Sheet Music

5 Steps to Sight Reading Sheet Music - Sight Reading Exercise 1 - Sheet Music Markings

Hi One Minute Music Lesson Fans, I am creating a series of sight reading exercises for you to help you with your sight reading skills and to provide harmonically interesting sight reading materials.

In this first exercise, which you can download here, you should complete the following list of instructions BEFORE you play it or listen to the recording. The link to the recording is available at the bottom of this post.

5 Steps to Sight Reading Sheet Music

1. Get your materials ready. Print the example out and get a pencil with an eraser and three different colors of highlighters, preferably a blue, a green and a pink.

When you sight read you need be prepared with these materials so you are actively reading the score while at the same time providing yourself with the necessary information to read the music at your own skill level.

When you sight read music you will inevitably make mistakes. Your goal is to catch each mistake the first time you make it and mark your music accordingly. When you misread a pitch, circle it with the pencil.

Marking your score as you read it the very first time will save you an enormous amount of time through out the process and prevent you from repeating mistakes.

2. Highlight all the accidentals. Accidentals are the sharp, natural and flat symbols printed on your score. The key signature for the piece may include some sharps or flats but we are focusing on the extra accidentals printed through out the music.

In this first exercise the music is in the key of C major, which has no sharps or flats in the key signature itself. However, it is rare that a piece of music would only have the pitches from the key signature throughout the entire piece.

To mark your accidentals use the blue highlighter and highlight any flat symbols, then use the green for any natural symbols and the pink for the sharp symbols. You can see in the previous sentence how highlighting attracts your eyes and creates attention quickly. This is why I use highlighters on the accidentals, they are usually the notes you will miss when you sight read. When I do this I may highlight the note itself or the accidental symbol, it all depends on the amount of space on the page there is to mark the music. Some music is printed smaller and it makes highlighting more difficult. In that case I will highlight the notes directly rather than the accidental symbols.

3. Mark the rhythms that seem difficult. Look over the piece and find any rhythms that you think will be difficult to play. If you find any, use the Eastman Counting System to label the counting above the music now. Watch lessons 17 and 18 on the free video lesson page to learn more about this marking system or get a copy of "How to Read Music Easily in 30 Days" which goes into great detail on how to use this counting system.

By marking the difficult rhythms we will save a lot of time and prevent mistakes in our rhythm reading. Again, this helps us to play the piece correctly and not repeat mistakes over and over again.

4. Scan over the whole piece before you play. Anytime you sight read always take the time to look over the whole piece before you play it. Identify a few features of the score such as key signature, time signature and expression markings that describe what type of sounds you should be making. An example of a common expression is dolce, which means sweetly. Expression markings are usually in italics.

Look for changes of key or modulations. This is usually indicated with a thin double bar between measures and a new key signature or the presence of more accidentals than in other parts of the music.

5. Read the music in your head first. Finally, before you play the piece look at the music and imagine performing it just in your head. Imagine the rhythms and sounds of the notes. You will probably not be albe to imagine the pitches correctly yet, but over time you can certainly build this skill up with ear training. For now just imagine the contour of the musical lines, or the basic high-ness or low-ness of the notes.

Read though the whole piece this way one time in a steady tempo using a metronome. Try to stay focused and move along in the music the same way you would as if you where playing it. This step is training you to read the score without involving any of the technical difficulties of playing your instrument. This is often called score reading, and it is a vital skill for any musician especially ensemble leaders like conductors.

Compare your work to the recording

After you have completed this exercise and gone through all the steps practice the piece until you feel as though you have played it correctly. Once you are finished go to the One Minute Music Lesson forums to listen to the recording to see how close you are to reading it correctly.

That's it for today. Let me know what you think of the exercise. Was it too difficult? Was it too easy? Did you like the music? If you have questions or comments leave them in the comment section below or over in the forum.

Until next time,

Practice smart, not hard.

-Leon Harrell

Review: The Concise Beatles Complete

Hi One Minute Music Lesson Fans, Today I wanted to share with a review of one of my go-to books when I just want to play some tunes and have a fun jam session on my piano at home.

I love the Beatles, and I'm sure many of you do too. If you are a Beatles fan you must own a copy of The Concise Beatles Complete. This is one of the best collections of Beatles songs in a simple to read and play format.

Each song is written in a lead sheet style. This means you have a melody written in treble clef with the lyrics and the chord symbols printed above the melody. The rhythms are simple to read because they are very close to being as accurate as the recordings but not as accurate as the more famous The Beatles: Complete Scores collection, which is much more difficult to play from as a solo pianist.

This collection has 184 of the most popular Beatles songs which are arranged in the book in alphabetical order so you can find them easily. Here are the contents of the book:

