Things You'll Need
- Sheet music
Looking at a piece of sheet music can seem like trying to make sense of a foreign language to the inexperienced eye. A lot of musicians rely on playing by ear and skip reading notes because they just don't understand them and feel that it would be too difficult to learn. On the other hand, if you can convert the music that you see on a sheet to the keys of a piano, you have a very valuable tool. Reading notes can help you to become a better musician with a wider repertoire of songs.
Learn the notes of the treble clef. The treble clef is the upper set of five staff lines, usually played by the right hand. The lines are E, G, B, D and F, and the spaces are F, A, C and E (all notes are listed from top to bottom). The spaces obviously spell a word. You can remember the lines with a mnemonic device such as, "Eggs Go Bad During February" or "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge." D is the note just underneath the bottom line, and middle C is the note underneath D that has its own small line through it ("ledger line").
Learn the notes of the bass clef. The bass clef is the lower set of five staff lines, usually played by the left hand. The lines are G, B, D, F and A, and the spaces are A, C, E and G. You can create mnemonic devices to remember these notes as well.
Learn the "#" and "b" symbols. A # is called a sharp and means to play a note one half step higher than usual (a half step higher means the next white or black key to the right of the note). A b is a called a flat and means to play a note one half step lower than usual.
Notice the patterns of notes on the piano. The piano consists of sets of two and three black keys with white keys in between.
Locate middle C on the piano. Middle C is the left of a black key in a set of two black keys in the middle of the piano. Any white key key that lies to the left of a black key in a set of two black keys is called a C.
Play the white key that is two keys to the left of middle C. This is an A. Play each black and white key to the right of A until you reach the next A. The keys are A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab. The #/b keys are the black keys. The others are white keys.
Begin with a simple piece of music (see Resource section) and pencil in the name of each note, based on the method of naming notes listed in the first two steps. Once you have penciled in the names, you can play the notes on the piano. As you gain more practice and experience, move to reading the notes without having to write them first.
Charlotte Johnson is a musician, teacher and writer with a master's degree in education. She has contributed to a variety of websites, specializing in health, education, the arts, home and garden, animals and parenting.