Learning How to Read Music For Piano

It may seem formidable to learn how to read sheet music, but it is well worth the effort. Look at it this way…you were able to learn how to speak without having to read or write. But how much of life would you have missed if you had never learned to read a newspaper, a book, a letter, or read and write a text message?

The same is true for a musician. If you play by ear, you can only learn to play the songs you have heard and are able to remember the melody. If you have taught yourself chording, you can really only accompany other musicians or singers, in a simple way. However, if you can read sheet music, you can play anything.

Sheet music gives you more than just notes that play out a simple melody. It does more than simply supply a few chords and chord progressions. It enables you to play music you have never even heard, in any style…from easy listening, to blues, to jazz, to classical. It helps you grasp the theory of music in general.

The first thing you see on the staff when you look at it are the clefs. The two main ones are treble(usually played by the right hand), and bass (usually played by the left hand). The lines and spaces on the staff are where the notes are placed… in the treble clef the lines are EGBDF (every good boy does fine) and the spaces are FACE. In the bass clef they are GBDFA (good boys don’t fall apart) and ACEG (all cows eat grass). These are read from the bottom upon the staff. See…you are already reading!

Between the clefs you find the key signature, which tells you what key the piece is in and whether certain notes are sharp or flat. The sharp and flat notes are played on the black piano keys and the natural notes are the white keys. If a note is going to change from the original signature, it is indicated with a natural symbol in front of the note. This tells you to eliminate the flat or sharp.

The time signature is located just to the right of the key signature, and it tells you what tempo the music is played in. For example, ¾ time is a standard waltz tempo. This may change throughout the music, and will be indicated by another fraction in front of the next series of notes. The top number tells you how many beats there are in each bar (bars, or measures are separated by vertical lines through the staff). The bottom number tells you what kind of beat gets one beat. There are also rests, which indicate a beat in which no note is played at all.

A period over a note tells you to play it quickly and sharply (staccato), but there are many more terms that give you further instructions. Allegro tells you to play in a lively fashion, legato means slow, and andante means at a walking pace. There are symbols below the staff that indicate when to use the foot pedals.

Like reading a good novel, reading sheet music gives you every aspect of the song, from tempo to mood, from romantic to angry, to soothing.