Learn The Basic Symbols Of Notation
The next step is to learn basic sheet music notation, because without that skill everything you see is going to be just a bunch of confusing symbols that mean nothing to you. It would take way too long to explain all the different note types here, but this is something you will be working on a lot if you pursue learning how to read sheet music.
Learn To Read Music From Scratch
Many people believe it is hard to learn to read music. It isn’t! In fact, reading music is a little like learning to read another language, but much easier than most languages to learn!. In fact, if you are reading this – you can learn how to read music with just a little effort. This page is for those who wish to learn how to read music from scratch. to check your options or select from the nav bar on the left to learn about a particular aspect of music theory.
Put Theory Into Practice
Translating the inky blots on the page through your fingertips into actual music is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to reading piano sheet music. Now that youve spent some time writing things out on the page, its time to start putting that into practice on your actual instrument.
Start with each clef independently, just like you did when you were first memorizing the piano notes. Stick to your regular practice routine, as well. Remember, practice doesnt only make perfect, it also makes things permanent.
Youll want to practice with a metronome if you arent already. You need to be as comfortable with rhythm and harmony as you are with melody. You should also stay in the habit of focusing on musicality, even when youre practicing.
After seeing all the symbols and placement of notes. It is time to identify which note corresponds to the key on the piano. The white keys on the piano would correspond to the keys in the C Scale. Starting from C, followed by the keys D, E, F, G, A, B and ending again at a higher C. You would find them in the white keys on the piano.
The black keys are the ones between some of these white keys. Like the Eb being between D and E. Each of these keys has a place on the staff.
When practicing these sequences of notes, start slow until you feel the pace. From that point, that is when you start learning the song in its actual pace and tempo.
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Developing Your Own Songs
Not every piano student wants to become a composer or songwriter, but if that is a goal for them, they might be limiting themselves a bit if they never learn how to read music.
Knowing how to read music gives a composer or songwriter an effective language to deal with. It opens up a variety of styles, chord progressions and combinations to create with that wouldnt be possible if they were just playing by ear.
Is It Hard To Learn To Read Music
Not really. Reading musical notation is actually very logical and relatively easy to understand.
Does it need a lot of work? Of course, it needs work! And being able to sight read as you play might take years of practice.
But learning to read music enough to be able to learn and play new pieces is not as hard as you might think. Just start with really easy pieces.
Read on and click on the links to take you to the free lessons on beginning to read notes, improving your note reading, and learning how to practice sight-reading.
Play Piano and Read Music
Here are some tips on how to better play piano and read music simultaneously. Learn how not to look at your hands while reading music since this is the best way to learn to read and play fluently: How to Play Piano and Read Music at the Same Time!
Continue with an important lesson on how to read piano music easier by using musical and intuitive tools for note reading: How to Read Piano Music Easier.
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How To Read Sheet Music For Beginners
One of the first things that any beginning pianist learns to do, is to read music. Notes are the words that music uses to communicate with us, and in order to be able to read the language of music, we need to learn what the notes are so we can play them.
Here are some easy tips for learning your notes as a beginning pianist along with a video that offers some real time practice on your note reading that will help you improve quickly!
What Are Dynamics Markings In Music
Dynamic markings are used to show when and how the volume of a piece of music changes. They help create the expressiveness of a piece of music, allowing it to evoke emotions and tell a story.
Youll usually see these markings written in the white space between the treble and bass staves.
For an example, take a look at the excerpt from Clementi’s Sonatina again. This time the dynamic marking is highlighted in yellow to draw your attention to it:
List of Common Dynamic Markings in Music
- pp pianissimo very soft
- dim. diminuendo gradually getting softer
- decrescendo gradually getting softer
- cresc. crescendo gradually getting louder
Crescendo and decrescendo can also be notated using symbols instead of text. The following excerpt from the Adagio section of Mozart’s Viennese Sonatina no. 6 includes several crescendo and decrescendo symbols. Two of them are highlighted in yellow to draw your attention.
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The Middle Of The Piano
The middle of the piano is called middle C. It is also called so because it lies in the middle of the Grand Staff. It is one line below the treble clef and one line above the top line of the bass clef. We often think of Middle C as being the white key between the left hand and the right hand. It is below all the treble clef notes, and above the bar lines of the bass clef notes, sitting on a ledger line.
Reading notes is simple! Here it is shown on the grand staff. These are also the notes of the C Major Scale. This will be very important for reading easy piano sheet music. A great place to find piano sheet music for beginners is the Skoove App.
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Typical Piano Sheet Music
Piano music tends to have 2 staves. Usually , the top stave is written in the Treble Clef and the bottom stave is written in Bass Clef. The top stave shows the notes that should be played with the right hand, whilst the bottom stave shows the notes to be played by the left hand.
It helps to remember this when practicing as you can practice one hand at a time and make significant progress with whichever piece you are wanting to play.
The numbers placed underneath certain notes are suggestions of what fingers to use you will often find these when reading music for piano.
Some contemporary piano music has one stave for the right hand and chord symbols above or below the staff. This is very similar to a Lead Sheet. In this case, you would play the tune with your right hand and improvise the chords with your left hand.
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The Ugly Truth About Reading Sheet Music
Still with me?
I bet you can count them on one hand.
The ugly truth about reading sheet music is this: most people either never get good at it. Most people dont enjoy learning it, most people have a hard time remembering what theyve learned, most people dont ever get to the point where sight-reading is effortless or enjoyable.
But enough with the negativity. If youre still dead set on learning how to read sheet music, I can at least fill you in on the basics and help you get started.
