How do musicians read out sheet music (music notes) ?

Super stupid question maybe....

When professional musicians read out a sheet music, or memorizing them while playing piano (say), do they read "do re mi fa so ......"? I mean reading out loud.


Or do they read out loud like "C D E F G A B" ?

Update 2:

Ok to clarify, I mean, for example, when you read or recite English text in your mind, you somehow "pronounce" the words in your mind even though you are not reading out loud with your mouth. My question is what about music? How do you memorize or "pronounce" it, whether in your mind or from your mouth? In order to produce the music sound, you need a "carrier words" to produce the different notes, so what are those "carrier words"?

Update 3:

Thanks all. I just found out some words I should have mentioned: "Kepatihan notation." I started learning to play songs on an electrical keyboard reading Kepatihan notation and correspond between 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 to do re mi fa sol la si. When I press a key on the keyboard, I think of whether it's do, or re, or mi.... From your answers, it seems it's a bad way to start learning music. Should have started directly from the Western 5-line musical notes.

8 Answers

  • Anonymous
    3 months ago
    Favorite Answer

    'read out' is not the clearest term to use here, not entirely sure what you mean.

    Kids who are learning have to spell out and say words.

    The.. cat... is... black.

    But you and I are capable of reading this without saying it aloud, we're that familiar with it.

    Same for music. In the beginning you may have to work it out (and saying it is one way to help), but professional musicians are to the point where they can just sight read music the same way you can just naturally read without needing to sound anything aloud to understand it. 


    In general (not specific to piano)

    Some people use solfege as a tool. Some people use do minor and some use la minor solfege. Some use #'s to represent all 11 chromatic notes. (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 t e). Some use letter names only. Some use hand signs that correlate to solfege. 

    If they are very strongly familiar with what they learned (the major scale), then they can audiate (think the pitch without making a sound), not having a need to read it aloud. 

    For memorization, it often becomes a process of analyzing the music, finding the patterns, phrases, etc. in them, and dividing up the music into segements. You practice a segment long enough that you have it memorized, you work on the next section, then combine both. Then add another, combine all three, so on and so forth. Everyone's strategies vary (some people practice the entire piece through beginning to end, never starting in the middle anywhere). 

    Pianists I would assume are more likely to read letters when just playing a pitch. Solfege is really helpful for understanding the function of a note in the context of a major scale, and its relation to other scale degrees via intervals, but if you're at a piano, you only need to read the music to play the corresponding key. 

    IF you are transposing on the piano (basically shifting an entire song up/down), then it becomes useful to know what the solfege is.

    If you look at a C, and you know its solfege is 'Do' in the music, then you need to only think what is 'Do' when you're in D Major. (D), and you've just transposed that note using solfege to help you. 


    The other thing is that they are also trying to consider

    the duration, volume, articulation, function, context and volume of the note all at once along with the letter name. Solfege 'do' does not help with most of that. 

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  • 6 days ago

    String musician here. I personally don’t use “Do Re Mi...” I read the notes as A B C D and once I memorize the notes for the clef I’m learning I usually don’t say the note. I memorize the fingering of the note. For example, if the note is below a staff I know I’ll have to play on my lowest string and wtv note is showing I’ll know which finger to put down for it

    • cmm6 days agoReport

      Thank you for sharing. That's what I wanted to know. I thought "A B C D" are not "singable" and it's interesting to know some actually do read them out in pitches :)

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  • Anonymous
    1 week ago

    If you practice reading notes 40 hours a day, it will subconsciously get better, almost like speed-reading. 

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  • D50
    Lv 6
    3 months ago

    Just like when you're learning to read, you might have to "sound out" words, beginning musicians might have to calculate which note they want. Once they have some experience, though, it is unconscious. You see the note on the staff, you know what it sounds like, how to achieve it on your own instrument, etc. Even if you don't have perfect pitch. 

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  • Gregg
    Lv 6
    3 months ago

    In grade school (yes), they taught us that F-A-C-E represents the " dos" in these keys starting with the space below the first (bottom) line of the staff...that EGDF denotes the "dos" beginning with the bottom line.

