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As a self-learning piano beginner, I make tons of colored markings in the score of a new piece. First I must highlight all the notes that are included in the key signature so as not to forget they should be played with accidentals (since they don't have # or b directly next to them). Also, e.g. for Mozart's K545, 2nd movement, I need to mark to distinguish the variations of alberti basses, because the difference (or the lack thereof) from one to the next is hard to discern visually. Also I need to highlight when the lower staff changes from bass to treble or vice versa (sometimes I missed the change and played it wrong). I doubt anyone has scores with so many colored markings! (it's like using a diligent hand to help a lazy mind)

Is this common or not? Do others have the same issues as I do? How to keep remembering the accidentals that are only universally included in the key signature? What about the subtle alberti bass change? etc.

What do you do to deal with such issues? Thanks in advance.

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If you have to do things like this in the beginning that's totally fine! It's awesome that you are learning and trying to improve.

The first thing I would recommend trying to slowly ween yourself off is writing in the key signature. When you feel ready, try looking up what the scale of that key signature is, and practice playing the scale, getting use to what it sounds like. With time, you will be able to know in general what something should sound like, and if you play a wrong note you will be able to tell. The only exceptions to this sound in your head, will be the accidentals that are written into the score. This will come with training you musical ear, by playing more music and learning some theory.

When you eventually feel ready, I recommend learning what major and minor scales are, learning how they sound, and what some of the functions of particular notes in the scale are. Learning their shapes, the whole and half step patterns, and what notes have tendancy towards other notes will really start inforcing this information. (Important examples would be the leading tone and the the tonic)

When I was younger, up through high school, and didnt know any theory, key signatures bothered me, and in my own transcriptions, I omitted them. Now I get them and really like them. Hopefully that can be encouraging. Best of luck to you!

Not sure if this will have all you need, but this is a great free theory book, to atleast have as resource. http://musictheory.pugetsound.edu/mt21c/frontmatter.html

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    Thank you! I should remember this is music, not math... the ears should be used more than the eyes... Now I see how some knowledge of theory will help me.. – seamurmurs Jan 8 at 20:09
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The primary thing is to establish key notes before even trying to play. So work out what key the piece is in, then run up and down the scale involved, also arpeggios of at least I IV and V, hands separate and together if you can. That puts you in the right ball park for most of the notes - and tells which notes probably won't be played.

You won't be the first to use higlighters on the charts. I used to do the same with notes mentioned in the key signature. Nowadays, with a new piece of music, the first thing I do is mark repeats, DS/DCs and codas. Much easier to navigate when the whole thing is taking shape.

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  • Thanks! And glad to know I'm not the only one using the highlighters... Will definitely start playing the scales on the key signature before playing the piece. – seamurmurs Jan 8 at 20:10
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It is ok to mark the lines and spaces as a reminder, but like Tim says you should play the scales and fundamental chords of each key before reading and practicing a piece! The goal is that you will train your ear and hear immediately when you miss an accidental or a key assignment, because you are "in the key" and know which is the home chord and its dominant and subdominant.

And alternatively I want to add that the best will be to notate the scale and chords by handwriting on a sheet before starting playing. Later you can also notate the chord progression on this sheet and try to memorize what you've been playing and compare it with the original.

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  • As long as you need to mark the key signs and note names I‘d notate the chords and also the names right at the place where the note heads are sitting, write whole note values. Later it will be ok just to write the chord names above the staff of the original sheet, this analyze will help. – Albrecht Hügli Jan 8 at 20:24
  • Thanks. I still need to get familiar with the chord names. Right now I simply remember them using solfege "do so mi so", "re so fa so"..... must be very amateurish... – seamurmurs Jan 8 at 20:42
  • I will post you in the next days a copy of the basics that I gave to my school classes to become familiar with music system. Meanwhile you can look up some sites about music basics, elementary theory, scales, triads. – Albrecht Hügli Jan 8 at 21:39
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    may be you it will provide you some insight studying this site: music.stackexchange.com/questions/5382/… – Albrecht Hügli Jan 10 at 16:50
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    I’ve found that I’ve posted already my advices (I’ve promised to give you the other day) in my answer to this question: music.stackexchange.com/questions/53835/… – Albrecht Hügli Jan 11 at 21:48

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