How to Approach Reading Piano Notes to Get the Right Sound

Two Methods:Listen to the songPlay without a recording for listening?

Having problems picking up that sweet tune on the piano? You already know how to read the key signature and play all the basics, but there are genres, altered tempos, broken chords (arpeggio) and syncopated (for example ragtime) rhythms that need to produce the intended combination of sounds. Can't understand why your piano version of a favorite song doesn't sound right? Well, in this guide here are suggestions of reading the overriding character of the music, making sure you have tools to help decide how to reproduce the tune as desired!


  1. 1
    Keep practicing until you get up to "concert speed" (the speed written above the notes, or the speed that you want to be able to play it). So get started by listening to the song or practice playing the following to achieve the tempo and rhythm:

Method 1
Listen to the song

  1. 1
    Learn the tune before you attempt to read and play the song. It's better to listen to a piano version, but other instruments will also help. Your mind will pick up the melody and rhythm, and then knowing the tune makes it easier to know whether you are producing the intended sound for what you read.
  2. 2
    Prepare by scanning and visualising the notes first to find parts you might get in trouble with reading while playing. It is very important to realise whether you can't -- by either technical skill or physical technique -- play the song; so, you don't start and have to quit because of things you don't know.
  3. 3
    Make sure to stay in tempo! It is very annoying to practice the song with a metronome, and one might not help. But, maybe it is syncopated (a kind of off-beat rhythm), varied from a standard rhythmic accent:[1]
    • Throw a pair of tennis shoes or jeans in the clothes dryer. Chances are the rhythm you hear will be syncopated, like an ad-lib, varied from standard, but in a general pattern, such as jazz.
  4. 4
    Try these steps to reading notes. This follows the level of how good you are at reading notes.
    • Read and play only one hand at a time.
      • Practice the treble and the base clef separately.
    • Read and put both hands together when you can.
    • Read both hands and characterise the tune of the song properly working up to the desired speed.
  5. 5
    Remember, these skill won't come by themselves. Learning to read notes takes many hours practice, but saves you from fumbling later. As a student you can read loads of notes, not only music supplied by the teacher, but also found other places by yourself.
  6. 6
    Study up, ask and read about different methods of scoring music to know whether it's for vocal or instrumental, duet, trio, 4 part harmony, or "easy piano", or is sheet music with a lead-sheet with a melody line and numbered chords for a studio musician, or geared for a jazz ensemble.[2]

Method 2
Play without a recording for listening?

  1. Image titled 2000px Metronome.svg.png
    Try to calculate the beats per minute and use a metronome to set that pace, but you do not really need one. Make sure that you understand the timing and play the proper note lengths.
  2. 2
    Alternatively, try playing extra slowly. Imagine a snails pace. The slower, the more time you have to read, find the notes and finger them for the sound as desired.
  3. 3
    Make sure that you play the notes right! Practicing them wrongly will make you build a habit of using the wrong notes as if they're the right ones! The same goes for fingering the melody and chords correctly.
    • If you have a teacher, let him or her play it for you.
    • Clapping the notes is also a good way to get a feel for the time and rhythm of the song!


  • Check out UKpiano on YouTube. He provides great songs e.g. "Two steps from Hell."
  • Ask a piano teacher to show you the fingering, if there is none indicated by the publisher.
  • Read lots of notes, in particular songs that you like.
  • Listen to lots of professional pianists in the genre of the piece for an idea of how your piece should sound.
  • Try to familiarise yourself with chords. If you're good at reading them, the deepest note and the form should be enough for you to read them.
  • Always take a walk to relieve stress.


  • Don't read something that is boring, unless it's an Etude (practice for some point or technique).
  • Make sure that your note sheets are of proper quality -- so it's easy enough to read them. Also, too small or too big notes can be uncomfortable to read.

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Categories: Piano and Keyboard | Music Techniques