During preparation for practice I try to internalize what parts of the music I want to play. Technical aspects like fingering, and how the rhythm is counted are quite straightforward to prepare and get reinforced before I play, however I've never been able to actually hear the music in my head as I read it - I have to play it first in order to hear what it sounds like - it feels that I am relying on my eyes to identify the pitch as opposed to my ear, and am almost always to trying to find recordings of the practice pieces in order to contextualize what I want to practice (which isn't a problem in itself.) It just doesn't feel like a intuitive skill for me and was wondering how I could develop it.

  • Just a point of terminology - commonly "score" means the conductor's music which contains all the parts. The individual musicians don't have a score, they have a part. Score reading is generally harder than part reading because there's much more to read, and the score may include parts for transposing instruments, requiring the reader to mentally transpose in order to work out what the sounding pitches will be. Apr 4, 2019 at 11:59
  • @TimH if not duplicate, very close. Though that question already has an accepted answer from one possible point of view (out of many): single-voice singing and solfege etc. The approach that worked for me was different, and I'd say in some ways better. Apr 4, 2019 at 11:59
  • I think it's better to gather all answers on a question on one question. Maybe you can add your answer to the other question? Even when there is an accepted answer it can be useful to add other answers with different viewpoints. In theory the question-asker can even change their accepted answer to yours when he/she thinks your answer is better.
    – Tim H
    Apr 4, 2019 at 12:12
  • @TimH Actually, I think one could say this is not a duplicate. The OP is asking how to hear written music in your head, and the other question is about "playing music in your head". It might seem like the same thing, but I think it leaves dots to be connected - and my answer here did that by explaining that you hear the written music in your head by playing it in your head. How to do that then ... that's what the other question is about. :) Apr 4, 2019 at 17:13
  • :-) I really like your answer though!
    – Tim H
    Apr 4, 2019 at 18:58

2 Answers 2


Different people do it differently, but the way it works for me is, I "play" the notes in my head, and it makes me "hear" it. I've developed this skill through playing live by ear and improvising, following and tracking what other instruments play at the same time as they're playing it. Through lots of practice, the functions of hearing and playing have fused into one. Hearing is playing, playing is hearing. If I want to hear it in my head, I play it in my head. There are probably people who can hear what they see, but I have to play it in my mind first. When I read music, I'm tracking the notes I see on a keyboard in my mind, imagining I'm playing the keys. And then it's almost like hearing it. Though what I "hear" might be wrong, it's not 100 % accurate. The more complicated the music is, the lower my guess hit ratio is, and for complex harmony changes I have to actually play it.

  • This association goes so far that I hear the pitch of A 440 when I look at the tuning fork or take it in my hand. Or I can "hear" the Bb when I take my brass instrument and think of the beginning of a Solo in C- major. Apr 4, 2019 at 14:17

You should look up everything written about "solfege" (questions and answers) in this SE and practice singing all the intervals, writing tones, of writing memorized music. Very helpful could be singing and writing canons in 3 or 4 voices singing, whistling or thinking all the other parts. So you have to teach all voices and assemble them all together.

If you are able to notate the music you hear with your inner ear you will be able to hear with your inner ear the notated music.

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