Three Ways to Learn Note Names Effectively for Piano Students
This article details ways to practice identifying pitch notation specifically. Teachers and parents alike can use these resources to strengthen a student’s confidence when determining what pitch on the staff is being presented.
When students of any age start piano lessons, one of the challenges is identifying different pitch notations on the staff. It’s a fundamental part of learning to play the piano, or any instrument for that matter, and it can be made easier with the plethora of resources available to teachers and parents.
One of the keys is repetition, and all of the methods described emphasize the “drilling” of note names so they become instantly recognizable to students without having to use guide notes or other deductive processes to name a pitch. Notes on the staff have very small differences to pick out, so the process can feel daunting to some students. However, with flashcards, note-naming games used with current exercises and songs, as well as the help of fun apps, learning note on the staff can be easy and fun!
Good Old Flashcards
Don’t underestimate how useful flashcards can be! They provide an easy way for a student to test themselves on note names, and can be useful when quizzing with a teacher or parent. It may seem stale to just go through the deck, but simple interaction can help make the process much more fun. Try using timing goals, like establishing a baseline time on how quickly a student can guess note names for a specific number of cards, then try to beat the time until all cards are identified fluently. Also, instead of just naming a note, have the student quickly find it on the piano to play as the answer to the card.
One quick note about flashcards: the teacher should help in selecting the cards for the students to practice. The decks are usually comprehensive and may include notes not yet covered in lessons. The collection of cards used can be expanded as the student learns more notes.
Fresh, New Note Reading Apps
In the past, interactive note reading games were mostly software programs played on a home computer. Thanks to technology, new games have been developed as apps that can be played on a smartphone or tablet. These games are very much like flashcards in the way they “drill” through notes, but the interface can be more engaging, and progress tracking and levels make it easier to see advancement. You may think these games are geared toward children, but many adult students also find them to be very beneficial. My favorite app for iPhone is “Learn To Read Music!”
Identifying Notes in Exercises and Songs
You would think that all the notes in a song or exercise would already be known if the student can play it, but sometimes, that is not actually the case. Another element of note reading is identification of intervals, or the distance between notes, and students can actually play through a passage only knowing the starting note and the intervals between. So, as an added part of learning a song or exercise, why not name all the notes in the piece? It’s a practical example in front of the student and will help them master the piece overall while combining note-naming practice.
One point to remember for this practice technique is that note identifications should not be written in the music, but instead, done aloud. This insures that students do not rely on alphabetical note names instead of musical notation on the staff.
A Conclusion on How Piano Student Learn Note Names
Learning notes on the staff is an important and crucial part of piano lessons. Identifying pitches can be difficult to master at faster speeds with instant note recognition, but using a few specific practice techniques as drills can really help the process and make it fun. At any age, naming the notes throughout a piece and repeating drills with flashcards and apps can help a student commit note names to memory. Give them a try to boost sight-reading confidence!