How to help the student learn the note alphabet

By: Hellene Hiner

There are 27 letters in the English alphabet. In the note alphabet, there are only seven notes. How are people unable to remember the notes, while all of them know the letters?

There are many possible ways to introduce children to the alphabet. Take any book of ABCs - and you will see that the letters are presented not as ordinary black-and-white symbols but rather in the form of images which are suited especially for the kids' perception. First, a graphic symbol of a letter portrayed as a familiar image becomes associated with its phonetic representation. Then, a child gradually acquires a skill of forming the syllables - the skill that constitutes a solid base for the development of the ability to read words and sentences. Similarly, there are many methods aimed to teach children the note alphabet. However, the quantity of musically illiterate people proves the absolute inefficiency of these attempts. Even grown-ups experience difficulty recognizing the black-and-white symbols of the music notes on a five-line music staff, let alone preschoolers. Therefore, it is necessary to TRANSFORM the music note symbols into the images that will be better perceived by young children. We cannot count on the successful learning of music grammar without this adaptation.

Let us begin with a simple exercise. Take a look at the notes placed directly on the lines and those in between the lines. If located close to each other on the music staff, such two notes are almost impossible to differentiate for a novice. For a musician, this task is a simple routine. Nonetheless, modern music teachers never start the child's music education by training him or her to quickly recognize the note positions, although the importance of this skill is undeniable.

My program is developed in such a way that young children of two years old start by learning to distinguish the notes. Thus, by the time they turn three, they have already mastered this skill. How do they accomplish this? In Soft Mozart, we present the note symbols as girl-notes and boy-notes. Girl-notes are colored in red, and boy-notes are colored in blue. Why girls and boys? Simple! Children perceive the world as a myriad of images. Two- and three-year olds already know that the world consists of boys and girls.

Our software helps children start developing their eyesight and hearing from two years of age which assures the uncomplicated transition to reading the music notes. Soft Mozart teaches children not only to differentiate the notes according to their positions on the music staff, but also to read the notes in accords and melodies in their correct sequence.

Now, let us take a look at the five-line music staff. Can you imagine how hard it is for a child to understand that all notes are equal even though they are located on different lines and between the lines? This is much too abstract an idea for the preschoolers to accept.

Our first notion was to widen the black lines and make them look even with the spaces in between. That is how we came up with the game called "Boys and Girls": girls live on the black streets, boys live on the white streets. This game helps children focus their attention on the equality of lines and the spaces in between the lines. Later on, we colored the lines in green and brown. I will tell you more about this in the next chapter.

Every beginner has a hard time trying to distinguish the lines of the music staff. I remember my own childhood: it seemed impossible to differentiate Sol from Ti and Ti from Re only because Sol was located on the second line, while Ti was on the third, and Re - on the fourth line. However, children can easily master this skill if they are correctly taught. Unfortunately, up until now, music teachers have undermined the significance of such visual exercises.

I have often questioned myself why music pedagogues have never thought of transforming the note symbols into images suitable for children's perception. I believe the answer to that is that music education has long been considered an elite prerogative. Therefore, beginners had to adapt to the "correct" understanding of the note alphabet, while it would have been much easier to modify the symbols of the notes in accordance with the rules of human physiology. Sadly, the existing inadequacy of music education techniques has resulted in the overabundance of musically illiterate people.

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Is it important to teach small children to read music notes and play piano? Read music education articles written by Hellene Hiner about history and new approaches to music and piano teaching here.

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