reading is a very important skill to develop once students have facility in both hands on their instrument. I feel it should not be delayed as long as some teachers wait due to the fact that students become dependent upon sounding songs out to their own detriment as players. The following is my own reading sequence I have developed for teaching pitch reading. My sequence for developing rhythm reading is separate for pitch reading.

  1. Penny Charts – I use a penny chart with the clef, five lines and two leger lines above and below the staff. Students learn the name of the clef and count the five lines and four spaces from bottom to top. They name the staff. Leger lines are explained later. On the second lesson of the staff students learn where open strings D and A are placed on the staff. On a third lesson, they learn how you alternate lines as spaces as you go up the musical alphabet. On a fourth lesson, students are able to tell the letters of the D Major Scale on the penny chart. If I am feeling adventuresome, I have students move the penny around to Lightly Row or Twinke or D Major Thirds. On future lessons, they learn where G and E strings are on the staff (G and C for viola and cello).
  2. I Can Read Music – After a few lessons with the Penny Charts, I move to the book “I Can Read Music” by Joanne Martin. The series separates pitch reading from rhythm reading. I use the left sides from the beginning and try to go all the way through the book with each student. It becomes time consuming to do all of the exercises if students are doing a good job, but it is still important.
  3. Essential Elements 2000 – This book hits all of the bases of music reading. It covers most basic music symbols and terms including pizzicato, arco, ties, slurs, hooked bows, DC al Fine, dynamics and tempo markings. I use this book just in case there is something I have forgotten.
  4. Christmas Kaleidoscope – For any student who is becoming fluent at reading music, getting this book as a Christmas gift jump starts them to reading more quickly. Parents will be in awe of how well their children are reading at the end of the holiday season.
  5. Beautiful Music for Two String Instruments – Once students have a basic understanding, these duets give them an opportunity to read short pieces in both melody and harmony parts. The bass lines are very good for beginning cellos.
  6. Wohlffart Foundation Studies (violin or viola) – These etudes reinforce reading skills. It is impossible to get through this book and have difficulty reading by the end of it.