These days, more and more people have interest in playing the piano and learning how to play this instrument by ears.
In particular, you can listen to the notes that you hear, and then apply them to the keyboard. However, you need to be able to read those notes accurately and know how to visualize what you are actually doing on the piano.
As a result, I am going to show you the simple and easy tips on how to read a piano music sheet. By following my methods, you will no longer have difficulties playing a new piano song.
How to Read a Piano Music Sheet
I am very happy and willing to share with you all of my tricks to read piano music. I know that when you first learning how to read virtual piano music sheets, it will take a while for the notes to become your second nature.
To play the piano comfortably, you should be able to look at any notes and identify what they are. As a consequence, I am going to show you some helpful methods, together with some basics that used to support my memory a lot.
Step 1: Remember The Basic Symbols
For beginners, you should have a starting point with the middle C. This is a must when we are learning about the scales as well as when we are looking at the sheet music for piano.
For the piano, you can see two sets of the horizontal lines on the sheet of paper. These horizontal lines are called as staffs.
Then, you can see the vertical lines that break up those staffs. They are called bar lines, and those sections are called measures. Next, the top of those staffs is all of the notes above the middle C. And well, the bottom staff indicates all of the notes below the middle C.
Step 2: Know The Notes of The Top Staff
At the beginning of the top staff, you can see the treble clef, which also goes by another name as the G clef. Generally, you should notice when you have a staff on top and you see a line in between.
If there is a circle on it, you will call this circle the note C. At this middle C, you can go up a step to the first line on the top staff.
In particular, the first line of the top staff is an E. If you skip to the next line, you will get a G.
The next line is a B, the fourth line is a D, and then an F. You can remember EGBDF. On the other hand, to help you remember this more effectively, I have a simple tip which allows me to learn these notes faster.
You can think of E as Every, G as Good, B as Boy, D as Deserves, and F as Food.
When combining these words together, you can have a sentence as Every Good Boy Deserves Food. So, that is all the notes that are written on the lines. These catchy words will help you remember these notes better.
Now, we will move to the spaces in between, which are the notes in between those one above. Therefore, F is the first space, go up to an A, then C and the last is E.
These four notes can be spelled as the word FACE. At this stage, we finish learning all of the white keys.
But do you know how to show when we want to make a G sharp or a B flat? Well, when you see the sharp or flat symbols in front of the notes, you need to play the black keys.
The sharp symbol appears when you want to raise the note one semitone. Otherwise, when you want to lower a note a semitone, you will put the flat symbol in front of it.
Step 3: Know The Notes of The Bottom Staff
The next step is to take care of all the notes that are below the middle C. Again, for anyone who does not know, the symbol at the beginning of the bottom staff is called the bass clef.
For the lines of this staff, you will have G, B, D, F, and A, which is quite different from the top one. And of course, you can have the same method to remember these notes.
For instance, you can think of Good Boys Deserves Food Always. I have to admit that this is an easy way to remember those notes in a short time. Then, we get to the spaces, which we get A, C, E, G.
With these notes, you can use a sentence like All Cows Eat Grass.
I used to learn to play the piano many years ago, and I know all of the difficulties. Thus, I am sure that my sharing will give you another tool to read the sheet more effectively, even to read complicated piano sheet.
Eventually, you will get to the point where you are going to be able to just look at the note and know what it is. However, until you get to that point, it is nice to have these little tricks under your belt.
And gradually, you can read piano music in 5 minutes with no doubt.
To be more advanced, you also need to learn how to sight read piano music faster. Music is basically a language, so you do not need to be afraid of making mistakes.
By doing this, you can improve your musical journey and overcome any challenges that you are facing at the moment.
So, How Can We Improve Our Sight Reading Over Time?
I used to struggle with the sight reading since it was not my strong point. I am quite good at memorizing the pieces but not so much in reading the notes. Therefore, I am very willing to share with those people who are having the same issue as me.
Step 1: Check The Clef
Firstly, before starting playing, you should check the clef. This may sound so basic and obvious, but sometimes, you may make a mistake with the tricky clef. The same method will be applied if you are learning a different instrument.
It is an easy mistake to make, and this will, unfortunately, lead to a lot of wrong notes.
Step 2: Check the key signature
Step number is to check the key signature. This is also obvious but important at the same time. In particular, you need to scan the piece and see if you can pick out any of the sharps or the flats. This practice is to help you easier think of these things before you start playing.
