Learn The Locations Of The Keys
Before attempting to read any sheet music, there needs to be a clear understanding of what all of those black and white keys mean. This is one of the first things I outline in my piano course which you can check out here. The black and white keys represent all of the different tones of the piano.
As you look at the keyboard the first thing that should stick out to you is how the piano keys are organized in a pattern.
Looking at the diagram above its clear that there are groups of two black keys and groups of three white keys. That pattern of two and three repeats up and down the entire piano.
The first white note located in front of the group of two black keys is called C. Every time you see a group of two black notes, that first white key will always be a C. The lower the C you play on the piano, the deeper the tone will be. The higher the C on the piano, the brighter the tone will be.
The note located in front of the group of three black keys is F. The same logic applies here too. Because the piano is designed around the musical alphabet, its easy to see how the pattern repeats.
The seven different tones on the piano are A B C D E F G. These are the basic notes of the music alphabet, and they can be augmented in many ways which well discuss later in the steps.
Getting To Grips With How To Read Piano Sheet Music
OK, you know the names of the lines and the spaces what next?
First, take a piece of piano sheet music youd like to learn. You may find a piano method book helpful for this.
With a pencil, label the lines and the spaces at the beginning of each line.
Now go through the piece and start reading. Work a line at a time. Using the two mnemonics, try to work out on your own first what each note is and write the name next to it.
At the end of each line, check the labels you wrote at the start and see if youre right.
Now carefully pick out the notes on the keyboard. Just at first, you might find labeling the piano keys helpful too.
Now, either rub off your notations or use a clean copy of the sheet music. Carefully try to reinforce what youve learned by picking out the piece again on the piano.
What Are Note Values
In sheet music, the notes we see on the staff give us important information. They tell us what notes to play on the keyboard. They also tell us something else: how long to sustain those notes, and what rhythm to play. There are four basic types of notes to learn first: eighth note, quarter note, half note, and whole note.
Every note has a specific value. The value refers to the number of beats that note is held within a measure of music. Whole notes are four beats, half notes get two beats, quarter notes get one beat, and eighth notes get half a beat.
Its not just notes that get counted in music though. Moments of silence get counted too. Luckily we have rests to tell us how long to stay silent, and rests have corresponding value to music notes: a whole rest gets four beats, a half rest gets two beats, a quarter rest gets one beat, and an eighth rest gets half a beat.
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Reading Music By Intervals
Knowing your way around the piano without having to constantly look down is a valuable skill to develop. You can support this skill by learning to read intervals. An interval is the distance between any two notes. Recognizing intervals is a quick and practical way to learn how to read sheet music because your fingers respond to the shape of the music. By recognizing common shapes and patterns, you will not have to think as much, and will therefore speed up your processing time, making you a faster reader.
Memorize The Note Values
Sight-reading music isnt limited to melodic content. Youll need to know how long notes last, as well, when learning how to read piano music. You can take piano lessons to learn how to read piano notes faster.
Learn the difference between whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes. Learn to differentiate between eight, sixteenth, and thirty-second notes, as well.
Just as a reminder, eighth notes are quarter notes with one flag. Sixteenth notes have two. Thirty-second notes have three.
If there are multiple sub-divided notes in a row, theyll be connected by a bar. Eighth notes have one bar, with sixteenth notes having two and thirty-second notes having three. Just list their flags.
So, some easy shorthand for remembering the length of note values is to remember how many flags each sub-divided note gets. Youll easily be able to translate that information for connected notes, as well.
Aside from the other symbols that you would see on the music sheet. The notes are the symbols that denote the specific sound that the instrument should produce. The positioning of each note on the staff will tell you the pitch needed.
But those are not the only things that it indicates. Notes have specific durations and timing that corresponds to the beat of the song. There are varying types of notes that you may encounter as you read through sheet music for piano.
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Which Other Instruments Work Well With Piano Sheet Music
While almost all instruments can use piano sheet music to some extent, some instruments are more capable of playing piano sheet music than others. Which instruments besides the piano are good for playing piano sheet music?
Any instrument with a wide note range is capable of playing most piano charts, either the treble clef lines or the bass clef lines, or both in some instances. Instruments such as the bass guitar, the guitar, the harp, and even some saxophones can be used for piano sheet music.
Most instruments can play piano sheet music to some extent. Even instruments that usually only play one note at a time can play one line of the piano music if the instrument can reach the note pitches.
