My goal with my beginning music students is to
- Ignite the passion, fun and excitement of music within
- Introduce the names of the notes
- Connect those notes to their location on their instrument
- Connect those notes to standard written notation
- Through achievements, build their sense of self confidence and self worth.
- Have fun
To go through these steps, I have a variety of techniques and methods. Steps 1 and 2 are usually not a problem. If you know only the first 7 letters of your ABCs you know all the names of the notes in music. Connecting those note names, A-B-C-D-E-F-G to where they lie on a guitar or piano or xylophone can be a challenge, especially for 3 to 5 year olds. Once students know where the notes are on the instrument, we can make music and the fun begins!
I have experimented with many methods out there. One method is to use color to correlate note names to keys. I’ve been doing this with some of my younger students with great results. This is not synesthesia, where a person actually perceives one sense with matched with another like say “middle C is always a certain hue of red.” It’s using what is readily available as a transmission system that is highly developed in all but the color-blind.
However, there is a caveat. One has to know when to remove the “crutch of color” to allow the student to walk on their own. Otherwise they never progress to the next level.
For example, some electronic keyboards have a feature of a “follow me” type game. The student presses “play” and the notes play out a song whilst lighting up the proper keys. This is similar to a video game called Piano Wizard. The student presses the colored piano keys to play the game which is like a version of Tetris. The falling colored eggs or blocks line up with the piano keyboard. This may seem like a good idea, but it really actually interferes with the connection of note name, sound and location on the instrument. The student is wrapped up in just playing the game and winning points. I had this exact experience when I used this game with my son who was, at the time, just getting to know where the notes on the keyboard were. The game became a crutch and hindrance to advancement.
By using a removable translucent colored tape, I can correlate note names to the keys. Being removable is key. Once we introduce other methods of knowing where the notes are, the colors can get in the way.
I’ll write more about these and other methods in future posts.
Author: Andrew Ingkavet
Andrew Ingkavet is owner/teacher of Park Slope Music Lessons. He is the creator of the Musicolor Method™, a proven system to teach children music. He offers a music teacher training course and coaching and was a writer/producer and VJ for MTV in the 1990’s.