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Music Literacy

Literacy is the ability to read and write. In music, every student has to begin by learning the 'language' of music to gain music literacy. Music literacy is the ability to read music (music notes, musical symbols, expression marks, dynamics, etc) and write music (compose and arrange). Music literacy also means the ability to read a music score and perform it on a musical instrument.

My concern here is with those young students who have been learning music for at least two years but still lack the ability to read music well. Some even struggle to read notes slightly beyond an octave above or below Middle C, never mind the notes outside the stave. All resort to counting the spaces and lines of the music stave to figure out the note. They will start from a  note that they are familiar with. I have actually observed a student count from Middle C all the way to the A note above the stave in Treble Clef. This is tedious.

I can only attribute this situation to lack of reading music to play on the instrument. Reading or sight reading music is valuable to improve on note recognition. Reading and playing an assortment of different styles of music does a lot of good.

Young students should develop a pro-active attitude and go hunt for new music to explore on the instrument. Buy those books and start reading and playing on the instrument. Students can ask teachers for their recommendations. Likewise, conscientious teachers would also make certain that their young students are exposed to as much music as possible. Yes, I have also heard and experienced young students who do not practice diligently, taking up to three or four lessons just to play a simple piece correctly. This hinders progress.

What needs to be done to improve reading music notes?

  • Constant exploration of new music to play
  • Sight reading books to help you in reading and recognizing music notes better
  • Keep your eyes on the scores when playing music
  • Do not memorize the music piece until you are sure all the notes are correctly read and played
  • Start composing music according to your level