Help your child succeed in learning to read music with these seven steps!
1. Focus on Sight Reading:
Sight reading, the ability to read and play an unfamiliar piece of written music, is a separate skill from performing. Realize that it’s going to take some focused sight reading practice in order to master it.
2. Got Rhythm?
When you sight read a song you need to be able to read both rhythm and pitch at the same time. To make things easier, practice reading rhythms alone. Use the rhythm cards from our lesson materials, or make some of your own. Lay out the cards in random order and try tapping or clapping the rhythm.
3. Look for Relationships Between Written Notes
When reading a new piece of music, look for patterns in how the notes relate to each other. Do the notes repeat? Step up? Step down? Skip up? Skip down? To help develop this skill, take any piece of music and practice naming the way the notes move from one to the next.
4. Master the Musical Alphabet
Get to know the musical alphabet. Be able to name the notes stepping both up (A B C D E F G) and down (G F E D C B A), and also know what letter will be a skip up or down from each note (for example, C skips up to E). Practice these skills with the music alphabet cards from our lesson materials, or make some of your own.
5. Learn Letter Names on the Keyboard
For a fun way to learn the letter names of keys on the keyboard, see lessons 4, 6, and 17. Once you’ve learned the letter names on the keyboard, practice! As a practice partner, call out letter names, or draw a musical alphabet card from the stack and see how fast your child can find the key. You can also point to a random key on the keyboard and ask your child to name it.
6. Learn Letter Names on the Staff
After learning the musical alphabet and knowing the letter names of keys on the keyboard, it is time to learn letter names on the staff (see Lesson 21, 32, and 49). While learning to see the relative relationships between notes on the staff is important, knowing the letter names on the staff provides an anchor and makes it quick and easy to find starting points. To practice letter names on the staff, say or sing the letter names of notes in songs you already know. You can also use flash cards to help practice letter names on the staff. It can be overwhelming to tackle the whole staff at once, so drill a few at a time until all the notes are memorized. Then don’t forget to review often!
7. Read Something New Every Day
Once students have begun learning note names on the staff, a little sight reading challenge should be a part of their everyday practice routine. Find music that is much simpler than the songs they’re learning for their lessons. For early beginners, it’s okay to do only a measure or two, whatever they find challenging but not overwhelming. First tap or clap the rhythm, then identify each note as a step, skip, or repeat, then say each letter name, and then try playing it on the keyboard.
As students advance through their piano studies, keep up the habit of sight reading a little every day. The pieces they’ll be able to read will advance as they do.
Here are a few online resources you might find helpful for sight reading practice:
Drill note names online with: http://www.sightreadingpractice.com
Printable Music Note Cards: http://www.music-for-music-teachers.com/flashcards.html
Resource for free beginning piano songs, good for sight reading practice: http://www.music-for-music-teachers.com/beginner-piano-music.html