Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 143–171

A cognitive model of musical sight-reading

  • Thomas Wolf

DOI: 10.1007/BF01067255

Cite this article as:
Wolf, T. J Psycholinguist Res (1976) 5: 143. doi:10.1007/BF01067255


The author, a professional flutist and psychologist, interviewed four pianists noted for their sight-reading abilities. The results of the interviews are considered from several points of view. Sight-reading is analyzed as a problem in pattern recognition: a movement from a sonata by Handel is used to illustrate the principle of scanning for familiar patterns. The close relationship between musical sight-reading and the reading of conventional texts is also suggested. Finally, drawing on the findings of other studies, a cognitive model of musical sight-reading is proposed. The schematic model of interlocking information-processing systems explains the differences between skilled and unskilled sight-readers; it also explains why some experienced, professional musicians are poor sight-readers. Verification of the model is provided in an additional section in which conversations with unskilled sight-readers are reported.

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Wolf
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationHarvard UniversityCambridge

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