It’s okay for your child to look at their hands sometimes. They need to position their hands before they start to play, and it's helpful to look before making a big leap. However, if your child memorizes their music so they can look at their hands the whole time, they are missing out on developing a valuable skill. If they commit to learning to play while not looking at their hands, they will learn new music quickly and someday be able to play music competently the first time they read it.
Chances are, you're child doesn’t look at the music because the notes and rhythms don't mean anything to them. There’s just no reason to look.
When your child is learning a new skill, you want them to break things into manageable parts and learn them step-by-step. The skills required to play the piano without looking include:
a) Note Name Identification
b) Rhythm Identification
c) Familiarity with the Keyboard
d) Confidence to Play Without Looking
The first thing you can do is start drilling note names. Spend a little time every day until every note is identified correctly and quickly. Start with treble clef notes (Middle C, D, E, F, and G). Next week add bass clef notes (C, D, E, F, and G) and continue to drill the treble clef notes. The goal is to gain confidence with a few notes and build.
At 3-4 weeks add rhythmic values, limited to the following list. For the young player this short list will go a long way toward achieving their goal.
Whole Note (4 Beats)
Dotted Half Note (3 Beats)
Half Note (2 Beats)
Quarter Note (1 Beat)
When practicing the piano, ask your child to say the following phrases for the longer rhythms and the note names for the quarter notes:
Whole Note - "Hold That Whole Note"
Dotted Half Note - "Dot-ted Half"
Half Note - "Half Note"
By adding this strategy to the practice routine, they'll be identifying note and rhythmic values every time they practice, and playing rhythms for the correct number of beats far more often. In our experience the transformation is dramatic.
Flash cards and worksheets can get you half way. The next step is applying what they've learned. The best place to start is with easy pieces. This might mean going all the way back to their primer level pieces. These pieces often place the students hand in one position for the entire piece. This means there's no guesswork. Whatever key they're asked to play will always be under one of their fingers. Some kids might not like this idea, but it's worth doing. Just let them know that these are sight-reading pieces, and that they’ll still be working on music at their level.
Try one or two primer level pieces each week along with a piece they'd enjoy learning. Let them know that they should only spend a few minutes with each sight-reading piece one or two days that week. Also try holding a piece of paper over their hands as they play. It will help them grow confidence in their ability to play without looking. It won’t be immediate, but with a consistent effort they'll get there.
With continued effort they'll soon have the confidence to play their regular lesson pieces without looking - and learn them in record time!
Color That Note - Treble Clef/C Position
Color That Note - Bass Clef/C Position
Ready, Set, Go! Note Name Speed Test I
Ready, Set, Go! Note Name Speed Test II
M&M Note Name Challenge Worksheet
Piano Sheet Music
Free Piano Sheet Music (Beginner and Easy)