I remember that when I started the piano I was playing pieces from my study books and I had no idea what they were supposed to sound like.
Reading the pitches of the notes wasn’t so hard, but I could never get the rhythm right, especially with 8th and 16th notes.
Of course, you try to count out loud: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & …
But when you’re already struggling with reading the notes and finding the right keys (in both hands!), then it’s really hard to keep count as well.
So what I did was load up my notation program — I use an inexpensive tool called Score Writer 4 — and copy the hard parts from the score into the computer.
Then I’d press “play” to hear how the piece was supposed to sound.
All notation programs can play back what you entered, which is really helpful. The software even shows you what notes are being played, so you can follow along on the screen.
Using a notation program to study a score has other advantages: you can slow the music down, repeat a section over and over, or transpose it to another key so it becomes easier to play.
You can even play along — with your left hand only, your right hand only, or hands-together — if your piano is in the same room as your computer.
If your note-reading isn’t very good yet, you could also save the score as a MIDI file and look at on an on-screen keyboard to see which keys to press. (Although I recommend you learn to read the notes instead.)
When you have an idea of what the music is supposed to sound like, it instantly becomes easier to read — and to play.
That doesn’t mean you should no longer count, of course. But listening to the piece (or parts of it) before playing it has always made it easier for me to learn.
If you do not already have a music notation program, go and download Finale Notepad. This is a free version of the professional Finale tool. It is a little limited in features, but you can’t beat the price!
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