How Beginners Can Learn to Read Sheet Music Effectively

The Importance of Music Theory

Are you an aspiring pianist? Do you dream of finding perfect guitar riff? Maybe all you ever wanted was a chance to  join an orchestra. Unfortunately, the ability of reading sheet music has become a lost art.

Most people are really eager when they first begin learning to play the piano or keyboard, guitar, violin or trumpet. Many will soon give up because they find reading music notes to be difficult. If you’ve reached adulthood you may struggle to learn new things (don’t worry, that’s normal!) If you gain the ability to  read and write music notation, your music is now  immortalized on paper – an irreplaceable piece of your legacy. Plus, transcribing the bars and loops into a note looks pretty awesome! With the advent of digital, artists have become lazy and it seems like literally everyone can have a band these days. Gone is the mystique that was once part of being a musician.

Change the game! Perfect your craft! It is important to understand how to read music if you dream of one day becoming the next DeBussy or Hendrix. Rise to the challenge and discipline yourself to sit down and study up on notations, so you can get some awesome new flair to add to your repertoire.

The Lost Art of Reading Sheet Music

Notation reflects the elements (sound) that reflect the music. These elements are made up of tone, pitch, duration and intensity. Sheet music is made up of symbols that represent the elements. You will need to know the different types of notations. For example there is the  Breve ,Quaver ,Minim ,and classic tinny of the semiquaver, and onward towards the Semiquaver.

It sounds like a foreign language, right? It is actually very simple and the notes can be broken down into easy-to-learn pieces. Musical composition isn’t just a form of art, its also based in science. Writing a composition requires precision and detail of its form. Science teaches us that sound vibration, and that frequency tells us what sound it is. We all love that sound and are drawn to different ones constantly. Every single note has its very own unique meaning like that song you love to sing in the shower all the time. When the notes are perfectly blended together, you get the product of something timeless and unique.

But, ‘why does it really matter?’ ‘I’ve been playing by ear for years’  you say. You may be an excellent musician, but you are missing out on ways to really  express yourself. Take a look at it this way– a skill set of reading and writing sheet music opens many more doors for a musician. Being able to make notations makes you indestructible! And what’s even better is that  once you commit music notes into your memory, you can trust that your future gigs will be less likely to go sideways; because it’s all right there in front of you. Never confuse a bass staff note with a treble note staff again! Learn to read!  Just picture those guitar solo chords as they ebb and flow right into a masterpiece. If you’re ready to get started on your journey to greatness, we have a guide for you.

It’s Time to Go Outside

If you hole yourself up in your garage or basement when you practice, you are oding your brain a disservice.  Studies show that those exposed to daylight improves memory and lowers depression. So, grab your gear, a glass of water and go outside for a jam sesh (alert the neighbors ahead of time, to make sure they don’t mind!) Just being outdoors among the trees and flowers can inspire you to take your music to new heights.

Brush up on The Basics

Cracking the code of music notes is not nearly as hard as it sounds. Treat learning to read music like you are learning a second language. Because that’s just what it is.So let’s explore the fundamentals behind notation:


  • The staff : This is where it all begins. You’ve undoubtedly seen these in a music lesson book. It consists of five lines and four spaces. Each individual line represents a different letter, which then represents a note. The five lines and spaces represent the notes A-G, and note sequence moves in alphabetical order up the staff.
  • Treble Clef: This symbol is place on every line on each staff to show the notes that will played, sung, vocal and instruments that can reach a higher note.
  • The Bass Clef: Notes the music in lower registers. If you play a low pitched instrument like a tuba or cello, you will write your music here in bass clef
  • The Notes: This is where you make the music happen! Each note head is either filled filled in black ⚫ or open ◯ Wherever the note head sits on the staff -on line or a space – will determine which note you will play.
  • Stem: This is the body of the note. It is either extended downwards, or upwards. The direction of the line does not affect how you play the note, it’s just there to make the nose easier to read.
  • Flag: The note flag is the curvy part on the head that points right. It serves to let you know how long to hold a note (or not)


Learning Made Simple

To have the best chance at learning , you need a quiet space. If it’s a coffee shop or in the garden, you need to feel calm focused. Maybe crab a nice cup of coffee to enjoy while you study. Next you need the materials. Purchase or print off practice sheet music, and stock up lots of #2 pencils. Find the sheet music for a simple song like ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb” or maybe you have a favorite song you’d like to try.  

