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Instant note recognition
#2979506 05/15/20 03:29 PM
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I was watching a recent video on Pianote on reading music. Lisa was going through how she does it and I was surprised when she mentioned using 'FACE' in order to find her starting point.
I'm not sure if she was being totally honest or saying it for the purposes of the lesson but I was surprised and to a great extent comforted by her remark because although every other aspect of my playing has improved, my ability to instantly recognise a note on paper has not improved that much.
I have a site reading app which I’ve become extremely good at but what I can do on the app simply doesn’t translate to the piano.
It doesn’t really bother me. I’m sure that it will all come with time and it’s probably improving to an extent without me realising.

This is where I’m currently at.
Middle C is instantly recognisable. I don’t have to do any translation at all or even have to think of the letter C (a bit like somebody that is so good at multiple languages that they can think in a language and no longer need to translate).

I also know where high C is instantly and I know that the next C is on the second ledger line above the treble staff.
Because C is in the absolute centre, I can instantly recognise C below middle as they mirror the treble clef (3rd space outwards and second ledger line beyond the clef).

Unfortunately, other than C, some form of calculation is required in my mind. I do know the the middle lines of the staves are B and D but it always takes an instant to remember which is which (actually, since they are in alphabetical order, I may have just sorted that one out smile ).

There are some that I know almost instantly but this is usually a guess and often I find myself saying 'FACE' or 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favours' in my mind.

If I could just add one or two more which are instantly recognisable to my repertoire it would be a great help and I wondered if you guys and gals had any little tricks that you use. I am also curious as to how many notes that you instantly recognise without thought and can identify them as a key on the piano without associating a letter name to them.

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Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2979519 05/15/20 03:39 PM
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Three treble ledger lines is an E. The letter ‘ E’ does look like three horizontal lines on top of each other.


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Re: Instant note recognition
dogperson #2979529 05/15/20 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Three treble ledger lines is an E. The letter ‘ E’ does look like three horizontal lines on top of each other.

I like that one. That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for.

Thanks.

Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2979543 05/15/20 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by treefrog
If I could just add one or two more which are instantly recognisable to my repertoire it would be a great help and I wondered if you guys and gals had any little tricks that you use.
When I was a beginner (and only recently started learning English, after learning the Western alphabet), my teacher's priority for me was not putting letters to keys, but keys to notes on the staves.

Because, that's what is important when reading and sight-reading music. After all, in French and German, they don't use A,B,C for notes like we do (B in Austria/Germany is B flat in English-speaking countries, but H is B).

After learning "Middle C", the notes 'spread out' from there in both hands: D in RH and B in LH, then E in RH and A in LH and so on, because my hands were placed with thumbs on middle C (but not both at the same time, because I was only playing HS). I was only learning the notes that I was playing, so no acronyms.

Learning notes like that one at a time does have advantages, because they get cemented in the mind (notes on the staves straight to keyboard, not via letters), and you memorise eventually by repetition (seeing and playing).

Just like multiplication tables........

Incidentally, I never did understand why C isn't A. After all, it is do.........


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2979549 05/15/20 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by treefrog
If I could just add one or two more which are instantly recognisable to my repertoire it would be a great help and I wondered if you guys and gals had any little tricks that you use. I am also curious as to how many notes that you instantly recognise without thought and can identify them as a key on the piano without associating a letter name to them.

You might want to re-wire your thinking. The more recent pedagogical approach is to combine intervallic reading with landmarks that are spread out from Low C to High C. Whichever landmarks you pick is up to you, really, but the common ones are Low C, Low G, Bass C, Bass F, Middle C, Treble G, Treble C, High F, and High C.

I've been thinking that the landmark approach is really just another version of FACE or All Cows Eat Grass, but the benefit is that the landmarks are more spread out, and thus they help you play in other areas of the keyboard.

But you must start with intervallic reading, up to 6th and 7th and maybe 8th.


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Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2979551 05/15/20 04:52 PM
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It is just a matter of time and practice. Eventually you will know instantly every note and their position on the keyboard. Personally i dont recall that i used any particular trick. It came fairly naturally in time.

Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2979571 05/15/20 05:28 PM
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When I was learning to read (on guitar) I used the FACE thing and it helped a lot to get the in the staff notes to sink in. Then as I started working on ledger lines I notice the same FACE worked for top line of the staff and ledger lines going up. Again ledger lines going down bottom ledger line is E and then downward E C A F. The just reading a lot both with without the instrument till I just know what was what.

Then later when I switched to bass I used the same thing but this time ACEG and same approach works. I haven't played bass for quite awhile and bass clef is rusty and getting into piano and two clefs pulling out the same approach to get up to speed again on bass clef and notes between the clefs.

Now none of this was taught to me by a teacher this was just trying to read and observations I made that worked for me. I think people depend on teachers and pedagogy too much and don't just think about things and observe find your own way something makes sense to you. Even with teachers they might explain things one way that works for them but it's not working for me so I just observe and think about something till I find my own way to relate to the subject.

People forgot in the end we are our own best teacher there are many paths to the same point. One of my improv teacher put it great in an hang once. He said you're hanging out with a bunch of friends in the afternoon and someone menton a good new movie to see. Everyone decided to go see it that night. So they agree to meet at theater X and 7:30. Everyone meetups up at the right place at the right time, but if you ask them how they got there they all took different paths to the theater. They all had there own way they thought about how to get there and they all got there. Learning is the same thing you just have find your path to the topic that makes sense to you.

Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2979582 05/15/20 05:55 PM
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Start with the landmark notes. On the trebble clef: middle-C, second line (G), third space (C), upper line (F), two ledger lines above (C). On the bass cleff: middle-C, fourth line (F), second space (C), bottom line (G), two ledger lines below (C). Notice the symmetry of these landmarks.

Next, learn to read intervals. Learn to instantly recognise steps and skips so that when you read a note you intuitively know where the next one is by the size of the interval from the previous note. For instance, if your thumb is playing a note and the next note is one step up you know to play it with the next finger without even having to translate that to an actual note name. This is actually how people sight read quickly.

BTW, this is also why you need to know your scales; so that your fingers automatically know where to go in any key without having to translate all the sharps and flats from the key signature.

Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2979609 05/15/20 07:39 PM
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For actual playing, I've found it far less useful to name notes than associating what key on the keyboard maps to what note on a staff. I haven't really studied it per se either, just doing lots of site reading drills every day for four years. It probably takes me about 4 times as long to name a note as it does to put my finger on the correct key. Unless you're doing music theory or conducting, I don't know if it's worth worrying about naming notes quickly in the short term. I think it's something you'll just get better at over time without practice.


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Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2979618 05/15/20 08:05 PM
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I have been reading music since early childhood piano lessons. However, I am primarily a horn player so when I started piano again 2 years ago I had to brush up on bass clef and deal with reading multiple notes on 2 clefs at one time.

A few things I have experienced in that time.

My complete comfort reading treble clef on horn doesn’t always translate to piano. With complete ease I can name the notes aloud, but what my brain really knows better is the horn fingering associated with the note and embouchure , air flow, etc. When I first stated piano there were occasions where I would need to play a G and my brain told my fingers not to press a key. Why? Because on horn a G is played with no valves pressed. Obviously it is beneficial to be able to read the note names, but I think this experience demonstrates your brain still has to translate that into which piano key to press. And as others have explained there are quicker ways to get to the right note that don’t use knowing the name.

I also have used apps to practice Bass clef and the grand staff. I can also now do them without error. However, when I realize I am struggling reading, I find going back to the app for a few minutes to be really helpful.

Lastly, I have been reading music for 35+ years and have logged a lot hours on piano in the past 2 years. My notation reading has improved a lot, but I still have times when my brain gets totally lost.

Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2979665 05/15/20 10:52 PM
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My experience was that it wasn’t too hard to get to a point where I knew what the notes were across both clefs, but I really struggle with getting fast and fluent.

I found that saying the note names aloud kind of freed up a logjam in my brain. Yes, it’s slow and painful but it got me over the hump of staring at notes thinking “I’ve never seen it before in my life” despite literally tens of thousands times of previous playing.

Once I was over that hump I found I didn’t need to say the names but I sometimes do as a bit of an exercise and also if I freeze up while reading.


