What Are the Different Ways to Learn to Read Music?

B. Miller

There are a number of different ways to learn to read music, all of which can be effective; some just might take more time than others. In general, private music lessons with a tutor, or participating in group music lessons, such as in a school band or chorus, can be some of the best ways to learn to read music because the individual is learning and applying the knowledge simultaneously. Of course, it is also possible to begin learning to read music independently. There are a number of free tutorials to be found online, as well as books and other guides that can be purchased that provide instruction in music reading for many different age levels.

There are numerous ways to learn to read music.
There are numerous ways to learn to read music.

Generally, people want to learn to read music for a specific purpose, such as to play a musical instrument or become a better singer, for example. This is one of the best times to learn to read music, because the individual will be much more motivated to put the effort in. Students are often first exposed to reading music at a very young age, such as in elementary school, but few are able to retain more than the basic principles unless they actually put it into practice. Taking up an instrument is often the best way to expand on these basic principles.

Many music reading lessons can be found online.
Many music reading lessons can be found online.

Music lessons with a private instructor typically represent the best way to learn. The instructor is right there to answer questions, point out mistakes, and encourage the student to work harder on a particular task. Some people or families cannot afford private music lessons, however, or simply do not have the time. In that case, music lessons at a school can also be a great way to learn to read music for young people. Many schools have bands or choruses beginning in middle school, and students can choose an instrument to play. They will then frequently receive group as well as individual instruction on occasion.

Learning to play an instrument is one of the best ways to learn to read music.
Learning to play an instrument is one of the best ways to learn to read music.

For people who are out of school, other options exist as well. There are many books available promising to teach willing individuals to learn to read music and play a certain instrument, and with dedication, this is certainly a possibility. Music software is another option, which provides more interactive instruction on a computer. In addition, there is a great deal of free information to be found online, such as simple instructional articles or videos that provide instruction and examples simultaneously. For people with a real desire to learn, there are plenty of opportunities to learn to read music.

Learning to play an musical instrument requires learning to read music.
Learning to play an musical instrument requires learning to read music.

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Discussion Comments


@croydon - If someone is really worried about that and doesn't have their heart set on a particular instrument, there's always an electronic instrument, like the keyboard or an electric guitar. You can set them up so that only you can hear what's going on, through headphones and then you can play as much as you want without disturbing anyone.

I have also found that there are some amazing courses online for people to use. There are even university level courses that have been released since most universities recognize that people go there for the degree and it costs them nothing to release the program into the internet.

I wouldn't start with one of those courses, though, I would find a nice and simple lesson on how to read sheet music and some basic musical theory first and then go from there.


@Iluviaporos - Well, in my opinion it's never too late to learn how to read music. There are plenty of options available to you as well. If you want one on one learning, you might go to your local high school and ask them if there are any adult classes or if any of their instructors are willing to give you some time.

The plus about that is that if you are learning an instrument, you'll probably be given access to their soundproof rooms as well. That's the one difficulty I find in learning an instrument as an adult, is that there is no space where you can go to be able to practice without disturbing someone.


It's definitely true that you will be much better equipped to understand music later in life if you pursue an instrument when you are a child.

I learned the piano when I was a kid and I remember those lessons much more clearly than the more generic instruction I got during music classes in schooltime.

I actually really regret that I never had the patience to continue with the piano. Once my parents told me it was my decision to stop, I stopped straight away. My sister continued with it and she can really read music now, and plays several instruments as well as the piano.

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