How to Read Piano Music

How to Read Piano Music image

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to reading piano music.

First, the good news: written music is designed for the piano.

The piano and standard musical notation go together like peanut butter and jelly. All other instrumentalists gnash their teeth in frustration when they realize how perfectly the piano goes with standard notation.

My primary instrument is the guitar, and I clearly remember the moment when I had learned enough about music notation to walk past a keyboard, stop and smack my forehead in astonishment.

The piano corresponds directly and easily to music notation–1 key, 1 note on the staff. What could be simpler? Where my guitar often has two or three different positions where I could play a particular note on the staff, any given note on the staff always and only refers to a specific key on the piano.

This makes reading music for the piano a breeze in comparison to many other instruments.

But, alas, there is bad news: due to the two hands involved in playing piano, you have to learn to read not one but two lines of music on two different clefs at the same time.

This can be tricky at first. Just when you thought learning to read music was hard, you have to learn to read two different lines of music where notes on the treble clef refer to one set of pitches while notes on the bass clef refer to a different set of pitches.

It can seem almost impossible to pull off when you first start out!

Introducing the Basics of Reading Music for Piano

Honestly, the piano corresponds so precisely to how music works on the staff that if you’ve gone through other articles on this site, you won’t really need much extra information other than the simple fact that you’ll need to learn to work with both the Treble and Bass Clefs.

Here is what piano music looks like. The Treble Clef line is on the top while the Bass Clef line is on the bottom:
How to Read Piano Music

Often, piano music involves extremely different parts playing against each other in the left and right hands. Different rhythms and motifs intertwine with each other across musical passages in a piece. Written music for the piano can be extraordinarily complex and challenging.

That doesn’t mean that reading music for the piano is “hard” any more than speaking English is “hard.” It’s a totally learnable skill. Which leads us to the question: what’s the best way for you to learn to read music for the piano?

Reading music for the piano is a massive subject, and I can’t do it justice here in this site, which is dedicated more generally to people who want to learn to read music independent of a specific instrument or musical style.

However, I can point you to a great resource that not only helps you learn to read piano music but also gives you a thorough training in every aspect of making music on the piano.

The course is called Piano Wizard, and it is specifically designed to help total beginners take great strides in learning to play the piano. Definitely check it out if you’re looking for a solid resource to help you learn how to play the piano and read music for the piano.