Instruments such as the violin, the trumpet, saxophones, harps, the ukulele, the guitar, and even the kalimba can play the treble clef notes on the piano.
Instruments such as the bass guitar, the cello, the baritone saxophone, and the bassoon are good at playing the bass clef from piano sheet music.
There are a handful of instruments that can play both the treble and bass clef lines from the piano.
Some of these instruments include the guitar, the bass guitar, the harp, and the cello to some extent. Instruments such as the guitar can even play certain parts of both lines in piano sheet music simultaneously. If the correct techniques are used.
- The guitar
- The viola
The Mental Flip Strategy: Reading Piano Notes For Beginners
You must flip the orientation of the sheet music in front of you mentally, so you can read the vertical orientation of the notes.
In order to begin to think about and practice this mental flip, there is an extremely helpful strategy you can use. You can actually turn the sheet music so you are reading the notes down the page. Doing so allows you to more easily understand the spacing between the notes and more intuitively grasp where your fingers should be placed on the keys. This technique is also helpful for visualizing the grand staff as a whole and where the octaves on the keyboard are located.
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Learning To Read Sheet Music With An Instructor
The best way to learn how to read music notes is by taking piano lessons. A professional piano teacher can walk you through these steps and ensure that youre building your skills on a solid foundation of music theory. With each lesson, your knowledge of the piano will grow and your music reading skills will develop. Lesson plans that are catered to your learning style and current skill level will help you stay motivated for the long term. Once you have a handle on reading music, the playing possibilities are endless!
With enough time, patience, and practice, you can develop into a well-skilled piano player. Obtaining a stable foundation in musical note reading will make your journey toward becoming a fine pianist an exciting and fun adventure.
Do you have a favorite technique for learning how to read sheet music? Let us know in the comments below!
Post Author: Liz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R& B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!
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How To Write Sheet Music
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Learning to write sheet music is a valuable skill if you want to transpose the beautiful complexity of the music you’re hearing in your head, or working out on an instrument, and give it to other people to play. Fortunately, computer technology allows us to much more easily generate sheet music, transposing sound directly onto the staff. If you want to learn to do it the old-fashioned way, though, you can start with the basics and develop more complex compositions. See Step 1 for more information.
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Understand The Parts Of The Sheet
The first step that you need to undertake is to understand the parts of a music sheet. If this is the first time you have seen a music sheet, there might be some symbols youre unfamiliar with.
One of the parts that you would notice first is the title of the piece and the author behind it. Its usually centered along the bottom edge of the top margin with the first letter names of each word capitalized. At times, there may be a subtitle printed in a smaller font with the author names below it.
The next parts youll see are the ledger lines. They refer to these as the staff . These lines are where you find the notes. All indicating the sound played on the instrument.
For the piano keyboard, the position of the note will tell the pianist which key to press.
Youll notice various symbols scattered all throughout the sheet. These symbols would denote the counting or which set of notes to use . Some of these will need further study to understand how they behave and how you will proceed with the piece.
Now, look at a music sheet. Youll see that there are two sets or groups of five horizontal lines. These are what you call the staffs.
Bar lines refer to those vertical lines. The horizontal lines that separate them are the measures.
The staff on the top is the Treble Clef. The notes youll find in here are higher than Middle C. The bottom, called the Bass Clef, is where youll find notes lower than Middle C.
Where To Download Free And Legal Piano Sheet Music
The first true piano was invented somewhere around the year 1700. Sheet music, surprisingly, has been around in the form of musical annotations since 2000 BC. In previous decades, pianists had to comb local music stores for sheet music to study. Sometimes, you could borrow or copy sheet music from another fellow student, or special order it from the publisher. The modern Liberace, Chopin, or Gershwin, however, needs only to look to the internet to find sheet music that can be downloaded and printed on demand. Whether youre just starting to tickle the ivories, or youre looking for a grand piece to play at your next concert, well help you find and download legal piano sheet music on a piano wire budget.
There are hundreds of websites out there offering free sheet music, but not all of them are created equal. Some are thinly disguised search engines that just want to sell you music related stuff, while others are just ad portals. For this article, we have scoured them all, looking at the range of music, quality and speed of the download and for anything nefarious that might be tucked into those downloads.
The websites listed below are simple to use, free or low cost, and will only download the sheet music in its entirety.
