How to Read Music: The UN-musical Way

Let’s pretend that our teacher puts the following music in front of us and asks us to play…

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-unmusical

Being a young and trusting student who doesn’t know any better, I take the following approach… because it is how I was taught since I was a puppy: “Hmmmm. Let’s see (eyes fixed firmly on the first and topmost dot). The first note is… wait… start with the bottom line on the treble staff and say Every Good Boy Does Fine… Every (point at first line), Good (point at second line), Boy (point at third line), Does (point at fourth line). Yes! D… That’s it! But which D? Hmmmm. Let’s see… Middle C is way down here (as I point to the imaginary line below the treble staff) called middle C, so that’s makes this the D above the C that’s above middle C, so I take my eye off the music and fix them on middle C of the keyboard that I know so well, then I count up an octave C to the next C plus one step is D. D! Got it! Ok. Now that I have that one, the next note is… Arggghh!”

It should be crystal clear that you never, ever want to read music like this. There are at least five serious problems with this approach:

  • You should never use a crutch like “Every Good Boy Does Fine” or “F-A-C-E” to learn where the notes are. If you rely on these crutches, you will never learn to walk on your own.
  • It is ridiculous to read music “one-note-at-a-time”. This is the equivalent of trying to read English “one-letter-at-a-time”.
  • Naming things and counting things consumes an enormous amount of your limited brain capacity that would be better spent on more important things like looking for meaningful patterns.
  • Reading music this way is mentally exhausting and overwhelming, leaving you with no time and energy to focus on the important musical things like phrasing, articulation, dynamics, and interpretation.
  • Trying to read music this way, no matter how conscientious your are, will leave you frustrated and feeling defeated, stupid, and untalented.

But don’t despair… There is a better way!

LEARN MORE… A Better Way to Read

About Frank J Peter

A uniquely burdened and blessed citizen of the world thinking and acting out loud!
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