Experiential (informal/non-formal) practice does not improve sight-reading skills

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This study investigates whether experiential (informal/non-formal) sight-reading practice has an impact on sight-reading skills of classical university-level pianists. Data collected from 80 self-report practice diaries of students participating in trials of new sight-reading pedagogies were analysed to evaluate the effect of experiential sight-reading practice on improvement in sight-reading performance, focusing on the overall duration of sight-reading activities accumulated over the 10-week period and different patterns across this time. Data were subjected to bivariate regressions and bivariate correlations analyses. Results showed that improvement in sight-reading performance on three out of the four key indicators (beat adjustment, extra notes and missing notes) could not be predicted by participants’ overall hours of experiential practice. Yet the total number of hours engaged in sight-reading practice did predict an improvement in participant RMS accuracy (average timing errors for each correct note played). Findings also revealed no consistent pattern of practice across the 10 weeks that was associated with any of the four performance indicators. Implications for education include the need to embrace multi-faceted approaches to sight-reading training by focusing on skills contributing to expert sight-reading and their development, individually and in combinations. Rhythm and pitch training, development of pattern recognition and prediction skills, and collaborative playing activities have the potential to enhance sight-reading skills of music undergraduates and have positive flow-on effects for their preparation for 21st century music careers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-429
Number of pages12
JournalMusicae Scientiae
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • collaborative playing
  • diaries
  • pitch and rhythm processing
  • practice
  • sight-reading
  • skills for music careers

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