Sight-Reading in "Hard" Keys

I started in May of 2020 to shares my experiences, saxophone exercises and songs with the world so that other saxophonists could learn from them. In today's article, I would like to share some of my experiences sight-reading in "difficult" key signatures. Let's look at the exercise below in C# minor concert, which corresponds to A# minor for the alto saxophone, and D# minor for the tenor saxophone.

00000001 C-sharp minor exercise with click track by Rex Djere

The key signature of the exercise above looks quite intimidating: seven sharps! When I started practicing a month ago, seven sharps seemed pretty scary, but I found that the more exercises that I played in "difficult" keys, the easier it became. I believe that sight-reading is like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the easier it becomes. For example, I noticed that the more I played in A# minor on the alto saxophone, the more I became familiar with the quirks of that particular key.

Here are three tips that I learned that I would like to pass along (this was my approach to learning the exercise above):

  1. Slow is fast. I opened up the score above in Musescore, and slowed it down to about 40%.
  2. Repetition. Then I played it over and over again until I mastered all of the notes at slow speed.
  3. Gradually increase the speed. Finally, I gradually increased the speed until I could play the exercise perfectly at 100%.


Since I learned this simple three step approach, I have used it to learn all of the exercises that I have recorded for the Saxtalk archives.

Here is me playing the C# minor concert exercise:

Rex Djere · 00000001_C-sharp_minor_exercise_final.mp3

Happy practicing! 

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