White spaces, music notation and the facilitation of sight-reading.


The use of interword separation has consistently been proven to enhance fluency in reading language scripts. At the same time, neurophysiological evidence has shown that music and language scripts can activate very similar neural circuitry that integratively encodes the symbols that comprise them. By analogy to interword separations in language, we hypothesize that visual separation cues in musical scores should facilitate music reading. We report an experiment in which separating short fragments of musical discourse by vertical white gaps in the notation enhanced sight-reading fluency by significantly reducing the number of mistakes that musicians made when reading the scores without previous preparation. These results are in accordance with a view of music reading as sharing cognitive strategies with language reading; they have significant implications for our understanding of the acquisition of musical literacy and for the design of musical scores, and for our knowledge of the sense-making processes involved in reading in general.