True or false? Once you know the notes on the staff, the best way to read music is by looking at a note, playing it, and then looking at the next note. Before I tell you the answer…

Read this sentence.

Did you slowly read that sentence one word at a time?

Probably not. You grasped it as a whole, not as three separate words.

You can learn to read music the same way.

So the answer is false! (Yeah, you knew that was coming.)

Just as you can grasp sentences, intuitively and quickly, through your understanding of vocabulary and syntax, you can learn to grasp groups of notes and chords.

The trick is reading by interval.

An interval is a measure of distance, specifically, the distance between two keys on the piano or two notes on the staff. The two notes of an interval can be played one after the other (broken or melodic) or at the same time (blocked or harmonic). They look like this:

To name the interval between two white keys, just count both keys and any white keys in between them.

To name the interval between notes on a staff, count the line or space of both notes and all the lines and spaces between them.

Let’s look at an example.

On the keyboard, the interval of a second is the closest white key and letter in the music alphabet:

On the staff, a second is the distance from a line to the closest space, or a space to the closest line.

You will usually use the closest finger to play a second.

On the keyboard, the interval of a third skips a white key and letter in the music alphabet:

On the staff, a third is the distance from a line to the closest line, or a space to the closest space.

You will usually skip a finger to play a third.

Learning to read by interval, starting with seconds and thirds, is how the best methods, including the Creative Keyboardist, teach reading.

Once you can quickly grasp seconds and thirds – and it doesn’t take long – it’s on to fourths, fifths and the rest!

Reading music doesn’t have to be slow or hard. All it takes is the right approach. Once you know the notes on the staff, practice reading by interval. Ready for a crash course in learning to read and play? Get in touch.

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