Reading notes – 9 effective tips!

Reading notes does not have to remain a pipe dream! Of course, we can’t read notes fluently from one day to the next as if by magic, however, with 9 Tips and a little practice the problems in air.


read sheet music

The trick behind the tips is that we do not immediately learn to read all the notes! We are looking for 10 selected orientation notes that we can remember very well. They are fixed points to which we can orient ourselves. Like signposts in an area unknown to us!

From these orientation notes we then read out only the Distances of the notes to each other (relative note reading) and by no means the note names! This is much faster, very effective and also more musical!

7 short exercises in one Supplementary contribution will help you with all this and will surely lead you to success!

Have fun and let’s go!

Tip 1: Two keys – 88 keys

To play the piano, we need the treble clef or G clef in the musical notation (sits on the 2. staff) and the bass clef or F clef (sits on the 4. staff). The two clefs are necessary in order to write down all low and high notes and thus the piano’s large range of 88 notes. And the pitch is what we are concerned with here!

Read notes

On the Keyboard the sequence c, d, e, f, g, a, h is repeated 7 times on the white keys from left to right. In the middle there is the one-note octave, to the right the notes become higher and higher with the two-note octave, three-note octave, etc.. To the left, the notes get lower and lower with the minor octave, major octave… .

Here you see an ascending line in the treble clef – the notes become higher and higher – and in bass clef a descending line – the notes become lower and lower.

Notice: In the staff, ascending notes always sound higher, descending lines always lower!

Tip 2: Stairs up – stairs down

In this example, we start from the single-note c (c’) of both clefs. The c’ is written differently in both clefs, but is the same note resp. the same key. This key is approximately centered in front of our body when we sit at the piano.

experiment: Now, starting from the c’ in treble clef, play with the right hand step by step (tone steps) like climbing a staircase one white key after the other higher and higher to the right, in bass clef with the left hand lower and lower to the left. No matter with which fingers! First each hand one after the other, then at the same time, as it is written there (notes standing under each other sound at the same time). You end up with c"’ on the right, C on the left. Take a look at the note example again. This is how what you just played looks like!

And hurray – the first success! You can just read the first note c’ and still play everything that is written there! Hold on, it is worth!

Tip 3: Determining the position

Each staff in treble and bass clef consists of 5 staves and 4 spaces in between. We count always from the bottom to the top and additionally use auxiliary lines.

If we want to read a note, we have to know exactly its position on the staff, because it determines the pitch of the note!

In the note example above you can see the first note in both clefs is again the c’. Its position in the treble clef is "on the 1. Auxiliary line under the staff". The next notes in the treble clef are "under the 1. Note line" (d’), "on the 1. Note line" (e’), "in the 1. space" (f’), "on the 2. Note line"(g’), "on the 2. Intermediate space"(=a’) etc. So always note line, space, note line, space… . This is how note steps are written down!

Accordingly, the bass clef begins with the c’ "on the first auxiliary line above the system", then follow notes "above the 5. Note line"(h), "on the 5. Staff"(a), "on the 4. Spacing"(g) etc.

Notice: We recognize notes by their position on the staff. You are on staves or in spaces, counting from bottom to top!

Experiment: N ow the position and name of the notes marked in yellow above, write them down and find them on the keyboard!

Tip: These are the orientation notes, which we will get to know in a moment!

Open solution

Treble clef

c’ : at of the 1. Auxiliary line under the system

g’: on the 2. Note line (like the G clef)

c": in the 3. In-between space

g": via of the 5. Gradeline

c"’: on the 2. Help line above the system

Bass Clef

c’: on the 1. auxiliary line above the system

f: on the 4. Note line (like the F clef)

c: in 2. Interspace

F: below the 1. Note line

C: on the 2. Auxiliary line under the system

Done? Excellent! You are now well prepared for the next point! Because you now already know the orientation notes, which I will introduce explicitly in the next point!

Tip 4: Orientation notes

We choose the notes marked in yellow above as orientation notes, because we can remember them especially well.

Perhaps you have already noticed when solving the task that they are mirrored on an imaginary mirror axis between treble and bass clef on the staff as well as on the c’ on the keyboard!

Let’s first take c’s.

Note tower 1:

read notes, note tower

You can see here how z.B. the "c" in 3. Intermediate space of the treble clef in c in 2. in the space between the bass clef.

Notice: The c’s of both clefs are reflected on an imaginary mirror axis in the middle between the two staves and on the c’ of the keyboard. They are so easy to remember.

emergency tower 2:
Reading sheet music, music tower

However, the c’s are not sufficient as the only landmarks because they are too far apart from each other. That’s why it makes sense in treble clef still g’ and g" to add. The g’ is easy to remember because, like the treble clef (G clef), it is written on the 2. Note line lies.

These notes are reflected in the lower f and big F of the bass clef. The position of the lowercase f is also easy to remember because, like the bass clef (F clef), it is on the 4. note line lies.

