Stickers for Reading Music

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I devised stickers for reading music because I was tired of seeing kids guessing where the notes were. I wanted a system based on exactly what they could see, not a group of unseen and unstated rules.

The old method involves two bits of memorization:

  • The child memorizes the names of the notes as they appear on the page.
  • The child then memorizes the name of each key on the piano, and correlates the two, the name of the note, and the name of the key.

This is all well and good, but kids are not always good at memorization. And if they can’t remember the names of the notes, they have great difficulty remembering the names of the keys.

Thus what is needed is a system based solely on what the child can see on the page and on the keys.

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On the keys, we place six stickers, five blue and one red:

I Can Read Music Stickers
The five blue stickers are the five lines of the musical staff

The five blue stickers denote the location of the five lines of the staff (see below.) The red sticker shows the location of Middle C.

Five lines related to the piano keys

By giving kids a reference point (the stickers) we allow them to develop visual habits and associations more quickly.

The first habit to instill is the ability to find Middle C. It is the center of the reading music universe.

Middle C

This is Middle C (denoted by the RED sticker) and is the first note that kids learn at the piano.

Look through some pages of music in, for example, a book such as I CAN READ MUSIC, and help the child identify the graphic symbol for the note Middle C (the symbol directly above this, the circle with the little line through it.) Look below for a page with lots of Middle C’s to find:

Page with lots of Middle Cs.
Find the Middle C’s on this page

Make a game of it, saying “Who can point to Middle C on the page first?” and then let them win every time after a few tries. Go through page after page, making a game of finding Middle C on the page.

Piano Is Easy Book By Mail

Every piano method is the same: they concentrate on the first five notes above Middle C. This requires a little exploration by kids.

Ask them questions about the staff (the five lines) constantly:

Notes on lines and spaces

  • Ask them how many lines are there?
  • Ask them how many spaces are there?
  • Ask them to point to a space.
  • Ask them to point to a line.

They haven’t even tried yet to learn the names of the notes. They are occupied enough with the task of building visual habits, of really looking at the page.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

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Start With Numbers, Then Read Music

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Start with numbers, then read music.

If you really want your child to play the piano, you need to find some way of making the beginning enjoyable. If the child is immediately challenged by too much, they may just decide the piano is not for them.

The time honored method is to immediately have the child attempt to read music. This method has a 90% failure rate.

That’s right, 90% of the kids going to that hypothetical piano teacher down the block will quit, many within a month or two.

This is really a very foolish system: teachers lose students, and kids get turned off to piano.

I used to teach this way, and I knew there had to be a better way. I wanted kids to feel the same enthusiasm I felt when I was their age. (The difference is that I was a prodigy who could read music instantly, and consequently had a diet of interesting music.)

I hit upon the idea of numbers instead of notes. I wrote out a page, I think it was Star Wars, and showed it to a little kid who went crazy because he could play Star Wars, his favorite song.

We soon found another dozen songs he could easily play and enjoy, with never a reference to musical notation.

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Think about how a child’s mind works. Before your child could read, you read to them. Then you taught them their letters, then they learned words.

The point is you didn’t put Hemingway’s THE SUN ALSO RISES in front of them and say, “Start reading, kid.”

Numbers in music performs the same function as games like THIS LITTLE PIGGY, reciting the alphabet with your toddler, counting as high as they can go: it prepares kids for more complex activities by bringing things down to their level.

In piano lessons, this logical nurturing step is totally forgotten, and even derided as “too soft.”

Remember your child’s face when they had just learned the alphabet, and you showed them a page of words, and they were confused? They understood letters, not words, not sentences, not syntax.

Piano lessons make that same mistake: too much, too soon.

When your child asked for a bedtime story, did you toss them a book and say, “Read it yourself?”

Piano Is Easy Book By Mail

Think of how you nurtured your child into reading. You read them books when they didn’t know what a letter was, just to get them excited about stories.

Then you taught them letters and numbers. Then you taught them how to put the letters together into words, then the words together into a sentence. It was a long time before your child could read more than “Jack sees the cat.”

The point is, reading was regarded as a long process, and the child was allowed time to absorb each step of the path to reading by themselves.

They were allowed to take baby steps toward reading.

It’s only logical to do the same with the piano.

Copyright 2012 Walden Pond Press

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Helping Children Read Music

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If helping your child read music and enjoy the piano is the goal, think carefully about the piano book you start with, and choosing the right piano teacher.

Do you remember your childhood piano lessons, with all those uninteresting exercises?

Exercises comprise the entire curriculum of famous book methods, such as Bastien, John Thompson, Alfred, and all the others.

Go look in your piano bench where you keep all the piano books from your childhood.

We use all these books, but only after we have sparked a child’s enthusiasm by getting them to play songs that are familiar to them, right away, from the first second of their first lesson.

The only real use I have for these old texts is to teach kids how to sight read. The music is so boring that it is laughable to both of us. But we keep reading, a little bit at a time.

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We use the Piano By Number format before we ever attempt to introduce children to the daunting complexities of reading sheet music. Piano lessons have to get off to a fun, quick start, or half the battle is already lost.

The truth is that Piano By Number seeks only one thing: to get your children started playing piano, to get started being happy playing music, to get started being happy understanding music, rather than being mystified and frustrated by sheet music in their first piano lessons


The vast majority of our supporters are parents who have actually tried our method.

They are wildly enthusiastic, because Piano By Number yields immediate results. Their lucky children love the piano, want to play music, and once they have started Piano By Number, are ready to brave the difficulties of learning how to read sheet music. Starting Piano By Number assures a higher success rate with piano lessons later.

