One of my favorite things as a music teacher is seeing kids develop their note reading skills and unlock new repertoire. But we’ve all had students who struggle to read music no matter how we teach, and only few kids can confidently sight read. Music reading can be hard, and here’s what you can do about it.
When you make something easier, it opens up possibilities for lots of new learners. I realized that difficulties with music reading are keeping large numbers of kids from being able to enjoy playing a musical instrument. Most of the common music reading challenges have to do with a student’s visual perception and eye movement (oculomotor) difficulties. Visual perception is different from what we usually consider to be having good or bad ‘eyesight’. And it doesn’t mean that you need glasses, either. It’s how our brain makes sense of what we see. You might have a student with deficits in those areas and not even know it.
Here are some signs your student’s difficulties reading music might have to do with their visual skills:
They lose their place while glancing between the keys and the music or ask you to point to each note on the music to help them follow along as they play.They have a hard time telling intervals between notes or noticing if the music is ascending or descending.They might forget which side of the staff or instrument is for high notes and which is for low notes.They often try to ‘count’ from a known note every time either on a keyboard or in the music, or rely heavily on mnemonic acronyms like “All Cows Eat Grass.”