How to Read Piano Sheet Music.

How to Read Piano Sheet Music.

Brent Phillips
The way to read piano sheet music is to have a good conception of musical notation not just for the piano but for most instruments. To interpret any composition for performance like symphonies, the player has to have a background of violins, violas, string basses, and even percussion notations. The piano player is like a conductor who reads through scores. Everything is fine and good, but what does that have to do with the beginner player who does not know about reading piano sheet music.


 We're going to cover three essential principles to reading piano sheet music.

1. Basic Musical Notation.

All musical notations are symbols and not musical sounds; it takes a good teacher to explain their meanings. Musical symbols are:

  • The Staff -  basic forms are treble and bass clefs. 
  • Notes - denotes pitch on the staff.
  • Note lengths - whole, half, and quarter notes denote time.

2. Sight-reading Skills.

Understanding musical notations through the study of piano sheet music and method books trains both hands to react to tempo, change of key signature, and repeats. For example using, a metronome for one hand, treble or, bass clef, then putting them together for completion, makes the pianist aware of how reading sheet music is vital.

3.Understanding Chord Structures.

A sequence of notes with written chordal notation gives the jazz pianist a map of the melody he plays. Along with sight-reading skills, a pianist knows with practice about the harmony he produces by chord structures all harmonic relations by sequencing form similar patterns. An example would be I(C)(IV(F)V(G) in the C major scale preceding the end of a melody, and references to this would be scorebooks such as; Norton Scores and Improvising Jazz by Jerry Coker.

We have looked at the essential principles for reading piano sheet music. Still, constant practicing major and minor scales, along with modal scales, will do you no good unless you start slow and simple in sight-reading with a metronome and understanding musical notation.

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