Steps and skips in music reading seems to be stressed more on the piano than with any other instrument. With this being said, I still feel it is useful for everyone to know and understand regardless of what instrument you play. Singers will find these tools helpful too.
Steps are usually referring to the white keys on the piano or the seven letters of the musical alphabet: A-B-C-D-E-F-G. A step is starting on one key or letter of the alphabet and then moving to the very next key or letter.
Think of the key you are starting on as the house you live in. Now, you are going to go to your neighbor’s house immediately next door…not across the street or two houses down…immediately next door. That is similar to a step in music.
Steps can also move up or down. For example, C to D is moving up a step. F to E is moving down a step. Remember, that if you are going up, the pitch is getting higher while moving to the right on the piano. By moving down, the pitch is getting lower and you are moving to the left.
On the music staff, a step is moving from a line note to the very next immediate space note. It can also be starting on a space note and moving to the very next line note. You cannot fit any other notes in between.
A skip is doing exactly what the word says to do. You are going to skip or hop over something.
On the piano, you are skipping a key. In the musical alphabet, you are skipping over a letter. On the music staff, you are skipping over a line or a space.
In your neighborhood, it is like going to your neighbor’s house only two houses down. You are going to skip over the house immediately next to you and go to the next house down.
In music, an example of a skip is moving from C to E. You are skipping over the note D. Another example is moving from A to F. The note G is skipped.
Take a look at the skips on the piano…
Skips can also move up (higher) or down (lower). Moving from C to E is an example of a skip going up. A to F is an example of a skip moving down.
On the music staff, a skip moves from a line note to another line note or a space note to another space note. You are skipping over a note that can be placed in between the two notes on a line or space.
Take the time to see steps and skips on both the piano and the music staff. They look different in both places. This is more difficult to see and understand on other instruments. Try singing them out loud also. You will “feel” the difference in your voice as well.
Why is Knowing This Helpful?
Being able to see steps and skips on the music staff will give you a wonderful short-cut to reading music. Even if you don’t know how to read each note on the staff extremely well, you will still do just fine following the pattern of steps and skips.
Let’s say you do know how to read all the notes well. There may be a time when you feel this nifty tool could be helpful in saving you time and energy while reading music.
Treat this learning as another tool to keep in your tool belt for use at any time. It never hurts to have as many tools as possible!