Reading Piano Sheet Music For Beginners
Learning how to read music as a beginner simply means learning what the symbols on the page are telling your hands to do. This includes knowing the names of the piano keys, the notes on the musical staff, time signatures, note values, and different musical symbols.
But, before we dive into basic music reading skills , youll want to make sure you have all the supplies you need. This means some blank staff paper, an erasable pencil , and a keyboard instrument of some kind. You dont need a Steinway to get started a small keyboard will do fine for learning the basics of music reading. You will, however, want at least 66 keys to play complete most pieces of music.
A Little History Behind Reading Music Notes
Sheet music is read from left to right. The reasoning behind this is that music began as an exercise most focused on the progression of notes in a scale or mode in a horizontal fashion. When more than one voice was sounded together, they usually sang in unison it was not until the 9th century that musicians became increasingly concerned with vertical harmony and polyphony.
Keyboard instruments, such as the organ, the harpsichord, and ultimately the piano, were instruments developed to satisfy this changing aesthetic and the increased importance of vertical harmonies. They were adapted into a notation that had been developed to address primarily horizontal concerns . This means beginner piano students must learn to think about the music on the page differently from the words on a page.
Putting The Hands Together In Sections
At this point, you should have a firm grip on what both hands can do individually. Now its time to see how they all fit together.
Because the rhythm has been thoroughly prepped in the previous steps, its a matter of simply putting the hands together in small sections.
Start by playing 2 measures at a time slowly. If there are any mistakes, then try to read them again until you can correct those mistakes. Ideally, to learn a section of music efficiently, you should aim to play each section at least 3 times in a row correctly.
This may take many more attempts to fix, however it will ensure that the section is thoroughly practiced.
Once you have a few small sections ready, start piecing them together into larger sections. A simple form analysis of the piece will help you find logical areas to section off. Most beginner pieces have a clear beginning, middle, and end section.
More substantial pieces will have more developmental material in between each of those sections.
Over the course of a few practice sessions, you will start to see the piece take form. Areas that were difficult for you will be more ingrained in your hands. You will even start developing a bit of memory and execution of playing the notes will be much sharper.
With consistent practice, this is how you can put a piece together the right way.
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Familiarizing Yourself With Key Signatures
One last step to take before embarking on playing through piano music is to familiarize yourself with key signatures. Key signatures can be found at the beginning of each staff.
They are an indicator of which notes are going to be augmented with a sharp or flat anytime they occur in the piece of music. Unless otherwise instructed to be a natural note, those notes will take on the blanket settings that the key signature asks for.
Take a look at the example below.
In this example, the key signature has two flat notes. They are B flat and E flat. As you can see the actual notes dont have any symbols next to them.
However because the keys have been identified by the key signature, you will make that application to all the notes. So in this case, the B and E shown in the image would need to be played on the black keys.
The reason composers use key signatures is that they help make the music much easier to read. They also set the entire key for a piece and help with the entire harmonic structure of the music.
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Tips To Learn Piano Sheet Music More Quickly
While the step by step tips written above are helpful, they can be time-consuming. There are some strategies to help cut down on the learning curve of reading sheet music. Below are a few ways to speed up the learning process.
Learn How To Play Major And Minor Scales
The majority of composed sheet music is based off some collection, variation, or nod to a scale. The passages at times will even fold in and out of various keys so that they make harmonic sense.
A good way to get a grip on whats going on is to learn how to play major and minor scales. Scales are a great technical aid and can be played using very specific fingering. Once that fingering is mastered, it will be much easier to apply that fingering to the notes in the sheet music.
The eyes and ears will also be better prepared to recognize when a scale is happening in the music leading to faster learning of those sections.
Music is made up of patterns, and its best to recognize those as quickly as possible in your sheet music. With a highlighter, label all of the sections that visually look the same to you. Then compare those notes to see if theyre the exact same pitches or a variant.
A lot of times pianists will find that certain passages will repeat themselves again later in the piece. Even on a basic level of musical form, one can expect the main theme of a piece to present itself in the same hand, another hand, or even the inner voices.
