Start out practicing with organ music, which has three staves, the bottom one being for your feet. But don’t play it with your feet. Instead, try to “compress” the notes that you read on three staves into your two hands. You
may have to leave out some notes. That’s ok. Then when you go back to normal piano music it will seem so easy!
Bach Complete Organ Works, Volume II Complete Organ Works 6. 34 Chorale Preludes (Moderately Difficult). KALMUS EDITIONS are primarily reprints of Urtext editions, reasonably priced and readily available. 34 Chorale Preludes (Moderately Difficult).
Complete String Quartets, Mozart, Dover. All 23 string quartets, plus alternate slow movements to K. 156. Breitkopf & Hartel edition. Study score. May be sold anywhere but Germany. 277 pgs.
Complete Chamber Music for Strings, Schubert, Dover. Reproduced from the Breitkopf & HΓ€rtel edition. Quintet in C Major (1828), 15 quartets and 2 trios for violin(s), viola and cello. Study score. May be sold anywhere but Germany. 348 pgs.
Scales (for fingering)
The Virtuoso Pianist (complete) Hanon,
Schirmers. This book has many finger exercises, but also excellent fingering suggestions for all the major and minor scales. Excellent knowledge of scale fingering will help sight-reading!
Level 1: Very Easy Music Books for Total Beginner (Look for “5-Finger”)
When piano books say “easy” they really mean “intermediate” level. This is SOOOOOO confusing to the new pianist. If you are just starting out at the piano, or just starting out at working on your sight-reading, then you should get some 5 finger books. These usually have you playing just one hand at a time, keeping the hands in one place on the keyboard (hand position) and are quite wonderful. There are really hundreds of titles. The only
problem, for sight-reading purposes, it’s to your advantage to get a five-finger book that has a lot of pages in it. That’s because you’re going to go through it fast. Most of the books out there only have 24 or 30 pages so you’ll have to purchase a ot of them. The best thing to do on these songs is to NOT read notes, but to develop your “intervalic” reading (explained in Super Sight-Reading Secrets.) This refers to reading how far each note is from the previous note and then selecting the
appropriate finger. So, learn to read by finger number when playing these songs! The books below are recommended mostly because they have a lot of pages. This way, you usually only need to buy one. By the time you’re done with it, you’ll probably be ready for the next level of difficulty. As long as it says
“5-Finger” it will be perfect.
Level 2: Easy Music Books for Seasoned Beginner (These often say “Big Note.”) (Do not get “E-Z Play”)
These types of books are just a step above the 5-finger books and have both hands playing simultaneously and the hands are now moving to several positions within each song, so you cannot just read fingers anymore. You have to actually read the notes. As above, there are many “big note” or comparable books out there, but the ones recommended here have many pages, so you won’t run out of songs too soon.
Very First Piano Solo Book, Small, Alfred.
For the student who has completed the first book of any piano method. 78 familiar tunes in easy arrangements, the first 30 containing no eighth notes. The very easy arrangements make this book excellent for sight reading. 112 pages.
Fun-To-Play Christmas Songs Big Note, Bradley, Warner. You are bound to find your favorite Christmas tune in this 47-song collecti on, beautifully arranged for big note piano. 128 pages.
Classic Rodgers & Hammerstein Book 1 - Big Note Composer Collections Series, Hal Leonard. 22 songs, including: Climb Ev’ry Mountain, Honey Bun, If I Loved You, It’s a Grand Night for Singing,Maria, Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, People Will Say We’re in Love, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, The Sound of Music and more. 80 pages.
Level 3 Sight-Reading Books (“Easy Piano”) (Do not get “Intermediate” for this level or it will be too hard!)
These books are often called “easy” by the publishers, but I’ve placed them, as you can see on “level 3!” The ones listed here have many pages, so you can enjoy practicing your sight-reading on many songs without having to go shopping for more books too often. Again, there are hundreds of “Easy Piano” books but the ones recommended below have a lot of pages, so you won’t run out of music too fast.
Ultimate Pop Sheet Music Collection, Coates, Warner. Warner Bros. Publications’ most requested, top-selling standards and pop songs. Titles in this big collection include: Amazed, American Pie. Back at One, Because You Loved Me, Bye Bye Bye, I Swear, Lean on Me, Right Here Waiting, Somewhere Out There, There You'll Be and many, many more. 256 pages.
100 World's Favorite Classic Melodies (Selections from Opera, Symphony, Ballet, and Keyboard Masterworks), Brimhall, Warner. This book contains 100 favorite classic themes arranged for easy to intermediate piano, with special emphasis on familiar melodies. Selections from opera, symphony, ballet, and chamber music, as well as vocal and piano music are included. 244 pages.
