Reading Music Lesson Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Educate your students about how to read music with this lesson plan. They will review a text lesson, take a related follow-up quiz that will test their comprehension, and participate in activities to reinforce concepts.

Learning Objectives

After studying this lesson your students will be able to:

  • Distinguish between four types of musical notes
  • Explain the difference between the four notes
  • State how sheet music is properly structured


1-1.5 Hours


Key Vocabulary

  • Barline
  • Counts
  • Crotchet
  • Minim
  • Quaver
  • Semibreve
  • Sheet music
  • Time signature

Curriculum Standards


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).


  • Inform your students they are going to be learning about how to read music.
  • Ask them if anyone knows how to read sheet music.
  • Review the eight key vocabulary terms.
  • Pass out copies of the text lesson Reading Music Notes: Symbols & Names.
  • Read the introduction and the first section 'Background.'
    • To begin reading music, what two things must you know on the sheet music?
    • What are the names of four types of notes you will encounter?
  • Next read the section 'Understanding the Structure of Sheet Music.'
    • What two types of lines does a barline contain?
    • How are the counts in each bar determined?
    • What do the top and bottom numbers in a time signature indicate?
  • Now read the section 'Musical Note Architecture.'
    • What are the three components of a musical note?
    • Does the direction of the stem matter? How?
    • Which is longer, a note with or without a flag?
  • Next read the section 'Semibreve.'
    • What is a semibreve?
    • For how long is the note held?
    • What does it look like?
  • Now read the section 'Minim.'
    • What is a minim?
    • How long is it compared to a semibreve?
    • What does this symbol look like?
  • Next read the section 'Crotchet.'
    • What is a crotchet?
    • For how long is this note played?
    • What does this note look like?
  • Now read the section 'Quaver.'
    • What is a quaver?
    • For how long is a quaver played?
    • How can you identify this note?
  • Finally, read the section 'Lesson Summary.'
  • Recap the lesson.
  • Answer any questions.
  • Have your students take the lesson quiz.


  • Let your students know they will be participating in a 'Matching' sort of competition for a small prize involving terms related to sheet music.
  • Divide your students up into pairs.
  • Pass out two preprinted worksheets, one with the following 16 terms, and one with the 16 corresponding correct definitions, but in mixed order.

1) Semibreve - whole note

2) Minim - half note

3) Crotchet - quarter note

4) Quaver - eighth note

5) Sheet music - printed music, not music that is recorded

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