Stay Consistent

When you practice reading, do it frequently. If you just set aside 15-30 minutes, daily, you can nail down how to sight read. This will limit feeling frustration and like you are failing miserably. Set up routine. Cut yourself some slack and do trial runs. If you want to monitor your speed, you will need a metronome and gradually you will see you are strumming or tapping keys with precision.

Stay very consistent with your fingering.This means, do not shift your hand around needlessly as you read. You are trying to develop consistent reactions to what you see in the sheet music. If you keep changing your hand position you will delay your progress. As you learn more about notation, you’ll gain confidence in your reading abilities and you will know when to shift. We have some tips below to help you out:

  1. Be mindful of your position. Your posture while reading and practicing as a large impact on your quality and ability to learn. Visit us at Music Arts and get yourself a music stand.
  2. Don’t be afraid to speak out loud for each symbol to help you hear it and retain it.
  3. Make this a routine you look forward to. Think of your study time as a meditative task. Block out all distractions, and burn some candles to bring on the perfect vibe.
  4. Get moving. For each note you are familiar with, tap your foot. This engages your muscle memory which aids in retention of information.
  5. Reward yourself. Did you make less mistakes? Were you able to get further than before? Your mind deserves a break. Go get a massage and eat a healthy meal. Congratulate yourself for taking on something many cannot do.

Helping Your Child Learn

After countless recitals and practice time, it appears your child is well on his or her way to becoming a prodigy. To really harness all of their potential, why not have them try something entirely new? If you plan to enrolling your little one into a music school, keep in mind that most fine art schools are pretty tough to get into. They will not accept your child into the school if they haven’t mastered some basic understanding of notation. So to get a on board you will need to teach your child to effectively read sheet music. You must keep it simple enough to draw their attention.  

Let’s start with a simple question: ‘what is  the one thing all kids love?’ They love fun. They are drawn to color! Add to that their limitless curiosity and energy and youngsters make the perfect student for music. Remember, they love games that feature rewards for their hard work. We will discuss rewards in a bit. You can engage your child to learn music notes while also teaching them the discipline needed to be a professional when they grow up. All of this may seems like a lot hard work,  but it really doesn’t even have to be work. Below are some ideas that will stimulate your child’s natural curiosity.

Create Your Tools Together!

To begin, download these templates and print them out onto four different colors of cardstock.  Your child will ultimately be more willing to sit still and focus on the sheet music, if you do it with them. So sit down at the table together, with your flashcards and some markers. On each card draw on a five lined staff. You can even bring out some glitter for some extra fun. To begin:


  • Choose a colored card and with a bright colored marker or glitter. draw on the Whole Note “”
  • Choose a differently colored card and draw on the Half Note ”””
  • Next make cards for draw on  the Quarter Note “”,  Eighth Note “♪”, Sixteenth “♬” and so on. For a complete list of notes, use this guide. *Remember, each note as a coordinating ‘rest’ note. So your cards should be made with space for them*

  • Once your cards are done, have them practice writing the notes from each card  onto some practice sheet music that have blank staves. Here at Music Arts, we sell  this book  for perfect for a child’s heavy hand!

Make it a Game:

Every kid seems to have some kind of tablet or iPad that they already spend hours playing games on. Not only are tablets fun, but they have an arsenal of educational apps designed for learning to read  music. Here are some exciting new apps that we found :

Music Crab  supports io5 and up. They offer such an adorable way that kids will love to play.

Note Teacher This Android app even features a metronome

Solfreador This app features bolungal options and encourages the reader on notation of a variety of instruments.

Color Code Piano Keys, and Fret Boards

Our little ones are naturally drawn to things that are bright and colorful. So the next time your piantist is jamming away at ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ stock up on color coded dot labels for his piano. It will help him associate his notes with the colors, therefore, expanding his memory. If you have a little rock guitarist plucking away, grab her attention with her favorite colors. The association of color and notation locks info into her brain . Or you can purchase some fretboard appliques.

Reward Your Child

Of course, you have been vocalizing (to the point of his embarrassment) about how well he is doing. Line a dollar or two in pennies to the right of his piano and every time he gets a key correctly, he gets to move it to the right. However many pennies are on the right at the end, he gets to keep.

If he has stayed consistent for a week,  you can reward your piano player with tickets to his favorite concert or broadway play.

Above all, learning to read music can prove difficult for many. So it is important that no matter how well you do, or maybe you need extra time…allow yourself to rest and regroup. Reward yourself with a new instrument once you nailed that solo down with ease! Never stop playing!

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