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I agree that long mnemonics, like "Every Good Boy Does Fine" simply take too long to think of, then to connect with the actual note you're seeing, and then to play it. They only slow you down. The only time they're useful is initial hand placement, and marginally then. My students, my children, and I have benefitted from quicker mnemonics. For example, I will never forget which bone of the body is the radius and which is the ulna because of a stupid mnemonic I learned in 6th grade.


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Not a piano teacher but I think this is great, and I suspect that having the kids do some of the coloring themselves is a big part of why it works well for beginners. That active engagement is solidifying their sense of where each note is in the notation. I think giving them all the notes with colors ready-made is probably not nearly as helpful.

(That colored keyboard in Animisha's post would drive me crazy!)


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Originally Posted by jdw
(That colored keyboard in Animisha's post would drive me crazy!)

I so much longed for this when I started learning to play the piano as an middle-aged-plus adult... wink


Playing the piano is learning to create, playfully and deeply seriously, our own music in the world.
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Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by jdw
(That colored keyboard in Animisha's post would drive me crazy!)

I so much longed for this when I started learning to play the piano as an middle-aged-plus adult... wink


But you didn’t have it and you can play on any piano you see 😄


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Originally Posted by Brinestone
. They're paying attention in a way many of my students never have. And I can see when they're understanding, or not! That's huge. Sometimes when a student comes and plays a song well, it's hard to tell how they're reading, what information they're gleaning by ear rather than by sight.
I have been teaching piano for a long time, and I am close to retirement age.

I have never had a student who is unable to learn to read music. If they can learn to read English, and they can count to ten, they can learn to read music. I take students from age six, younger only if they show precocity and can already read simple English and count. I use fun quiz games to help them learn to recognise notes on the staves, and I make sure that they grasp the concept of how notes are related from staves to keyboard, starting with only three notes (B, C, D), and I check that they are properly reading from the music every time, not playing from memory. By three months, every student can sight-read pieces using no more than five notes around middle C, then I branch out from there.

Incidentally, every time they see me play, I am reading from the music.

That sentence I highlighted in your post would worry me. Are they playing from memory or by ear, rather than from the music?
Do you test their reading skills by asking them to sight-read something they have never seen or heard before?
Maybe you should.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by jdw
(That colored keyboard in Animisha's post would drive me crazy!)

I so much longed for this when I started learning to play the piano as an middle-aged-plus adult... wink


But you didn’t have it and you can play on any piano you see 😄

True!! thumb


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Originally Posted by liliboulanger
I have never had a student who is unable to learn to read music. If they can learn to read English, and they can count to ten, they can learn to read music. I take students from age six, younger only if they show precocity and can already read simple English and count.

That's impressive! Have you never had students quit before they got that far?

Quote
I use fun quiz games to help them learn to recognise notes on the staves, and I make sure that they grasp the concept of how notes are related from staves to keyboard,

I do this as well, and sometimes students do awesome at the games but still struggle to read when they're staring at the piano for some reason.

Quote
starting with only three notes (B, C, D), and I check that they are properly reading from the music every time, not playing from memory. By three months, every student can sight-read pieces using no more than five notes around middle C, then I branch out from there.

This is one big difference between the method most teachers use and the one I use. My method introduces the entire grand staff in the first year, including ledger line notes up to three lines above each staff. It's a lot to take in all at once, and I do admit that one of the failings of the method I use is that some students struggle with that many notes to learn all at once. That said, I have yet to find a different method that doesn't create certain bad habits (such as creating too strong a link between middle C and the thumb such that they're almost unable to play if their thumb is on D, which I've seen in SO many transfer students), so I stick with it. And I *love* that it puts students in difficult keys from the second year on. Simple songs, difficult keys. My students tend to struggle with note reading in the first two years, but by the time they're intermediate, none of them bat an eye at any key signature, hand position, accidental, or what have you. The payoff is huge.

Quote
Incidentally, every time they see me play, I am reading from the music.

Mostly me too, though when I'm teaching memory, I sometimes show how I memorize.

Quote
That sentence I highlighted in your post would worry me. Are they playing from memory or by ear, rather than from the music?
Do you test their reading skills by asking them to sight-read something they have never seen or heard before?
Maybe you should.

