7 Reasons You’re Not Practicing Note Reading

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Music_with_transparent2_thumb.pngNote 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?

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  • Rosemarie Fortney

    Please register me.

    I would probably say “yes” to playing for more of a variety of engagements, different venues, since my fear of learning new music at a short notice would hopefully “melt away” with more confident note reading.

    Reply

    • Anne Post author

      You are registered, Rosemarie! And wouldn’t it be lovely to play more music with less worry?

      Reply

    • Diane Renee Macdonell

      I also have an class at the same time as the seminar. But reading this post stating I will be able to re-play the seminar I will sign -up.

      Reply

      • Anne Post author

        The replay will be on its way to all subscribers as soon as it’s available, which is usually within an hour after the webinar ends.

        Reply

  • BJ

    I have to say that having only taken up playing the harp (and reading music) at 50yrs (18 months ago) I am still struggling reading any music! I was never given any exercises to do so really have no idea how to practice it at all.
    Unfortunately for me your webinar will be at 1am in the morning here in the UK so I was wondering whether there is any other way of accessing it?

    As for your question, I’d be able to practise new tunes more fluently if I could read music, rather than having to stop every few notes to work it all out!
    I’d be far less frustrated with it all too.

    Thanks BJ

    Reply

    • RJS

      Hi BJ: I have issues with the time zone difference too, but if you sign up you can still listen to a playback of the session! I find Anne’s webinars and book both very useful and informative!

      Reply

      • Anne Post author

        Thanks so much, RJS! And you’re quite right – everyone who has registers (or is on the Harpmastery email list) will receive the link to the replay, so you can listen to it whenever is convenient for you.

        Reply

    • Anne Post author

      We will see what we can do to reduce your frustration, BJ. Note reading is really pretty simple once you learn how to practice it.

      Reply

  • Lauren Schoenauer

    Hi Anne, I only started reading music at 28 (I’m now 55) and I learnt the suzuki method, so unfortunately sight reading wasn’t a priority and picking up and playing something wasn’t so easy. I sold my piano two and half years ago which is when I decided to take up the harp. Since then my sight reading has improved a lot, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. It’s the notes way above and below the stave that took me a while to get use to, so I’m looking forward to your method of working on it.
    cheers Lauren

    Reply

  • Tara

    Your topic speaks directly to me. I am so sorry to be missing the next webinar because Thursday nights I meet with my harp group. I did all the cheating you mentioned, and not being able to read certain notes quickly, has definitely slowed down my playing. Writing down the note also messes with my line of site. I look for what I wrote and not at the note so I’m slower going to the next note because my eyes left the scale slightly. it would be liberating to read fluidly but I too am not sure how to practice properly. I hope I can listen to the webinar I’ll be missing. great topic, thanks Anne.

    Reply

    • Anne Post author

      You’re off to a good start already, Tara. And of course, you will be able to listen to the webinar on the replay recording, too.

      Reply

  • Lynda

    This is pretty exciting to explore. This website has given me a lot to think about and I am hoping it will help to make me more proficient at play.

    Reply

    • Anne Post author

      Hi Lynda! I’m so glad you found the site. Happy harpists is what this site is all about! What do you think is your biggest stumbling block right now in your playing?

      Reply

  • Anne

    Sorry everyone! I have no idea why the webinar links aren’t working! You can register at http://harpmastery.com/note-reading-101
    Quick tip: if you’re on the Harpmastery email list, you’re already registered and you will receive all the log in info via email. How do you know if you’re on the list? You get to a “404 Error” page when you register. Clearly, I’m an not a tech genius…

    Reply

  • Elizabeth

    Hi Anne,
    To your question, if I could read music quickly, all I would need to concern my self with is singing the correct words! I’m a culprit of the short cutter. I don’t mean to, but once I have learned the notes, instead of reading the notes and playing them at the same time, I look to the harp and play and use memory to guide me. And when I’m stumped, I guess it, instead of looking back at the music. Well, because of this bit of “shortiness” 🙂 my teacher asked me to go over a song I’m working on. ugh. So I have been doing so, and I starting to feel a deeper connection with the song or maybe it’s just a cloudy mind:). Anne, because you wrote this awesome article, I’m ready to go forward in doing better. I must. I’m a singer that wants to start an ensemble and I want to play alongside other musicians, in addition to singing. Thank you soooooo much for your continued support us all. I don’t feel alone. I’m going to catch your webinars. They sound great! Oh and another thing, if I could read music quickly, I believe my site reading would improve too. Then I could learn all types of written music or scores even!!!!
    All the best,
    Elizabeth

    Reply

  • Jane Lombardo

    My biggest problem at this point is my eyes. At 75 they are not as good as they used to be. I have trouble seeing notes and lines unless they are large and dark. I am still trying to find ways that help, but it does slow me down and is frustrating! I am still stubborn enough not to give up.I am using your Etudes everyday as exercise. They are very helpful! Thank you!!! Jane

    Reply

  • Sally Beaumont

    Hi Anne

    I would like to register for the webinar but the link isn’t working for me. Could you sign me up please? I am in Australia so will be watching the replay.

    Thanks!
    Sally.

    Reply

  • Sonya

    As a music major and beginning piano at age 10 (i’m 63!) i’ve always thought i was a pretty good note reader on the harp; i’m curious and so looking forward to your tips!

    Reply

  • Brenda

    OH, Gosh, I just found this webinar offer on reading notes, but noticed it was offered in 2015. Are you still doing this webinar? I really do need help in reading notes.

    Reply

    • Anne Post author

      Brenda, I am working on creating posts of some of my past webinars so you can watch them on the HarpHappiness.com site. Keep watching your email for when they are ready!

      Reply

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