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Learning by reading notes not numbers

Posted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:44 pm
by charlierocks
I'm totally new to piano and I wanted to know if I'm already starting off the wrong way. I don't know the notes by memory meaning I cant read the music notes fast enough to play with anything, but I've learned how to play by using the finger numbers. I didn't do it intentionally but thats how playground sessions started me out. I'm currently in the beginning rookie boot camp lessons. Should I be worried and should I change my approach?

Thank you

Re: Learning by reading notes not numbers

Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:47 am
by briggsm
Hi Charlie,

I actually have the same question myself... So I probably shouldn't try to answer your question (blind leading the blind!), but I'll still give my 2 cents, as I've been playing/practicing for a few months now.

I actually know treble clef notes well (from days of playing trumpet), but I have a really hard time still with bass clef. I've just been relying on the finger numbering that the app provides, and it's working ok, but I'm not learning the notes. So I've tried to find other apps/programs to help me learn those. I've gotten to middle intermediate bootcamp here, and this app has never worked on teaching us to learn "notes" - it's more gears just at playing songs. So I'd suggest using another app to try to learn notes. And use PS to play songs, have fun hearing the "nice sounds that come from pressing down the right fingers at the right time..." And then, I'm hoping (with you) that eventually everything will come together & we'll understand music much better down the road.

But all that being said, I really hope somebody more experienced will reply to this thread and help us both!

Re: Learning by reading notes not numbers

Posted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 11:48 pm
by sw1tch73ch
I think while you are in the Rookie Bootcamp, having the finger numbering helps learn how to put your hands on the piano so that they find the keys. But once you have gotten through the lesson, you should go through again changing the numbers to letters with the little icons at the top of the lesson - a note with a number shows the finger numbers, a note with a letter shows the letter names, and the note by itself turns both off.

First figure out where to put your hands using the lesson and finger numbers, then reinforce the letter names associated with the note positions on the staff, and then practice without numbers or letters to really reinforce the association between the location on the staff with the location on the piano.

I finished the entire Rookie Tour with the finger numbers on. Now I'm going back through all the lessons (and getting updated versions of those lessons) with the letter names. I might go through a third time with neither. Or I might just go on into the Intermediate lessons. I will decide after I've learned a few more of the Rookie Songs I bought. :D

Re: Learning by reading notes not numbers

Posted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:24 am
by degerrum
I am curious as to other people's experience weaning themselves off of the finger numbers and note letters when reading the music. I am also trying the method of going through a lesson on slow with the numbers, then switching to letters, then switching to just notes. It does seem like the third time around I am just counting on memorization rather than reading the music however...

If someone has a recommended method for learning to read music within the Playground Sessions system I am all ears....

Re: Learning by reading notes not numbers

Posted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:57 pm
by sw1tch73ch
My response is actually just before yours. What you are doing sounds good. There is more to your memorization, perhaps, than you realize. You are building a repertoire of hand positions and movements. As long as you are associating those hand positions with music on the screen, you are building your sight reading. Of course, if you've stopped looking at the sheet music while you play, they you aren't building your sight reading.

Of course there are tools to help you learn to recognize the notes and their representation in the sheet music. Look for a "Flash Card" system, like Anki, where you can download the appropriate database of cards (Music) to train you. The one I'm using also does tone recognition, which I really am poor at, so that it plays a tone and you guess which one it is. You are doing this for your own benefit, so "score" your answers honestly. If something was hard, the program will present it to you more often. If it was easy, it will show it less often and concentrate on where you need work. Because I have trouble knowing the "Sound" of an F from an A from a D from .... any notes, I get a LOT of repeats where it plays a tone and I just guess what it is. If you have developed perfect pitch, each note has "a sound" that you can recognize. I don't hear them that way, so I might never develop (might... ha!, probably will never - it is nearly impossible for an adult) perfect pitch.

Anyway, sight reading only improves by repeated practice. I think the finger numbers are less of a crutch that most people think. But they can be a crutch so choosing to not use them at your earliest ability is good. Keep "reading" from the sheet music, even if you have memorized the hand positions, mentally make that connection between what you see and what you play.

Before you go through a piece, it will help to identify the notes to yourself, this is a C a D, an F, and so on. You brain requires a lot of repeated exposure to develop the long term memory. Mostly it will create short term memories and you'll forget them as quickly. It is the repeated reading practice of seeing the sheet music and identifying the notes, and where they are on the keyboard, that does it. It is not just repeating "this is a c this is a c this is a c" to yourself at one sitting, but by noticing in context as the context changes - that is, with new lessons - that "this is a c" and "this is an f" and this is a .... whatever.

