Dots and Beams

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Have you ever created a musical exercise, for yourself or for a student, that would have been much more effective if you could just find a few pages of a certain type of reading material? Perhaps you’re a drummer looking for pages of rhythms for developing your timing or coordination. Or maybe you’re a pianist looking for melodic reading material to play in your right hand to help develop coordination with a difficult ostinato or bass line. Perhaps you’re an experienced musician learning a second instrument; you may feel you would benefit from pages of random notes on a staff to help you become familiar with your new instrument. Or maybe you’d like to mix up your scale practice by playing your scales in unpredictable rhythms rather than the patterns you have been using for years. Maybe you’ve always played guitar by ear and have lately been wanting to learn to read music; you might want something graduated and systematic to read to help you learn the elements of musical notation but you don’t want to play nursery rhymes.


Dots and Beams was created to provide a wide variety of reading materials for musicians at all skill levels and for all instruments.

My approach to creating reading material is slightly different from other approaches I’ve seen. Many other sight-reading books provide a series of musical compositions for use in practicing sight-reading. Rather than provide books of compositions, my approach is to break down the language of musical notation into its rhythmic and melodic components and introduce these components to the user in a systematic way.


These pages of notes and rhythms are not intended to be seen as compositions: they do not follow any particular harmonic or melodic structure and the melodies they contain are not repetitive or memorable. They are exercises in which the complexity of the written language of music gradually increases in order to strengthen the user’s ability to process the raw data of musical notation. While the Dots and Beams books are an excellent resource to help improve your sight-reading, their unique construction ensures that the additional uses for these books are as varied and individual as the musicians using them.


Each book in the Dots and Beams collection focuses on a specific element of musical notation. This ensures that you always have the perfect reading material for any exercise so that you can isolate the specific areas in your playing that you feel you need to work on. These books offer very little in the way of explanation and descriptions in an effort to provide as much note-reading material as possible. This is not so much a method book as it is a tool to help make practice more focused and effective.


My hope is that this collection will be one that you will revisit year after year as you find newer, more creative, and more challenging ways to use the materials to push your playing, and your students’ playing, to new levels.

Reading materials are available in the form of e-books as well as paperbacks.

© 2020 by Nathan Petitpas

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