I start note reading and writing with my piano students from the very first lesson. Children from age five are very capable of drawing notes, letters, and recognizing music notation. You can read about my beginner lesson plans here.
You can find a link at the bottom of the article for a free download of the complete Note Speller.
In the first lessons I teach children to recognize, write, and play on the piano C, D, and E.
I explain to students that “C” on the staff is easy to recognize and remember because it has it’s own little line. Ask the student to describe the note and then the student can write two or three “Cs”. Every student needs to practice writing “C, D, and E” daily.
Note “D” looks very different from the “C” . “D ” touches the first long line, but it does not cross it. Ask the student to describe the note and than the student can write two or three “Ds”.
Note “E” is easy to recognize because it is on the first long line. Explain to a student how the line is exactly in the middle of the note. Compare it to a “D” , which only touches the line but does not cross it. Ask the student to describe the note and than the student can write two or three “Es”.
After one or two lessons start writing all three notes in a random order. If a student struggles with note writing keep asking them to describe each note and write the notes daily.
Once a student has mastered notes “C, D, and E”, add “F and G”. “F” is the first Space Note between the long lines.
“G” is located on the second line. Compare it to and “E” which is located on the first line.
Practice naming and writing “C, D, E, F, and G” in ascending and random order. After few weeks add “A and B”
After a student is comfortable with writing and naming notes from the Middle C to B, I introduce the concept of space notes and how they form a word FACE.
Usually the Space Notes concept forming FACE is easy to understand and remember even for young children of age 5 and up. Once a student is comfortable with the FACE, I teach them how to find the rest of the Line Notes. For example I will show ad high “D” on the page located on the fourth line. I will count three space note F, A, and C. From the “C” I will go one note up on the piano which will lead them to a “D”. I will repeat the same process with the high “F”. I will count the space notes – F, A, C, and E. From the high E I will go one note up on the piano to the high F.
Once a student can read and write all the notes in Treble Clef, start introducing Bass Clef notes.
I start teaching Bass Clef notes from the Middle C going down. I add B, A, G in the Bass clef. Those are easy to remember because they form a word BAG.
At this point a student has been taking lessons for few months. They should be comfortable reading and writing all the notes in the Treble Clef and CBAG in the Bass Clef. Next I introduce the students to the Space Notes in the Bass Clef and the “All Cows Eat Grass” sentence.
Once a student is comfortable with the Space Notes in the Bass Clef, I will explain to them how to find the line notes. For example I will show a Fourth line “F” on the page. I will count three space note All, Cows, and Eat. From the “Eat” I will go one note up on the piano which will lead them to an “F”.
Patience in the key to teaching students how to read the notes. Sometimes you will need to go back and review note spelling. I find that the two Space Note concepts (FACE, and All Cows Eat Grass) are easy to use and remember.
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