  • A Day In The Life
  • A Hard Day's Night
  • Across The Universe
  • All I've Got To Do
  • All My Loving
  • All Together Now
  • All You Need Is Love
  • And I Love Her
  • And Your Bird Can Sing
  • Another Girl
  • Anytime At All
  • Ask Me Why
  • Baby You're A Rich Man
  • Baby's In Black
  • Back In The U.S.S.R.
  • Because
  • Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite
  • Birthday
  • Blackbird
  • Blue Jay Way
  • Can't Buy Me Love
  • Carry That Weight
  • Come Together
  • Cry Baby Cry
  • Day Tripper
  • Dear Prudence
  • Dig A Pony
  • Dig It
  • Do You Want To Know A Secret?
  • Doctor Robert
  • Don't Let Me Down
  • Don't Pass Me By
  • Drive My Car
  • Eight Days A Week
  • Eleanor Rigby
  • Every Little Thing
  • Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey
  • Fixing A Hole
  • For No One
  • For You Blue
  • From A Window
  • From Me To You
  • Get Back
  • Getting Better
  • Girl
  • Give Peace A Chance
  • Glass Onion
  • Golden Slumbers
  • Good Day Sunshine
  • Good Morning Good Morning
  • Good Night
  • Goodbye
  • Got To Get You Into My Life
  • Happiness Is A Warm Gun
  • Hello Little Girl
  • Hello, Goodbye
  • Help!
  • Helter Skelter
  • Her Majesty
  • Here Comes The Sun
  • Here, There And Everywhere
  • Hey Bulldog
  • Hey Jude
  • Hold Me Tight
  • Honey Pie
  • I Am The Walrus
  • I Call Your Name
  • I Don't Want To Spoil The Party
  • I Feel Fine
  • I Me Mine
  • I Need You
  • I Saw Her Standing There
  • I Should Have Known Better
  • I Wanna Be Your Man
  • I Want To Hold Your Hand
  • I Want To Tell You
  • I Want You (She's So Heavy)
  • I Will
  • I'll Be Back
  • I'll Cry Instead
  • I'll Follow The Sun
  • I'll Get You
  • I'm A Loser
  • I'm Down
  • I'm Happy Just To Dance With You
  • I'm Looking Through You
  • I'm Only Sleeping I'm So Tired
  • I've Got A Feeling
  • I've Just Seen A Face
  • If I Fell
  • If I Needed Someone
  • In My Life
  • It Won't Be Long
  • It's All Too Much
  • It's Only Love
  • Julia
  • Lady Madonna
  • Let It Be
  • Little Child
  • Long Long Long
  • Love Me Do
  • Love You To
  • Lovely Rita
  • Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
  • Magical Mystery Tour
  • Martha My Dear
  • Maxwell's Silver Hammer
  • Mean Mr. Mustard
  • Michelle
  • Misery
  • Mother Nature's Son
  • No Reply
  • Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
  • Not A Second Time
  • Nowhere Man
  • Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  • Octopus's Garden
  • Oh! Darling
  • Old Brown Shoe
  • One After 909
  • Only A Northern Song P.S. I Love You
  • Paperback Writer
  • Penny Lane
  • Piggies
  • Please Please Me
  • Polythene Pam
  • Rain
  • Revolution
  • Rocky Raccoon
  • Run For Your Life
  • Savoy Truffle
  • Sexy Sadie
  • Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
  • She Loves You
  • She Said She Said
  • She's A Woman
  • She's Leaving Home
  • Something
  • Strawberry Fields Forever
  • Sun King
  • Taxman
  • Tell Me What You See
  • Tell Me Why
  • Thank You Girl
  • The Ballad Of John And Yoko
  • The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
  • The End
  • The Fool On The Hill
  • The Inner Light
  • The Long And Winding Road
  • The Night Before
  • The Word
  • There's A Place
  • Things We Said Today
  • Think For Yourself
  • This Boy (Ringo's Theme)
  • Ticket To Ride
  • Tomorrow Never Knows
  • Two Of Us
  • Wait
  • We Can Work It Out
  • What Goes On
  • What You're Doing
  • When I Get Home
  • When I'm Sixty-Four
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  • Why Don't We Do It In The Road
  • Wild Honey Pie
  • With A Little Help From My Friends
  • Within You Without You
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Yer Blues
  • Yes It Is
  • Yesterday
  • You Can't Do That
  • You Like Me Too Much
  • You Never Give Me Your Money
  • You Won't See Me
  • You're Going To Lose That Girl
  • You've Got To Hide
  • Your Love Away
  • Your Mother Should Know

This collection is great also for analyzing the harmony behind the Beatles songs if you know how to convert chord symbols into functional harmony, a skill which I will be teaching to my new upcoming academy students.

If you own a copy of  The Concise Beatles Complete or have a better Beatles collection you would like to share with the One Minute Music Lesson community leave me a note in the comments below.

This post is sponsored by the Baby Trend Expedition-Jogger-Stroller team. Until next time: Practice Smart, Not Hard.

Leon Harrell


Top 10 Free Sheet Music Websites

[Edit from Leon: Get access to over 1200 pieces of piano sheet music for free for 30-days. Check it out here.] Here are a list of 10 of the best sites online for free sheet music.

My two personal favorites are the free section from, a site with over 80,000 digitally downloadable pieces and the IMSLP collection which has 1000's of scores of classical pieces including full orchestra scores, which are great for composers to study.

Most of these sites contain piano sheet music but you will find music for many other instruments as well including guitar, violin and other strings. Also a few sites have music for woodwinds, brass and voice.

  1. (Free Section)
  2. 8
  3. IMSLP (International Music Score Library Project)
  4. Easy Sheet
  5. Free Sheet Music
  6. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Music Library
  7. Free Sheet
  8. Duke University Digital Collections
  9. The Choral Public Domain Library
  10. The Mutopia Project

If you have any favorite free sheet music sites you like that you don't see in this list, let me know about them in the comments below.

If you can't find what you're looking on these free sheet music websites check out the selection at the internet's greatest sheet music store Sheet Music Plus.

Also, if you have struggled to learn how to read sheet music in the past, you own it to yourself to check out my latest e-book How to Read Music Easily in 30 Days to get the advantage you need to finally understand how to read music fluently.

Practice smart, not hard.

-Leon Harrell