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Three Fun Ways to Learn to Read Music

The Suzuki Method is famous for teaching children to play by ear, but what happens when it's time to read music? In my studio, I begin teaching proper note names from almost the very beginning. I start by teaching finger numbers (a.k.a. by rote), then swap over to the musical alphabet at the A Major Scale. After the student has their fingers around the musical alphabet (usually by the Minuets in Book 1 or in Book 2, depending on the student's age and lesson duration), I introduce note-reading.

Note-reading is a tricky skill that needs to be practiced every day. So, it's important to keep it fresh and fun. Here are some of my favorite note-reading games and exercises:

1. Flashcards

There are countless options of flashcards online, but these ones from The Practice Shoppe save time and look great. If you want to print your own, these flash cards were custom-made by John Silzel, a violinist in California, who includes some fun ideas of how to use them in your practice. Printing or making your own cards is a great way to get your child involved and more interested in learning to read.

Print-your-own flashcards here

Fun flashcard games include:

Memory - You'll need duplicate cards for this game. Set up pairs of cards from one group of notes (Say, all the notes on the A string or all notes on lines) and set them face down. Then, attempt to match them using the classic rules from the game "Memory"

Olympics/Note-Reading Race - Line up all of your notes in chromatic order (B C C# D, etc.) Try to beat your best time every day and keep track of your record. Bonus: Try to beat your teacher's record. (Mine is about 90 seconds!)

War! - A twist on the classic card game for two. Quick version: Play with 1 deck / Full version: Play with 2 decks. Shuffle the deck(s) and divide in two, giving each player their own set of cards. Turn over your top cards at the same time. Whoever has the higher note gets both cards and puts them at the bottom of their deck. Whoever has all the cards at the end wins. As students get more advanced, have them call out the note name as they see it.

2. Online interactive games

There are so many interactive games online that are just perfect for note-reading. Check out some of my favorites:

Whack-a-note (based on the classic, whack-a-mole)

Classic note-reading - See how many you can get right in a row!

Word games - Turning the note names into puzzles

The EEK! Shark! Game My personal favorite, because it's adorable, they play great classical music in the background, and you can select which clef and the note range you'd like to work on that day. Perfect if you're adding single notes like in Johanne Martin's "I Can Read Music!" workbooks.

3. Classic note-reading books. These are my personal favorites, as they can be utilized in so many different ways and suit all levels. These are available via,, and

Johanne Martin's "I Can Read Music!" Volumes 1 & 2

The Doflein Method Volume 1

As I find more note-reading activities, I'll post them on my studio Pinterest page. Comment below with your favorites and share your ideas!

Happy practicing!

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