Let's say I'm a newbie at playing sheet music and want to learn how to read, and more essentially, play sheet music.

Is there exists any step-by-step exercises, starting from simple and advancing to complicated, for those who wants to learn how to play a sheet music?

Software, which proposes such a learning will be ok too.

  • 1
    Each instrument will have its own peculiarities appertaining to reading printed music. Which particular instrument is in question? – Tim Dec 6 '14 at 9:07
  • @Tim, I'm mainly interested in guitar – PaulD Dec 6 '14 at 9:11

Most guitar sight-reading courses seem to start using open strings, and the C scale notes. At some point, one has to move away from open strings - in fact good players will rarely use them.

I advocate learning the major and minor scales up and down the neck, 2 octaves each, in one shape initially, so that if for example, the piece is in A, you'll be playing from fret 4 to fret 7 in major, and 5 to 8 in minor.This gives a good scope for most tunes, as most tunes don't encompass more than an octave or so. At least not in the easier, learner stages.Once you've found the first note, try to think along the lines of - the next note is 2 notes up from that one, so I move to the note 2 notes up in the scale.

To a great extent this obviates the need to keep thinking 'I must remember which notes are sharp/flat in this key'.You will know the notes that are relevant to the key you're in, so it will happen automatically. Obviously, accidentals will need to be addressed, but in the early stages they are not going to be that common. Once you get used to the concept, you'll be able to compensate.

After a while, move to other scale pattern in different places on the neck - bearing in mind the next one up will have its lower notes in the same place as the higher notes of the pattern below.

The 'problem' with guitars is that there are often several different places to play the same note. This can be alleviated using tab., but then you get to play where the tab says, which may not be the optimum place.


There is plenty of software out there that will help you to learn to read score.

Try some of these:




The best step-by-step method would be one tailored specifically to you by a good teacher of the style you're interested in, at least to get started. He or she can assess where you are currently and help you make the quickest progress with respect to reading. Make sure to let the teacher know this is one of your goals. A good teacher can help you make steady progress without losing interest, which I think is a major risk factor in learning to read, depending on the style your interested in.

If you're not interested in working with a teacher, or can't find the right one, the best step-by-step method I've seen for the guitar (for popular music) is the "Modern Method for Guitar" by William Leavitt. It starts out in the open positions, then moves up position by position. The early exercises are relatively easy, though not terribly inspiring, but if you stick to it you will definitely learn to read anything anywhere on the neck. Be sure to balance it with other types of material that you find interesting.

For Classical music, take a look at beginner books by Fredrick M. Noad, such as "Solo Guitar Playing I".

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