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The simplist​ way to make reading music easier

This is the final post in this series in teaching beginners.

reading music
Becoming a fluent reader of music can take years.

Teaching a child to read music cannot be rushed. If a child starts to play an instrument at the age of 5 and 6, it can take at least three years to become confident readers of music. If good foundations for reading music have been laid, and it has been practised over several years, then it suddenly can all fall into place when a child is 8 or 9; they have become a fluent reader.

To teach reading music, I use a combination of the intervallic approach and using landmark notes.

The intervallic approach is where the student is taught to read intervals (the distances between the notes) instead of the individuals note names. Similar to how a child learns to read words. This is because good sight readers will read music by looking at the shape of the chords and the melody outline based on intervals, as it is a lot quicker than working out note names. Students need to have lots of practice reading one interval before moving on to larger intervals.

I have put together a series of interval flashcards to help students recognise intervals. They can be purchased here.

Landmark notes help students know where they need to put their hands at the beginning of a phrase in a piece of music. They are notes that are easy to recognise and don’t change.

Teaching reading rhythm can be quite hard, to begin with for young children. Students need to be able to remember how long specific rhythmic values are to be played for and also how to subdivide a beat. Depending on the age of the child this can be beyond the maths that they have learnt at school. To make it easier I use a syllabic system of counting rhythm, which allows for the musical chanting of the rhythm. It also encourages them to play musically from the beginning as they are not concentrating on saying the correct numbers. Students who learnt to count using the syllabic system can change easily to a metric system of counting a later date and can do so without the counting becoming mechanical. This is because they have internalised the rhythms aurally and kinaesthetically which then encourages them to play more musically.

To learn quicker, a student needs to practice regularly in between lesson, to stop them, from forgetting what they discovered in their last lesson. However, a young child needs parental supervision when it comes to practice. This I will cover in a later blog post.

Learning how to play an instrument takes time, especially for young children. Building strong foundations right at the start is essential. So as they advance they have something to hang the more complicated musical ideas on. They will become a confident musician who will be able to continue to enjoy playing whatever music they like years after they stopped having lessons.

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