How Long Does it Take to Learn to Read Music?

Written by meggie hardy
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How Long Does it Take to Learn to Read Music?

Music is a universal language; however, there are basic skills you must develop before you can read it. How long it takes you to master those skills depends upon you; the more dedicated you are to study and practice, the quicker you'll be at picking it up.

Recognition of tones, the names of their corresponding place (notes) on the written page, and basic tempo markings are the beginning building blocks of reading music. In a typical music instruction program that teaches basic notation and chords, after one lesson, you will be able to read and play single-note melodies. Additional lessons will teach you to how to compose simple chords, and recognise them by their grouping of notes on the page and by their corresponding chord symbols. After six lessons (assuming you've mastered lessons one through five), you should be able to read and play melodies and simple harmonies; however, that will depend upon your discipline to practice what you learn.

Reading music dictates an individual learning curve. The level of difficulty is relative; if you already play an instrument by ear, learning to read the music should not take as long as it may for someone who has no background in music. The ability to understand the concept of written music is an individual accomplishment, so the exact length of time it takes to grasp it can vary from one person to the next.

To evaluate the process, compare it to learning a new language. First, you learn to recognise simple words by rote memorisation of a few select words, and as time progresses, you learn how to figure out new words on your own. Once you understand the structure of the language, you expand your knowledge to include grammar and all of its rules; thus you build skills necessary to read and speak more complex sentences. Learning to read music is the same. You must first learn the basic elements of the language before you can be a master.

If you want to only acquire basic reading skills, learning to read music is neither difficult nor time-consuming, but like any language, mastering it requires investing time. How long it takes you to become your own level of virtuoso depends entirely upon you.


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