I decided to make a series of songs, worksheets, and games focusing on one note at a time. Today I am posting The Doughnut Mystery, D for dog and D for doughnut. If you have ever played a one note song, I must mention that it is a lot more fun with the duet. At least that is what one of my intermediate students said, who saw it in my studio and wanted to try it out. (Actually he said it was a boring song, but the duet made it fun, so I took that for a compliment!) Fortunately, younger students are not as hard to please.
If we teach young children, we know that some students need to take the scenic route when learning to read notes on the staff. It is so satisfying to see the feeling of accomplishment on their face, rather than frustration.
If you have followed my blog for a while, you probably know that I do not teach reading by “typing in” the names of each note. I don’t ask my students to say note names out loud as they play music from their books. That takes all the joy out of playing piano and made my own children cry. I learned so much about teaching piano from my own children.
Instead, we learn to read music by intervals. Cards like the ones I posted recently really help to learn to play by steps and skips. I’m reposting them below, and on my website you can find some older ones that are larger and not as fancy. I was worried that these cards would confuse students who are also learning to read notes on the staff, but that has not happened to my students.
With that disclaimer, I do think children should learn the names of notes, because how can they learn theory if they don’t know the names of notes? Plus, students need the confidence to move around the keyboard, or to find the starting note. Learning to read music has three parts: learning to sight-read by intervals and patterns to the best of the student’s ability, learning to quickly identify all the notes on the staff, and knowing where these notes are on the instrument.
How I Introduced D
After I showed the student middle D on the staff, I placed large size flash cards around the room. Some of them were D, and he searched all around the room and collected them. Next, we got out the big floor staff and played games. Then, we drew D’s on a large staff (to the best of his ability). We also identified D’s in a method book. I also made a new game to find D, and we played that.
Finally, I decided we were ready to play middle D on the piano. He was so excited! First we learned the words to The Doughnut Mystery and “drummed” and chanted them on the piano cover. Then we practiced changing fingers on the piano cover, making doughnuts with the fingers. After he could play it by himself, I played the teacher duet, and it was perfect! He loved it!
To reinforce reading by intervals, I followed that up with some of the pre-reading cards posted above.
The next week he came back and told me the D note fell off, that’s why it’s on the bottom and the dog ate it. That let me know that he has internalized the location of D on the staff.
If you teach 4-6 year old children or have a learning challenged student, you might want to try this out!