Do you have any doubt about whether it’s best to prioritise the pulse when sight reading, or to play all of the correct notes?
If so, imagine you were listening to someone playing all of the correct notes, but with little sense of rhythm.
Now imagine they were playing with a consistent pulse that conveys the musical spirit of the piece, with much of the right rhythm, but few of the right notes.
Which would inspire you to move, dance or learn the piece? Which would make you the most useful musician -able to play with and for others?
So, when you sight read, whether to accompany someone, demonstrate a piece to a pupil or pass an exam or Diploma, first consider the title and musical spirit, then set a steady pulse which is both manageable and conveys the spirit. Then, counting continuously as you play, focus on playing from beat to beat, and on the bass line and melody, leaving out any harmonic, melodic or expressive detail which you can’t process in time.
Lucinda Mackworth-Young, International Director of The Piano Teachers' Course UK
Lucinda is an inspirational international lecturer, workshop leader, author, pianist and teacher. Over the past four decades she has pioneered Practical Psychology for Musicians, Dance for Musicians and a system for learning to Play by Ear and Improvise in Simple Steps.