Day 9: Say and Play

We have arrived at Day 9 (can you believe how quickly December is flying by?), and today I am simply sharing an idea. Some of you may feel validated because you already implement this idea into your curriculum. Others may find this so simple they can’t believe they’ve never thought to do it. Keep reading to hear the basics of the “say and play” method!

I have all my students do this at some point. With heavier emphasis the younger the student. The older the student, the more awkward they tend to feel it is. But my job is to make the difficult thing seem normal – especially when it will benefit their overall ability to play and enjoy music!

Around my studio, we call it the “say and play”.

And it is indeed exactly what is sounds like. Students say the note names – out loud – as they play them. To make it less awkward, I usually say the note names with them.

My students do not say the note names for everything they play. My most frequent place to use “say and play” is in their warm-up and technique work. These are short exercises, right at their level, that when mastered make playing any of their pieces much easier.

If a student is struggling with a small chunk of their piece, we may also use this technique when breaking down that section specific tricky spot.

Rarely do I have a student play an entire piece saying the note names. If done well in their warm-ups, this is not necessary. And although most of my students find this activity to be very normal since we start it early on, I wouldn’t say it’s something everyone is clamoring to do more of 😉

I start this at the very beginning of note reading. The goal is for each student to have a strong understanding from the start. This is a not a good tactic to add when the student is already frustrated! Saying notes out loud uses yet another part of the brain. If this practice begins from the first few lessons, it will seem like an everyday part of learning music for your student. But if you wait until they are already struggling, I advise you to tread lightly – stick with very short sections and go slowly to make the task seem more manageable!

As a student moves into more difficult repertoire, it will not be practical to say and play notes at the same time, unless you are isolating one hand.

First of all, it is yet another way to connect note names with what the student sees and then plays. It uses another part of the brain. I recently gave an online student a note reading activity, and discovered that he had an excellent grasp of where the note on the staff was to be played on the piano. He also had no idea what letter he was looking at! Saying and playing the notes together engages all three parts of note reading: knowing which letter corresponds with which piano key, knowing what letter the note is on the staff, and knowing where the note on the staff is played on the piano. Being comfortable saying notes out loud as you play also makes it more comfortable to count out loud, sing out loud, and add lyrics to music in the future.

We do this together. It creates a bond when the teacher is able to participate in what the student is doing simultaneously. This also provides me with a smooth way to make corrections without stopping the whole process. If we say different notes, the student usually giggles and fixes their mistake.

Pro-tip: Does this exercise have to be “saying” only? Nope 🙂 I oftentimes will take it up a notch and sing and play with my students. Those who are not comfortable singing still say the notes while I sing. But learning to hear the notes you are about to play is also an important skill. Oftentimes if I’m singing, the kids will jump in because it’s a safe place to do so!

Do you use “say and play” in your studio? Have you found it effective? Are you looking for other creative ways to make your students super note readers? Check out the previous days of the 12  Days of Note Reading Christmas below, and don’t forget to comment on Day 7 to sign up for the free giveaway of FableNotes! 🙂

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8


4 thoughts on “Day 9: Say and Play

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