And these children succeed, unlike the unlucky children who have to start out with a method that uses only sheet music in their piano lessons

We don’t want to eliminate sheet music. We just want children to get started playing piano with enthusiasm, and then begin the long process of becoming musically literate, using sheet music.

Piano By Number


There has to be a better way to introduce children to the piano than the conventional methods used in piano lessons.

By the industry’s own statistics, conventional piano teaching has a failure rate of almost 90%!

Do you know any method for anything that has a 90% failure rate and still calls itself a success?

And there is a better way to start children at the piano: get your child started right away with a simple method that yields immediate results, and builds immediate enthusiasm.

Piano By Number is temporary method, a starting platform that establishes a positive relationship between the child and the grandest of all instruments.


Conventional piano methods make most children resentful, frustrated and turned off to the instrument, for one simple reason: conventional methods do not let children make music right away. Instead, piano lessons done in the conventional manner take on the character of a dull lecture, poisoning the atmosphere for learning.

Conventional methods frustrate children, and make them feel like failures because the methods utilize only sheet music. That’s all the piano lessons are: reading music.

Put most simply, conventional piano methods ignore the psychology of children.,


Conventional piano methods are like teaching first graders algebra!

Of course children hate it! It is incomprehensible!

Children need to start with 2 plus 2 equals 4, and then move slowly towards the complexities of sheet music and algebra.

Piano By Number is exactly like 2 plus 2 equals 4: it is baby simple, and children understand it from the first second they see it. Later, they move on to more complex languages.


Piano By Number is much like phonics for reading.

Let’s look at the history of phonics.

Before there was phonics for reading, which came into popularity in the 50’s and 60’s, there was a reading method called SCOTT FORESMAN, a system in which children were required to memorize the shape of letters, rather than the sound.

SCOTT FORESMAN was most famous for the fact that a majority of children were failing to learn to read using this absurd system, which all the schools in America used.

Then a few pioneers, parents and educators, including my parents, developed phonics, a logical system in which children were taught that each letter had a sound, and suddenly children understood how to read, because the system was logical, simple and allowed them to get started without failure.

Piano By Number is exactly the same as phonics.

How can you argue with a method that children universally embrace with unlimited enthusiasm? How can you argue with a method that breeds an immediate passion for a musical instrument?

The conventional method of reading English, SCOTT FORESMAN, demanded that children decipher visual symbols (letters) much like conventional piano methods that demand that children immediately start deciphering the symbols (notes) of sheet music.

Phonics is a way of demystifying those symbols (letters) establishing the logic behind the symbols, in exactly the same way that piano by number demystifies the piano, and allows the child to see the logic of the piano by using numbers at first, instead of starting out with the incomprehensible symbolism of sheet music.

It’s very easy to get a child to understand the symbols of sheet music when they have already established a positive relationship with the instrument, immediately upon first sitting at it.


How does Piano By Number yield such amazing results? How does it make children enthusiastic about piano lessons when conventional methods make them frustrated?

The answer is that children understand numbers before they ever sit in front of a piano.

Numbers are a language that any child already understands. A kindergarten child understands counting, and already embraces it as a learning process that brings them success and praise from adults.

All that Piano By Number does is to temporarily substitute numbers for the difficult symbols of sheet music, at first, so that the child is allowed to play numerous familiar songs right away, demystifying the piano and making it a friend instead of an enemy.

Later, when the child feels comfortable with the geography of the piano, we reintroduce the symbols of sheet music, showing the child that there are different ways of telling them to play each piano key.

Children taught Piano By Number already know how to play each key as a number, so they readily understand the “new” language of sheet music when they are comfortable with the instrument.


The problem with sheet music methods is that they do not take into account the psychology of children: if you make a child feel like a failure at something, they are not going to be willing to keep trying to learn it. Piano lessons are no different.

Piano By Number allows children to succeed right away, to build enthusiasm and confidence, before they are beset with the difficulties of sheet music.

It makes children feel like winners, right away, most importantly, because it allows them to make music right away.

A child who can play even a simple familiar song with one finger at the piano is a far better candidate for subsequent piano study than one who has been made to feel a failure by a teacher unwilling to bend even a little to the psychology of children.

Children want to make music, and we should let them, before we demand that they study sheet music.

Children say “goo goo,” before “mama,” crawl before they walk, talk before they read.

Let them play music before they read music. Let them add 2 plus 2 before they attempt algebra.


It is as valuable an educational tool as phonics is for reading, and someday, all children will start out studying piano by number, and then move on to the conventional study of sheet music in their piano lessons.

Conventional piano teachers deny children this tool, entirely out of ignorance, and the result is a 90% failure rate for conventional piano methods.

If the method fails, the method is wrong.

Piano By Number has, in my daily experience, and the daily experience of the countless parents and teachers who have tried it, a higher than 90% success rate.


You have nothing to lose if you try piano by number, except perhaps the awful experience of your child saying to you, “I hate piano lessons. I want to quit.”

Give your children the gift of proper preparation for conventional piano lessons. Give them Piano By Number.

Let your children establish a positive relationship to this grandest of musical instruments at home, with you, before you go out and try piano lessons using the conventional methods.

If you do, you have a far greater chance of success at starting conventional piano lessons. In fact, you have a 90% chance of success with those conventional methods.

The benefits to you and your children are enormous, and life-long.

Copyright 2012 Walden Pond Press

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