How To Easily Teach Your Child Piano Notes

Reading music might seem unattainable. It is literally like a different language. How can we expect a child to master such a difficult skill?

By small incremental steps. Just like a child immersed in a multilingual home learns to master a second language, so too can a child who learns to read music learn to master the language of the piano.

In fact, a child is far more likely to become proficient at the piano if they learn to read notes than if take the short cut way of putting stickies on the keys or other “cheat” methods.

THE FIRST STEP

The first step is to identify the difference between a line note and a space note.  



The space notes have a line resting on top of it as well as below it.

The line notes have a line literally cutting the note down the middle.


THE SECOND STEP

The second step to reading music is to understand the notes that are associated with each clef.

The notes are broken up into two clefs:

The Treble Clef (played by the right hand):


The notes associated with this image have specific memory tricks:
    *The space notes spell (from bottom to top) the word F-A-C-E. So if you see a note on the first space (at the bottom) it is an F. If you see a note at the very top space it is an E.

    *The line notes use the phrase  (from bottom to top) Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. So if you see a note on the very bottom line it is an E (for every. If you see a note on the 4th line up from the bottom it is a D for deserves and the top line is a F for fudge.



There are two additional notes you need to learn for this clef: D and middle C.



There is no trick to memorize these notes, but the are essential to learn as well as the ones with the fun memory tricks.

The Bass Clef (played by the left hand):



The notes associated with this image of the bass clef have specific memory tricks:
    *The space notes use the phrase (from bottom to top) All Cows Eat Grass. So the very bottom space would be A for all and the top space would be G for grass.
    


    * The line notes use the phrase (from bottom to top) Grizzly Bears Don’t Fly Airplanes. So the bottom line would be G for grizzly. The top line would be A for airplanes.

There are two additional notes you need to learn for this clef: B and middle C.



There is no trick to memorize these notes, but the are essential to learn as well as the ones with the fun memory tricks.

Create flashcards for each note listed above, or find an online flashcard ap, or use the flashcard quiz in my online course. To start, make sure the treble and bass clef flashcards are separated.

THE THIRD STEP

Now that you understand how to identify the notes, there are specific strategies you can use to help your child practice these notes.

First help your child notice that the treble clef uses all “human” memory tricks. For example we use the term “Face” and the saying ‘every good BOY deserves fudge.’

This is in contrast to the left hand that uses all “animal” memory tricks. For example we use the phrase ‘all COWS eat grass’ and ‘grizzly BEARS don’t fly airplanes.’

The reason I point out this animals vs humans is because you will find that at first your child might get confused at which saying to use for which clef. This helps them to keep all the phrases clearer of what to use when.

FLASHCARD PRACTICE STRATEGY:

This is the practice strategy you want to use when learning notes:

  1. Start learning notes on day 1 of learning piano

  2. Teach only the treble clef notes to start. If you have a very young beginner start with just the space notes of the treble clef. Once those are mastered add the line notes of the treble clef. For older piano learners though they should be able to learn both the space and line notes of the treble clef in the same lesson.

  3. One the treble clef notes are mastered (this could be the same day to several weeks or even a month after introducing the treble clef… each student is different), begin teaching the bass clef notes using the same strategy listed in number 2. However, do all the treble clef notes. Then switch to all the bass clef notes. Do not alternate Treble clef and bass clef notes at this point. That would be too confusing.

  4. Once your child can mostly correct identify each note first in the treble clef, then in the bass clef, Then combine both clef notes. Meaning show them a treble note, then bass, then treble, then bass etc. This alternating of clefs will really providing a mastery of the concept, but should not be introduced too early or else it will frustrate your child.

    THAT’S IT

    That’s it! That’s all it takes to learn the piano notes. 


    There is no reason why anyone wanting to learn piano can’t do it right at the start of them taking lessons. They won’t be reading the music on day 1. However, by having weeks/months of building a foundation in identifying notes, by the time they are actually ready to read notes, they will be well equipped to do so!

    WORD OF WARNING

    Flashcards are probably the most boring part of piano for beginners. Almost all students dread it. That isn’t a reason to skip it because even though it might be boring it is also the absolute most critical part to learning piano.

    We wouldn’t skip learning the alphabet in school because it’s boring and simply memorizing all books. We know that method wouldn’t work. It is no different with piano. Do not skip having your child learn to read notes even if they complain because it will put them at a severe disadvantage musically speaking.

    Also, many students come to me and say, “I don’t need to do my flashcards anymore. I know them.” I’m sure you will hear your child say the same thing to you.

    A good rule of thumb is unless they can identify their flashcards as quickly as they can their school alphabet, they are not done daily practicing them. If we showed our 8 year old the letter ‘A’ and it took them 10 seconds to figure out and answer ‘A’ we would know we had some serious work to do before moving on.

    The same goes for music notes on the piano. The should be daily practicing their flashcards until they are on step 4 of the flashcard practice strategy and can identify each and every note instantaneously as they would their school alphabet. This typically takes 2-3 years to accomplish that level of proficiency, but some older students might accomplish it faster.

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