As an amateur self-learner pianist, I can't take my piano with me, but I can take the sheet music books.

On my current (low) level of skill, I need substantial time to read a musical piece; for instance I cannot recognise the tone of a "distant" note instantly and I usually need to read out chords note-by-note.

I believe I should be able to recognise both single notes and chords at a single glance in order to be able to play a piece without memorising the whole of it (am I correct here?)

Hence, my idea was to start taking sheets with me all the time (instead of fantasy and s-f, of which I definitely read too many) and read them whenever I have some time: name the notes and chords, or even clap the rhythm. I hope to become able to read the sheets more quickly, so that my speed of reading will get closer to the speed of play.

Is this method of practice commonly recognised and known to be beneficial, or shall I just stay with regular practice with the piano?

2 Answers 2


It certainly won't replace the time you need to practice with the piano, but it will definitely help. In addition it gives you create chances to build a theoretical background knowledge by analyzing the structure of the piece, the chords used and relationship of the notes.

Reading the notes and chords and even clapping or just "thinking" the rhythm is a good start. But I'd also suggest trying to determine the intervals between notes. Although you probably don't see a direct benefit of this exercise, it'll help you tremendously when trying to transcribe/memorize or analyze pieces later.

  • 2
    Yes, I agree that analysing the structure of the piece itself (intervals! and also chord progressions, for instance) is an important benefit of this kind of exercise, because that's what I don't do at all when I practice with an instrument (as I need to stay focused on the notes and the technique).
    – Kos
    May 26, 2011 at 19:55
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    Ideally, you should also imagine yourself hitting the correct keys on the piano and hear what it sounds like in your head without your piano. Of course, this can only be achieved after much practice. May 26, 2011 at 21:43
  • I would add that if Kos does the analysis he suggests on piano pieces he's working on (or will work on in future) it will also make his practice at the piano more efficient - because instead of perhaps playing incorrect rhythms or notes and them starting to take root in muscle memory before he corrects them, he's more likely to play the right thing, albeit slowly, first time. Also, once he's started playing a piece, if he later reviews the music without the piano, there will be tiny twitches in the muscles as they 'practise' without the piano. All helpful! Aug 16, 2012 at 21:25

Practicing on where finger placement is could help as well. You could create a type of mockup piano with paper so that you can practice on stretching the fingers to the chords or such since playing music is also in part of using muscle memory. However, you will not improve by only doing this and will need to practice on the actual piano so that you can get used to how hard or soft you need to press the keys and to practice with the pedal.


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