Teaching Reading Notes beyond fifths
Found in: Reading
I’m feeling abandoned by the Reading Notes program when it just leaves you hanging with teaching up to fifths that fit neatly into five fingers over five notes. Where do we go from here?
Can you please give me some more help on teaching reading notes with larger intervals, with notes that don’t have a “C” at all around it for reference to find intervals, etc.
Robin Keehn, Washington
Students have to memorize the C location points. They would have already established the capability to process the intervals in their hands, on the piano and in writing them. The location points are introduced one at a time and have corresponding “streams” of intervals to process.
Given that they are absolutely clear on the location points, they will always process like this:
I ask, “Are you on or near a location point?” The answer is always “yes!” Then I ask, “how far are you from the location point?” The student answers, “I am up a fifth from High C” (or whatever). I ask, “what is the direction of the music, up or down? ” “If it is up, lets get finger 1 (RH in this example) on your starting note and now let’s put the intervals right on the piano.”
There is no history in reading intervals. You just go from one note to the next. There is no need to read note names, they are irrelevant in this case. Reading from intervals translates across the whole piano and there is no need to focus on trying to figure out what that note is way up in the ledger lines. If you know that note is up a 5th from High C, you can read intervals from there with complete accuracy.
In my experience, reading from intervals is much faster and successful for students (and for me). I personally have become a much better reader (I studied from age 10 through college) than I ever was.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I’m guessing from your question that you haven’t made it all the way through Reading Notes yet? It’s pretty thorough.
Once your students have all that practice reading intervals up to 5ths, it is not much of a stretch to figure out 6ths and 7ths. I’ve never had an issue with this. They know to just count up or down one or two more lines or spaces.
The range of notes up to a 5th around all the location points we teach is from F1 to G6. There aren’t many notes on the piano outside that range! And every note is within a 4th or 5th of a C at the most. On the rare occasion that notes on the outermost regions would be written with all leger lines (vs using 8vb, 8va or 15ma), they are typically in the middle of a run that is easily followed with small intervals. If not, then by the time they read that type of music they should be well-versed enough in reading to know how to figure it out.
I think the Reading Notes program does an amazing job of giving students the ability to figure out anything you put in front of them.
Patti P., Hawaii
I’ve just recently taken my first class through the Reading Notes program as far as chords, and started them in TFMM. The class consists of a set of triplets that have a bit of prior reading experience and a boy with none. The boy who is brand new to this is a bit slower reading intervals, but he gets it. I love the fact that once they’ve got the C’s down, and up to a 5th down, they can read almost anything. I let the class know how amazing that is. I think it will set them up to have confidence learning pieces via reading in the future. They “own” both staves even though we haven’t learned a single piece this way up to this point. It’s not mysterious anymore.
One other thought on making the reading notes program really work is don’t neglect having them write streams and transcribe pieces they know how to play. I think this is a really important for them to have a thorough understanding of what they are doing.
Hilary C., Australia
I find that students themselves introduce 6ths and 7ths in their own writing and it is easy to go from there.
Leisa B., Georgia
I’ve found that mature students, i.e., 12-13 yrs and older- understand the concept of: “Odd Intervals are ALWAYS Line to Line or Space to Space” “Even Intervals are ALWAYS Space to Line or Line to Space”.
Because they have learned this in the ‘beginner intervals of 2nds & 4ths are line/space or space line, & 3rds & 5ths are line/line or space/space, it is obvious and logical that 6ths & 8vas (octaves) will be the same as the previous Even Intervals and 7ths will also be line/line, space/space, another member of the Odd Interval gang.
My students get to where they recognize immediately whether it’s an odd or even interval by it’s look on the staff. This is not something I teach separately, but point out casually when we’re having interval conversations. While always looking for patterns on the keyboard, seeing note patterns from intervals on the staff is another logical and reasonable concept. Simple.
It follows the thought processes using prior knowledge to associate ‘new’ intervals. It’s never been a huge leap for any of my students.
Knowing their C locations and all their intervals is pretty much all the knowledge they need to read any line of music. Add this to their Accompaniment Chord knowledge and my students are taking off like gang busters… reading their special projects.
Lyndel K., Australia
I just wanted to explore to the ‘odd/even’ concept a bit.
I have noticed on more than one occasion, in fact regularly enough for me to do something about it, that students are frustrated in their initial memorization of these two concepts. The reason is that 3 and 5 are odd numbers and 2 and 4 are even numbers. But we are teaching them the opposite; 3rds and 5ths are even intervals and 2nds and 4ths are odd intervals. They have to keep swapping the terminology because it is the direct opposite of what they are learning, often currently, in maths at school.
So I have changed my teaching to ‘same/different’. I have no confusion anymore. Any one else find this?
Leisa B., Georgia
I believe it’s a case of Define your Terms.
Intervals 3,5 & 7 are always Line to Line or Space to Space. I wouldn’t call a 3rd ‘even’ because its not. It’s 3 steps: line/space/line.
Intervals 2,4,6,& 8va’s are always Line to Space or Space to Line. These are not odd in any way. They walk up or down the staff stopping at the even number of steps.
It is obvious after students read many intervals that there is a pattern. Odd intervals are L/L or S/S. Even intervals are L/S or S/L.
I don’t force memorization of the above but when the student sees it, I compliment & reinforce their observation. Older advanced students pick it up easily. I’ve had no trouble thus far because I define the terms in a clear way. Some students may find it confusing but I don’t push. They get it eventually.
My kids have a much harder time with Split chords- don’t get me started. I never tell them how I wrote them backwards for years until I finally had to force myself to do it correctly because its right!
I find ways to make it make sense and we have fun with it.
I also had that experience. In fact, I was sharing the odd/even tip and got it backwards! The student pointed it out to me, and it took me a moment to turn my brain back around.
I also use same/different:
Same-odd (line-line or space-space will be 3,5,7)
Different-even (line-space will be 2,4,6,8)