As you’re learning to read music, there’s just no getting around the fact that you’re going to have to memorize the names of the notes and where they occur on the staff.
Here are the names of the notes in Western music. The names of the notes use the first seven letters of the alphabet (A through G). Additionally, the symbols # (sharp) and b (flat) are used to indicate five additional notes. Since either a sharp or a flat can be used for these modified notes, there will always be both a sharp and a flat version. So, A# (A sharp) is also Bb (B flat).
In total, the seven natural notes (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) and the five sharped and flatted notes give us 12 possible note names.
Beginning on A, here are the twelve notes:
Notice that there are no sharps or flats between two pairs of notes: B to C and E to F.
Connecting the Names of the Notes to Their Positions on the Staff
We’re going to work exclusively on the Treble Clef for this lesson. The approach we’ll use here applies to every other musical Clef, but for simplicity’s sake, we’re going to confine ourselves to the Treble Clef.
At this point, it’s time for you to memorize the note names for the notes that fall directly on the staff.
Here are the notes that fall on the lines of the staff:
To remember the names of the notes that fall on the lines of the staff, the time-honored mnemonic is “Every Good Boy Does Fine.”
And here are the notes that fall on the spaces between the lines of the staff:
FACE is usually pretty easy to remember.
What to Do Once You’ve Memorized the Names of the Notes on the Staff
Once you’ve memorized the names of the notes that fall on or between the lines of the staff, it’s time for you to run through exercises consistently so you etch the names of the notes into your memory.
The program Read Music Now contains some great exercises that can help you reading music comfortably in an incredibly short period of time–7 days if you put in the work.
And I’ve created some simple but effective exercises you can run through to improve your music reading. Check them out to increase your fluency with reading music!