Notice: We add g’ and g" as orientation notes in the treble clef, because we know the position of g’ on the 2nd fret. You already know the staff from the G clef.

Notice: g’ and g" of the treble clef are mirrored in the f and F of the bass clef. The position of the f on the 4. Note line we already know from the F clef.

These ten orientation notes you should be able to recognize and find safely in position and location both on the staff and on the keyboard!

Exercise: ask all 10 orientation notes aloud like vocabulary, then play them (z.B.: "Where is the small f ?" – "On the fourth note line". – play, … )!

Tip 5: Reading notes relatively

From the 10 orientation notes, we now need to be able to read the other notes not absolutely at first. It is enough read relative notes can. That is Spacing between notes (intervals), the sound spaces between the notes are recognized, heard and transferred to the piano. We play then also much more musically!

‘A musician’s greatest crime is playing notes instead of making music’."
Isaac Star

note steps

Tone steps, also called seconds, are among the smallest possible intervals of two different tones. You have already met them above.

Tone steps are neighbors and therefore are notated like that. You love it nice and snug! In the note example, you can see "note line, adjacent space, adjacent note line, adjacent space…". Just think either "1 up" or "1 down".

The first example in treble clef starts with 4 times "1 up" and then goes 2 times "1 down". If you look at the whole shape, the melody moves up and down in a small wave. As before, we play only on white keys!

experiment: From the c’ (orientation note) play the first note example in treble clef! And it works! Listen to it and try it again! You can even try to sing it! Also play the second example in bass clef! 3 times "1 down", 3 times "1 up" starting from c’! This musical unit looks like a flat "u", a slight wave downwards.

Always try to grasp the whole musical gestalt and not just read note by note! A conductor often draws waves, musical structures and melodic progressions in the air and you are welcome to try that here too.

Tone jumps

Now there are not only tone steps. There are also tone jumps, i.e. larger intervals! Imagine you are running up a flight of stairs because you are in a hurry and you always miss a step. These are tone jumps called thirds. They look like this:

Experiment: Play the notes of the first example! Starting from c’ to the right, always skip a white key, i.e. "2 up", "2 up", "2 up"… . How to reach lofty heights!

You may notice that a third is easy to recognize! Either both notes lie on adjacent staves or both notes lie in adjacent spaces!

Memorize: tone steps/seconds = both notes in the distance "note line – adjacent space" or "space – adjacent note line"

Notice: Tone jumps/terents = both notes on adjacent staves or both notes in adjacent spaces

Now you just need some practice! Voilà!

Practice: in this article "7 short exercises for reading notes"you will be gently and confidently introduced to relative note reading! Quickly and effectively apply what you read here! It’s worth it!

Tip 6: sight-reading

A very good way to practice relative note reading is sight-reading. While doing this, we play easy to very easy pieces (evtl. We can play from the sheet without practicing, i.e. "prima vista", and automatically learn the relationship between a note and the preceding note.

Tip 7: Writing notes

To be able to read notes, note writing is excellent! We can use z.B. improvise small motifs and melodies and write them down, play songs by ear and write them down, compose small pieces u.v.a.m. This is also how we learned to read and write!

In the supplementary article "7 short exercises for reading music" there are always tips on how to train your ear as well as your handling of the notes by writing down your own small building blocks and melodies! If you like, you can learn about the close connection "reading notes – imagining sounds – playing" (audiomotor approach) here read something!

Tip 8: Read notes while listening

It is also very useful, listening to pieces and reading the notes along the way (at it is possible. online, free and legal download sheet music). Through repetition, we gradually learn to assign the visual equivalent in the musical text to the sounds and structures we hear.

Tip 9: Practice with fun

In the course of time we will be able to read notes better and better absolutely! Note card games, note reading apps, note dictations with underlaid text u.a. help us and are also fun. Online you can also use free improve!


Some find it helpful to use sayings to remember the note names on the staves. This can be self-invented or given sayings like "Guter Hand darf fast alles", read in bass clef from bottom to top, or in treble clef "es geht hurtig dthrough fleib ". There are also such sayings for the spaces in between. But my experience is that they become superfluous once you master the orientation notes.

No alternatives

  • regularly writing note names over the notes with a pencil
  • sticking colored dots or pieces of paper on the keyboard
  • paint notes colorfully
  • calculate the bass clef from the treble clef
  • ..

To find your way around the keyboard, completely different things are suitable, such as z.B. Transpose, feeling with eyes closed where the c, d, e … lies, small improvisations u.v.a.m.

The tips presented help you to get off crutches, to be master or mistress of the situation and to feel increasingly more secure. You no longer read letters (individual sounds), but words and sentences (musical figures, phrases Etc.) and suddenly discover quite different things that have been lying dormant until now. It is worth going on the journey!

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