Reading Music – Secrets of The Pros
There’s a thousand ways to do anything – but with reading music, a few always work.
As much as I like new stuff – the old-school musicians kick serious butt in this department. They got the job done right.
If you’re looking for shortcuts, they don’t exist. But you can learn from the master players and teachers how to reach peak performance.
Here are some tips from top players.
1. Remember the Goal
The goal isn’t reading music – it’s making music that matters.
“Reading music is just the roadmap –
Creating powerful, emotional music is the reward.”
Don’t get lost in the notes.
Music is emotion. Without emotion, its just math.
It’s easy to get lost in the swirl of memorization, counting and tiny details of reading music. But the end goal should be emotional impact – not just notes.
2. Reading Music involves Writing Music
Think about how you learned to read and write.
- You didn’t just memorize visual symbols – you practiced writing them.
- You didn’t just sound out the words – you wrote them.
- You practiced saying a new letter – you also practiced writing it.
Old school musicians learned how to write music while they learned to read it. You can’t have one without the other.
3. Paper & Pencil
Software and apps can be helpful – but learn to write notes on manuscript paper.
I don’t really know why, but it translates better.
There’s something about drawing notes on paper that creates a connection between brain and heart – idea and result. It’s not just me as I’ve heard plenty of other musicians say it too.
It’s more personal than a computer can be. There are also popular authors that prefer to write with pencil/paper or a typewriter – instead of the computer. This short article about famous author techniques might surprise you.
I do know this.
In tight schedules, emergencies and last-minute rehearsals… a cheat-sheet can be scribbled out on anything. No electricity required.
4. Play An Instrument
Books and videos are great – but you need to play a real instrument to read music correctly.
- You have to begin the sound
- supply the air/energy to sustain it
- know when to end it
You must play it – not just memorize images from a book.
Memorization is part of reading music, sure. But it’s only the ABC’s.
Learning to play an instrument, while you’re learning to read music, is what pulls it all together.
5. Develop Your Ears
You can’t learn how to swim out of water, and you can’t learn how to read music outside of real music.
Reading music involves listening – to yourself and others. It’s important to hear your lessons played correctly. Get it right at the beginning stages and avoid unlearning later
If you can’t play with people, the next best thing is to play along with recordings.
Hear it played correctly. See it played correctly. Experience it in context.
Music is an aural skill.
Old school master musicians would play along with you, and help you learn to listen analytically. Your ears are your guide.
6. Reading Music Requires Practice
Learning how to practice is an art in itself.
Shut off the social media, commit to regular practice time in a designated place, with definite goals.
I never learned to practice effectively until I was 30 years old. Now, I can accomplish more in 30 minutes than I did before in 3 hours.
Prioritize your goals. Make a plan. Put it on the calendar and stick to it.
7. Don’t Share Everything
Wait on posting to social media.
Your motivation must come from within, not us liking you.
Long after Facebook, Twitter and new trends have come and gone, music will still be here. And five years from now you will be reading music… or you won’t.
Yes, you can get help in some forums and membership sites. Sometimes a partner for accountability is very helpful.
But reading music will depend on one person – YOU.
8. Slow Down
Take your time.
It looks so easy. But like anything, it will take time, commitment and sacrifice to improve.
There are no short-cuts. You may even want to quit occasionally. Just keep going and take it one step at a time.
Learn to enjoy the journey.
9. Find A Qualified Teacher
A private teacher may be helpful.
If you are guessing and making mistakes – find a mentor. Get some lessons. Reading music should be a rewarding experience and if you need a pro – get one.
A qualified teacher will save you time. They’ve been where you are and can streamline the process.
And of course, How To Read Music: See it, Say it, Play it is an awesome investment in reaching your musical dreams.
However you do it – just get started.
Reading music is a great skill to develop. Learn to do it the right way, and you’ll enjoy it the rest of your life.
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