Step 3: Scan The Music
Next, we need to scan the music fairly quickly and have a look for two important things. The first thing is to look for anything out of the ordinary and unusual. For instance, you should identify if there is any change in the clef, the keys, or the time signature.
After noticing these changes, you should write down the notes. Secondly, I want you to scan for any dynamics and expressive techniques that you might easily put in your song.
Just scan for things that are going to give you an overall sense of how the music should be played.
And essentially, the key to start reading well is being able to prepare effectively, especially when you are a beginner.
Step 4: Go Slow
Moving to the next step, going slow is one of my most important tips. Many people tend to start playing the piece quite fast because the first few bars look manageable and easy. Then, after a few bars time, they have to slow down. As a consequence, make sure that it looks manageable throughout the entire piece.
Of course, different music has different tempos and different speeds that are indicated. Some pieces are meant to be played fast, but when you are sight-reading a piece for the first time, you are not required to play the sight reading exactly up to the speed as intensive.
Instead, you should play the correct notes as much as possible.
Step 5: Maintain The Tempo
Lastly, it is necessary to maintain the tempo throughout the piece. So, it is essential to pick the speed that is slow enough that you can maintain the tempo and stick to the tempo no matter what.
It means that if you make mistakes, you should not go back and fix them. You should just keep going on as best as you can.
On top of these tips, I have to admit that practice is key, so do it as much as you can. By spending five minutes in your practice sessions and doing a little bit of sight reading each day, you can gradually improve your ability.
How to Improve Your Hand Independence When Playing The Piano
After going through the easy way to read piano sheet, I want to talk about the problem that you may face when playing the piano. Many people are confused on how to get their hands to move independently of each other.
Moving your hands differently is one of the biggest challenges that we have to deal with as the piano players. Sometimes, there are some troubles when we start to put the right hand and the left hand together for the first time.
But you should not worry anymore since I am going to teach you some useful finger exercises that can solve your problem.
So, whether you are a beginner and you are trying to split them off to do their own things, or whether you are an advanced player, this exercise will be your big help.
These basic steps are very simple to help you get your left hand, then your right hand to do exactly what you want them to do. It means that you can create the independence between your left and your right hand.
Sometimes, these exercises are very easy for some people, but some people may struggle a little bit more. And it takes a few practice sessions to get used to them. It entirely depends on your experience with different instruments and coordination in general.
Let’s get started!
The First Exercise
First of all, this exercise will focus on one hand, which is going to do something more constant and more simple. The other hand will do something more complex, and then we are going to swap them around.
As a result, you need to get your right hand into the C major position, with the first finger on the C, third finger on the E, and the little finger on the G. Then, you need to bounce in a constant rhythm on that chord in the right hand.
You should keep this flowing bounce with 4 counts each time, and then repeat over again. Those are called bars since there are 4 beats in a bar.
Once you get used to the bars, you are going to get your left hand in. You should put your little finger of the left hand on the C and the first finger on the G.
Next, we are going to strike these two notes on beat one and beat three of the right hand. You can start this exercise slowly, but if you find that too easy, you can speed it up a little bit.
The Second Exercise
Getting used to the first finger exercise will allow you to do the second one easier. The reason is that it will keep the right hand similar with the nice constant rhythm. With the left hand, you are going to strike on beat one and four instead of one and three.
The Third Exercise
When you finish practicing the second exercise, the following exercise is going to use beat one, three, and four. And when you complete all three exercises, you need to swap them all around.
At this stage, your left hand is going to do the nice constant rhythm, and the right hand is going to do the more complex rhythm.
If you can practice these exercises for a while, it is going to get boring really quickly. As a consequence, you can spice it up and make it a little bit more fun. What you can do is to introduce another chord which you can switch to on each bar.
So, everytime you count to four, you can switch to a different chord. And with the next 4 counts, you can switch back to the original chord. By doing this, you will have more passions to practice your fingers for a long time.
Moreover, for those people who want to practice your fingers without the piano, I can offer you some amazing methods that work well for myself.
You may be in the office, and you get time on your hands, these exercises are going to train your muscle memory as well as your coordination, even for dummies.
Tap Your Fingers Sequentially On The Hard Surface
In particular, you can do these exercises on a table, on the hard surface, or on your leg. Firstly, you can take your right hand on the solid surface and spread your fingers as if you are on five keys on the piano.
All you need to do is to lay your fingers one after the other onwards and backward with evenly spaced apart.
You can start out slowly, but make sure to listen to those taps because you can hear how they are even. If you want to train your coordination, you should listen to get those taps nice and even. Especially, you may find the third and the fourth fingers are causing your problem.
