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How To Read Notes

Understanding Notation

Lisa Witt - Mar 19, 2019


Sight reading has never come easily to me. I’ve struggled with it from the beginning. At one point in my early piano years, I had to repeat an entire level because my teacher realized I’d learned nothing. I was hearing her demonstrate the song and then playing from memory, never actually knowing how to read the notes!


Along the way, I’ve learned some things that have made sight reading much easier for me, which I'll share in this lesson. As you watch, keep in mind that some people will naturally find sight reading easier than others. Those of us with strong ears and the natural ability to play without music tend to struggle the most when it comes to reading notation. The reverse is also true for those who are strong sight readers. Strong sight readers will often have trouble playing by ear. The important thing to keep in mind is that we all have our own unique strengths and weaknesses and we need to celebrate both.


You can read a summary of the lesson below. Hope you enjoy it!

How to read notes


A staff is made up of 5 lines and 4 spaces, and each line and space has a note name attached to it. We have a treble clef (or 'G clef') up above - usually reserved for the right hand - and a bass clef (or 'F clef') below, played lower down on the piano and usually reserved for the left hand.


Treble clef


The treble clef is also called the 'G clef' because the line that runs through the center of the treble clef is the G note. That should give you a quick reference when you're sight reading.


The next space up from G is the next note: A. After that space, you hit another line, which is B. Then there's another space, which is C. After that we have D, E and F. It keeps going from there, but we'll keep it within the staff for now.


In the video, you'll notice there's a small line right below the staff with a note on it. That's middle C notated in the treble clef, which will be your landmark note! We then have D, E, F, and back to that G we talked about earlier.


Anytime you move from one line to the next line, you're skipping a note on the piano. If you can practice skipping through the alphabet (A-G) in your head and going back and forth, this can help you with your sight reading. You'll start seeing the patterns and get faster as you go. Look at the distance between the notes, and use C and G as your landmark notes.


Bass Clef


The spaces and lines on the staff for the bass clef are totally different from the staff for the treble clef, and this may seem confusing for beginners. But it's still based on middle C, which is how everything connects between the two clefs. Start with C, and the space below it is B. The next line is A, the next space G, and the line after that is F...which is your landmark note for the bass clef. 


Again, if the note on a space is followed by a note on the next possible line, you'll know it's the next note on the keyboard. If the note on a space is followed by a note on the next possible space, you get an interval (where you skip a note).


Look for patterns in the music - it really helps!



#Sight Reading

#Music Theory

Finding Inspiration At The Piano

The most inspiring piano lesson ever!

Lisa Witt - Mar 15, 2019

Do you ever sit down at your piano to play and improvise, but find that you're lacking inspiration? You know you want to express something, but you aren’t sure what that is?


Here are some ideas from Jordan on how he finds inspiration when he sits down in front of the piano and just wants to make music.


Forget all about sheet music and music theory and find an actual picture of something that inspires you visually. Ideally, that picture sparks ideas or feelings you can translate from your head to the piano.


Jordan’s example involves a flame and a snowflake. The flame evokes feelings of warmth and comfort, which might mean you play warm 7th chords and happy major chords. It may also bring to mind a forest fire, which could suggest frantic arpeggios and minor chords. Contrast that with a snowflake, and suddenly you're playing delicately - you might play higher up on the keyboard with broken arpeggios and a lighter touch.


The idea is to tell a story about whatever you're using for inspiration. Choosing more than one picture to help you contrast your feelings and sounds can really help you create an epic and inspired improvisation.


What pictures will you use for inspiration the next time you sit down at the piano?

#Learn Piano

#How To Play Piano

#Getting Started

#Piano Chords


Basic Time Signatures

Understanding basic time signatures for piano players

Lisa Witt - Mar 13, 2019


A time signature provides you with the rhythmic rules for whatever you’re listening to or playing. If you want to be great at sight reading, you need to have a solid understanding of how time signatures work.


There are two numbers in a time signature. The top number indicates how many beats will be in each measure, and the bottom number indicates what kind of note will equal “one”. You can think of this bottom note as a fraction.


The most common time signatures for beginner piano players are:



In 4/4 time, there are four beats in each measure, and a quarter note is equal to one beat. The first beat is the strong beat, the second beat is weak, the third is medium, and the fourth is weak.



The 3/4 time signature gives us three beats in each measure. The first beat is strong, while beats 2 and 3 are weak. This gives this time signature the feeling of a waltz.



2/4 has two beats per measure. Beat 1 is strong and beat 2 is weak. This feels very much like a march.



This one is a bit different from the others. 6/8 has six beats per measure, and the beat that equals one is an 8th note. This means we can fit six 8th notes - or what is equal to six 8th notes - into each measure. You get groupings of three this way: strong weak weak medium weak weak. This provides a wonderful sense of movement that’s almost a rolling sensation, and is used in songs like Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.


These are the most common time signatures that a beginner piano player will encounter. Make sure to watch the video, where I’ll teach you a fun way to draw out rhythmic stories for yourself so you can experiment with how these time signatures work, sound, and feel.




#Time Signatures

#Piano Theory