How to Teach Music Reading

In the last post, we discussed the challenges of learning to read piano music. This post will address how the Paloma Piano method can help students become proficient music readers. There are many ways to teach music reading. Any legitimate reading program involves hard work and practice. I do not believe there are “shortcuts” to music literacy.

In my 30-plus years teaching the piano I have tried a plethora of programs to teach music reading including; Hand Position Reading, Intervallic Reading, and Guide Note Reading. In an earlier post, I told the story of how the Paloma Method came about. Here is how I teach music reading.

Here is how the method is laid out:


The Petite Primer is meant to be used with very young children ages 3 to 5 years old. It is the first exposure to their piano and to music. Each book tells a story in poetic form, that the teacher can read at the lesson with the student. There are duets to play with the teacher. At this stage, the pieces are taught by ear, or by rote. There is a big note student book with Alpha Notes and fingerings. There are also videos on the website that contain all of the music in the primer set to beautiful artwork for the kids to watch as they listen, (For more info see the video “How to use the Petite Primer”).

The books are split up for easy printing. All of the books are under 40 pages

Books 1a, 1b, and 1c;

These books teach music reading beginning with quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes. and dotted half notes and the corresponding rests, along with all of the notes on the Grand Staff starting with Middle C through G, and Bass C through G. The book covers the notes in Treble C position, Middle C position so that the notes of the Grand Staff are learned thoroughly. The books also include 4/4 and 3/4 Time Signatures Legato Playing Basic Dynamics, Repeat Signs, etc.

Books 2a. and 2b

These books include all of the skills above plus Ledger Line Notes, Notes A minor, Minor Key Explanation, Eighth Notes, Accidentals, Key Signatures Also included; Staccato Playing, Pedaling, Dynamics, Tempo Marks, The pick-up beat, Ostinato, and more Articulations,

Books 3a and 3b

These books include all of the above plus; More Major and Minor Key Signatures, The Dotted Quarter-Eighth Note combination, The Triplet, Pieces with Arpeggios,
Explanation of Scale Degrees and Chords, Alberti Bass, D, C, al Fine, Dissonance explanation, Intervals of the Major Scale. Phrasing, and More Advanced Articulations Accent Marks etc.

Books 4a and 4b

These books bridge the gap between the Paloma Piano Method and Standard Repertoire. Including such skills as; Sixteenth Notes Including the Dotted Eighth- Sixteenth combination, Grace Notes, Syncopation, 3/8 and 6/8 Time Signatures, D.S. and Coda Signs, and The Chromatic Scale.

Paloma Piano Also includes many supplemental materials.

Check out our Resources

I have found that by beginning slowly with note reading and counting, students are able to build a solid foundation for musical literacy. These books include a minimal amount of fingerings and the pieces do not stay in hand position format. I have my students count carefully as they begin learning each piece so that rhythm is never neglected. On average it takes about a year and a half to two years for the average new student to complete all four books.

I have also used Paloma Piano to teach music reading with many a transfer student. I will admit that most of them find the lack of gratuitous fingerings in the music challenging. However, I have found with patience and encouragement even the most reluctant students learn to read the music. And once they can read practicing the piano becomes a whole lot more fun!

What do you think about how to teach music reading? Leave a comment below.

If you would like to find out about becoming a member of Paloma Piano we have a number of very attractive membership options including a free membership that offers a large number of piano scores, teaching resources, and games. The free membership is forever free and no credit card is needed.  Check it out!

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Comments & Discussion

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