Questioning Intervallic Reading
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Christine W., Kansas
Reading Notes – I have a couple of students currently, one senior and one middle school age, who seem to struggle with grasping the intervallic note reading process. Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier for certain students to learn note reading the old-fashioned way, by memorizing every note location on the staffs, but I haven’t caved in and switched to that process with either one of them (or previous students I had who struggled) because I don’t want to confuse them more by switching gears.
I would welcome any further tips or techniques on continuing to help students who seem to struggle with grasping the intervallic note reading process.
Mark M., New York
It may just be that going a bit slower may help, backing up and really clarifying the basics.
I also like to use metaphors. Street grids, more broadly a block, or even more broadly it works the same with stores in a plaza/mall. We don’t bother to memorize every address of every store / business / building. You say, go to the corner of 4th Street and Broadway and the place you want is three stores uptown on the left. Or start at the Target anchor store in the mall and the store you want is up three stores on the right.
Yeah, fine, as retail dies, we may need some different metaphors 🙂
Still, these notions are deeply familiar to people and can reinforce the idea that it actually is easier to use the intervallic approach than to memorize every note’s “address” by rote.
Johnny R., Texas
Have them get lined paper, start from bottom to top and they can write either every line or every space and just do the following pattern repeating GBDFACE. Have them do this on lines and spaces. Then have them repeat the pattern out loud a few times. Then start with any note at the bottom and have them repeat the pattern dfacegb,. Then try another letter. Acegbdf. The point is to just remember the pattern over and over. Once they understand that, you can write on the cleffs the starting line and space notes (bass is g,a treble e,f). Then they can count up from those starting notes using the pattern. My students get this very quickly. Once that is established they will quickly begin to know the notes without counting up
Susan M., Canada
I have found so far that the location points and streams need consistent processing through writing and voicing. The only thing I might add in are the Treble G and Bass F lines as there is a connection to clefs (G clef, F clef). I give a handout called “One a day” and it’s on their playlist — students spend a couple minutes everyday processing reading. ex. One day writing, one day voicing
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I personally would not deviate from the intervalic approach. It’s extremely limiting imho, and it completely eliminates leger line notes. If a student can count to 5 and understand lines and spaces then they can understand intervals as we teach in RN.
That said, if a student is struggling with the process, it’s important to discover where the breakdown occurs. Do they really *know* the location points? Can they transcribe intervals? Can they write and play their own streams? It may simply be that you didn’t spend enough time with intervals or location points, or didn’t review often enough to ensure they were solid.
I’d suggest using a piece of very easy music (like Sky or Each Their Own from TFMM). Ask the student if they can play the first measure RH only. If yes, keep going. If it breaks down, find out why. Then repeat with the LH.
Honestly I think students feel like they “don’t get it” because they aren’t very patient with the process and feel like it should be easier than their experience. Or they had unrealistic expectations of the reading process to begin with. Also, they’ve gotten used to learning more difficult songs in a playing-based environment. So it’s important to manage those conversations. And very consistent reviewing, writing and transcribing projects.
Ruth P., North Carolina
Don’t move past ‘same, 2nd and 3rds” until they REALLY get it. Move slowly Don’t dispair. Intervallic reading is one of the best gifts you can give them.
Original discussion started April 27, 2020