Part 1: But I can’t read music!

(from Learn how to sight-sing from scratch)

Well, it looks like you’ve found your way into the blog; that was the first step. But first we’ll perform a little test just to make sure there’s at least some hope for your music-reading skills:

Step 1: Read this sentence.

Step 2: Look at the top of your screen.

Step 3: Look at the bottom of your screen.

How did you go with that? If you have reached this point, congratulations—you are able to start learning! Let’s start with something simple.

Read this simple phrase as if you are calling it out to someone in the next room, or as if you are calling across a room full of chattering birds or monkeys. You may call out to one of the monkeys if you like.

“Over the table!”

(If you are in a public place and you don’t feel like drawing attention to yourself, I suggest you imagine yourself calling this out to avoid awkwardness. Visualize—or in this case—auralize!).

Now this time, switch to a deep voice and read this one:

“Under the table”

What did you notice about your performance of the above two phrases? I could hear you—you weren’t as quiet as you thought you were—as you read the first one in a higher-pitched voice than you read the second one. Over the table is in a physically-higher place than underneath the table, so perhaps that explains the higher pitch.

Now, instead of explaining to you how to perform these two phrases again, I’m going to let these pictures do that, because it’s quicker:


That was “over the table”. Read it like you read it before.

And this is “under the table”. Use your deep voice.


You are welcome to practice reading these over again a few times, just to make sure you’ve got it. Exaggerate your voice for the difference between the readings of “over” and “under”.

Okay, so we’ve made it this far. The content in this next part may appear to be a little scary, because it is starting to look a bit like music notation. But don’t worry; it’s more afraid of you than you are of it. It’s actually the same as the ball-and-table illustrations above; except the ball is now black and a little squashed, and the table is just ultra-flat to the point where it is a single black line. Try reading it like you did before.

Here is “over the table”


And here is “under the table”


Well, it looks like you’ve managed to get this far. Congratulations, you are reading your first notes! But does it sound musical? Sure it does—not everyone appreciates all music, but I enjoyed your performance, and I look forward to the next one. Next time we’ll be singing something a little more well-known, and we’ll have one of my old friends (…more like a strategy …but strategies can still be friends… don’t judge my friends!) join in to help.


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