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  • 3 months ago

    When you are learning - either as a beginner, or when tackling something REALLY complex - you might stop and say things aloud; singer might use solfege instead of letter names, instrumentalists might double-check that in the 4--inch long measure of 32nd notes in an Ibert solo, you got ALL of the double sharps and flats (I am not making that up -  there is dreadfully notated stuff out there . . ).  Bit for conventional playing, at the level that you can accomplish, you CEASE reading things by letter or interval place/solfege - and you just proceed.  When you first learned to read printed words, you read them aloud - then you learned to read silently;  You STOPPED *hearing the words in your head* - you just read on thru.  ANY complicated activity progresses the same way. ( We have been watching old sports specials - and Michael Jordan is clearly NOT THINKING ABOUT IT anymore, when he is open for a long 3, and sees he can drain it.  He is looking at the defense - heck,m he barely needs to know where the hoop is, and he CERTAINLY does not need to look at the floor to make sure he is outside the 3 line. The various contributing parts of your brain and body just do what you have trained them to do.)  BUT when you are learning, you need to obviate - make obvious - all the things you are doing, so you do them aloud, so your eyes/brain/hands/embouchure/whatever can learn to do the automatically.  I wrote my Masters thesis in the learning and teaching of sight-reading.  Firs t- separate out the RHYTHM, tap you foot, and clap/talk you way thru.  Use a metronome - the little thing we love to hate because it is NEVER WRONG.  Yes, there are all kinds of sites, program,s etc. - but nothing substitute for YOU doing the work yourself, using you eyes, voice, foot, hands.  Then separately address pitch.  you MUST learn to instantaneously read printed music - unless you want to stay a hobbyist/amateur and slobber your way thru with TAB, etc.  Guitarist also learn to read form chord symbols -so do pop/jazz pianists, etc. - but that actually take a pile of theory knowledge - again, no short cuts to learning, especially when music has been NOTATED in shortcuts.  Again - methods, sites, etc, abound  - but even using an old hymnal for pitch learning, works really well.    So - start with the simple and the obvious, aloud, until it is as easy as reading words in text.  Learn to sing the pitches by interval, or by solfege - work you way thru.  Separately, get you RHYTHM reading accurate, and stead, with a metronome (get an app).  Start putting them together. THEN pick up your instrument - which we assume you have workable technique on - and see if you can smoothly, slowly, accurately read thru simple lines.  If you listen to George Winston play guitar, he often is singing along in even the fastest IMPROVISED passages be plays.  Some people think that it is amazing that he knows what he is going to sing, as if he was copying the guitar - no, it is all in his head FIRST, and just comes out of his hands and his mouth at the same time.  Like Michael Jordan,s hands and feet . . .  BTW - go watch "Standing in the Shadow of Motown".  You will learn a lot of insight about HOW jazz, funk, MoTown, and other styles of music are put together - and where ideas come from.  This is about The Funk Brothers - you NEED TO KNOW who they were.  Then watch "Blood, Frets, and Tears" - about guitar gods.  Singers"  "Twenty Feet from Stardom".  Wanna learn to improvise ?  It's a big world, and amid all the GARBAGE out there, there are real sources that appeal to Day One beginners AND 50-year veteran pros.  Good luck - find a great teacher - work hard - be patient with yourself.

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  • 3 months ago

    I don't read them out loud.  When I was taking lessons, I counted the beats out loud.  When you get into more challenging music, it is impossible to say all the notes as you play them, or even to think all of them.  I never think anything like "do, re, mi."  Most people learn to recognize groups of notes as you would letters in a word.  A qualified teacher would help you with this.

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  • Anonymous
    3 months ago

    They wouldn't read it out loud unless they were referring to a particular section, like, “in the third bar where it goes G E G F”. And that would only work if there was only single notes being played - you couldn't “read aloud” a piece of typical piano music at all.

    Edit, so you don't mean “read out loud” (which is what you said)? It sounds like you mean what do they think when they see notes written down? I'm a poor reader now but if I'm reading something simple for guitar (which is the instrument I'm most familiar with) I don't really say or think the note in my mind. I just see the note and play it; it's automatic. If I was trying to play something on mandolin then I would think something like, “I've just played that D and now I need a G that's higher” and then I'd figure out where the “G” was on the mandolin. It's still a sort of unconscious process though, just slower.

    I'd never think in terms of do re me etc. because they aren't notes on an instrument - you know, if someone said, with no context, “Where is do on guitar” it would be impossible to answer.

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