How to Read Music Notes

Learning how to read music notes can seem harder than it really is...

Starting out, it's a bit like learning a new language, but not quite as hard though. Think of it like an orange with many parts that make up the whole. Make sure to study one section at a time first, not trying to understand all at once!

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Learn To Read Music Notes While Playing & Singing

Learn to read music notes

Learning to read music while playing an instrument is easier because you can practice and try everything you learn.

Learning by actively doing is, as always, the best way.

But even if you don't play an instrument, you can use the one instrument you always carry with you- your voice!

Studying music theory only in “theory” in your head, is not so effective, but using an instrument and/or your own voice will make everything more logical and easy to both understand and remember.

The Piano

Piano Keys Layout

The easiest instrument to help you learn how music notation works is the piano keyboard.

You do not need to be a pianist, or even learn to play the piano, but having a keyboard either as a picture or a real piano, will help you to easily see the notes and the relationship between them on the keyboard.

Reading Piano Music

The piano uses a grand staff. This consists of two staves connected with a brace.

When you play the piano, or the harp, you actually read two staves simultaneously!

Compared to most other instruments that only use one staff, pianists need - because of this- some clever techniques to make note reading easier. 

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Using Your Voice 

Using your voice in pitch, rhythm and interval ear training is important to be able to internalize also how it “feels” inside. For example; to sing a blues scale will give you the “Aha!” – feeling, not just by looking at one, no matter how much you think you “get it”.

But- what if I have a terrible voice and I hate singing!? You don’t have to have a great voice, and you don’t have to love singing to learn note reading. In music theory the voice is used as a tool to understand concepts of music better, not to learn singing. For learning how to read music in the best way, you will need to use as many of your senses as possible:

  • Your ears to listen,
  • you eyes to read, 
  • your voice and/or an instrument to feel,
  • some brains and a good sense of humor is great too!

Musical Elements

Understanding musical elements makes note reading easier. Music consists of three main elements:

  • Melody
  • Rhythm
  • Harmony

Although they all make up beautiful music, it is a good idea to focus first on one element at a time as you begin to learn how to read music notes

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Music Sight Reading

Reading music as you play or sing a piece for the first time is called music sight reading or prim a’ vista. Here are free lessons to help make you a better sight reader:

You can improve your sight reading with simple exercises. Diligently done every day they can take you from “stumbling” through a score to fluently reading music as you play. 

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