Have you ever sat down and thought through exactly what it takes to read music? There is so much more than simply naming a string of notes. A piano studio must be able to
-recognize if the note is in treble or bass clef, and understand which hand plays which clef
-identify whether they are reading a line or space note.
-identify which letter they are reading
-know which key on the piano corresponds to the note on the staff
-read if the notes played at the same time in right and left hand are in unison or harmony
– be able to read cross-staff notes and know which hand comes first
Consider that all of this must happen at lightning speed, and we haven’t even discussed rhythms, dynamics, technique and form, etc.! When sorting through concepts this way, it is actually very impressive how quickly our students are able to learn to read music. It also points to how much repetition and practice must be executed to master all of these micro skills to get to the big picture of note reading:)
Sound overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. And often we as teachers take some of these skills for granted. Line vs. space notes? The method book mentioned it on page 21, so the student should understand it and remember as we move on. But do they really? Imagine how much harder it would be to read music if the student missed or forgot the line vs. space note concept. Or maybe the treble and bass clef still trip up a student. Remembering which hand to play would then be very difficult!
Because note reading concepts are often layered quickly, we don’t always know exactly where the student has fallen behind. But we do realize they have fallen behind when their note reading as a whole suffers.
So today I am offering you several timed test downloads. It’s a funny thing, because some of my students LOVE these, while others shudder as soon as I place the page in front of them. Personality is very strong in this area 🙂 But I do include these in my studio… both as a quick repetition method and to track where my students are at.
If I have a student who has trouble with the timing part of the worksheet (some freeze when they are asked to move quickly), I work to downplay that the importance of speed. I still time them though. Why? Because reading music needs to happen at lightning fast speed. I’m curious to see how quickly they can focus in on just one concept at a time!
I’m giving these printouts with the suggestion to have your students run through them once. If today’s 3 o’clock student is having trouble identifying line and space notes, grab a game, spend time finding the space notes in their lesson book piece, or snag this Santa’s Sleigh line and space note sort to have them practice the skill this holiday season. When you think they’ve mastered it (maybe today, maybe in 2 weeks), have them try the timed test again. This will show if they have improved in both speed and understanding!
Included below are short tests for line and space notes, treble or bass clef, unison or harmony, cross staff reading, and key ID. Hopefully this gets you started with identifying outlying problems your students may have that affect their note reading 🙂
Looking for other fun ways to teach note reading in your studio? Our 12 Days of Note Reading Christmas Giveaway is live now! Read through Day 7, leave a comment, and you’ll be entered into the drawing for a signed copy of Here Come the High Notes by Marin Marka 🙂 She has been so gracious to also include a digital copy of the accompanying workbook for this giveaway. Check out the method behind her work at fablenotes.com!