They are the ones that are probably the hardest to get used to. So, you need to concentrate on those two fingers because they may be faster or slower than the other ones. Then, make sure to take your left hand as well, and do exactly the same.
Remember to keep your wrist up nice and try not be tense. Both of your shoulder and your arm should be nice and relaxed.
And also, the actions should come from your fingers instead of your wrist or your shoulder. When you are familiar with this exercise, you can put your hands together.
Tap Your Fingers Randomly
Another thing you can do is to take four numbers at random from your five fingers and put them in a loop. By doing this, you can train your coordination because you will not use your fingers sequentially.
This mixture will help your brain to coordinate its signals down to the fingers. When you feel brave, you can put both of your hands together at the same time.
Practice Your Octaves
One last thing to practice with your fingers is the octaves. When you get a little bit of experience, you can take a ruler and measure out 16 and a half centimeters. The exact span between keys on the keyboard is 16 and a half centimeters.
After having the marked distance, you can practice keeping this span. This is really important when you come to play the melodies on the piano, especially when you want to play the octaves.
And with no doubt, this is a really nice way to create the nice melodies on the piano.
You only need to keep your wrist and practice bouncing while maintaining the span. You should ensure that your fingers are constantly at that span. For better practice, you can measure another span to make the movement for the octaves.
Now, you will get two notes which can allow you to move between them. Once you feel brave, you can reduce the amount of bounce on each one and move between them.
I have to stress that there is no substitute for being at the piano as well as playing the real piano. But you need to make the best of what you get sometimes.
And so, when you are away from the piano but you want to get some practice, you can use these exercises anytime.
You will find your fingers start to get stronger and your coordination starts to get better. After that, when you sit on a real piano, it is all absorbed by the brain, and it will be easier for you to learn how to play piano.
What Problems Should You Avoid When Learning How to Play the Piano?
Playing Too Fast
I don’t remember how many times my teacher used to tell me to slow my playing down. Some problems may arise if you play too fast on a regular basis. You are not going to be aware of the stakes. Thus, you need to do the slow practice, so your brain can process everything well.
No matter how far you are learning a song, you always want to go back to slow practice every now and again to correct the mistakes.
You will be surprised at what kind of mistakes you can find when going back and practicing slow. Sometimes, you will find yourself missing the beats in a measure.
Especially, the difficult measures should be practiced slow over and over again. And well, slow practice is one of the keys to getting through the hard parts. Then, the tempo and the speed at which you play should be increased gradually over weeks or months.
Starting From The Beginning All The Time
Most people tend to start from the beginning of the song every single time. When you first learn a song, it makes perfect sense to start from the beginning.
But after a few weeks, if you still learn from the beginning, you tend to practice the first page of the song too many times.
After a while, instead of starting from page one, start from the middle of the song. By this way, you will experience much better results in a short time.
Ignoring The Mistakes
When it comes to playing the piano, one of the biggest mistakes that you do not want to make is ignoring the mistakes. If you are learning a song and there are some couples of difficult measures in the middle, you notice that these measures are not getting any better day by day.
In this case, you should not ignore these mistakes since other people will realize that you are struggling with this part during your play.
As a result, when you learn the song for a few weeks, you should practice the certain measures that you find the most difficult. Then, you should start with the mistake areas to make them better.
Not Spending Time Practicing
Another important mistake is not making the time to practice. You should make sure that you are spending the time consistently to practice. In particular, you can set up the time every single day, and stick to this schedule.
Try not to miss them, and you will see a lot better results from your efforts. As a result, my tip for this problem is to make a practice schedule and stick to it regularly.
Not Practicing The Scales and Exercises
Now, it is time for the final one, which is about ignoring scales and exercises. A lot of people have the misconception about the scales since they are not fun to practice. But you should really add them to your practice routine.
When you sit down on the piano, you should practice the scales as well as the hand exercises as they will help with the two-handed piano playing and coordination.
When practicing the scales, you are using a certain of fingers and cross them at the certain time. Hence, it really assists both of your hands in coordination.
In conclusion, I hope that all of my sharing in this article will help you gain more understanding of many aspects of this topic.
From now on, you can identify the easy and simple tips on how to read piano music sheet by yourself without the professional teacher.
Moreover, you can actually practice the sight reading more effectively. But you should remember to practice to improve the independence for both left hand and right hand.
By doing this, you can play the piano more perfectly. And the last thing is to make sure to avoid the possible mistakes when playing the piano as much as possible.