Note Quest

Limited Time Only: Get 20% off all purchases in the Shop! (minimum $10 purchase). Promo code: Cybermonday20.

Tips for Building Note Reading Skills

Start with Landmark Notes. Start with the most famous one - Middle C, and then learn the others. Landmark Drills are already included in Note Quest. Sometimes, teachers prefer slightly different sets of Landmarks. If you play a different instrument, use Note Selector to create your own game sets that suit your instrument’s range.

Many of us learned to read notes using mnemonics like “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.” (EGBDF). Cute idea, but it ultimately delays your sight reading speed - although you might do well on your note spellers. When you use mnemonics, you’re adding an extra step to note recognition.

Once you can locate your few landmark notes quickly on demand, you’re ready to learn more notes. Always refer to your landmarks to locate other notes. For example, if you recognize Middle C, you can easily find D because it is an interval of a 2nd above Middle C.

Did I mention the word interval? This is the distance between the notes. Intervals are usually referred to as: 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, etc. Most flash cards out there only focus on one note. However, we’ve found that reading intervals at the beginning stage is important for sight reading fluency later.

Don’t spend too much time focusing on single note drills. This will hold you back from actually reading music faster. It’s like focusing time on individual letters of the alphabet (like “A” or “D”) instead of learning to read words phonetically or by sight words. Note Quest has a special focus on intervals.


  1. Practice often. Here, frequency matters. In order to do this, read fresh music every day. Note Quest makes it easy to practice daily because all the exercises are already pre-organized by level for you.
  2. Choose wisely. Find music excerpts that are a couple of levels easier than your actual ability. The more music you get to read, the better you’ll become. Key point: This is a separate skill than learning your assigned pieces across several weeks.
  3. Preview Rhythm/Meter first. Before you begin, check the time signature and get a feel for the rhythm or beats. The right notes at the wrong time will not get you very far. Common pitfall: Don’t forget rests. They count too (pun intended).
  4. Preview the key. Identify the key signature, imagine hand placement, and look for any repeated patterns. If you can, sing the tune in your head or out loud.
  5. Play S-L-O-W-L-Y first. This gives your brain a chance to grasp a lot of information on your first attempt, plus it increases your chance of accuracy. In the app, tap PLAY to activate the metronome clicks and adjust as needed. After a 1-measure count-in, the screen will flash on beat 1.
  6. Play Through Skill. The best sight readers are not perfectionists, but they know how to play through mistakes. It’s all mental. Keeping the tempo is crucial and it will take some time for you to get the skill of playing through mistakes. Again, use the PLAY button to encourage you to play through without stopping. Don’t give up.
  7. Play musically. This is icing on the cake, but the best cakes have icing. Remember, you are a human musician, not a robot. If possible, integrate dynamics and musical details. Put some love into it and your mistakes will seem smaller. 🙂

If you have other tips that have worked for you, let me know!