The popular composer and piano pedagogy teacher Elizabeth Gutierrez suggested in her Piano Camp for Piano Teachers workshop a few years ago that learning the notes A C E on the staff is one of the easier ways for beginners to learn note names. So I don’t want to take credit for this idea, although it is a good one! Instead of having to remember a lot of acronyms and guide notes, students just learn where ACE is located on the grand staff. As a bonus, they learn skips, too, and the student can play the ACE position on the piano as they learn the notes. After learning A C E, they can branch off and learn the notes above and below. Line notes are hard, but it is easier if you always know where A C and E are!
I just want to mention that in my experience, no matter how well a student knows the names of notes, that does not ensure he or she will be a good sight reader. I think we all have students who get A’s on theory tests and are very zippy with flash cards, but not so good sight reading music at the piano bench. So many people don’t seem to realize that the two are very different skills that use different part of the brain. And everyone’s brain is wired differently. A student does not have to be a good sight reader to be a good musician, although it is a wonderful skill.
If learning the names of notes confidently doesn’t always mean the student is going to be able to read music well at the piano, why bother? Here are some reasons, and you probably have some you can add to the list!
- It gives students confidence that they are musicians.
- It helps students jump around to different notes on the piano.
- Even if students can’t sight read that well, they can work through the music in their own comfort zone at home.
- They can learn music theory, which is rather impossible if you don’t know what the notes are!
- They can compose and write their music on staff paper.