Trouble reading notes? Try these tricks!

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Oftentimes I come across students, especially younger students who have some difficulty reading music at first. Here are some of my suggestions for at home practice:

  1. Make it a fun, multi-sensory and colorful learning process! I use pipe cleaners, play dough, crayons, songwriting, games, rhythm sticks, stickers and more in my lessons with kids. Why? Because it’s fun and because it’s memorable. Also because it works with many different learning styles. They’ll remember they made a quarter note out of a pipe cleaner and played it on rhythm sticks more than that they saw it in a piano book and were forced to play it seven times.
  2. Repetition, variation and patience. Is key. Especially with young kids. Show them all the f’s on the piano, ask them to count the f’s, ask them to write f on the staff, ask them to color in all the fs on the music. You get the idea.
  3. Recognition is easier than recall. Matching notes to their names is often an easier way to learn at first than pointing to a note on the staff and asking the student to name it.
  4. Start small. Start with learning just a few notes at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed. The c 5 finger scale is a good place to start.
  5. Give them motivation. Choose music they like, show them videos of pianists playing their favorite songs. There are many “beginner note” versions of popular songs out there on the web. You can use these in addition to their books. Token systems work well for some kids too, for example, sticker charts.
  6. Blow up! Not literally. Blow sections of the music up. Print or write measures bigger on individual sheets for kids and adults who have trouble seeing the patterns in the notes.
  7. Emphasize directions in music over and over and many different ways. “This note-does it step up or step down?” “Show me where you play high notes on the piano” “the music goes up on the page” “do we go forwards or backwards through the alphabet here?”
  8. Make a list or chart of questions to help the student sequence putting his or her hands on the piano. Have them write the answers on the page as they go.

For example:

-the notes are in which clef?

-which hand do I start with?

-what is the number over the first note?

…and so on

Hope that helps! Just remember: anyone can learn!

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