It does worry me. I don't want to abandon my method, but I also realize that it's failing a portion of my students as it is. And yes, I ask beginner and some intermediate students to sight read every song in front of me, with rare exceptions. This is how I know they're struggling to read. I've had a few students who are so bright that they're excellent intervallic readers and guessers, but their actual reading skills are not as good as you might think listening to their finished pieces (my 10yo son included, who has a different teacher).

Last edited by Brinestone; 11/09/21 02:26 PM.

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Brinestone
For your students with poor reading skills, have you considered assigning them extra music ‘just to read’? Not to learn. Any genre.

That’s how I became a good sight reader as a kid; I just played as much music
as I could get my hands on


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Originally Posted by Brinestone
This is one big difference between the method most teachers use and the one I use. My method introduces the entire grand staff in the first year, including ledger line notes up to three lines above each staff. It's a lot to take in all at once, and I do admit that one of the failings of the method I use is that some students struggle with that many notes to learn all at once. That said, I have yet to find a different method that doesn't create certain bad habits (such as creating too strong a link between middle C and the thumb such that they're almost unable to play if their thumb is on D, which I've seen in SO many transfer students), so I stick with it. And I *love* that it puts students in difficult keys from the second year on. Simple songs, difficult keys. My students tend to struggle with note reading in the first two years, but by the time they're intermediate, none of them bat an eye at any key signature, hand position, accidental, or what have you. The payoff is huge.
Er.....yes, if they survive.
Like throwing a kid in at the deep end? smirk

The way I teach piano, like all teachers I know, is to keep challenging their students but not go over their heads and causing not just frustration but also a feeling of inadequacy - that they are 'failures' because they can't keep up. Boys might just try to bluff & bluster their way through, but girls often blame themselves for being so "thick".

By simply branching out into higher notes and lower notes from the middle, I'm getting my students to learn, recognize and memorize two extra notes on the staves every few weeks, until by one year, everyone can comfortably recognize immediately all the individual notes that are on the staves, and move their hands to any position within that range to play the notes. Only middle C is on a ledger line. And they have all gone past having to 'count' lines and spaces from their last known note. And they are familiar with six keys.

This is what most students can sight-read after a year of weekly lessons:


This is a good enough level of sight-reading that they are able to sight-read many simple appealing original pieces by great composers as well as specially-composed contemporary 'teaching pieces', and I then give them stuff to sight-read for fun on their own, without having to "learn" them properly. That reinforces their feeling of satisfaction, that they've transitioned into becoming 'real' pianists, because they can read and play real music by themselves without a teacher looking on and checking that they're doing things correctly. At this stage, I'll also encourage them to improvise, play by ear (I have taught them basic aural skills since their first lesson) and compose their own tunes, and write them down in the manuscript books which I give them. (And I tell them the story of Beethoven going on long walks in the countryside with his sketchbook, in which to jot down any tunes that come into his head, then work them into proper pieces later on at home.....and of course, I'll play them a Beethoven piece to show how he turns fragments of tunes or motifs into complete pieces.) If they want me to, I'll also help them to work those tunes into pieces they can enjoy playing for others.

And they can only do that if they are fully acquainted with note-reading, within the range of the keyboard that they play on.

At no time do they need to feel out of their depth, because everything they learn is via step-by-step progression, always with plenty of revision, and always with the knowledge that every small progression opens up new musical vistas for them.


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Originally Posted by Brinestone
Originally Posted by liliboulanger
I have never had a student who is unable to learn to read music. If they can learn to read English, and they can count to ten, they can learn to read music. I take students from age six, younger only if they show precocity and can already read simple English and count.

That's impressive! Have you never had students quit before they got that far?
.
Like all teachers, I have had students move away, leave the country with their families and so on. But if they have been with me for a year or more, they can all read sight-music to at least Grade 1 ABRSM standard.

Very few ever quit before Grade 5, which takes on average five years. By then, they can sight-read Mozart sonatas (slowly). I encourage them to sight-read all sorts of music on their own for pleasure, and give them copies of sheet music that I printed off from IMSLP.

