How to Practice Sight-Reading (that's interesting)

I’ve been playing the guitar for a couple of decades and but aside from remembering the basics to musical notation from when I was in elementary school band, I’ve never bothered to learn how to sight read music. A few years ago I picked up a balalaika in Russia and I’ve decided to get serious about learning how to play it.

The problem is that although I have the finger dexterity to play it, I’m absolutely abysmal at reading music, which is what the majority of music for the balalaika is written in, rather than tab. Heck, even “my learn to play book”, although containing some tab, really is expecting that players can sight read, which causes me to give up on practicing after a few months.

I find when I do try to sight read, I’m memorizing the piece, rather than actually reading the notation. Does anyone have any practice techniques/resources that can help me get better at sight reading? I’m willing to put the time in but don’t really know a good way to train myself.

There is no easy way to learn sight reading, it takes years of training. First you properly learn how to read music, then you sol-fa a lot, and in the meanwhile you get better and better at playing the instrument, until you reach the point you can combine those skills and practice sight reading directly.
Average players end up memorizing the pieces they are studying well before they can play them accurately, so the inability to sight read is not a real limitation. If you are already more advanced you can shift the focus of your studies to music reading and sol-fa, it’s fairly straight forward (the way it was taught to me was by pure rote memorization and lots of practice).

First of all, this is literally language acquisition (albeit a simple one), so expect it to take time. Lots of time.

The only real way to practice sight reading is by playing lots of pieces that way, all the time. Maybe for years, depending on how good you want to get at this.

If you’re running into the “problem” of memorizing your pieces, just cycle through so many that this issue is minimized.

Thanks for the help! I’ll let you know in a decade or two if I can do it!