Note reading is one of the basic skills that we musicians all seek to develop. It helps us learn more music faster and helps us sightread. The problem is that for many of us, we quit developing it after our first year of music lessons.
Do you remember when you first started music lessons? Your teacher gave you special books with big notes that helped you learn the names of the lines and the spaces and helped you make the fundamental four-way musical connection: the connection of the printed note on the page with the name of the note and the way you play that note and the pitch that results.
Most likely after a certain length of time, your teacher stopped having you do that kind of work as you concentrated on learning more advanced music. Both of you took your note reading for granted.
But in the very same way that you can never take your scales for granted, you should never take your note reading for granted either. Just like your scales, it takes regular work to keep your note reading at peak performance.
Do I hear some of you saying that your note reading has never been at peak performance?
Then please read on to these seven common reasons for not practicing note reading and how they may be keeping your musicianship from growing.
Which reason is yours?
7. I didn’t know you were supposed to. I understand this one. Most people don’t realize that unless you intentionally improve your note reading, you to learn music at a slower pace than necessary. If you’ve ever found yourself counting ledger lines, you know what I mean.
6. Practicing reading notes is for beginners. While it’s true that most music students start there, that doesn’t mean that the learning should stop when basic note literacy is achieved. Simply put, if you can’t name every note just about as fluidly as you can play it, you need more practice note reading.
5. I don’t have time. Note reading is one musical skill that you can use AS YOU PRACTICE to improve both the music you’re practicing and your note reading skill itself. Note reading is so intrinsic to playing that those skills can, and should, be developed together.
4. I only play by ear, so I don’t need to read notes that well. I believe that musicianship encompasses playing by ear AND reading notes. I don’t believe one precludes or supersedes the other. A musician must be able to do both.
3. I’m good enough. If I need to, I can always write in the notes I don’t know. I guess you can, but in essence you’re holding your foot on the brake pedal. You’re holding yourself back from sightreading better or learning music quickly. Why would you want to do that?
2. I’m playing so much that I stay in practice that way. We like to fool ourselves that constant playing keeps our fingers in shape too. If you ask any busy professional musician, they will tell you that even when they are playing all the time, they still need to review their scales or other exercises to keep their technique functioning well. Note reading is no different. Regular practice is key. The good news is that practicing this is easy and quick, and you will see results almost immediately.
1. I don’t know how. You are far from alone. Most musicians don’t know how. But if I have been successful and convinced you that practicing note reading is something you should be doing regularly, I’d like to help you do it.
I spent 19 years teaching some of the world’s finest young musicians to improve their note reading. I can show you too, and I will on my next webinar, Note Reading 101: What They Should Have Taught You in Music School. Whether you went to music school or not, I will be sharing what I know about this important topic. It all happens on Thursday, July 16, at 8:00 pm EasternThursday, July 16, at 8:00 pm Eastern. The webinar is free – just register to get all the important information. I hope to talk with you then!
In the meantime, you can answer this question in the comments below: How might your musical life be different if you could read music more easily?