Many new piano students adopt crutches that boost them along very quickly for the first few weeks. But once the student has reached a certain point, these crutches hinder any progress. Note naming can be one of these. Since everyone is familiar with the alphabet, memorizing which keys on the piano correspond to which letter is fairly easy. And for beginner pieces, this works well. CCGGAAG (Twinkle) is easier for a person to read than some arbitrary symbols they’ve only recently been introduced to. But in the work below, someone took this to an extreme that is helpful to no one. Each of the notes in the picture indicates how long it should be held and exactly where on the piano it should be played. Letters convey a fraction of that information.

Music score covered in extraneous markings
Photo credit to Michelle Lifschitz

Anyone who has taken even one piano lesson knows that all the fingers have a specific number. The first song in most method books will tell the student to place his hands in one spot on the piano and stay there for the duration of the piece. In situations like this, each finger corresponds to a specific note because the hands do not move around. This works right up until the songs become advanced enough to require hands that move around the piano. All of a sudden, the finger-number-method no longer works, and the student is unable to read the real notes because he has been ignoring them for the last several weeks by only observing the finger numbers.

Another hurdle that all students must pass is identifying keys on the piano. The easiest way to do this is learn one key (Usually an A or a C) and work your way through the alphabet until you reach whatever note you are trying to identify. This is also the slowest way. There are only 7 keys that need to be learned. The speed and comfort of playing the piano will increase exponentially by taking the time to memorize each key individually. If a student has to stop and count her way to each new note, the song becomes so crawlingly slow that it is no longer recognizable.

Do yourselves a favor and avoid these three crutches. Most method books and teachers will take you step by step until you are reading fluently, but if you “cheat” by using any of these crutches, you will suddenly find yourself with complex music and no idea how to play it.