What do you do when your child comes to you, expressing an interest in learning to read music? If you’re like me, you panic a little on the inside, as this is not a subject you know a great deal about. But I have good news: there are a lot of good products out there to help, no matter what your skill level.
When I began helping my son learn to read music, I looked for products that we could use while we’re on the go. With a hectic schedule that has all of us spending more time in the car than we’d like, I wanted to take advantage of any down time to practice reading music. Another requirement I had was to find products that are compact and easy to handle. I wanted my son to be able to practice on his own (or with a friend), so child friendly materials and simple directions were the only way to go. I have compiled a list of our favorite products and tools that we found to be the most helpful. These time-tested, mother-approved products will get your budding musician off to a great start!
Music Flash Cards
One of my favorite products, which received high marks for being easy to handle and use on the go, is flashcards. I bought the Hal Leonard Music Flash Cards (Set A) and was very impressed. From the packaging, which is minimal and eco-friendly, to the color-coded cards, this product has been a big hit. This set includes 120 cards, which covers all of the basic music symbols, notes and rhythm patterns. I especially like how the “Notes and Reading Patterns” cards illustrate the location of the note on an actual keyboard. The cards are clear, easy to understand and my son can hold them in his hands without a problem.
When we were ready to tackle the next stage of reading music, I bought the companion flash card set, Hal Leonard Music Flash Cards (Set B). These cards continue where the other set leave off, reviewing musical terms, scales, key signatures and chord progressions. Because my son was already familiar with the color-coded system, he grasped most of the simple concepts. One of the benefits of owning these cards is that as your child’s knowledge expands, the cards will continue to provide an excellent resource for reviewing material and learning new concepts. It is almost as if the collection of flashcards grows along with your child!
The Music Theory Laminated Mat is a double-sided mat that is loaded with music theory skills and concepts. This is an excellent resource for quick references. My son really likes how the music notes are lined up with their corresponding keys on the keyboard. I originally bought two mats so that I could hang them up near my son’s desk, but instead, I found keeping one mat at home and one mat in the car provides a handy way to study.
If you are looking for a good book that presents a fun way to learn to read sheet music, you must check out Lady Treble and the Seven Notes, by Eliyana Biklou. This whimsical book is full of rhythmic prose and colorful illustrations that show each musical note as a loveable character. As the children get caught up in the story, they also learn the locations of the seven notes on the musical staff, what makes an octave, and how to recognize a treble clef. My son likes reading this book for the cartoon graphics and I like it because it is educational and entertaining, a bonus for both of us.
Another book that has become a treasure in our home library is 101 Games for Children: Fun and Learning with Rhythm and Song, by Storms & Hurd. This compilation of musical games and activities is categorized by age appropriateness and how long the each game or activity takes to play. This makes it especially easy to use anytime we have some downtime while waiting in the car. The fun exercises in this book have been a wonderful way to stimulate my son’s thinking about music and have given me creative ideas on how we can incorporate music into our every day life.
If your child comes to you and wants to learn to read music, you won’t have to panic like I did. Any one of these games, books or flashcards will help you master the art and science of reading music. It will open up a whole new world for you and your children to enjoy together for a lifetime.