Memorizing The Sheet Music
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Additional Beginner Sheets & Music
Waltzing Matilda with helper notes
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
What Child is This, lettered notes & helper notes
What Do You Do with a Drunken – or GRUMPY – Sailor
What Wondrous Love
White, Orange & Green
Wiegenlied, “Mozart’s Cradle Song”
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star/the Alphabet Song
In case you havent already noticed, these two songs are basically the same but with more or fewer notes. Therefore, if you learn one, you will also know the other. I know these are little kids songs, but learning them helps you to know the basics, so, these are great songs to start you off on your musical journey. Its very easy to learn, and its probably already stamped in your head.
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The Importance Of Scales
One thing that every great piano player has in common is regularly practicing scales. We can think of scales as finger exercises that are of the utmost importance to all piano players for multiple reasons
- They help your fingers get used to repetition
- You learn how to coordinate your hands
- Your fingers will actually get a good workout and thereby can move faster
- They will help you to recognize the tone of each note
- They help to stretch your fingers to be able to go from one note to another rapidly
- Scales encourage you to use the right fingering when playing
Here is a simple scale to start you off. Place your left pinky on the C note and your right thumb on the C note that is one step higher. After hitting the C notes together, use your next fingers on both hands to hit the notes to the right, and keep going until you end up with your left thumb hitting the G note, and your right pinky hitting the higher G note, then go backward.
Once you have learned all of the above songs, picking up other songs will be a piece of cake. Dont forget to keep practicing your scales for at least an hour a day. And you dont have to stop there. Start building your own style by adding your own notes and chords to songs you learn. Dont be afraid to try different things, it cant hurt, besides you will never know how it will sound until you try it, and if it sounds good, play it!
Resources For Free Piano Sheet Music For Beginners
The beginning of a piano enthusiasts journey is crucial. As you delve into the world of musical instruments theres the potential to get frustrated. Especially if all you can find is sheet music well beyond your current level.
Thats why its important to know the best sources for free piano sheet music for beginners.
Here are some of the recommendations we have for beginners to download and print free sheet music:
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Easy Songs To Learn On The Piano For Beginners
The following is a list that contains 5 easy songs that beginners can learn to play on the piano, including 3 bonus songs you hear on the radio. You should recognize them as I chose these songs in particular not only because they are easy to learn, but they are also popular as well. It is easier to learn how to play a song that you have heard before.
Just dont be too hasty and dont get discouraged. Contrary to what others may say, nobody, can sit down and play the piano great without first learning and practicing, often easiest with piano lessons. Therefore, dont expect too much when you are just starting out. It takes time even to play decent, but with a little effort, you can do it anyone can, you just have to apply yourself.
A Different Way To Learn How To Read Sheet Music: The Mental Flip Strategy
One of the most difficult things about learning how to read sheet music for the piano, as opposed to most other instruments, is that there is not just a single melody to be played. Piano music requires you to play more than one part at a time reading two music staves at once. Usually these parts are interconnected they are part of a chord that you need to be able to accurately read.
Although the concept of reading multiple lines of music may seem overwhelming at first, in time, youll find that this is what makes the piano such a powerful instrument. A pianist can carry the bassline, chords, and melody all at once, eliminating the need for accompaniment and providing orchestra-like backing for solo instruments. Many beginners prefer to use a technique called the mental flip strategy to get more comfortable with reading and memorizing the notes. Before we dive into how to use that strategy, lets take a step back and see why sheet music is written the way it is.
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What Are The Finger Numbers For Piano Players
When learning how to read sheet music, its important to remember that each of your fingers have numbers 1 5. Thumb is number 1, the pointer finger is number 2, middle finger is number 3, ring finger is number 4, and pinky is number 5. All piano players from beginner to advanced use finger numbers for reading sheet music.
Pro Tip: Now, as you read through new songs, write in the note names. Then, sing the note name or finger numbers while playing, which will help you memorize the names of numbers of the notes on a piano. Once youve practiced this, erase the letter names and test yourself to see if you still remember the playing pattern and tune of the song.
Key Elements For Beginners Sheet Music
Sheet music created with beginners in mind should have the following:
- arrangements which feature large, easy-to-follow notes
- with each notes name written on the note head
- a layout that makes it easy for any beginner to follow the music on the page
- a variety of categories, including childrens songs, rock, pop, themes songs from popular movies and television shows, and of course, classical
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Yes They Need The Basic Foundation And More
Scales? Yes. Exercises? Yes. Note-reading? Of course.
