Tag Archives: Note Identification

Autumn Acorns A C E

 

AutumnAcornsACE

Autumn Acorn ACE

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.

20 Comments

Filed under Note Identification, Steps and Skips, Worksheets

Animal Alphabet Songs

AnimalAlphabetSongs

7 Alphabet Animal Songs

I tried to make it easy for everyone by creating one PDF document for all 7 of these songs. But for some reason, no matter how I tried, the links were not correct. So I am starting all over with new links. If this doesn’t work, I will have to come up with another cunning plan. 🙂

You have permission to use these with your students. They may not be sold, the files may not be shared, and they may not be posted on other websites. You are welcome to share a link back to this page. Hot linking the PDF is not allowed. The music, lyrics, and art are my original creations.

When I first published these songs in 2013, each one was a separate blog post. I discussed the creative process in writing them and how very, very difficult it is writing a song with just one or two notes. That is why I composed duets for each one.  They make the music a lot more interesting for student and teacher.

I think students do better at reading in the long run if they learn from the very beginning that middle C is not always going to be a thumb. I know not everyone agrees with this, so please feel free to put whatever finger numbers suit your fancy. In some of the songs, I left the fingering off so that you can do just that.

These pieces are supposed to be like nursery rhymes. The lyrics help with the rhythm and make the songs more fun. Please encourage your students to sing or at least chant along!

Below are links (hopefully!) t0 the original blog posts for each individual song. I had so much fun writing these songs and using them with my youngest students. That is why I enjoy sharing them with you. Do your students have a favorite? I would love to know which one! Even better, I would love to see a video of your student singing and playing!

Alligator, Alligator, All You Play is A

B is for the Baseball Bear

Pat the Cat’s Patting Song

E is for Elephant

The Doughnut Mystery: It’s D Day

Frogs Wearing Flip Flops

G Is For Giraffe

 

 

 

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under Elementary Music, Note Identification, Preschool Music Resources

The Doughnut Mystery: It’s “D” Day!

The Doughnut Mystery

The Doughnut Mystery

[Ed. All seven Animal Alphabets songs can be found here. AlphabetAnimalSongsBundle]

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.

Notey NoteheadsNotey Noteheads

Prereading step and skip flashcards

Pre-reading Cards

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!

12 Comments

Filed under Note Identification, Pre-reading, Preschool Music Resources, Steps and Skips

2013 One Minute Club Cards

One Minute Club2013One Minute Club Cards

Here are the updated One Minute Club cards for this year. I made mine using pre-perforated 2″ x 3.5″ business cards, 10 to a page, which you can find at any business supply store.  However, for those of you who want to use plain card stock, I also added cutting lines. I let the yellow background bleed a little past the cutting lines in case your paper shifts as you print.

If you are a new reader or maybe a parent who wants to help, here are some answers to questions you may have.

What is the One Minute Challenge?

This is a way for students to learn to say and play notes on the grand staff. If they can do it in 60 seconds or less, then they get this membership card. Once a student is the fastest in my studio, they win a gift card (my students like iTunes or restaurant cards) and “retire.”  I don’t run contests as motivation, but this is something that has really worked in my studio. I got the idea of a One Minute Club years ago from an article by Jane Bastien, the noted piano composer and teacher. I thought up the idea of a different card each year when I noticed my elementary students liked to collect cards or put things in scrapbooks. You can watch a video here.

How many flash cards do you use?

I use 21 cards, the entire grand staff from bass G to treble F.

What do they do with the cards?

I give my elementary age students a plastic badge holder with a ball chain and attach it to their music bag. I ask middle and high school students if they want one.

With what age group do you use these cards?

I made the cards for elementary age children about age 8 to 11, but all my older students participate in the contest, unless they were the overall fastest in a previous year.  In my studio, it usually takes several years of lessons before a student can do this in less than one minute. Only a few students in grades 2-3  can do it, and I usually don’t even try it with younger students. They do not have the coordination. Older students are more interested in the gift card I give to the overall fastest student and don’t really want the “membership card.” Use your judgement as a teacher.

Why do they have to play the note as well as say the note name? Isn’t it enough to know the name of the note? 

Piano students need to know where to quickly move their hands when they see a note that is not in a five-finger position. The faster they can do this, the better they are at sight-reading. You will see sight-reading improve as well as the student’s self-confidence when they can find notes quickly. However, while it will help, it is not the cure to sight-reading problems if the student has difficulty tracking the notes on the staff. Good sight readers do  not think of individual notes as they play, but in patterns of intervals. This is just one part of the difficult skill of sight-reading.

How much time do you spend on this at a lesson?

I run the challenge for about 2 months. I don’t think a lot of time should be spent on this. Just a couple of minutes each week can reap great rewards if the student is prepared in the first place. If students take over 2 minutes, I usually need to prepare them better before I start timing. Often the problem is simply developmental. Students need to learn gradually and in a child-centered manner. That takes time and patience on the teacher’s part. Before you start flash cards, use a lot of activities and games to learn the note names. There are many on my website and other sites in the links on this blog. Don’t let this turn into drudgery!

I gave up on this because my students don’t like flash cards.  Do you have any suggestions?

Well, make sure they are old enough, know all their notes, and have the potential to be successful. Everyone in your studio does not have to participate. Sometimes I tell reluctant but capable, older students that they don’t have to win or even be able to do it in a minute. But parents are paying a lot for lessons and the least they expect is for students to learn notes and where they are located on the piano.  I have noticed that the ones who need it the most are the most reluctant. That’s natural, because kids like to do things they are good at. Once they start getting faster it becomes so much more fun. If your student has a learning disability, tread very carefully.

These cards are not  centered correctly when I print them out on my blank business cards. 

When you print the PDF file, under “size options” select “actual size.” You have to have the latest update to Adobe Reader for it to print correctly. This is a free download you can get at the Adobe Reader website.

What is the time of your fastest student?

Usually the fastest student in any given year is about 21 seconds. My fastest student did it in 17 seconds several years ago. The order of the cards when you flip them for students will determine how fast they can perform, so I try very hard to keep the cards in the same order for the entire contest period. Also, the teacher flipping the cards has to be fast, too!

1 Comment

Filed under Note Identification, Teaching Aids, Theory