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Happy news! There are easier ways to read piano notes!
When learning a new piano piece it is important to learn the piano notes as soon as possible, so that we can focus more on expressing the music itself.
By "mapping out" the score and finding all the patterns and shapes that make up the piece (and that also often are repeated)- you'll in this way learn and understand the piece much sooner.
To learn a music composition fast, first of all you need to learn to identify musical patterns. In a piano piece you will find three types of patterns;
Let's first take a look at each type and how they look in a score.
Scale patterns could be a complete scale, but more often you'll find a smaller part of a scale. This pattern is seen as notes moving up and down, step by step.
Here is an example of scale pattern from an excerpt that uses the d minor harmonic scale from J.S Bach’s little Aria, BVW 515 (click for free PDF):
Chord patterns are notes that played together forms a chord. They can be blocked (played at the same time), broken (played one at a time in various patterns aka. arpeggiated), inverted and played over a larger range of notes.
Here are broken chords in an excerpt from Mozart’s Minuet nr. 2 K.5 (click for a free PDF):
Interval patterns are easy to identify once you learn to spot them. An interval is the distance between two notes. They can be played both at the same time, called harmonic interval, or one at a time, called melodic intervals.
Here are harmonic intervals in “Soldiers March” by R. Schumann (click for a free PDF):
When practicing piano technique, make sure to learn all the scales and chords and their fingering. In addition to improving your technique, this will help you to read piano notes faster!
When learning a new piano piece, start by practicing one of each type of the patterns first. For example, first identify all scale patterns, then the chords, and finally the intervals.
Working in this way, you will "jump around" in the score. This is actually a very good way to quickly get to know and get an overview of the whole piece.
You will also discover places that are the same (Yay Bonus!) and similar. Stick to the same kind of fingering if possible, to make it easier and faster to learn.
If you ever felt intimidated, or even fearful of reading sheet music, this method of mapping out the piano score, will help you overcome that fear!