How to Learn New Music

Ok so now you can read music confidently and comfortably. Now that you having sight reading down, you’ll probably want to move on to new music so you can show off your new found music reading skills. Here’s how that might look…

You and your teacher have chosen a new piece of sheet music to learn, and you are expecting this to be a mid to long term project, say at least a few months. It is useful to have a clear approach to learning this piece that will maximize your practice time.

To begin with, listen to several different recordings of the piece. This will teach you many things about the piece, but in some ways more importantly, you will hear more than one particular interpretation of the music; we don’t want to be tied to any one performance as being the correct one.

The next step is to set and understand your goals in learning your new piece of sheet music. There are several possible reasons for studying a new work: for personal enjoyment, to develop a particular technique (etudes for example), to explore a particular style, to get better at being able to read music, or perhaps to perform at an upcoming recital. You also may want to decide right from the beginning whether or not you want to be able to play the piece from memory.

After you’ve decided this you’re ready to move on to basic sight reading of the piece. Develop an understanding of the basic form. Identify its main musical themes and look for literal repeat sections of music. When we then first sit down to do some note learning, we can use our understanding of the piece to break it down into smaller sections. Some sections will be easier to learn than others, and they may be of different lengths, so try not to make any artificial time-goals like learning a set number of measures per day. Instead focus on learning each natural section of the piece thoroughly and in order. Identify any particularly challenging phrases and work on them individually. Then start to connect the various phrases and larger sections together.

By this time you may have some ideas for phrasing, dynamics, and articulations. Its time to start writing these ideas into your score. You may still be polishing some technical problems, but that’s fine if you have a reasonable mastery of the piece. Develop at least two different interpretations of the piece. Try a few unusual ideas, they can help get the creative juices flowing even if you reject them in the end.

If you are preparing for a performance, a new piece needs to be played out to really know if it’s ready. Play it for anyone or thing who will listen. A great acid test for how well you are prepared is to record yourself. Set simple guidelines for this exercise: you are not going for recording quality, but for performance quality, that is, to be able to play the piece from beginning to end, one take, with the mic on. You should then try out the piece out on a friend or two (you don’t want to get nervous and forget how to read music in front of an audience!). In this way, by the time you hit the stage, you will be fully prepared.

For Free Articles to Help You Learn to Read Music visit Learn to Read Music Articles.

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  1. Jeana Mcclaflin
    8 years ago

    Hi! I’ve just stopped by to say thanks for this cool info. Take care!

  2. Sue Williamson
    8 years ago

    Thanks for your article! I really liked seen this.

  3. Rob Brian
    8 years ago

    Thanks a lot for all of the great information. As a life long music student who taught himself, this course was extremely helpful to me in taking my learning to a next level.