How to best teach sheet music

04.04.2022 Ben Maloney Music education

Music tuition. All musicians have some experience of it. Many know what it's like to be on both sides of the student-teacher dynamic. Some will teach and learn simultaneously. In the majority of cases, sheet music plays a part. 

At its simplest, music notation is a system by which instructions are communicated, so it makes sense that it’s often involved in teaching, which is fundamentally the communication of information and ideas. For this reason, instructing students in the ways of sheet music is a principal concern for many teachers all over the world.

When it comes to the optimal way of approaching that process, the bottom line is that there’s no short answer. In fact, there’s no right answer. 

There are countless educational methods out there, each of which offers something unique. Many of them recognise that a massive array of factors determines what will yield the best results in a given teaching situation. It depends on the student’s aims, the style of music they want to engage with, whether instruments are involved, and so on.

More than anything, it depends on the student. The idea is to devise the best bespoke solution for the particular teaching dynamic that you’re part of. This article will present a few things to reflect on and try out in order to help you do that - to help you best teach sheet music.

Tuition
 

First, we’ll look at this from a broad perspective. Before we start talking sheet-music specifics, we’ll consider a few principles that can streamline the teaching process itself. These can help shape your top-level approach, in a way that will allow your students to get the most out of their experience with you.  

In short, let’s establish the best system and environment for your tuition.

Aims and objectives
 

Perhaps the very first thing that you should do is set clear aims and objectives - the foundation of any successful teaching process.

They might be uniquely suited to each student, or apply broadly to a wider group - again, this all depends on your particular teaching context. But in all cases, clarity about purpose is key to optimising the experience. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to sheet music, this can be muddied surprisingly easily. Part of the problem is that many beginners effectively learn at least three things simultaneously: how to read sheet music, how to play an instrument, and how to play a specific piece of music on that instrument. This applies to starters of all ages, but particularly to children, whether they're being taught in school or privately.

If, say, a student concentrates mostly on the last of these - and this is often what happens in instrumental teaching, which tends to prioritise this approach - then they'll end up pursuing the first two objectives in a less structured way, making slower progress towards them.

The goal is to work towards each aim systematically, with each process positioned and engaged with as independently of the others as possible. Ideally, the student should always have a sense of what they’re working on at any given time.

So although it can be helpful for an instrument to be included in the learning process, particularly for children (we’ll come back to that), this has to be managed carefully. At all times, the overall purpose of the tuition should be apparent to the student, and if they can play an active role in determining what that is, even better. 

Figure this out, express it clearly, make it known, let it be the cornerstone of the teaching process. Everything else should spring organically from this mission statement.

Structure and routine
 

That is easier said than done. But then again, anyone who said teaching was easy clearly lacked experience. 

Making this happen hinges on your assembly of a clear lesson structure. An action plan directed towards the aims, which presents, communicates, and clarifies them, breaking them down into digestible fragments that can be understood and tackled one-by-one en route to the end goal. 

Regularity about this structure - in other words, routine - is just as integral to success. Ensure that there’s consistency about the scale of each section of the course and the recurrence of teaching sessions. This is so that the student can know what to expect in terms of quantity and quality of work, and can get into a flow, build momentum, adapt, focus and flourish. 

This structure may be regimented or flexible, intense or gradual. The correct approach is entirely dependent on a unique combination of factors pertaining to you, the student, how much time you have, what they’re aiming to achieve, etc. 

It won’t be easy to hammer out, but a clear teaching framework is the one surefire way to get you and your student(s) where you need to go as quickly and effectively as possible. And it’s worth taking some time before you start to reflect on this extensively.

A great exemplar of this philosophy is Eta Cohen, violinist and educator who championed incremental teaching in her violin tuition in response to the ‘deep-end’ approach that she was subjected to as a child, and which many teachers still adopt. 

Characteristic of her pedagogy is the introduction and explanation of one new idea at a time. This way it’s possible to break down even the most difficult tasks and concepts into manageable stages before reconstructing them again. Moreover, by offering quick wins, incremental growth can be easily tracked and celebrated, and it goes without saying that the majority of students respond to positive affirmation. 

But always keep the ultimate objectives in mind, and so should your student. They should always have a sense of what they’re working towards, where they are on an imaginary bar of progress that leads to that - they need to perceive their achievements and understand them in the context of the bigger picture.

Centralising the student
 

It is all about them. They are at the heart of this experience. It’s about helping them to reach their goals. So encouragement, management, discipline - all these things are key. But that’s the human-interaction side of things, and if you’re a teacher then you’re probably pretty good at that. 

