Found in: Reading
Barbara G., Massachusetts
I am starting more students on the Reading Notes 1 program and I find myself wondering if I should have the students say the letter names of the notes around the C’s, or just use the intervals (up a 2nd, down a 5th, etc.).
In the Reading Process, mastery of the intervals (2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths etc.), is absolutely crucial and central to the process. When reading Streams, note names play no role whatsoever, nor do they contribute to where we are heading. There are so many ways to introduce and expose students to the names of notes, particularly in the early stages – Level 1, 2, 3 etc. As a brief example, when teaching Night Storm, with 5 over 5, you might draw reference to fact that the middle finger is on middle C. At the same time, you may then just casually mention that the thumb is on A. I do this type of thing all the time, mentioning a note name here and there, never making an issue of it, and over time the students self-assimilate the note names without ever needing to have actually spent time actually ‘learning’ them.
I have a couple adult students who remember reading somewhat as kids and they prefer to say the names. I have let them continue this way because they are doing well and the reading is coming back.
I doubt that those adult students who “remember reading somewhat as kids”, have the ability to read with letter names, in the upper extremities of the ledger lines above the treble clef, nor the lower extremities of the ledger lines below the bass clef.
It is crucial to get back to the basics and see the entire music stave as being 6 individual domains:
1. Ledger lines above the treble clef
2. Treble clef
3. Ledger lines below the treble clef
4. Ledger lines above the bass clef
5. Bass clef
6. Ledger lines below the bass clef
The traditional ‘acronymic’ system (e.g. FACE), whilst applicable to the treble clef, has no use anywhere else. The student is required to learn a new acronym for each domain, or (if we use an example of a note in the upper ledger lines), face the painstakingly slow process of applying the FACE acronym, and then counting upwards – letter by letter – until they reach the name of the desired note. Frankly, I have found that even the most advanced musicians still use this process in the uppermost and lowermost regions.
In contrast, with a simple intervallic system and location points (the Cs), a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th, remains a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th, regardless of where it is in the entire spectrum of the piano stave. One simple language, consisting of only five components, and they are applicable to the hands, the keyboard, and the entire written stave.
Using letter names (or even including them), as a means of starting or reviving the reading process, is a dinosaur that needs to be made extinct. This system has inherent design flaws that are irreparable.
To coin a phrase, “just stick to the program”.