Are you trying to make the switch between learning piano with Synthesia to learning with sheet music? Are you unsure how to go about it? Read on to learn 6 simple steps you can take to make the transition from Synthesia to sheet music less painful.
Maybe you’re self-taught and you’ve been learning piano with Synthesia for a while but now you’re realising that actually, learning more complex pieces with Synthesia is just not going to cut it. You now realise that you probably should learn how to read music properly, especially if you’re serious about learning the piano.
But where do you start? And how do you transition from Synthesia to sheet music? Is there a way to do this without having to go all the way back to basics?
In this article, I’m going to give you some tips to make the transition a little easier for you and hopefully a little more fun.
Step 1: Stop using Synthesia
First things first. Stop using Synthesia.
As obvious as it sounds, if you want to be able to read music, you have to stop depending on a tool like Synthesia when learning new pieces.
I know it’s going to be hard but try to resist the temptation of learning new pieces you really like with Synthesia. Instead, find the sheet music for it and see if any of it makes sense to you.
As I’ve discussed in Is Synthesia a Good Way to Learn Piano?, Synthesia can be detrimental to your progress.
Step 2: Start with what you know
Rather than starting with pieces that you’re not familiar with, start with the pieces you know already. Find the sheet music of the pieces you’ve learned with Synthesia – or display the score in Synthesia, if you’re using the software – and try to see the connection between what you play and what you see in the score.
You could either try to play the piece while following the score. Or if that’s too difficult, use Synthesia with the score and just observe what is happening. Change the playback to a much slower speed so you have time to see, or press the pause button.
Step 3: Learn how to read music
You are going to have to learn the notes, one way or the other. You can learn these with flashcards or apps. There are so many resources out there.
Learning how to read music is not as hard as you think. Compared to a foreign language with all its grammar rules and random exceptions, music is very logical and consistent language. Once you understand the basic concepts (the notes and the rhythm), it’s really just a matter of learning the notes.
Don’t try to learn all the notes at once. Start with the landmark notes and then learn how to read steps and skips. And remember that you don’t need to know every single note before you can start playing. Knowing a few landmark notes and then reading the intervals will be sufficient at the start. You can learn the other notes gradually.
Step 4: Get a piano teacher
Rather than doing this on your own, find a teacher and tell them your story. Show them the pieces you’ve learned and tell them that you would like to know how to read music. There’s nothing like getting feedback from a professional.
The advantage of having a teacher is that they’ll be able to teach you proper fingering, good posture, a good technique. They’ll also help you eliminate any peculiarities you’ve picked up from learning on your own. And learning proper technique will dramatically help you advance in your learning.
If getting a “live” teacher is not an option for you right now, I recommend finding a teacher online. As a last resort, you could also consider using a learning platform like Piano Marvel to get feedback on your playing. It won’t be able to correct your posture or your technique but at least, it will show you whether you played the right notes and rhythm or not.
Step 5: Learn to play and recognise common musical patterns
Music is filled with patterns, the most common ones being scales, arpeggios and chords. They are the building blocks of almost any piece of music. This means that learning how to play and recognise these patterns will give you a head start. I suggest you get a book such as The Complete Book of Scales, Chords, Arpeggios & Cadences and make your way through the book,
N.B. Make sure you don’t skip the first pages of the book which explain music theory! You will retain the information better if you can understand it.
Step 6: Learn about other musical details
Once you have a better grasp of the notes and rhythm, learn the other details you find in a score such as dynamics (terms to describe how loud or soft a passage is), articulation (lines and symbols to indicate how notes are played), and expressive marking (terms that describe how to play the music). Knowing what these other details mean will greatly enhance your playing.
From now on, use “real” sheet music, not Synthesia, and try to avoid these 10 habits when reading music.
You’re probably going to feel frustrated at times but don’t give up. Celebrate the small wins and keep going at a steady pace. Remind yourself that the time you dedicate to learning how to read music is valuable and well worth the investment.
I hope this article has given you some ideas as to how to switch from Synthesia to sheet music.
Let me know in the chat if you have any questions.
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