As I begin learning Piano again, I am first focussing on improving my sight reading. While I theoretically know how to read music, I have trouble remembering which lines and spaces on the staves correspond to which notes. This slows me down a lot when I try to figure out the notes for any new piece I pick up.
I tried learning the notes on the staves using following mnemonics
The problem with this approach is that if someone asked me which note is the third line on treble clef, I won’t be able to answer immediately. I would need to remember the mnemonic and then count which is the third word.
This time, to be able to memorise the notes, I am practicing very simple exercises where I speak out the notes out loud as I read them off the sheet and play them. This forces me to really know the notes by heart or else I won’t be able to speak them out while reading the music off the sheet and playing it too at the same time. Initially I am starting with the 9 notes that we rest our fingers on when in middle C position.
To start with, the exercises can be very simple where we start with a note on either left hand or right hand and then the following notes are either ascending or descending. Hence if you figure out the first note, you already know the notes that will follow. All you need to do is remember the alphabets in forward and reverse directions (and remember to stop at G :P). I can create these exercises myself and practice them until I am confident. Here are a couple of them that I created
The next step is to try out exercises where notes are skipped. With previous exercises I already knew the notes which would follow because they were back to back notes. This gave me the illusion that I remember all the notes. But when notes are skipped, then it requires me to either think of alternate alphabets very fast, or to actually know which lines and spaces are which notes. Some exercises that I am trying out are
Next I need to go to pieces where notes jump all over the clefs. This would be difficult.
And finally, the exercises should have notes on the both clef. This is the real test. It won’t be easy. It won’t come in a day.
Once I am able to pick up any simple piece from the final category and play it while speaking out the notes, I would know I am done. These exercises are very boring and hence I have always skipped them. But as I progressed to playing a little more complex pieces, I realised that not knowing the notes is a serious handicap. Reading music is a skill that takes time to develop, but is very rewarding in the long run since one can pick up the sheet music for any simple score and start playing it almost immediately.
Ok. Lets get back to practice.