In the last 2 posts, I broke down reading music into 2 parts: reading the different pitches and reading the rhythms. I decided to continue this series on reading music with one more post by showing you how I put it together to read a short passage of music.

Here's my process……

1. The first step is to look at the meter signature. If it is 4 over 4, then there's 4 big beats in each measure and the quarter note gets the big beat (see my previous post on An Easier Way to Read Rhythms).

2. Next, scan ahead and see how the notes are grouped. If it's all quarter notes, half notes and whole notes, then it's hard to tell if the small beats are felt in sets of 2 or 3. BUT, if there are small beats (eighth notes) grouped in two's, then you would use the syllables, Du-De. (In number counting, that would be 1 + 2 +).

3.  Chant the rhythm counting for the first 2 measures of music. Be sure to chant it evenly (with your rhythms being steady to the big beat). Use a metronome if you have one. (I used both the syllables and the beat number counting in the following examples.)

HCB counting meas 1





4.   Once you are comfortable with the rhythms, look at the key signature. Are any notes altered (sharp or flat)? Identify them and their fingerings.

5.    Look at the first 2 measures again, and identify the different pitches and their respective fingerings.

HCB with note names meas 1





6. Keeping your rhythms steady with the big beat, sing and finger the notes in the rhythms written on the page. (If you need to play the first note to get your pitch, that's fine.)

7. If the tempo is too fast for you to sing and finger steadily, slow down the tempo a little bit on the metronome.

8. Sing and finger the passage at least 3 times in a row – until your fingers know what they are doing.  When you play an instrument, you do not want to think about your fingerings; you want to think about making music!

9. Now play the passage, with steady rhythms, at least three times in a row. If you had to slow down the tempo, increase the speed after you have been able to play the music at the slower tempo. (Remember to sing and finger first before playing at the faster tempo.)

10. Do the same process again for the next 2 measures and so on, until the end of the piece.

HCB putting together 000

HCB all with counting






At first, it will feel like it will take forever to get through one line. But the more you approach reading music using this process, it will get quicker and easier for you.

Action Steps:

1. Try this system out the next time you practice a new piece or exercise.

2. Tell me how you did in the comments below.

3. Did this article help you? Let me know in the comments below.

4. If you enjoyed this article, please Like it and share it on your social networks. Sign up on my website for more weekly tips and information at http://DonnaSchwartzMusic.com, and get my bonus article and video on Three Steps to Learning Your Favorite Song.