I started by staking landmarks, just like learning to read where you learn a few words at a time, I learned/am learning one note at a time - the C in each octave around the two clefs. There is the Middle C - your home away from home. Then there is the C an Octave Up in the right hand, sitting in the second space between lines from the top or third from the bottom, inside the Treble Clef. Then there is the C an Octave below middle C, in the third from the top or second from the bottom space between the lines in the Bass Clef. Then grow your recognition to the notes around these Cs. Once you know the six notes on either side of these Cs (seven notes will land you on the next C), you can look for the new landmarks just outside the two Clefs, the C above the Treble Clef and the C below the Bass Clef - and these will be on Lines, 2nd above Treble Clef and 2nd below Bass Clef, and so on. It's a slow process, but so was learning to read. Compare the books you read as a Kindergartner (mostly pictures most likely) to First Grade, then Second, and so on. Expect learning to read music to be a similar and slow experience.

1) Use Flash Cards
2) Keep reading the music even when you've memorized the hand and finger moves
3) Practice, Practice, Practice - the repetition of correctly recognizing the notes is important, even slowly

Only one of these three is outside of Playground. It's free and I think well worth the effort to use the flash cards - so please consider it.

Re: Learning by reading notes not numbers

Posted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 3:57 am
by scirocco
There are also plenty of phone apps for basic sight reading training. You really do need to bite the bullet and learn it. Start with a few landmark ones as per the previous post.

I was initially a bit worried about getting too dependent on the numbers so I turned them off as soon as I’d understood the fingering for each piece. But once I started more complicated pieces where you have to move your hands I left them turned on, because I found I was only using them to guide me on the changes, and wasn’t depending on them for every note.

But I would strongly suggest turning the numbers off in the early stages.

If you can’t play without them, slow the music down until you can. Ridiculously slow if you need to. And it is okay if you are just recognising patterns rather than reading every single note on its own. It’s okay if it feels like you are doing it 50% from memory. You have to start somewhere.

Re: Learning by reading notes not numbers

Posted: Fri Jun 01, 2018 1:01 pm
by Paulopedia
I turned the numbers and note names off immediately. I could see, right away, that they would become a crutch. And, like the previous poster, Scirocco, said there are dozens of musical notation practice apps for your phone. I use them at work whenever I have downtime... especially for practicing the bass clef. I have picked up the treble clef (at least the notes actually on the clef and middle C) quickly. But that bass clef is a connundrum.

These are all piano tutorial apps... most of them for learning music notation.

Re: Learning by reading notes not numbers

Posted: Sun Jun 03, 2018 3:08 am
by scirocco
Paulopedia wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 1:01 pm
But that bass clef is a connundrum.
Isn’t it just! I had been using a phone app called Music Notes, and it was good, but tapping in notes on the phone screen was a bit painful. I have learnt all the mnemonics (Every Good Boy Does Fine) and so on but they are only a get out of jail method when you are stuck - no good in real time and no substitute for just learning and recognising the notes without thinking.

I found a free website called Sight Reading Trainer that just runs in a browser and allows you to connect a midi keyboard. I use a Windows tablet not iOS for Playground Sessions so that works well for me as the phone apps won't usually run on Windows.

The website has a good range of options like letting you select the key signature, scroll or wait mode, range of notes etc.

Biggest problem is my own motivation. It feels like a chore, but I know I need to do it.

Re: Learning by reading notes not numbers

Posted: Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:41 am
by mariyastepanenko
We offer 3 notation display options: fingerings, note names and no markings. Regularly switching between those will definitely help you improve your sight reading skills. It's up to you when to turn the markings off. Some go through the whole Rookie Tour, relying on the markings, learning their way around and getting muscle memory. Some start switching the markings off a little sooner. What's important is that you feel ready, so that you memorize the best hand positions!

Re: Learning by reading notes not numbers

Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:22 am
by scirocco
Have you guys at Playground Sessions ever thought about adding a specific reading training section? I think it would be possible to create something that is both very simple and very useful.

I know what would benefit me as a beginner struggling with reading: Single random note at a time generation, covering bass and treble clefs plus ledger lines. I don't care if it doesn't sound musical, in fact it's probably better if it is not, as this forces you to truly know the note instead of working it out from the sequence.

To keep it simple, all notes as quarter notes in 4/4, no need for accidentals, stick to C major. Ability to turn off or enable individual notes from being generated by means of a check box for each note. (Only being able to select note ranges as some other apps do is too generic.) This would give flexibility to focus on a few landmark notes at a time and work up from there. This aspect seems really important to me.

Tempo could be controlled with the existing app function, same goes for turning note names on or off. Fingering is not really relevant.

I know it's easy to say, but that seems like something that could probably be done quite easily within the existing app structure. Obviously there are a million more options that could be desirable, but I think "as simple as possible" would benefit the PS demographic best.