Reading Notes – Streams
Found in: Reading
Mark M., New York
Teaching streams in Reading Notes, there’s a need to decide what finger to start on whether away from or at the keyboard. It isn’t obvious to students what finger(s) can work for each stream just from looking at the first note of each. In the TTM, Neil specifies a finger for the first stream. Are we to specify a finger for every stream or foster a way for students to determine for themselves one or more possible starting fingers that can work for each whole stream?
Getting onto the keyboard, there’s a need to pick a position. Shall it be random for now, without worrying about accuracy between notes on the page and notes played on the keyboard, since those topics come later?
Asking students to transcribe streams brings up a similar question about the in/accuracy of the relationship between the page and the keyboard. Thoughts?
Robin K., Washington
One of the things that I routinely ask students when we are processing the “Streams” in Reading Notes (“streams” meaning the stream of notes across the page–there are no measures because this isn’t actually reading a composition), is, “What is the direction of the music?” So, if the notes are going up from the starting note, then I suggest that they put finger one (RH) on that first note and read from there. If the notes are going down, try finger number five. If they are both up and down, start with finger number three.
This is a really simple way for them to make that logical connection between the direction of the music and the positioning of their fingers.
I’m not really clear about your question of transcribing. I keep it very simple–I give them a starting point on the staff such as, “The second space from the top” and then just ramble off a stream such as “down a second, up a third, down a fifth, up a third, up a fourth, etc.”
This question of direction of the music is a standard question that my students always have in mind from this point forward when reading music. In fact, there are a few questions that we ask every time we look at a new piece of music including:
From the very first measure what does the music tell you? They should answer: It has a treble and bass clef (or not), I’m counting to ___, there are ___sharps or flats (and they always have to name them), I’m on or near a location point (where, exactly).
I ask them to look for rhythm patterns, interval or note patterns, things that stay the same, measures that are exactly the same, etc….
If we are working with sharps or flats, we will unfold the scale journey for that key signature. With all that done, we are ready to get to the music. The next question naturally occurs….What is the direction of the music from that first note? That is when they place their hands in their starting position.
Mary R., Michigan
Deciding the starting finger is part of the learning process. Steps are:
1. Find the highest note in the stream.
2. Find your highest finger
3. Play highest note with highest finger.
4. Determine the interval between starting note and highest note
5. Play starting note with the finger that corresponds to that location
All streams are processed in random locations until the Cs are introduced and then streams are played in actual positions. Initially the goal is just to get good at processing intervals in a relative fashion without worrying about their actual location.
Patti P., Hawaii
Thanks for the post, Robin.
I’m just now getting SM students close to this point of reading streams. I’m looking forward to taking them through this process.
So many students (in my past experience) try to jump right in without even looking at which clef they are reading in. It’s a very common mistake. And most students I’ve taught who came to me reading already also don’t even think about Which direction? How far? Instead they try to name every note before they play it. If they don’t recognize the note, they guess, with no reference to the note they are on.
I have a teen student who started in private lessons with me shortly before I became licensed and didn’t switch to SM. He was already reading, but recently asked that I help him become a better reader, so I’m working him through what I normally have done with Music MindGames, which also teaches the C’s as landmarks. He’s amazed at how much easier it is to play ledger line notes. Previously he would have had to count up the alphabet from a note he recognized on the staff – now he looks at the interval from high C. He was delighted.
I think that the combination of recognizing intervals and stream direction (and distance) are really important for students to gain an ease with reading. And it’s so much simpler than remembering what 88 different pitches look like on the staff!
reading notes, fingering for streams, music direction, location points