More than just being of utmost importance, the student is pivotal in determining the objectives and structure of your teaching. It’s vital to take their needs into account at the most fundamental level, and adapt your approach to their abilities, aspirations and learning preferences.

So as well as tailoring the scope and structure of your teaching to their needs, adapt the content as well. Whether you’re teaching them to read sheet music solely or to read and play an instrument, give them the scope to choose their repertoire. When giving examples or assigning practice works, call on music that excites them, or suggest new discoveries that might suit their tastes. 

Try to utilise material that you love, too. It’s easier to get enthusiastic about, and not only is enthusiasm contagious, but it also facilitates connection and communication. Identify where your tastes overlap and seize on that, so that passion and information can be more easily transferred. 

An important notion in this context is that of ‘environment’. Generating the right kind of learning environment is arguably no less critical than introducing theoretical concepts in the right order, or determining the right study repertoire. 

Prominent alternative approaches to music education, such as the Suzuki and Kodály methods (we revisit these below), revolve around this idea. The former strives to foster a linguistic understanding of music in children through aural learning, collective exercises and performance, and the avoidance of traditional aptitude tests - all in a community setting saturated with musical activities and events. 

The latter, a slightly more methodical school, also emphasises learning by ear before the introduction of notation. It advocates an alternative rhythm-counting system as well as an approach to teaching pitch based on solfège, which we’ll come back to later on. A tenet of Kodály’s philosophy is that the scope of teaching should be entirely configured according to the abilities of the student.  

Both methods rely on the establishment of a learning environment integrated around music that ultimately prioritises the experience, progress and requirements of the learner. Of course the potential for personalisation is restricted when multiple students are being taught, but both these methods still involve group teaching in conventional practice.  

You’d be surprised how far covering a teaching space in musical paraphernalia can go (pictures and bios of composers, glossaries, timelines, sheet-music diagrams) when it comes to engendering this sense of environment, and facilitating progress and growth.

Content
 

You may have found all that a bit conceptual. If so, worry not, because things are about to get technical. Here we tackle teaching sheet music in earnest - what exactly to teach and how exactly to go about it. That’s most likely what you’ve come here to learn.

At this point, we re-encounter a matter of contention that’s at the heart of sheet-music education and which we must address directly if we’re to make progress: is it better to teach sheet music in isolation or in conjunction with an instrument? 

Your own teaching scenario may prescribe one route or the other. You might already be looking to teach notation independently, or as part of instrumental tuition. It’s more likely that the latter is true, that you’re planning to encompass both aspects in your teaching and want to strike the balance correctly. 

As for the blunt question at the top of this article, there’s really no consensus regarding whether it’s ‘best’ to teach students to read sheet music with or without an instrument. So we’ll examine both approaches in combination.

Teaching notation
 

First we’ll look at teaching notation in isolation. From the very start, it should be properly contextualised, so ensure that you understand and convey the essential nature of sheet music as a form of instruction, a communication of musical information from the composer, via the page, to the musician. You’re teaching your students to read this writing system.

Although describing music as a language does have its pitfalls (music is not fundamentally a language) it can be helpful to understand it as one. And even for children, famously sponge-brained as they are, learning to speak, read and write a language fluently takes years. 

Ensure that your students understand that it may take this amount of time to reach that point, but that they may be able to grasp the basic principles of reading notation in a matter of months. This is explored further in the blog article how long does it take to learn to read music.

Pitch and rhythm
 

The two most essential parameters of music as well as notation are pitch and rhythm - sound and time, the Y- and X-axes in the phenomenon of music. Teaching students these concepts, and how they apply to sheet music, are the two great initial challenges when it comes to teaching notation.

Some educators will look to tackle pitch first, others will start with rhythm. Despite the fact that rhythm can be grasped fairly intuitively, it can be surprisingly difficult to explore comprehensively in the context of notation. For this reason, most will begin the learning process by exploring pitch. 

Start without any notation whatsoever, and try to get your students to the point where they can grasp the concept of an octave. Explain that there are countless physical pitches, that they run higher and lower than humans can hear, and that a piano keyboard - a must-have reference - captures a central range that musical practice involves.

After illustrating that the group of twelve Western tones repeats over and over within that range - the consonance of octaves is a helpful way of demonstrating this quite confusing concept - set the first task of learning the pitches in the octave above middle C, using the treble stave and a keyboard in combination. 

