Music Accommodations for Dyslexia


As a parent on a dyslexia advocacy journey, I found that when researching accommodations for my son’s music education, there was a lack of information available. However, through my own experience and expertise, I discovered effective accommodations that proved beneficial for dyslexic learners in music instruction. In this article, I will share these accommodations, along with insights from experts in the field, to help dyslexic individuals thrive in their musical pursuits.

The Challenges of Dyslexia in Music Education

Dyslexia, a condition that manifests differently in each individual, can present challenges in reading sheet music. The process of decoding abstract symbols and translating them into finger placements and musical sounds mirrors the difficulties dyslexic learners face in decoding written language. For individuals with dyslexia, processing abstract symbols quickly and retaining them in memory can be particularly challenging due to factors like slower processing speed and weaker working memory.

Accommodations for Dyslexic Learners in Music Instruction

Although dyslexia may pose obstacles, it does not prevent individuals from learning to play a musical instrument. By providing the right accommodations and teaching styles, dyslexic learners can excel in music education. In fact, many well-known musicians have dyslexia and/or ADHD. Just as dyslexia does not hinder individuals from becoming successful authors, it also does not hinder them from becoming talented musicians.

Learning by “Numbering” or “Fingering”

One effective accommodation for dyslexic learners in music instruction is learning by “numbering” or “fingering” rather than relying solely on sheet music. This approach proved immensely helpful for my own children’s music practice. For instance, when my son began violin lessons using the Suzuki method, he made great progress by watching his instructor’s fingering. However, when the instruction shifted to reading sheet music, his progress halted, and his interest waned. This change in approach was due to the school’s goal of teaching everyone to read sheet music. However, this goal was unrealistic for dyslexic learners, and the discouraging policy and attitude were unnecessary.

Learning from Observation and Experimentation

Another effective method for dyslexic learners is to learn through observation and experimentation. My husband, for example, had a private guitar tutor who taught him by demonstration and listening. He was encouraged to improvise and experiment before being required to read sheet music. Although he eventually learned to read sheet music, he prefers not to rely on it when playing music. He uses it as a reference and practices until he can play a song without the sheet music. In addition, he finds beginner-friendly YouTube videos to be an excellent resource for learning an instrument.

Singing and Using Fingering Placements

To help our children learn violin, my husband employed a technique wherein they sang the songs with the violin notes as the words, incorporating phrasing and pitch. They would then play the songs while singing the notes and utilizing the fingering placements. This approach allowed them to develop their musical skills while bypassing the difficulties associated with reading sheet music.

Existing Music Teaching Programs that Support Dyslexic Learning Styles

Various music teaching programs incorporate approaches that are well-suited for dyslexic learners. These programs align closely with the needs and learning styles of dyslexic individuals, enabling them to thrive in their musical education. Here are some notable programs:

Suzuki Method

The Suzuki method, developed by Shinichi Suzuki, mimics the natural learning process of acquiring language. This approach is highly effective for dyslexic learners as it focuses on structured and systematic learning, cumulative progress, and the integration of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic senses. Additionally, the Suzuki method emphasizes playing by ear and gradually introduces notation, ensuring a balanced and comprehensive musical education.

Kodaly Method

The Kodaly method, based on the teachings of Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly, recognizes that everyone has the capacity for musical literacy. Singing serves as the foundation for learning music, and the method integrates games, movements, instruments, and reading and writing music through singing. By following a child’s natural learning development, which includes auditory, oral, kinesthetic, written, visual, and abstract stages, the Kodaly method provides an effective and multi-sensory approach for dyslexic learners.

Orff Method

The Orff method emphasizes teaching music in a way that children can easily comprehend. Through singing, chanting, movement, drama, and percussion instruments, children learn musical concepts, improvisation, composition, and the joy of play. The Orff method supports dyslexic learners by focusing on experiential learning and active participation, allowing them to engage with music on a deeper level.

Additional Resources for Dyslexic Learners in Music

For further information and resources on dyslexia and music education, consider exploring the following:

  • FAQs About Dyslexia and Learning Music from
  • New Research Examines Professional Musicians, Dyslexia, and Music Learning from the University of Michigan, DyslexiaHelp
  • Famous Musicians with Dyslexia and ADHD from

By implementing these accommodations and utilizing dyslexia-friendly music learning resources, individuals with dyslexia can embrace their musical passions and achieve success in their musical endeavors.

Note: The content in this article is based on personal experiences and research. It is always advisable to consult with a qualified music instructor or professional when seeking guidance for dyslexic learners in music education.

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