100 Christmas Carols - Easy Piano. The biggest and best easy piano collection of Christmas classics ever! Includes: Angels We Have Heard on High Away in a Manger Bells Over Bethlehem Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella Carol of the Birds Christ Was Born on Christmas Day Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy The First Noel God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen Good King Wenceslas Here We Come A-Wassailing I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day It Came upon the Midnight Clear Joy to the World O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste
Fideles) O Holy Night Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow Silent Night Still, Still, Still The Twelve Days of Christmas We Three Kings of Orient Are We Wish You a Merry Christmas and more! 207 pages
#1 All-Time Adult Contemporary Hits - Easy Piano. A revised edition of nearly 40 certified top-selling songs as listed on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts: Almost Paradise Butterfly Kisses Don't Know Much Have I Told You Lately Just the Way You Are My Heart Will Go On To Love You More Where Do I Begin (Love Theme) more. 176 pages
Level 4: Difficult Music for Sight-Reading. (This level book will often say “Intermediate” but that is actually pretty difficult.)
By the time you’re at this sight-reading level, you’re playing “real” pieces. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Haydn, Joplin, Liszt, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Scarlatti, Schumann, Schubert, Scriabin, and all the other classical composers. Also, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, and all the other jazz transcriptions. Also, pop, R&B, country, Gospel, and most
of the other popular literature. In other words, you are so good at sight-reading now that your sight-reading level is the most advanced music! Or, you are aspiring to this level and you are working on sight-reading these pieces in SLOW MOTION to get the benefit of developing your accuracy. There are so many books to recommend in this category, but I’ve selected a few that I think are representative:
Dan Coates Complete Advanced Piano Solos (Music for All Occasions), Coates, Warner. A complete collection of great songs for all occasions, to be played by the advanced piano player. Titles include; love and wedding favorites, Broadway standards, pop and country ballads, movie and TV hits and many more.
The Definitive Jazz Collection - 2nd Edition, Piano Vocal Guitar, Hal Leonard. collection of 88 of the greatest jazz songs ever compiled into one volume with professional arrangements. Includes: Ain’t Misbehavin’, All the Things You Are, Birdland, A Foggy Day, Girl From Ipanem, Here’s That Rainy Day, Midnight Sun, Night and Day, Sweet Georgia Brown.
Four Hand Sheet Music Books
Most pianists are shocked at how disorienting it can be to play four hand music. Four hand piano music is the fancy term for “duet.” in order to play a duet, you don’t sit in the center of the piano. Chosing “primo” or “secondo” position, you sit either on the right or the left respectively and this shift from your normal position can really through you at first. What is so
interesting is that after having practiced sight-reading four hand music it reading regular solo piano music seem easy! Here is a link to many different selections of four hand and duet music.
Sometimes, you’ll come across various ornaments in Baroque music and it’s nice to understand what they mean. You don’t need a book for this. Here’s a website that shows Bach’s original explanations of each ornament. Also, if you click on the
samples, you can HEAR what they sound like! J.S. Bach's Ornament Table by T.L. Hubeart Jr.
Sight-reading modern music can be quite challenging. But it is to your advantage to get some of this into your library so that when it comes up, you’ll be ready and accustomed to some of the notation conventions.
12 x 11 - Piano Music in 20th Century America. Hinson, Alfred. Contains 12 piano compositions by 11 of the most respected 20th-century composers, including George Crumb, Milton Babbitt and Halsey Stevens
Performance Practices in Early 20th Century Piano Music - DVD, Hinson, Alfred. Covering music from approximately 1890 to 1914, Dr. Hinson presents a fascinating lecture on the dramatic changes that composers wrought during the early 20th century. Music by Bartok, Debussy, Joplin, Grainger, Hindemith, MacDowell, Coleridge-Taylor, Satie, Schoenberg and more are performed in context of the performance challenges and stylistic explorations of the period.
Performance Practices in Late 20th Century Piano Music - DVD, Gordon, Alfred. Dr. Stewart Gordon breaks through misconceptions about the musicality and performance appeal of contemporary music. He offers valuable insight into how to interpret, teach and perform the music and enjoy the process. In the three sections, Dr. Gordon analyzes and performs intermediate to advanced level repertoire. Jazz and non-tonal music are explored as well.
Fake Books — Reading Chord Symbols
What is a “fake book?” Fake books used to be hand written binders that professional cocktail pianists would make for themselves of famous popular songs. They used chord symbols and would improvise most of the notes based on the chord information and the bare bones melody. They would share these “charts” with their friends. Traditionally, these were photocopies of a photocopy, so the quality was very low.
Eventually, publishers started publishing fake books. Now there are hundreds of fake books for every music genre and style! If you’re working on sight-reading chord symbols, its great to have a fake book because you really get your money’s worth. This is because they don’t provide the traditional two-staff piano music in a fake book. It’s only the treble staff singer’s melody and the chord symbols. This means that they can cram a whole song on a page or sometimes a half a page and that’s
why you can have one book with 1200 songs in it. This is great for sight-reading because you have such a wide selection of songs that you will rarely need to repeat the same song. Check out the best selection and lowest prices of fake books and song books for all your singing needs.
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