It’s good to have a visual representation of a piano octave as well as a sounding keyboard. Virtual pianos like this one are extremely helpful.

Then they can learn which pitches are fixed to the lines and spaces on the stave by the treble clef and the bass clef, before tackling ledger lines. Memorising these pitches as soon as possible is imperative, and the renowned mnemonics depicted below will help you no end with that. 

You’ll devise your own methods of teaching these concepts, but try out some exercises that will aid learning and memorisation - these are especially useful when teaching kids. 

So try removing all visual aids and asking your student to reproduce particular notes in the octave. You might also encourage them to think about which notes sound consonant to them, ushering in concepts like intervals and chords. The five lines of the stave handily correspond to the five digits on your hand, which can serve as another aide-mémoire.  

Turning to rhythm, it’s best to start with note values. Of course, these can’t be fully explained without recourse to time signatures, but that’s jumping a bit too far ahead. You can still teach note values relatively and to a pulse, however, and this will inform a basic understanding of rhythm. 

Start, then, by giving them names - fun, more memorable ones will work at first - and explaining their relationship with each other. Then use a metronome click or some kind of pulse generator to demonstrate what they entail in real time.

As you may have done with pitches in the octave, cover up any visual aids and then ask your students to clap or stomp out a certain rhythm to you, or perhaps decipher simple rhythms in a familiar tune. Flashcards are a great tool when it comes to cementing the names of pitches and note values.

Practical exercises and games really come into their own here, like call-and-response clapping, or finding the pulse in a piece of music. It’s also good to introduce rests at this early stage, because they can be easily matched to note values and incorporated into these games. 

There are some more visual materials shown below - check out the music theory cheat sheet article to find out more about it, or click here to download it. Feel free to use these materials in your teaching, and anything else you find on the blog for that matter.  

Accidentals and signatures
 

Accidentals are the next topic to take on - a slightly more complex dimension of pitch. Teaching the names of these notes, and their positioning halfway between the primary notes (the white keys), will be relatively straightforward to negotiate. 

Less so is 1) the notion of flattening and sharpening the primary notes - or, more accurately, the necessity of doing that - and 2) which half of each black note’s split personality is relevant at any given moment.  

Both issues are easier to explain with the help of the notion of key, which provides the musical context that explains the necessity and dictates the correct label. Start out by explaining what key is. If you need some help with that, the article on how to find the key of a song can step in to do the legwork.

That leads naturally to key signatures, illustrated below through the famous circle of fifths, which then draws in scales and arpeggios. Scales are crucial because they legitimise the sharps and flats, which can seem intimidating to beginners who are inevitably drawn to the consonant world of the white key. 

Ensure that you teach not only the scales, but the movable pattern of tones and semitones (or whole notes and half notes) - the Ionian and Aeolian modes - that the major and minor scales essentially entail.

Lessons on scales will supplement and consolidate the student’s understanding of key and pitch more broadly. Moreover, intervals, chords, chord progressions, scale degrees and the circle itself are further notions that you can at least touch on here, and at most explore in greater depth.

The other great signature is of course of the time variety. Build up to this important idea by returning to the notion of a pulse, which is transformed into a beat by the application of metre - a regularly recurring pattern of accented and unaccented beats. 

This metre is determined by the time signature, which dictates that beat grouping, each instance of which in a piece of music assumes the form of a bar, delineated by bar lines - you know all this. You can use time signatures and metre to finalise the student’s grasp of note values, which are of course all relative to the bar. Naturally, ensure that the pivotal notion of tempo gets a mention here, too.  

Dynamics, articulation and beyond
 

Once you’ve covered these fundamental aspects of theory as well as notation, the scope begins to spread out a little. But while educators will begin to move on to varying parameters here, dynamics and articulation will always be high-priority. 

The former isn’t too complex to understand or teach, but there is one thing that must be stressed: dynamics are not an afterthought. Intensity, or the lack thereof, is what creates so much of the drama and contour in a musical performance, but many beginners will pay little attention to it - don’t let your students fall into this trap.

Reconceptualising sheet music as written musical instructions, if the pitch-related vertical placement of notes tells you what to play, and the rhythmic horizontal placement tells you when to play it, articulation concerns how the music should be played. It’s the next layer of communication, alongside dynamics. 

To help students remember articulation indications - slurs, staccato, tenuto, etc. - try once again to use more memorable names at first. Examples are essential if students are to understand these ideas, so contrast slurred and staccato passages on an instrument, and encourage them to do the same. Use actual pieces of music, and remember to use music that your students like and will therefore more likely remember.

