We started by asking the best professional musicians in the world one question:
"What do you need to know to read music well?"
The best readers don't read individual notes- but rather, blocks of rhythms- often internalizing rhythms many measures ahead. This is called "chunking".
Similar to rhythmic patterns, players will often be able to recognize groups of notes and instantly identify which scale or chord they are a part of. They then have the muscle memory to execute these patterns based on scale practice.
Keeping a strong internal pulse is key. The best musicians do not stop when sight- reading something through the first time, if a mistake is made, they continue and will correct any mistakes on a second pass.
You must be able to play in tune with yourself and your fellow musicians. Lots of long tones and tuner practice. This skill is largely what will get you called back for your next gig.
We took these pilars and spent 100+ hours researching and self-testing music-learning to build the most effective tools.
Introduce Rhythms Systematically
We found that introducing rhythms in a sequential pattern, similar to the way language-learning programs work, would created long-term aquisition.
Focus on rhythms rather than notes
To our surprise, much of the sight-reading research we did found participants to be more successful when focusing on rhythm reading rather than rhythm AND notes. This study by Scott Campbell was our favorite.
Train the eyes to read ahead
To do this, we made our game scroll, like old-school Mario. The user is required to look ahead and play in time.
Practicing reading regularly was the highest factor contributing to success. We gamified this element with scores, a star system and leaderboard to incentivize practice organically.
Does it work?
In 2019, we conducted a study with a group of students at the Dallas Winds Summer Band camp. We chose a specific, slightly challenging level for our pre and post-testing. The Monster Musician Reader was used as a warm-up for 15 minutes throughout the week. On Day 4 of camp, the post-test results showed student average scores had increased over 45% with just 4 days of use.