“Catch a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he’ll feed himself for life!” And so the saying goes.
As music teachers, I’m sure you’d agree with me, that a core objective in our lessons is to develop independence in our students. We don’t want them to be “spoon fed” for years. Rather we want to encourage them to think for themselves as musicians and use their initiative to learn new skills and pieces. Personally, I want my students to learn to read music as quickly as possible and then they can enjoy a lifetime of exploring new music for themselves.
So how do you teach music reading skills? I tell my students that they must memorise the notes but not the music (at first). Here are some resources and ideas you might like, starting this month with:
STEP 1 – Note recognition
A great starting point is musictheory.net It’s a free web based resource that you can fully customise to your student’s needs. The great thing about this method is that pupils can answer the quiz at their own speed without any time pressure. Select “Note Identification” and then follow the self-explanatory steps. You can always paste the link to your uniquely designed activity to include in the student’s weekly email notes or paste it into their preferred social network for practice during the week. By the way, I also find “Keyboard Reverse Identification” good for piano and keyboard students because they have to recognize the notes on the music but answer on piano keys taking things one step further.
On this website is contained a wonderful collection of free print-out activities for students to complete. A very popular activity is the “CodeBreaker” print-outs where the pupil has to work out the mystery words by writing in the names of notes! And if you’re looking for something more old-school then try the Treble Clef flash cards and Bass Clef flash cards.
A great piece of free software that I’ve used with students for many years is NoteCard. Again this software can be customised to the students needs. The game is against the clock so is probably not for complete beginners but ideal for encouraging students that need to get faster at recognising notes. The interface allows you to answer on pitch letters, keyboard or guitar fretboard.
A more recent discovery for me, this is an iOS app which connects to a midi instrument so that the student answers on the keys of a digital piano or keyboard! A very engaging interface and even incorporates key signatures for added key awareness. Highly recommended. Check out my review some time back.
What methods do you use for teaching note recognition? Please feel free to share in the comments below.
Next month I’ll look at developing sight-reading skills through recognising intervals…