After articulation may come ornamentation, extended techniques, and so on, but there’s a fair amount to consider in these subject areas and beyond, and it’s only possible to cover so much in the space of a blog article. It’s also hard to anticipate the best ongoing course for a teacher who has come this far with their students. Really, only you can determine what's best to take on next. 

Despite that, we do pick up this thread again a little further down, regarding more practical teaching considerations such as helping students to memorise, sight-read and practise sheet music - so stay tuned.

Foundation in solfège
 

Solfège is an alternative way of teaching pitch and pitch relationships. Solfège-related practice can be found in musical traditions all around the world. It's also been around for centuries, in fact predating the Western system of equal temperament - the pitch framework that we’ve been discussing so far.

It’s an oral method that entails assigning syllables to each degree of the major and minor scales, and teaching students to vocalise these syllables: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do - you’ll know the song. 

The idea is that students have an ingrained understanding of the arrangement of pitches in tonal music, and can then, when they see sheet music, mentally hear the pitches as they read them. This is known as ‘audiating’ (a term coined by educator Edwin Gordon), which supposedly boosts the student’s capacity to sight-read - something we’ll come back to later on. 

It doesn’t teach fixed pitches, but rather the pattern of pitch relationships in the major and minor scales. It aligns with the aforementioned series of intervals based on the Ionian and Aeolian modes that can be applied to any tonic note, and that’s why this system is called ‘movable-do’ solfège. 

There is also ‘fixed-do’ solfège, basically an alternative way of naming the notes from C through B that’s used in many countries in Europe. The emphasis on singing the notes remains, however, which develops a musician’s ability to audiate. 

Being an oral system, solfège is less relevant to this sheet-music focused article, but it’s absolutely worth considering as a foundational approach to learning pitch. Many leading pedagogues believe that a grounding in solfège streamlines understanding of theory and notation, enhances aural skills, and, as we said, leads to greater fluency in reading sheet music. 

It’s also particularly good for students who are looking to engage with genres that place more emphasis on performance and improvisation, such as jazz and popular-music styles. Musicians looking to enter these arenas will find the kind of aural capabilities that solfège nurtures invaluable.

Of course the limitation of a scale-based method is that it doesn’t translate well to music not based on the major and minor scales. But it should be understood and approached as a way of developing innate musical ability, and not as a comprehensive theoretical system - and that’s precisely why it should be treated as a foundational method.

And besides, beginners are unlikely to encounter much music that isn’t based on the major and minor scales. Unless you’re planning on diving right in with some Schönberg

Instrumental teaching
 

The interplay between learning sheet music in isolation and learning sheet music while learning to play an instrument has been alluded to a few times already. Let’s turn to what you might want to consider if the latter is more applicable to you. 

As this article is about sheet music first and foremost, we’ll consider specifically the implications of learning sheet music while learning an instrument, as opposed to the technical aspects of playing. Moreover, it is of course possible to learn to play without consulting notation at all. But, again, if you subscribed to that school, then you wouldn’t be reading these words.

Even if you are of the learning-notation-through-playing persuasion, it’s still important to give your students the kind of foundational sheet-music awareness offered above, which - as we’ve explained - is most usefully carried out with the help of an instrument. Music is an aural phenomenon after all, and it doesn’t do any good to restrict it to pure theory.  

Your task, then, is to teach your students how the instructions on the page correspond to physical motions on their instrument. Having established that foundation, it is normal for the student to progress towards fluency in reading sheet music as they learn to play pieces on their instrument. Effectively, this will translate to learning to read music.  

Nonetheless, your student will reap rewards if you maintain some distinction between sheet-music tuition and instrumental learning. This way, your students will engage with each practice systematically, and will develop a comprehensive ability in both areas.

Some educators disagree with that claim, advocating integration of the two. Broadly speaking, they argue that practical performance stimulates a more intuitive understanding of sheet music. The notes on the page trigger physical actions that compound the consumption of information, and facilitate quicker progress and greater ability overall.  

But even in this instance, if you’re not planning to provide dedicated sheet-music tuition, you’re still advised to encourage students to spend time with theory specifically. This will add a cerebral dimension to their instinctive grasp of sheet music that will consolidate their ability and broaden their skill set. Without this, their musical competence may be partially limited by their instrumental practice.

Materials and repertoire
 

Of equal importance to sheet-music fluency as well as to technical proficiency is effective use of educational materials, and appropriate assignment of repertoire. There is a wide world of didactic texts and compositions available to you and your students, which can accelerate their progress and make life as a teacher easier. 

