Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans, Using interactive sight reading software is a great way to practice sight reading daily. By using a program that generates a steady stream of new sight reading material you can easily and efficiently practice this skill. Also you can avoid having to collecting books for the purpose of sight reading sheet music.
Before I list the programs let's start with a comparison of both traditional and interactive sight reading practice so you can see how using a software approach can help you grow as a musician.
Interactive Sight Reading vs Traditional Sight Reading
To sight read you will need music to read that is brand new to you. In the past you needed a library of materials to read from so you were looking at fresh materials each time you practiced. This required a lot of energy, time and money to collect the music not to mention the need to stay motivated to prevent boredom and challenge yourself to grow as a musician.
Interactive sheet music programs solve all these problems allowing you to have an unlimited supply of new musical examples. This can save you tons of hassle and set you up for success with your sight reading progress using the various skills you have learned about sight reading throughout my sight reading series.
And added feature of using interactive software is that you can track the growth of your sight reading skills accurately, efficiently and automatically with detailed statistics.
Common Features You Need In A Sight Reading Program
You must be able to print.
This is a vital feature for any sight reading program. If you can't print the excerpts you will severely limit how useful the program will be. I recommend all my students begin sight reading by marking their music with a pencil and using other sheet music marking techniques.
If you can't print from the program you could do a screen capture with programs like Camtasia or Snapz Pro. However this additional step will hinder your progress over time.
You need musical variety.
You want the program to be able to provide a huge number of examples. Often this will be done by using computer music algorithms that can generate musical examples. Some programs that use this feature are good and some are just plain awful.
Read reviews from users online before relying on the quality of the auto-generated music features of some programs. Alternately some programs use traditionally composed music which is much better in my opinion. If you go with a program that uses traditionally composed music be sure it offers enough variety in styles and difficultly levels to keep you engaged.
Analytics will help you track your progress.
Tracking your progress is the key to achieving your goal of becoming better at sight reading. Look for programs that track how often you use them and grade your performance based on how accurate your reading skills are.
You want a program with good usability.
Ultimately a program that is easy to use will be the best option even if it is missing some of the other features. If the program is hard to use you will not use it.
The 4 Best Interactive Sight Reading Programs
Based on the criteria above here are my recommendations for interactive sight reading software programs. These are my top 4 picks in order starting with #4 and rating each in the categories of Printing, Variety, Analytics and Usability. Each category is rated on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best. I have also graded each with a percentage score by dividing the points by 40.
#4 - Ear Master 6
RATING: 57% BREAKDOWN: Printing 0 | Variety 5 | Analytics 10 | Usability 10
Ear Master Pro 6 is the latest version of the acclaimed computer based ear training program. I am putting this software in this list because it has some great features for learning to read rhythms. Also it incorporates rhythm reading and other musicianship skills into one killer program that is a user friendly tool that is useful for every level of musician.
Ear Master has some great features the other programs don't have. It has a piano and guitar input interface. Also this program does a great job of tracking your progress with detailed reports.
The only reason the rating for this program is low is because it is not meant to be for sight reading although it can be a very powerful tool for learning to read rhythm. You can read my review of the previous version of Ear Master 5 here. I will be writing an in depth review of Ear Master 6 soon.
RATING: 73% BREAKDOWN: Printing 10 | Variety 9 | Analytics 0 | Usability 9
SightReadingFactory.com is also an online tool with auto-generated musical examples. It offers a lot of customization features which make it very usable. Also you can print directly from the website to a nicely formated page. This program natively supports most single staff instruments. Also it has a good listening feature to compare your work to the computer playback.
RATING: 82% BREAKDOWN: Printing 7 | Variety 8 | Analytics 8 | Usability 10
SightReadingMastery.com is another online tool that is relatively new to me. This program has traditionally composed musical examples from real composers which is a huge plus to me.
Printing is only supported through the web browser but the print out looks nice in landscape mode. There is a good variety of melodies, with left and right hand parts. You pay for the amount of sight reading you want per month, but the cheapest plan has enough for one reading per day. It tracks what you have played, but not details about it.
This program is very usable, especially for pianist and piano teachers. I like its interface and it uses real recordings of the playback! That is nearly impossible to find in any other program.
#1 - PianoMarvel
RATING: 100% BREAKDOWN: Printing 10 | Variety 10 | Analytics 10 | Usability 10
(I will be hosting a free webinar on Sunday, February 9th 2014 about PianoMarvel software. Click Here to Learn more.)
PianoMarvel is hands down the best program for interactive music education, especially in the area of sight reading. The program is designed to teach you sight reading through 36 graded levels of music reading from total beginner to advanced musician. The software uses an interactive interface that connects to a MIDI keyboard or any other MIDI device such as a MIDI guitar.
This program also has several incredible features including a built-in library of over 1200 pieces of music that also printable directly from the software. Also PianoMarvel has a feature that grades your performance to let you know how you did on each exercise and then automatically tracks your progress.
I highly encourage you to try PianoMarvel free for 30 days using the link below. Also as a reader of the One Minute Music Lesson you will receive a 20% discount by using the discount code OneMinute at checkout if you decide to purchase a monthly subscription.
Incorporating Sight Reading In To Your Practice Schedule
These programs are great for incorporating sight reading in to your practice routine. Especially the ones with good printing options. You can print your examples ahead of time so that you can mark your scores and you can use to programs to track your progress and listen to the excerpts.
However if you don't know how to properly read notes and rhythms none of these will teach you how to read music. For that I recommend by latest e-book "How To Read Music In 30 Days Easily" to get you started using counting systems and understanding music theory so you can sight read better.
That's it for today. Let me know what you think of these programs or if you have any other programs you like to use in the comments below.
Thanks following the One Minute Music Lesson,
Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.
Leon Harrell (about)
OneMinuteMusicLesson.com is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of music to beginning musicians who want to grow their talents as quickly as possible with effective lessons and time management tips for practicing. Leon Harrell's goal is to teaching you musicianship by using highly-targeted concept lessons that build progressively to teach you music theory, ear training and and composition.