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Song Not In Virtual Piano Libraryrequest / Submit A Music Sheet
Request A Song
Before requesting a song: Please use the Virtual Piano search facility to look for the song. If it doesn’t already exist, you may request it in the below comments, on one of your favourite Virtual Piano Legends pages, or via our Social Media channels.
Virtual Piano uses Facebook Comments. , then return to this section to see comments from other users and engage with the Virtual Piano community.
Submit A Music Sheet
When you create great music using Virtual Piano, please share it with us. We will feature it in our highlights and share it with our global community of keen listeners. The below button opens a Google Form. You will need to log in to your Google Account to upload your Sound/Video file to our Google Cloud.
Before submitting a song: Please use the search facility to look for the song in the virtual piano music sheets library. If it exists, you can submit an improvement. If it doesn’t already exist, you may submit a brand new entry, so it can be considered for sharing with Virtual Pianists worldwide.
What Are Sharps & Flats
Sharps and flats are the half tones in a traditional Western scale. A sharp is a half step higher than the natural tone, and a flat is a half step lower than the natural tone. Because of this, youll find some overlap in how specific tones are labeled. For example, an A# will also be a Bb, because its a half tone above an A natural, but also a half tone below a B natural.
It can be tempting to think of sharps and flats as the black keys on the piano. However, there are sharps and flats that are represented by white keys, too. For example, an E# is also an F natural, which is a white key. And a Cb is also a B natural, which is a white key.
The sharp sign looks like this:
A flat sign looks like this:
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Free Sheet Music / Free Piano Music
These sites are known to contain FREE sheet music in a variety of formats.They were offering free sheet music when we visited, please let us know if that has changed.
NOTE: Not all of these sites are completely free, some also sell downloadable sheet music.
- Free Piano Sheet Music in the New Age Style
- Piano Street offers free classical sheet music of very high quality and has currently about 3000 pages of standard piano repertoire ready to download and print. The collection is fast growing with about 1000 new pages per month.
- Sheet Music Editor Create new original music or refine and polish hand-written compositions
- Easily add a title.. Compose, Add an official © copyright statement and print, Great for fine-tuning hand-written music notes.
- The Sheet Music Archive
- The largest free collection of public domain/out-of-copyright classical piano sheet music in .pdf format on the web.
Thousands of pages of music exist, including an almost complete Chopin collection, and the complete sonatas of Beethoven and Mozart.
- The Piano Parlor
Huge archive of free music, mostly classical. Much of it is for piano, but includes many other instruments too.
- Classical Sheet Music Downloads ®
Great selection of free classical sheet music from Virtual Sheet Music, Inc..
- The Free Sheet Music Guide
Good source, lots of categories
- Rain Music
- www.vancouvermusicgallery.com Our site offers free sheet music for piano!
Kind regards from Cologne
Understanding Sharps Flats And Naturals
If you are not using a beginner piano method book, then chances are you may be exposed to sharps and flats early on.
Sharps and flats work much like the regular notes except they are the augmented version.
For example, play a sharp note means to play the very next note higher. If the note was F#, then the pianist plays the black key since its the very next key higher. Note the example below.
If the note were flat then it means to play the very next note lower as shown in the example below.
When a note has a natural sign, it means that any sharps or flats are canceled, and the note returns to its a natural state. In the case of a D# for example, it would simply become regular D again.
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Th Century And Early 21st Century
In the late 20th and into the 21st century, significant interest has developed in representing sheet music in a computer-readable format , as well as downloadable files. Music OCR, software to “read” scanned sheet music so that the results can be manipulated, has been available since 1991.
In 1998, virtual sheet music evolved further into what was to be termed digital sheet music, which for the first time allowed publishers to make copyright sheet music available for purchase online. Unlike their hard copy counterparts, these files allowed for manipulation such as instrument changes, transposition and MIDI playback. The popularity of this instant delivery system among musicians appears to be acting as a catalyst of new growth for the industry well into the foreseeable future.
An early computer notation program available for home computers was Music Construction Set, developed in 1984 and released for several different platforms. Introducing concepts largely unknown to the home user of the time, it allowed manipulation of notes and symbols with a pointing device such as a mouse the user would “grab” a note or symbol from a palette and “drop” it onto the staff in the correct location. The program allowed playback of the produced music through various early sound cards, and could print the musical score on a graphics printer.