So alongside the obvious necessity of teaching your students material that they can read, play and understand, you should exploit playbooks and methods that have been carefully curated and organised according to the needs of learner musicians. Most of these effect the incremental philosophy that’s so crucial to reliable and observable development.  

As boring as they seem for many students, scales and arpeggios offer a direct route to technical prowess and theoretical understanding. A student that can play any scale on demand will automatically have a thorough instinctive, if not conscious appreciation for the mechanics of music. 

Educational compositions in particular are a goldmine - exercises, studies and so on. These weren’t written mindlessly. The likes of Carl Czerny, Paul Harris, Cohen and Kodály knew their stuff, and they crafted their educational material with meticulous care founded on years of experience and research. 

They were (are in Harris’ case) fully aware of the motions, patterns and techniques that players need to familiarise themselves with in order to succeed, and they created - just as you will - expansive teaching courses guiding musicians through these challenges at the right pace and in the right order. 

A student’s ability to read and interact with sheet music will progress more quickly and stably with the help of these systematically graded pieces, rather than by facing the particular technical challenges in the random order in which they appear in a given piece of music. If the aim is fluency in reading or proficiency in sight-reading, this is absolutely the way to pursue it.

In order to put into practice that multi-pronged approach to music education, divide time and focus. Spend some time working through specific works and exercises, some time on analysis, and some time trying to relate small-scale lessons to bigger-picture theoretical concepts. Set some sight-reading tasks, ask your students to identify standard and recurring musical patterns - diversification of approaches yields a rounded musical ability. 

One thing that helps immeasurably, that too few teachers practise, is score-reading. Even if your students are instrumental learners primarily, send them home with chamber-music or orchestral scores and encourage them to read along while listening to recordings. This goes such a long way to nourishing reading ability. 

Ask them to write little pieces as well. Once again, it’s extraordinary how composition can help to entrench knowledge of notation. To reuse the language analogy, when students study languages, they practise reading, writing, listening and speaking. It follows that by covering as many equivalent musical bases as possible, you can make optimal progress towards fluency. 

Methods
 

In this final section, we’ll look with greater focus at teaching methods specifically. These really come into their own only in the advanced stages of learning, when a student has an understanding of the fundamentals of notation, and is looking to interact with sheet music with greater efficiency. 

First, however, a few words on suitable methods for teaching children and adults, which may have repercussions for how you handle your teaching.

Children versus adults
 

There’s a good deal of overlap between teaching children and teaching adults. You’re basically teaching the same concepts and skills. In many cases you’ll be helping them to achieve similar overall goals. And the essential teacher-student dynamic applies in both settings. 

But there are some subtle - and not so subtle - differences that you should bear in mind if you’re going to optimise your teaching one way and/or the other.

Most significantly, children offer energy, eager minds and a blank canvas. If you’re able to capture their imagination, then you can teach them untold amounts, fostering a rich and fertile appreciation of and passion for music that could transform their lives. You can see them progress from total beginners to budding musicians, and it can be enormously fun.

But capturing their imagination is easier said than done. That’s why it’s important to think outside the box when it comes to teaching methods. You’ll have to come up with games and exercises, take their potentially very different musical experiences and interests into account, and sometimes expand your own conception of music to communicate complex ideas. 

Often this kind of teaching takes place in a collective environment, too. In this situation, it’s harder to focus on the needs of every pupil, as well as personalise the course, content, structure and approach. Connecting with and inspiring all your students at once is hard to do, so you’ll have to work hard to present music in a way that enables you to do that. 

Teaching adults, on the other hand, eases a lot of these difficulties - while presenting a whole new range of challenges. It’s far simpler to communicate information in a straightforward manner with older students, and it’s easier for them in turn to share their learning aims and preferences, their knowledge and understanding.  

Adults are more set in their ways, though. Not just regarding the way they might learn, interact and practise, but also in terms of their pre-existing grasp of music. Sometimes you will have to work harder to persuade them to relinquish a way of handling concepts that is hindering their engagement with notation and theory. 

In both cases, a very particular attitude to independent learning is necessary. Proactive participation in the process is always paramount, but while the emphasis on children will usually be on encouraging it, with adults it’ll be on exploiting it.

Children should be inspired to practise through the careful selection of material that they will both enjoy playing and benefit from. But adults, who will most likely have come to you in order to learn, will be keen to do what they can in their own time. So set them plenty of reading, listening and practice that will boost their progress. Homework shouldn’t be a thing of the past.