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Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2979763 05/16/20 06:59 AM
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Originally Posted by treefrog
It doesn’t really bother me. I’m sure that it will all come with time and it’s probably improving to an extent without me realising.

and neither should it bother you, things that are difficult today will be easier tomorrow......with a little work. There are more difficulties ahead, such as keeping the accidentals of a particular scale in mind. More difficult again is the lighting fast decisions being made about how to get to the next note(s) based on the current finger placement. However by reading and playing music everyday it somehow sinks in to become a natural process, even for a dumb old guy like me.


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Re: Instant note recognition
earlofmar #2979784 05/16/20 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by earlofmar
things that are difficult today will be easier tomorrow......with a little work. There are more difficulties ahead, such as keeping the accidentals of a particular scale in mind. More difficult again is the lighting fast decisions being made about how to get to the next note(s) based on the current finger placement. However by reading and playing music everyday it somehow sinks in to become a natural process, even for a dumb old guy like me.
Exactly.

Adult learners almost always don't realize what a difficult thing it is to learn to play the piano - and read music, while playing - to a decent standard.

Almost all the other stuff that people might learn from scratch in adulthood involve only either mental (e.g. a foreign language) or physical (e.g. skiing, golf) skills, not an inextricable combination of both. Nor one that involves movements that nobody would ever encounter if they hadn't specifically learnt them: there is no activity outside of playing a piano where you have to develop the skills to make those strange movements involving individual fingers coupled to wrist and arm movements, and responding immediately to the feedback by modifying those movements. Not even typing. Or flying a plane. And then, to read pages of lines and squiggles while making those unnatural movements, linking one instantly to the other......

From chatting to many adult learners over the years, what I get is that they totally underestimated how difficult it is, and how long it takes: they'd assumed that because they had no difficulty learning to ski to a decent standard within a week (and just ten lessons), or speaking and writing Esperanto after a month of language classes, they can extrapolate that to learning piano.

And of course, they get seduced by watching all those whizz-kids still in diapers (= nappies) playing Hungarian Rhapsody No.2020 at supersonic speed on YT. Surely it isn't difficult to move ten fingers on a piano keyboard? After all, everyone knows what it is (whereas few people have ever heard anyone speak Esperanto......).

No wonder so many get discouraged when they were 'still' unable get their fingers around the first few bars of Für Elise, nor sight-read a simple tune like Twinkle, Twinkle after six months of learning & practicing (with or without a teacher) without stopping and starting.

Then they get seduced by Synthesia........ smirk


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Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2979811 05/16/20 09:29 AM
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This is the app that did the trick for me:
Note Trainer Pro by Thoor Software.

I drilled diligently almost every day for 3 months, 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night. But it was a long slog through the mud, there were lots of days I thought I'd never get it and I should just give up. One of the most frustrating issues is that there are always a set of notes that you can instantly recognize on sight and then there are notes that grind your brain to a halt, no matter what you do. Urgghhhh ... I just had to slow it down so that when my brain crashed on the one of those blind spot notes, I'd just sit there like a f#$%n moron until my brain would slowly say - yaaaaah ... that's a ... B. Aaaargh .... FFS.

Good news is, I can now instantly identify any note and play it quickly. It just kinda happens one day, I'm reading music and my brain feeds me the right info. But I swear the process to get there feels like your fighting your brain the whole time.

There is some bad news - instantly identifying notes is not "reading music". It's a pre-requisite to reading. The next pre-requisites are instantly identifying the shapes of triads, 6ths and 7ths (plus inversions). So there's still a way to go. (that app can also drill all that, plus accidentals).

One last exercise that's useful is to drill key signatures and play the 1 4 5 progressions for the major and relative minor chords that make up the key. If you can get your brain to instantly load that info and play it when you see a key signature, it's quite something. You'll feel like you're actually "reading" not just identifying notes and chords.


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Re: Instant note recognition
Sidokar #2979817 05/16/20 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
It is just a matter of time and practice. Eventually you will know instantly every note and their position on the keyboard. Personally i dont recall that i used any particular trick. It came fairly naturally in time.