But with beginner piano music, always at least one FUN piece, a piece that gives the child something to look forward to at practice time.
Keep looking until you find a piece they enjoy, and they will likely work on it happily until it is perfect.
So where do you find that perfect piece? It’s so easy to make a wrong choice for a picky student!
And there’s the nagging little voice in the back of your mind reminding you that copying is definitely not legal…
One New Key At A Time
I used to assign kids the entire paper to fill in the first week, but gradually I’ve come to assign just one note name per week, and stipulate that at home, they are to strike every one of THOSE keys up and down the keyboard every day.
“This week, I want you to write in all the D’s, in pencil, and play every D, etc.”, so that we keep returning to the paper piano keyboard layout week after week.
It’s a BIG DEAL when we’ve gotten through all the white keys, and turn our attention to those mysterious black keys, with the double names…
Here is a student who has placed a little animal on each G# key.
Below are two very different piano keyboards diagrams: the first one has small keys , the second one is larger, with fewer keys.
Both print out nicely on 8 1/2″ by 11″ paper, with PLENTY of white space left below for you to write on! Scroll down for the free downloadable PDF links…
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How To Read Piano Sheet Music
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Playing piano by ear is a quick and easy way to learn the instrument. Knowing how to read piano sheet music is much more useful though. Reading sheet music opens up the amount of repertoire a person can learn.
Theres a common misconception that reading piano sheet music is hard, but with a clear strategy, its actually quite easy to learn.
Heres how to read piano sheet music in 11 easy steps
Next, Ill talk about each of these steps and the best ways to implement them into your practice routine. Learning these strategies will allow anyone to pick up a piece of sheet music and read through it with ease!
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Lets Be Clear: If You Dont Learn To Read Music You Limit Yourself
We challenge you to find a pianist who learned to read music and regretted it. But there are plenty who wish they had learned earlier. Like any language, you can get by without taking the time to read or write, especially in the beginning. In the long term, however, being able to read music holds a range of benefits, and you limit yourself without them.
Its quicker than you think. This isnt strictly a good thing. But if the only downside to learning is time and effort, its worth stressing that it doesnt take that long. Notation may look like lines and dots on a page right now, but you will be reading and playing your first piece of music in no time. Work systematically, gradually build up knowledge of new notation, and you will be surprised how quickly you understand literally everything.
Sight reading. This is the ability to read a piece of music for the first time and play as you go, as easy as reading this sentence out loud. It takes time and practice, but eventually if you have the written music, you can play it. Since written music is widely available online, learning to sight read music gives you the ability to immediately play practically anything.
A permanent memory aid. Playing by ear means remembering everything you ever decided to learn. Written music offers a record of anything you have ever learned, or plan to learn. If you dont have a perfect memory, you can develop your own notation. But when there is a universal language already in place, why bother?
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Piano Scales Sheet Musicshaping The Hand For Basic Piano Chords
Piano scales sheet music – now for BOTH HANDS – will help beginners get the right hand shape for scales and for open 5ths.
Sometimes their little fingers just can’t seem to lay down on the keys!
For those little guys whose hands won’t behave, download this page with four sets of free scales, with “helper” notes.
I devised this first, repetitious series of scales for a particular student whose fingers did not want to conform to the 5-fingers-on-5-keys shape.
Because he is such a new beginner, I opted to use music note “drawings” – piano music with letters.
Scroll down the page for the free downloadable PDF links:
Please scroll down the page for the download links.
Since my student could already identify the keys on the piano keyboard, he “went right to town” when I gave him this five finger exercise with the made-easy notes.
As easy as this piano scales sheet music is to read, however, it’s not foolproof. Somehow he, and another young student, failed to notice the fingering! Don’t take ANYTHING for granted with beginners.
Once a student has gotten that rising scales pattern figured out and solidified , ask them how it would go if the left hand did it!
When that goes well, have them try it hands together.
This sheet of piano scales and chords solved my student’s meandering fingers.
The pattern in this note reading worksheet allows the student to gain the desired note span with their fingers, then linger there for a few extra beats as they strike the open fifths.