Sightreading 101: Don't Look Down!
This is just one short and sweet tip to sightreading and reading piano music well in general—don't look down! It's like you're at the top of a roller coaster and you are feeling a bit nervous about the upcoming descent. So, what do you do? You look down and become more nervous! Did looking down actually help you feel calm and in control? No.
In piano playing, when we are learning a new piece, we constantly want to look down at our fingers to check to see if they are in the right spot and will actually push down the right key. The good news is that in most cases, your fingers are in the right spot and ready to push the right key(s) down. Your brain is actually really smart! But, it is our instinct not to trust it and to double check. Unfortunately, looking up and looking down over and over just makes us dizzy. Then, we lose our spot on the page and ultimately mess up. It's our need for control that sends us on a downward spiral.
So, trust yourself (and your teacher who is building good habits into your playing) that you will play the correct note. If you don't play the right note, nothing bad will happen. It's just music. (And, after all, the opening of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue was altered from some wrong notes!) But, if you do, you can assess why and then go back and fix it. This will form the correct habit and build your confidence because you will have identified exactly how to get to the next note and will train your brain on what to think about. And, just remember, when you're at the top of the roller coaster and feeling nervous or just unconfident about a hand position change, don't look down! Rather, have faith in yourself and your practice.