Learn Music In Segments
Break the piece down into smaller, more manageable sections. If its a pop song, begin with an easier part, like maybe the chorus, then work on the verses and then finish with the bridge or breakdown of the song. This way, the task becomes more manageable, and the student is able to see their progress which will be more rewarding.
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Playing Accidentals On The Piano
Now lets step outside the key of C and explore the G major scale.
G major has one sharp: F#.
- On the staff, the F# will be marked only once: in the key signature.
- On your keyboard, find any F# and remember its position. Its the first of three black keys.
Remember, in G major, F will always be sharp unless marked by a natural sign.
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Moving On The Bass Clef
Youve started doing battle with the treble stave and now its time to drop down a line, and pay attention to the bass stave.
Working from bottom to top again, well use another mnemonic to help you:
1st line G Good
4th line F Favor
5th line A Always
Its important again to learn middle C. This time its on its own ledger line above the stave. This is the same note as the middle C that sits on a ledger line below the Treble stave.
We mentioned earlier its also called the F Clef. This is because the symbol starts on the F line fixing its position.
Understand The Parts Of The Sheet
The first step that you need to undertake is to understand the parts of a music sheet. If this is the first time you have seen a music sheet, there might be some symbols youre unfamiliar with.
One of the parts that you would notice first is the title of the piece and the author behind it. Its usually centered along the bottom edge of the top margin with the first letter names of each word capitalized. At times, there may be a subtitle printed in a smaller font with the author names below it.
The next parts youll see are the ledger lines. They refer to these as the staff . These lines are where you find the notes. All indicating the sound played on the instrument.
For the piano keyboard, the position of the note will tell the pianist which key to press.
Youll notice various symbols scattered all throughout the sheet. These symbols would denote the counting or which set of notes to use . Some of these will need further study to understand how they behave and how you will proceed with the piece.
Now, look at a music sheet. Youll see that there are two sets or groups of five horizontal lines. These are what you call the staffs.
Bar lines refer to those vertical lines. The horizontal lines that separate them are the measures.
The staff on the top is the Treble Clef. The notes youll find in here are higher than Middle C. The bottom, called the Bass Clef, is where youll find notes lower than Middle C.
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Should I Look At My Hands Or The Keyboard When Sight Reading
For the most part, you should not be looking down at the keyboard when youre reading music. When I teach a student, I always try to emphasize this point and help them to figure out ways to play their music without looking at their hands. Great sight readers dont have to look down. If youre in the habit of looking down at your hands when youre reading music, you will really need to break this habit to be a good sight reader. Every time you look away from the music, you break your concentration and waste valuable time. A good teacher can coach you on how to navigate the piano keyboard without looking down in different musical situations.
When I study a classical piece, I often work out the fingerings for the notes by writing them out in the music. . Over time, as I come to understand a piece better, I tend to refine these initial fingerings. I like to work on paper, so I usually just use pencil and erase and change fingerings as needed. This is an involved process, but it tends to yield good results. In my view, the more times you go through this process, the better you will become at coming up with new fingerings both when closely studying pieces and when sight reading .
Here are some tips for finding the right notes without looking down when youre on your own.
Middle C And Ledger Lines
Middle C live in the white space between the treble and bass staves on the grand staff. When I was a young piano learner, my teacher called this white space middle C’s playground.
To recognize middle C, you need to understand ledger lines.
Ledger lines are short horizontal lines that are used to extend the grand staff.
The grand staff only covers a portion of the notes available on the piano keyboard. But if we made the grand staff big enough to include all the notes on the piano, it would be incredibly difficult to decipher notes among all the lines and spaces.
So the grand staff focuses only on the range of notes that are most commonly played, and ledger lines are used as needed to extend the staff when we want to include other notes.
You’ll see ledger lines used above and below the grand staff, and also in the white space between the treble and bass staves.
Middle C is most common ledger line that you’ll encounter as a beginner.
Middle C is the middle note of the grand staff. It can be written one ledger line below the treble staff or one ledger line above the bass staff.
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List Of Basic Musical Symbols To Know
The basics of reading music notes are really quite simple. Traditionally, music is notated on a series of five horizontal lines and four spaces. We call this collection of lines and spaces the staff.
The position of notes on the staff indicates their relative pitches. Notes that are higher up on the staff sound higher than notes that are lower down on the staff. As you learn to read, you can almost think of it like an XY graph, where the X axis is time moving horizontally to the right and the Y axis is pitch moving up and down vertically.
We use a few different tools to orient ourselves on the staff. If we didnt use these tools, the staff would essentially be useless. We would have no reference for which pitch corresponds to which line or space. These tools are like musical compasses and maps, they show us our reference position and which directions to go.
Understanding The G Clef
The G Clef is also referred to as the treble clef. It is a representation of the piano keyboard. The ledger lines and spaces help us learn how to read the note names. It looks like this:
The treble clef tells us where the note G is on the staff. It shows where all the musical notes sit. We then find those notes on our piano keys. This is the beginning of learning how to read piano sheet music.
Here we can see the note G sitting on one of the ledger lines. We can also see there are no sharps or flats on our treble clef. Our clef also shows us how to read key signatures, and where to play notes. There are five lines and four spaces. This means we would be playing the C Major Scale, which is also called our White Key Major Scales.
From here, we can use our knowledge of the musical alphabet to figure out the rest symbols. Each line or space will represent one move up or down in the musical alphabet. So, if we move up from G on the second line to the note on the second space, we will find A. If we move up from A to the third line, we will find B.
If we move up from B, we will find C on the third space. If we move up from C, we will find D on the fourth line. If we move up from D, we will find E on the fourth space. And finally, if we move up from E, we will find F on the fifth and top line.
We can add additional lines above the staff to access more notes. We call these lines ledger lines, but we will not dive into that right now.
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