David Hicken ~ Pianist & Composer

Advice For Pianists

I often hear people complain that they wish they knew their notes better, which is not surprising considering the fact that there is little emphasis given to this subject in the average piano lesson.

Learning music notes is actually easier than learning the alphabet because there are fewer of them, and they are not as complicated.  Also, think of how much you drilled the alphabet when you were young compared to how much you have drilled your notes.

Here's what you need to do to become an expert at reading notes:

Each staff consists of five lines and four spaces, so there are nine notes for the bass clef staff and nine notes for the treble clef staff making a total of eighteen.

Now add in middle C (which by the way, gets its name because it belongs in between the treble and bass staffs, not because it's in the middle of the piano!) and also add the D directly above middle C as well as the B directly below it.

If you've followed me so far, you'll know that there are twenty one notes.  Make some flash cards for all of these notes.  Don't be lazy and buy them, but actually write out the notes.  Use scrap paper - it doesn't have to be pretty!

Choose three notes to drill and memorize every day for seven days.   Carry these three notes in your pocket.  Stick them on the bathroom mirror or on the dashboard of your car.  During your lunch break, get a scrap of paper and write down the three notes from memory.  Identify which notes give you problems and think about why.

After seven days, time yourself with a stopwatch as you go through all twenty one notes in random order.  You should be able to name them all within thirty seconds.  If you can't, then repeat for another week.

Yes, of course there are notes about the treble staff and below the bass staff which we could add to the list, but it is unnecessary.  Focus only on the notes within each staff with the addition of B, C and D which live between the staffs.

Breaking anything down into small, manageable components and working on them daily is the key to success, so no more complaining about your inability to read notes!  If it's important enough to you (and actually, it's vital for any musician) then just do it!

Don't even bother with the whole "every good boy does fine" thing.  It's a waste of time and will hinder your progress.

On a final note... if you expect that your newfound ability to identify notes quicker than ever before will improve your sight-reading in a major way, then you will be sadly mistaken.  Sight-reading is all about the recognition of patterns, rather than individual notes.  This is a topic I will deal with another time.

Happy note reading!!

David Hicken

All of the concepts that I write about here are detailed in my eBook "Secrets To Better Piano Playing" .  Click the image below to find out more.