+1. All these tricks are useless for *fast* reading. What works for central C for you now will one day work for all notes. Until that time you'll use counting or tricks or whatever. I used counting for a long time. For me it helped to learn some important notes across the registers first, like c2, c3, c4, c5, c6 because that makes counting easier than counting from central c.

For me "naming the notes" is also not too useful. I prefer to know the key I have to press rather than to first know that it's a c2 and then having to find c2 on the keyboard as that is one more step = extra delay and extra error possibilities. I suppose that in my mind the whole 'it's a c2' step will be skipped one day. At this moment the 'it's a c2' is still there but I think my brain already knows which key it is by the time I figured it's a c2.


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Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2980523 05/17/20 10:00 PM
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As a child learning piano I very clearly remember what you are describing. As and adult returning to the piano almost 2 years back I can clearly remember what you are describing in off-staff notation (ledger lines)

Trust me, it will come to you, just keep at it. There eventually may come a time when the note on the staff even can be equated to a sound in your head. That's another level though!

My tip for this there is a system of teaching and reading loosely called "landmark notes" and intervallic reading. It's too lengthy to type up here however this WAS NOT they way I was taught back in the early 80's. I learned it as a tool to help my daughter. I recommend it, it will facilitate your learning. Check it out.

Re: Instant note recognition
treefrog #2980527 05/17/20 10:08 PM
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Treefrog it is a common problem. Landmark notes can be helpful. If you recognise high c and other notes you can work out, eg one over c is d, and put the letters under them. I learnt a Brahms piece with very low notes, I learnt the f in the bass was four leger lines under and for the others I work them out and then put the letter under or over them on the score. Now I can tell in relation to this f which is g and e using the landmark so don't have to write in letter names on score

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Re: Instant note recognition
IntermedPianist #2980550 05/17/20 11:24 PM
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Originally Posted by IntermedPianist
My tip for this there is a system of teaching and reading loosely called "landmark notes" and intervallic reading. It's too lengthy to type up here however this WAS NOT they way I was taught back in the early 80's. I learned it as a tool to help my daughter. I recommend it, it will facilitate your learning. Check it out.

I've been yapping about the landmark notes + intervallic reading approach for years. It's like falling on deaf ears around here.

This method works. It's backed up by actual academic research. And I've seen the results in my own studio.


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Re: Instant note recognition
AZNpiano #2980604 05/18/20 04:33 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I've been yapping about the landmark notes + intervallic reading approach for years. It's like falling on deaf ears around here.

This method works. It's backed up by actual academic research. And I've seen the results in my own studio.

I agree in the very limited experience I have in teaching both my daughters very early on. I read Professional Piano Teaching by Jacobsen and Lancaster (both volumes) and learned about all the different approaches to reading.
In the end I settled on Alfred's Basic for my kids because of the "electic" approach to reading which used a bit of all to include intervallic. The ability of my girls to quickly play in several different registers with fluency really blew
my mind. A lot had changed from the "middle C" approach I was taught back in the early 80's. I would almost say it eliminates the hurdles of reading off staff. And the ease of which they read the bass clef is another small miracle.
I attribute that to the multiple position approach.

I would've loved to be a piano teacher in another life.... I am certain you must enjoy it.

Re: Instant note recognition
AZNpiano #2981278 05/19/20 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by IntermedPianist
My tip for this there is a system of teaching and reading loosely called "landmark notes" and intervallic reading. It's too lengthy to type up here however this WAS NOT they way I was taught back in the early 80's. I learned it as a tool to help my daughter. I recommend it, it will facilitate your learning. Check it out.

I've been yapping about the landmark notes + intervallic reading approach for years. It's like falling on deaf ears around here.

This method works. It's backed up by actual academic research. And I've seen the results in my own studio.

Not all deaf to the idea, this is how I have learned from the start. Even my Piano teacher works that way although he seems to only use F/G and middle lines as landmarks while I use the Cs so we tend to take the mick out of each other a bit.
e.g when sight reading "No, that's famous middle line there", "Ah, so one below C then". And then my wife who's French refuses to use English note names in her lessons so he has a lot to put up with, but we get along and find a way. (He's an absolutely superb teacher by the way).

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