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Brinestone, I wrote a PM.

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A while ago I came across an online video of a child playing music at an intermediate level. The playing was good. The mother said her son started learning with notes & piano keys in matching colors. I left a message to the lady maybe she can take the idea to a toy manufacturer in China and get a company to mass produce keyboards with a beginner songbook in rainbow colors. She eventually got a product on the market.

When it comes to reading music with some degree of competency, we can get into a separate discussion on good teachers who encourage & motivate students to learn while bad teachers just do it for the money. Here we’re talking about whether adding visual aids to a page such as the letter names of the notes or color identifiers is necessary.

Once I attended a party. 3 kids struggled to read a piece with 4 lines assigned by the teacher at their level. Each took turns trying to reproduce the song that was like Egyptian hieroglyphics to them. Have to admit there are slow learners who will fall behind. If adding visual cues on the notes such as colors can help, why not? Many people learn to ride a bike with training wheels. Once they can balance on 2 wheels, the trainers can come off. The first year students should be able learn songs on their own. Otherwise they’re going to lose self-confidence & quit.

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Here is what I do-

pre-readers (4-6 year olds) and pre-staff get the right hand circled in green, left hand in purple.

When they learn the staff and Treble G clef, and any treble G note on the G line, I draw a green line to show where treble G lives. They have already associated green with right side of piano.

For bass clef, since fuchsia is a hard color to find in a box of 8 colored pencils, I use purple. The Bass F line is traced in purple when they learn Bass F.

Left side of piano = purple.

That lasts for a few weeks, and then no more color is needed.

When they learn bass C and treble C, I circle those is blue, and explain that water is blue, sea, C's in blue. AND,

I show that trick that only works for C's
- turn the Grand Staff upside down and C's are still in the same place!

So I will circle C's in blue for a bit until they have that down.

Notice that these are Guide Notes/Landmarks. I also teach intervals from the get-go.

Trying to color code a full sheet would take too much time, and too much printer ink.

And, sharpening all those pencils...


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The authors of one method series I use suggest teaching the note name of one landmark note per staff and having students choose one color for each interval. For example, every time the interval of a third occurs, the student draws a line between the noteheads that are a third apart, using his "thirds" color.

It's not necessary to connect each notehead from one to the next with one's "unison" color or "seconds" color or "thirds" or whatever interval color. In the early stages, when only two or three intervals are used, just one color can be marked everywhere that interval appears. When a new interval is introduced at a later date, that can be the interval the student marks until he becomes accustomed to seeing that interval and responding with the correct finger for the distance it is from the previous finger that played.

Students don't need to know the letter names of all the notes they're playing when working in a five-finger range and reading intervals. The names of the two landmark notes and which fingers to put on them (they don't always use the same finger on a landmark) are all they need to know to get a piece started on the correct keys. Then they read intervallically from there until they're proficient at reading unisons ("sames"), seconds, and thirds.

After that, they begin learning note names to prepare for wider intervals, moving out of five-finger positions, and playing in other keys.

Students generally wean from interval-marking in the first year of study, but along the way they've gotten lots of reinforcement with a small number of intervals before they branch out to playing fourths, fifths, and beyond. Most of them become pretty confident readers, having been assisted by having a little color on the page -- between select intervals -- without having the whole piece color-coded.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
I asked the question many posts ago: will this be like mnemonics used for learning where there will bd difficulty removing this intermediate step? I don’t believe I have seen one reply.

Mnemonics, to my knowledge, is no longer used to teach lines and spaces. But I was a childhood victim of it—- it took me a long time to discard. Personally, I would have a hard time with a system that inserts an extra learning step. Just based on my own, painful experience.
I agree with you about the mnemonics thing. Learning mnemonics for the staff slowed down my reading big time. I wish I had been gradually introduced to every note and just learned to instantly recognize what they are, exactly how the Faber books do it. Working on my sight-reading a half hour every day has forced me to this and I will never use the mnemonic again, nor do I ever plan to teach it. I can't stress how detrimental it was to my learning.

Having said this, I don't think coloring in notes will be the same effect...


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yeah...it was so weird

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