Here are three effective strategies for teaching music notes to kids. Use these techniques frequently and consistently and you’ll help kids become fluent note readers:
1. Say the Note Names Out Loud While Practicing
When your young beginners are just starting out, you can assign them to say the letter names while they practice. With my young beginners I’ll often assign them to practice the piece three time per day–two times counting out loud and one time saying the note names out loud.
2. Hold Studio Flashcard Challenges
Piano students always love a challenge with a reward at the end! I take the first one minute of every lesson to work on our studio’s flashcard challenge.
We love Susan Paradis’ One Minute Club. To become part of the one minute club, students must be able to “play and say” all the notes on the grand staff in one minute or less. The teacher holds up a flashcard and the student plays the note on the piano and says the name of the note.
I had several students who were still a long ways away from being able to name all the notes in one minute, so I developed a series of challenges with small milestones. This way students could feel excited about the progress and feel motivated to push a little harder to make it to the next level.
I’ve divided my note name challenge into three levels:
Green Level: A-G
These are the seven notes surrounding middle C and include bass clef A, bass clef B, middle C, treble D, treble E, treble F, treble G. These are the notes used by the pieces in their beginner method book, so students get double reinforcement when they say the note names out loud while practicing and then do the flashcard challenge during their lesson.
Blue Level: C to C
The blue level spans two octaves and covers the bass clef C (second space on the bass staff), middle C, treble C (third space on the treble staff), and everything in between.
Purple Level: G to G
The purple level covers the entire grand staff. It begins with the bottom bass clef line, which is a low G and requires kids to know all the notes up to the high G. The high G is actually above the staff, but I decided to include it so that we could complete the music alphabet. There are 20 notes to identify in the purple level.
To complete a level, students must be able to name and play the note in less than a minute. The time requirement ensures that kids really know the notes. To be fluent note readers, kids need to be able to recognize the notes immediately, without counting lines and spaces or using mnemonics. The time requirement also makes sure that we don’t use up too much lesson time. I know that we will spend exactly one minute on note names. In my opinon, the one minute is definitely worth it. I’m also glad to know that there’s still plenty of time for the rest of the items I try to cover in a lesson.
To advance to the next level, students must complete their level at two different lessons. So if Jake can name and play all the green level flashcards in a minute on Sept 1 and then at his next lesson on Sept 8, he will begin working on the blue level at the following lesson.
These challenges have worked very well–my students love to advance levels and seem to be progressing at a faster rate since I started using these incremental challenges. The small wins along the way help them stay motivated and get them excited about advancing to the next level.
I’ll be posting more info about these flashcard challenges soon, so be sure to come back and look for that post.
3. Play Note Name Games
There are loads of games you can play with music note flashcards. Try “Go Fish” or Spoons or memory. The student can play against you the teacher, or you can include note name games at a group lesson so that students can play with other students. Games are a great way to teach music note names to kids, and they’re always motivated by the fun of the activity and the prospect of winning.
There are a whole ton of games and written activities included in the worksheet section of my website that are focused on teaching music notes. A favorite activity is Spot the Note. You give the student the printout and a small treat, and then call out a note name. When students “spot” the correct note, they place their treat on it. After answering correctly, students get to eat the treat. You’ll be able to play several rounds and your students will love this exercise!
Click here to hop on over to the kid-friendly printable worksheets and fun games that are free on my website.
When you teach music note names to kids and help them gain mastery early in their studies, you’ll see much faster progress and less frustration when students learn new pieces. Three techniques that have proven highly effective in my studio are to ask kids to say the note names out loud while practicing, hold studio flashcard challenges, and play fun music note learning games. If there’s an activity from this list that you haven’t yet tried, I encourage you to give it a try this week. You’ll be glad you did!
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