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#1990167 - 11/23/12 10:17 PM I need help reading music.
Mohannad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/12/12
Posts: 79
I am 16, so I guess I can be considered an adult beginner. I have been teaching my self through online material for a few months. Here is a list of what I can do so far:
1. Figure out a melody and harmonize it with simple chords by ear.
2. Do very basic improvisations using a simple chord progression and a random melody.
3. I haven't learned much classical, but the 'hardest' thing that I can play is the middle section of fur elise. Everything I play is played with a horrible typewriter no-control bad dynamic technique because I don't have regular access to a piano. I am using a cheap keyboard while I save up, and I will eventually get a digital piano and begin to work on that.

Now to my problem- I want to learn to read sheet music for a hundred reasons, I really want to do it, but I just don't know how to learn to read, I don't know what steps to take, I memorized the notes on the clefs, and I understand the basic concept of time signatures, beats and note values, but that really isn't helping me get anywhere, I try to read easy sheet music, but there is never any improvement, and I can't find sheets to practice from in the first place, if the sheet is of any tune that I have heard before like a popular nursery rhyme or popular stuff like ode to joy, vivaldi spring, I can't use the sheets because I will subliminally improvise it.

I want to learn to read, but I don't know what to do, where do I start, how exactly do I practice? Where do I obtain practice material? Is there like a set of sheets that slowly become harder?

I've been trying to learn to read by looking for random sheets, but when I look at a sheet I can't comprehend anything, it just looks like a bunch or random lines and dots.

What should my approach be, where should I start?

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#1990175 - 11/23/12 10:42 PM Re: I need help reading music. [Re: Mohannad]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 13339
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
There is a combination of things you can do:

1) Get a good theory book and go through that...the more you practice at it the better you get at it. Theory is something you do, not just memorize, so you need lots of practice doing it. Keith Snells Fundamentals of Piano Theory is a great series of books. Look at the first few levels to determine where it would be good for you to start, but review doesn't hurt.

2) Get a good sightreading book. This will help you practice recognizing rhythms, note names, intervallic reading, and patterns. I highly recommend Helen Marlais' Sight Reading and Rhythm Every Day. Start at the lowest level on this one and just do the short exercises given each day. Day 6 is the lesson day with activities to do with your teacher, but you can still do most of that assignment alone.

3) Start with easier repertoire. I recommend a good method book like Piano Adventures for the Older Beginner or Hal Leonard's Adult Piano Method. You will probably cruise through the first few units, but it's really good to make sure all your bases are covered as best you can.

4) Lastly, listen to yourself as you play. You know you sound like you're pecking away at notes like a typewriter, so figure out how you can play softer. You may want to try recording yourself and using that to assess how you're doing.

This is really the harder route to take, and you'd do well to get a good teacher if that is possible, because bad habits are very hard to undo and are very frustrating for all involved. I know you mentioned you're saving up for a piano, which is great, and I'm sure you're thinking "how can I afford lessons?" Well, this is where you can be creative. Try and work out tradeout arrangements with a teacher - but chances are you'll have to pay something, but much reduced for cleaning her studio, helping with bookkeeping, printing programs, etc. Anyways, something to think about!
private piano/voice teacher FT

#1990184 - 11/23/12 11:54 PM Re: I need help reading music. [Re: Mohannad]
Starr Keys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 1010
Loc: california
Hi Mohannad,

Here is something that helps me immensely with reading notation. If you know your basic chords and can sing on key, I bet it will help you.

Find a songbook with songs you like that are not too difficult, which comes with a cd (make sure the vocal is on the cd), if possible one with the original recording artist singing for an arrangement written for their particular vocal in the songbook (there are several to be had like this for holiday favorites BTW). Learn the basic chords and changes for the arrangement first – from the score or chord chart. Then try playing them in quarter time as you either count or tap.

Once you have this, play along to the cd. If you can afford a Transcribe software at about $50, which will slow down the speed so you can gradually work up to the speed it was recorded at on the cd. Now you have three staffs, bass, treble and treble with melody. Read along the melody as the artist sings, making sure you can sing along with them by reading the notation and listening to the artist nail it. Now play basic chords, for each measure, coming in on time with the changes. Play chords at least on one beat (quarter note) per measure but preferably two.

Once you get that down, try to play the bass clef staff as notated while singing, taking care to make sure that both are correct, by singing and playing with the artist. Then work on the right hand, first without the recording and then try to play along, preferably first in a lower speed than recorded.

If your still having trouble, get the Rhythm Bible and look for the notation you're struggling with and then listen to the cd demonstration of it and read along as you try to tap it out.

Guaranteed your technique and your reading of rhythms will improve much quicker than if you work from the sheet alone, no matter how many technic exercise books you work with step by step and regardless how good they are, because your ear will be more involved in the process as will your body and emotions

#1990438 - 11/24/12 06:26 PM Re: I need help reading music. [Re: Mohannad]
Bluoh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/20/11
Posts: 421
Loc: Canada
Check out The Ultimate Guide to Playing Piano.

Get started learning how to read music first, then you can start to play the pieces you like and get better that way.

You'll have to look at where you want to go with piano. I know a concert pianist who started piano at 20, so don't lose hope.

#1990440 - 11/24/12 06:34 PM Re: I need help reading music. [Re: Mohannad]
dmd Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 2282
Loc: Pennsylvania
This is a pdf file that contains many, many simple hymns.

These are always good as material to practice with.

Of course, first you have to know which key to press when you see a particular note.

Any beginning piano book will explain that.


Current: ES7, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio device, SennHeiser HD598 Phones, Focal CMS 40 Powered Monitors, JBL LSR305 Powered Monitors, Pianoteq 5

#1990448 - 11/24/12 07:08 PM Re: I need help reading music. [Re: Mohannad]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 354
Does your school have a chorus? If so that would be a way to learn. Even though you want to learn piano, the music theory from that would be very helpful.

'63 Mason & Hamlin Model A

Working on: Chopin - Waltz in A Minor / Einaudi - I Giorni / Mozart - Sonata in C / Bach - Two Part Invention No. 1

#1990469 - 11/24/12 07:53 PM Re: I need help reading music. [Re: dmd]
Mohannad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/12/12
Posts: 79
Thanks for that.

#1990473 - 11/24/12 07:54 PM Re: I need help reading music. [Re: Oongawa]
Mohannad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/12/12
Posts: 79
I am considering taking a music related course at my school next semister if I have space.

#1990474 - 11/24/12 07:55 PM Re: I need help reading music. [Re: Bluoh]
Mohannad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/12/12
Posts: 79
Thanks for the links, that is very motivating- that someone could get so far despite a late start. My aim is to go as far as I possibly can.


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