need to divide your attention into three areas-- reading (both the
page and the conductor if there is one), playing, and checking (to
see if what you are doing is what is on the page, and if what you are
playing fits in with what the other members of the group are playing,
if applicable.) You have to do all 3 things all the time and adjust
your focus "on the fly."
A quick "before playing" overview for things like time signature, key
changes, and obviously tricky rhythms should take no more than 10-15
seconds. This quick glance should tell you if there are any changes
in tempo, dynamics, or style. You don't have to study what they are,
just notice THAT they are and maybe WHERE they are. Then you'll be
ready for them when you get there.
Reading notes in groups is the second key to effective sight
reading. If you try to read each and every note as a separate
entity, your brain has trouble processing all that separate
information quickly enough to play. It is much easier to see four
sixteenth-notes as a group, and then play them as a group (a grouping
you have probably played many times before.) If there is something
that looks like a scale, it probably is. There may be a note or two
that aren't really "scale notes" but if you have recognized the scale
with a glance, it's easy to pick out the "odd notes". With a little
practice this can become automatic.
When rests come in the middle of a measure, it is easier to read
"when the end comes" than it is to "count out the middle." For
example in 4/4 time, if you have a quarter note, two quarter rests,
and a quarter note, it is more efficient to see the last note as a
pickup note to the next measure. Remember that the bar lines aren't
fences to jump over, but are more like the mile markers on the highway.
If you get totally lost, find the next marker, such as a key change,
time change, tempo change, or major section, and jump on when the
music goes by.
Most of all, relax, and the music will just happen. The more you
sight read the better sight-reader you will become. Then playing
your instrument will be more fun than ever!