Practice
 

On the topic of practice, let’s consider some specific approaches that will enable your students to make the most of their time away from the classroom. 

As we’ve said, educational material such as exercises and studies is an absolute must. While learning fully fledged pieces of music is hugely important - not least because it’s often the overall learning aim - the emphasis it traditionally receives is to some extent misplaced, especially when the focus is on reading sheet music. 

These pieces effectively present a series of technical challenges. By hurdling these obstacles, the player has learned how to deal with that particular series. Their ability will have improved, but that improvement will lack the direction and purpose that stems from learning educational pieces designed to teach core shapes and gestures, and hone specific technical facets of performance. 

As in your lessons, prompt students to diversify their practice, encompassing warmups, score-reading, sight-reading, fragments of pieces, and pieces in their entirety. Get them to practise consciously, so that they can figure out what works and what doesn’t work for them, focusing on the former and avoiding the latter.

Encourage them to make annotations on their practice material, whenever, wherever and however. We all learn in unique ways and the completely free rein that annotations afford us allows us to customise the process in the way that suits best.    

But ultimately it all depends on the learning aims - really bear these in mind when you’re discussing practice with your students, and track and celebrate progress towards them. 

The blog article on sheet music practice explores this area in greater detail.

Fluency
 

Your students will get to a point when they simply want to be able to read music more quickly. They might just want to consume the information as efficiently as possible, or they might be looking to enhance their sight-reading skills in particular. 

So much of what we’ve discussed already will push them towards these goals. Extended exposure to sheet music is the one guaranteed way to make this happen. Focusing on technical exercises, memorising the key signatures, scales and arpeggios, reading multiple staves at once on an orchestral score - all of this contributes to that goal.

Ultimately, the more material they familiarise themselves with, the more recurring patterns will become instantly recognisable. 

Turning to sight-reading in particular, all of the above still applies, but of course it’s crucial to work on this skill with some focus. Each time you set them practice assignments, give them one to read at first sight. Remember that the most complex work they can play will be much harder than one they can sight-read successfully.

The more they do this, the better they will get. It is something that exists apart from their technical ability, so like anything else, it requires dedicated practice. 

There are a few alternative methods to gleaning musical information quickly that many players and educators swear by: the landmark method, interval recognition and pattern recognition. These approaches are covered in detail in the blog article piano notes 101, and other tips are discussed in how to read music faster and improve sight-reading.

Incidentally, if piano-playing is part of your teaching, then you might also be interested in the 101 guides to piano chords and piano keys.

Memorisation
 

Finally, memorisation is something that many musicians look to hone, and that just as many educators wonder how to teach. Like sight-reading, it is an ability in and of itself. As such, it requires committed practice, and there’s a variety of things that you can try in order to help your students to better absorb the instructions they see on the page.

Breaking a piece of music down into segments and learning each of them one by one is a really effective technique. It allows the player to not only memorise each part of a work, but also fully draw the musicality out of each section, making for a high-quality rendition as well as a memorised one. 

Another is to work through the sections backwards. It seems counterintuitive, but it stimulates a more holistic understanding of the pieces, and it has the added bonus of introducing each run-through with the new material, as opposed to finishing with it, when fatigue may have started to set in. 

Visualisation is precious in this context. People that can remember superhuman amounts of information do it because they’ve developed extraordinary visualising techniques. From trying to take a mental photograph to hammering out an elaborate memory scheme, anything that helps your student’s recall in general will bring them closer to this musical goal.  

Each of these techniques - and seven more in fact - is explored in the article on how to memorise music, which is essential reading if you want to teach students how to achieve success in memorising music.

Your next steps for music education
 

That was a lot to get through. Hopefully there was something there that will help you to grow as a teacher, and help your students to grow as musicians. 

As the links dotted throughout this article demonstrate, there’s plenty more material here on the blog on the subject of music education. There’s a series of ‘how to read sheet music’ articles for a range of instruments - piano, guitar, bass, violin, flute, and drums - which, while aimed more at learners than teachers, still demonstrate how to put this theory into practice.

There are also some pieces on writing piano and guitar sheet music, as well as a load of content for a range of instruments that’s suitable for beginner players. Of course it can all be found on the nkoda app itself, where there’s more material than most teachers could ever need. 

And lastly, whatever kind of music teacher you are, that music theory cheat sheet will definitely come in handy. Print it out, give it to your students, let it be the first piece of music paraphernalia in your dedicated teaching environment.

To you and your students, all the best. Every one of you deserves it. 

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