Let’s be honest, learning how to read piano music probably isn’t going to be your new favourite pastime.
It can seem like a chore at times, and you can lose motivation easily if you don’t have the right reasons for reading sheet music.
However, if you learn to draw motivation from within rather than learning how to read piano music because of your tutor or parents, you may even be able to get some enjoyment from the process.
Reading sheet music takes focus, effort, and time.
But the rewards of doing it are numerous, and you will grow in confidence in your piano-playing abilities as a direct result.
You can learn music more quickly when you can read sheet music, collaborate more easily with other musicians, write your own music proficiently, and work towards piano mastery.
Reading piano music for beginners should be seen as learning a new language, in that you will learn lots of characters and symbols which will help you communicate more clearly with others - in this case, other pianists and musicians.
Learn new music faster
One of the best arguments for learning how to read piano sheet music is that it can help you learn new music faster.
The process of learning music reading will open your eyes to the whole spectrum of musical symbols and notes.
When you know exactly what the bass clef and treble clef symbolise, where each of the space notes and line notes fall, and which hand to use to play them, you’ll be much better able to play new songs by simply reading the music sheets.
Just as you can read a book and process the information as you go, you can read sheet music and translate it into sound in real-time.
You could even compare the process of getting better at reading piano music to learning to speed read; the faster you can process the information the quicker you’ll be able to put it into practise.
This symbiotic connection between reading and playing music will do a world of good for both your confidence as a pianist and your music-playing abilities.
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Play your favourite songs
Another benefit closely tied to learning new music faster, is how you’ll be able to rapidly pick up your favourite songs, even if you’ve never played them before.
Through websites such as 8Notes, you can find a wide selection of piano sheet music spanning every genre from classical to pop.
This makes it incredibly easy for you to seek out your favourite songs in sheet music form, then reproduce them by reading along.
This is undoubtedly one of the first things any aspiring musician wants to be able to do when they first play their instrument of choice, so it makes for a compelling intrinsic motivation.
It’s an especially effective motivator when you’re feeling like learning to read sheet music is becoming monotonous or boring, since you can give yourself a fun goal of learning to play the introduction of a song you really love.
You could also use this as your main motivator, since you can learn to read sheet music as you work through one of your favourite songs.
There are definitely some beginner-friendly songs out there which you can learn to play while reading music as you learn to recognise all of the different notes and symbols associated with the piano.
Collaborate with other musicians
Unless you plan on going solo, at one point or another you’re going to want to jam with friends or see how you could contribute to a group harmony.
Collaborating with other musicians is an excellent way to keep things fresh and exciting, and the results can be astounding.
While it’s easy to think that collaborating only requires that you are able to play the piano well, it goes beyond that.
In order to play in sync with other musicians, you’re going to need to be able to communicate effectively with them.
In music, you can either learn a piece by ear or by reading sheet music.
If you’re one of the only members of the group that doesn’t know how to read sheet music, you could be at a disadvantage.
Only knowing how to pick up music one of the two ways is akin to speaking only one language in a bilingual class - you can probably still get your point across, but it’s going to be a struggle.
Plus, it’s easy to feel shame around not knowing how to read sheet music when in the company of others.
It’s definitely nothing to be ashamed about, but knowing that you can read music if necessary will certainly help to ease the nerves in group settings.
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Write your own music
Again, maybe it’s the case you don’t see yourself ever wanting to play anything other than existing songs, but there’s no denying that it can be a very rewarding challenge to write your own music.
Even if you don’t have aspirations of becoming a successful songwriter, knowing how to write music is a skill that few have, and will likely make you a more well-rounded pianist.
If you are able to write your own music, you’ll probably be able to recognise patterns in existing songs and understand on a deeper level the decisions they made to go with one note over another.
This will help you in your ability to go off script and improvise, as you will know why certain note combinations click.
Another benefit of writing down music is you will be better able to remember it.
If you have a piano grade test coming up and you’re struggling to remember a few key notes in a song you’re practising, it can be helpful to know how to write it down.
Each time you write down the notes from memory, you’ll solidify your knowledge of the song and in theory, be able to produce it more readily.
Develop your theoretical knowledge
Music theory can seem a little dry if you’re solely interested in playing the piano.
However, deepening theoretical knowledge can have all kinds of benefits for any musician, since it’s another way of understanding music in more depth.
If you can identify all the different notes, and where they reside in or outside of the staff, then you can visualise a song as it’s playing.
This ability to paint a vivid picture in your mind gives you an almost three-dimensional perspective when it comes to hearing new songs.
This will undoubtedly speed up the learning process, but also allow you to play something on the piano off the cuff and then see it in your head clearly enough that you can write it down straight after.
If you never take the time to learn to read sheet music, you will limit your potential to become a great pianist, because you are making it much harder to improvise on the fly and recognise what makes one song good and another one average.
Plus, being able to express exactly what it is about a particular song you love will not only make you sound more intelligent in front of your peers but will make you feel like you really understand the meaning behind the song.
Even if for nothing else, learning is oftentimes a very rewarding process, which can help you grow as a person both personally and professionally.
This comes in handy when applying for music-related jobs, since you’ll be able to talk the talk, and walk the walk. Or even if you want to take music reading lessons then it’ll give you extra confidence going in.
Work towards musical mastery
Music is both a technique and an art form, so becoming good at it requires you to master it in all forms.
To use a different analogy, Stephen King was once quoted as saying ‘if you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.’
While writing and playing music are two very different things, I think it’s fair to compare the two in the sense that mastery goes beyond just playing or just writing.
Just as being a good writer requires the skill of reading, you could argue that becoming a good musician requires it too.
It’s almost as if you are lifting the curtain and seeing what’s on the other side.
You are taking a look at what’s under the hood, at what makes music so appealing to our ears.
Reading music notes when looked at from this perspective is like discovering what the magic is behind each piece, so that you can recreate some of that magic when you sit down to play yourself.
By no means will reading sheet music make you a master pianist, but you could argue that it’s a prerequisite for mastery.
Like many skills in life it isn’t as simple as learning how to do it, as much as it is learning everything about it in order to fully grasp the mechanics of it.
Without truly understanding something, it’s hard to become a master of it.
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