It's been long ~ 10-15 years since i started playing/fiddling around over piano. Although it's been just 5 years that i am into staff notations reading thing. I have completed 2 grades with Trinity. Despite this I can play Beethoven, Mozart of grade 6-7 by looking at people play and by ear.

My question is i am absolutely ZERO - a BIG BIG ZERO at reading music, i literally have to decode each note on staff sheet. I just can't read and play simultaneously. It's so frustrating for me that i am thinking of giving up on reading music. I want to be in such a position where at any given instance if i am given a sheet of music , i will be able to just read and play simultaneously. 1. Is it a feasible dream or just a mirage ? are there people around who do this or 'those' masters also need to go through the sheet atleast once. 2. If it is possible then how should i achieve this. Thanks

  • There are several questions on this subject with answers already. Suggest you look at those.
    – Tim
    Sep 15 '15 at 6:41
  • sure will go through them, do u have any suggestions for me over this though ?? Thanks :)
    – Yuvraj
    Sep 15 '15 at 6:42
  • Learning to read music is like learning to read all over from scratch in many ways. Try to remember your ability to read the Latin alphabet when you were 10 or 11 years old -- your current staff reading ability may be similar to that (or worse, because children typically learn new things more easily). Even though you feel like you should have mastered this after five years, the only thing you can do is keep practicing, and keep challenging yourself. You will certainly improve, but it requires patience.
    – Lee White
    Sep 17 '15 at 6:40

Sightreading Mozart and Beethoven is more or less a matter of vertical pattern recognition, and you already have the patterns in your hands, just no connection to the visuals. That makes it frustrating.

There are two approaches: start with simple patterns and stuff that is more spread out horizontally. Scott Joplin might be reasonably nice to work with here.

The other extreme is just working on stuff that isn't composed vertically. Work yourself up from the Bach two-part inventions and three-part symphonies to the Well-tempered Clavier. Stuff like the Fugue #1 in C major is not something you play by ear and by harmony. So it's not as much an exercise in recognizing chord patterns as in overlaying several melody lines.

I think that this will also help to moderate the perceived difference between your sightreading skills and your play-by-ear skills. Of course, it is not much of a preparation for chord reading, but at least it works on your ability to see more than one note/voice at a time and it breaks up your hands' ways of thinking mostly in chord patterns.


It really sounds like you need to take the time and work on your sight reading. In many ways learning to read notes is the same as learning to read letters.

When young children come to elementary school the teacher may hold up a sign that shows the letter 'A' together they may say the sounds of the letter A. They may practice writing the letter 'A' together and eventually these things are so ingrained in a person that you hardly spare a thought to the letter 'A' when you read or write.

In a similar manner you have to get your theory teacher to count notes with you. Ask her to get some rudimentary piano music and then just start counting.

Remember to practice both Treble and Bass Clef (They are equally important. You start on the Treble Clef Second line from bottom. That is a G. When you go up on the staff you count forwards in our musical alphabet and when you go down on the staff you count backwards.

The Bass clef you start on the second line from top and that is an F. If you have trouble counting the alphabet backwards do yourself a favour and write the musical alphabet out A-B-C-D-E-F-G. This will aid in counting letters backwards.

You simply just have to do this a lot but eventually it will bear fruits and you will be able to just look at notes and know there names.

  • Why would you 'start on the treble clef second line from the bottom'? Same with the bass. I know it's 'G clef' and 'F clef', but what's the point?
    – Tim
    Sep 15 '15 at 7:49
  • 1
    You start there and go count to where the note is. It is just an easy reference point. I don't see the problem.
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 15 '15 at 8:46
  • It's just that most people seem to latch onto 'every good boy deserves favour' and your idea eschews that concept, by starting on 'good'.
    – Tim
    Sep 15 '15 at 9:23
  • 2
    I you are willing to teach in a manner that is not intellectual engaging then that is your right I guess. I choose to not do it like that. If the candidate learns to count notes early they can get to any note no matter how high or low. How are you going to teach a child what note is four ledger lines above the staff with rhymes?
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 15 '15 at 9:34
  • It's not necessarily an unintellectually engaging way - it's an accepted way. With ledger lines, counting will probably always be best. There are no rhymes. I've only taught for 50- odd years so far, so still looking for better ways.
    – Tim
    Sep 15 '15 at 9:47

Improve Your Sight-Reading by Paul Harris is a very nice series.

You first need to do some flash card practice to learn to identify individual notes more efficiently and comfortably.

You can buy a pack of flash cards quite cheaply at a music shop. Sort your cards. In the beginning you will have a very small set of cards that you will be practicing with. Middle C will definitely be in this collection!

Once you are comfortable with this skeleton structure, you can start adding some others.

The flash card thing might take you a month to get good at.

Then you'll be ready to start sight-reading actual pieces at the keyboard. It is essential that you choose extremely easy, short pieces (one or two lines), and that you pick a very slow tempo that you can abide by.

Sticking to a tempo is easier if you allow yourself a couple of minutes to preview the short piece by looking at it but not putting any fingers to the keyboard.

  • 1
    It seems to me (I am a good sight-reader, if nothing else) that it is all about associating the marks on the page with the keys on the piano, so I can't understand what you would write on the flashcards. Of course you can't help learning the names of the notes, but I think they are a diversion from the important bit. The same applies to sight-singing, where it is the grasp of relative pitch that matters. Sep 17 '15 at 5:19
  • Music shops sell little packs of flash cards. There are multiple ways of using them. My son benefited from using them (as suggested by his teacher) when he took up piano at age 6. They were especially helpful for him, given that the first clef he learned to read was alto clef! It seemed to me that learning to read the notes reliably was more important, and more challenging, on the piano than on his melodic instruments. Sep 18 '15 at 3:01
  • For some people, getting the notes off the page and into your fingers is much, much easier than it is for some others. There is such a tremendous variability in this. Everybody's brain is different. Sep 18 '15 at 3:04

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