Learn How to Read Piano Music
Step By Step
- Start by studying each group separately as technical exercises
and learn about the fingering and how the pattern of each scale, chord,
arpeggio and interval looks like both with the notes, and on the piano
Tip: A "scale pattern" has only steps* moving up or down, a repeat
here and there is OK, but end where there is a skip which is an
interval. (*Unless it is not a diatonic scale.)
- Then pick an easy piano piece, and look at the patterns you see. If you have a photo copy you can be ruthless in marking with color all
- I would suggest picking one color; let’s say green, for scales.
- Circle, or mark clearly the beginning and end of any scale patterns
that you can find.
- Mark or circle all intervals with say, blue.
- Finally, circle all chords, broken, blocked or arpeggios with red.
- Now, identify each scale, chord or interval.
I have done that to show you in this famous sonatina in C major by Clementi: (Click here to get a free PDF).
All of a sudden you will see the piece in a new “light”. Instead of a
bunch of unidentified notes in a “forest” of black and white - you can
see patterns and shapes of only three concepts; scales, chords and intervals!
brain will "like" this very much, and apart from making it easier to
learn how to read piano music, it will be easier to memorize later as
Now play and practice each “color”. Try to find repeated
patterns of exactly the same thing (Yay, bonus!), or similar patterns
that you still play using the same technique.
But wait! Music is rhythm too, and all those other little markings everywhere and the pedal, and, and…!!
True. But you can’t do it all at once can you?
When you learn how to read piano music, you need to prioritize.
The shapes, patterns and outlines (and what fingers to use) in the piece is what you need to get literally your hands on first,
since these will be stored in your “motor memory”- controlled by a part
of your brain commonly called “reptilian” brain, where they actually
can be put on “auto pilot” when you learn more intellectual concepts
like dynamics, tempo etc. (Very cool!)
So secure these movements (including the fingering) first. Rhythm is your immediate next step, and then other areas added for each repetition.