Do you find yourself constantly losing your place in the music? Wish there was a way out of this? Then read this article.
Has this ever happened to you?
You’re playing a piano piece with the sheet music in front of you and then all of a sudden, you lose your place in the music. You don’t know which note you just played or which bar you got to.
It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
What if there was a way you could prevent losing your place altogether?
That’s what I’ll be diving into in this article.
Why you are losing your place
First, we need to look at the cause. What is actually making you lose your place?
There could be several reasons.
Maybe you got distracted for a second and lost your train of thought. Like when you start saying something to someone and then you can’t remember what you were about to say.
Or maybe you looked down at your hands to check whether you played the right notes and then when you looked up again, you had no idea where you were in the music.
Or maybe you weren’t actually reading the notes but only the intervals. (While it’s good to read the intervals, you can lose your place if you only read the intervals, as I explain in Should You Read the Notes or the Intervals?)
Or maybe, you’re not actually reading the music at all. You’re mostly playing from muscle memory.
There is a solution
Whatever the reason, there is a simple fix. And that’s to learn to read your piano notes fluently.
Sorry to disappoint. There’s no magic pill or a button you can just press. It will still require some work from you. But the good news is that being able to read notes fluently will solve many issues including losing your place in the music.
Why is that? Because if you can read every note, not just some notes, that means you’ll know which notes you’re playing at all times and that means you won’t just be reading the intervals. And it also means that you’ll be able to read the music in front of you without having to rely on muscle memory.
How to read notes fluently
When I say “read notes fluently”, I mean reading the notes as fast as you can read the letters of the alphabet. If it takes you more than a split second to read the notes, that means you’re still working them out.
If that’s the case, then it’s like reading this sentence and having to stop at every word to figure out the letters… If you want to read music fluently, you need to be able to read the notes instantly like you do the letters in words.
So, how do you get to this stage? Well, repetition, repetition, repetition.
Remember at school, when you had to write by hand the letters of the alphabet one by one, over and over again? (At least, that’s what we did back in my day…)
You need to apply the same amount of time and repetition to learning the piano notes until they stick. Until you can’t help but read the notes. Like when you see this symbol – A – and you can’t NOT read it as A.
You should be able to look at any note (albeit notes with many ledger lines!) and know immediately what they are.
Although it could help, writing out the notes over and over again is not the best method to memorise them. Here’s what I suggest instead:
1. Learn the notes using the Landmark Notes
Learn what the notes are in both the treble and bass using the Landmark Notes. (Avoid using popular mnemonics like Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit, or Fudge. They require too many steps to get you to the note name.)
Briefly speaking, the Landmark Notes are notes in the treble and bass that act as landmarks. These are typically the F’s and C’s in the bass clef and the G’s and C’s in the treble. These notes serve as reference points to read all the other notes.
>> If you want to learn more about the Landmark Notes, sign up for the Note Reading Challenge! It’s a free 5-day email challenge where you’ll learn how to read the piano notes using the Landmark Notes, tricks to reading notes on ledger lines and notes with accidentals. You’ll get recorded training videos and fun exercises to review what you learn straight into your inbox. By the end of the challenge, you’ll have a good grasp of note reading and you’ll stop losing your place in the music!
2. Use flashcards
3. Review the notes
Review the notes daily, starting with the Landmark Notes, then slowly introduce other notes. Revise five minutes in the morning, five minutes in the evening. Then repeat the next day.
Bonus tip: Shuffle the deck before each revision otherwise you might memorise the order of the notes!
N.B. Don’t be surprised if the notes you thought you knew the day before look like gibberish to you again. That’s part of the process. Your brain needs to forget and recall multiple times before it can retain the information. So, make sure you learn and revise the notes over several days or weeks.
4. Use two decks of flashcards
Now here’s how to make your review even more effective.
Go through the cards in your main deck. Anytime there’s a note you can’t remember – it might be all of them if you’re brand new to this! – put it aside and make a separate deck.
This deck will be your “challenging deck” with the notes that are giving you trouble. Revise this deck the most often. The number of cards in this deck will be small or large depending on how many notes you still need to learn.
When you can identify a note easily, move the flashcard from the challenging deck back to the main deck and repeat this process until all the cards from the challenging deck are back in the main deck.
Just to be sure, continue reviewing the cards in the main deck over several days to make sure you can still remember all the notes. If not, repeat the process by creating a challenging deck.
5. Review the notes at the piano
Remember to also revise the notes at the piano so that you make the connections between the notes you see and which keys to press.
Avoid doing this
A word of caution: When learning the notes, you may be tempted to write the names of the notes in your music. I know it’s tempting but pleeeeeease resist this temptation because it won’t help you. Writing the letters underneath each note will prevent you from learning the notes.
Having to recall the notes is the only way to learn the notes. And if you keep revising your notes daily, I assure you that it will become easier for you.
One day, you’ll be able to read every note without even thinking about it! And losing your place in the music will become a thing of the past.
So! Have I convinced you that in order to not lose your place in the music and to read music, you need to read the notes fluently? Yes or yes? Let me know in the comments.