Notes on the staff : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

Hi, I get totally confused reading the notes on the staff when they appear below and above the main part of the staff.

Can you direct me to a web page that shows the full range of piano notes on the staff and also what they are (ie., c, d, e, etc)?

Thanks, Bob

-- Bob Estremera (, June 02, 2001


Please help me with this problem. Just when I think they know the notes, I discover they can't remember them. What can I do to help them.

-- Janice Majors (, June 15, 2001.


The best students see a note for the first time and have it forever. Most excellent pianists probably fell into that group as beginners. So it can be very difficult as a music major or beginning piano teacher to understand the student who has difficulty recognizing which note to play when it seems like it is SO EASY.

Everyone has a brain drain at some time or other, but if your student really can't read the notes, it is time to back way up! Music is logical, like math: There are a number of ways to figure something out if he doesn't automatically know it. All my students have flash cards (they come free in the lesson books) even if the student can read notes well--naming the notes is a different skill from playing them. I tell their moms to keep the flash cards in the car. As soon as the student has learned 9 notes on lines and spaces, I time the student and write the first time in seconds (hopefully) in the lesson book and again each week. Then we go to spreading them across the piano and playing each note--different skill because now they have to know which octave the G is in, etc. It doesn't take long in the lesson and gives them a sense of accomplishment to improve their time each week. For a student having a problem perhaps parents could offer an incentive--something the child wants--for learning the notes.

I tell the student that as soon as he gets fast at just one note, there will be 2 and 3 and 4 at a time and the music will be so pretty. That's why it's important to read the note very quickly. It's much easier to just learn the notes and get on with playing fun music than to struggle. Give the student the FACE and EGBDF and ACEG hints that everyone knows--whatever words you use--to help him initially. He won't need those clues long. Make him feel like you are his note coach rather than a critical judge.

Now, we must also teach these notes by the patterns. He needs to learn that the notes go--line, space, line, space, etc. So if they see such a pattern they would play each note in succession, up or down. The mailman delivers mail to the addresses he has notes for and skips the houses that have no notes. So actually the student doesn't have to read notes very often because most of the intervals are fairly close and recognizable after a while. Tell the student you are helping him do it the EASY way. He'll like that.

Another idea--Make a COPY of a song he will be playing and make a mess of it like this--have him circle the 2nds, then put an X on every line or space that is empty between intervals of 3rds, then 4ths. I think sometimes the students just don't LOOK at the notes and the lines and spaces between them. They have to be shown that up on the lines and spaces means higher on the keyboard. You would automatically think everyone would know that, but NOT!

Another problem I have found is that sometimes (believe it or not) the student just doesn't quite understand that each note on the lines and spaces has just one key on the keyboard. I don't know how a student can miss that one--but I have taught a LOT of beginners and it's true. However, I am convinced that any child with an IQ of 80, or a child with a learning disability can learn to read music if he has a good teacher with a lot of patience.

OK, another situation: Very smart students sometimes memorize music almost before they learn to play it. Then they play from memory and aren't reading the notes. Students with a good ear are particularly succeptible to this. So if they practice just what they want to play for a whole summer, say, and are quite young, they can actually forget the notes. But if they have been taught to recognize intervals, they should still be able to figure the notes out by the patterns--2nd, 3rds, etc.

So start back with the intervals and then make them do the flash cards for the big jumps or the beginning of a song. Don't let them off the hook. The big mistake is just to assign the next song and hope he'll catch back up. Wrong--he will QUIT when he gets completely lost and frustrated. Back up by giving him old songs he loves--and doesn't have memorized--and do the flash cards until he knows them really well.

I have flash cards on my computer and could send them to you if you want some inexpensive ones to use and give students.

Feel free to email me privately. I will help you in any way I can. As you can see, these children are all different and learn in different ways. But they are worth it if they love music and want to play piano.

Enjoying the music,

Flo Arnold

-- Flo Arnold (, June 18, 2001.

In addition, confusion for reading notes for the piano stems from the understanding that the Treble Clef is "the right hand" and the Bass Clef is "the left hand." Always check to ensure that they understand the top staff contains notes to be played by the right hand and the bottom staff contains notes to be played by the left hand. I hope this helps.

-- June Ryan (, April 03, 2003.

Another way to describe the staffs are: Have the student learn the Treble Clef as Treble G clef, which names line 2 note G. Learn the Bass Clef as Bass F Clef, which names line 4 note F. And, guide them to the bottom of the Bass Clef letting them know the first space note is A and they climb the music alphabet from that point. A B C etc. Space line space line and so forth. Also, never tell them that Treble is right hand and Bass is left hand, because we cross over with our hands into both staffs and at times the music is written in all Treble and sometimes all Bass. The easy way I found that they comprehend is: Treble Clef plays from Middle C and up the keyboard. The Bass Clef plays from Middle C down the keyboard. Hope this helps. Trish

-- Patricia Hickok (, March 14, 2005.

Hello everyone!

Is this question about leger lines?

Bob, if you are asking about the notes written on dashes above, below and in the middle of the staves, these notes are called leger notes and represent the notes that continue to rise or fall in the fashion that is explained by the above posts. Leger lines are actually learned in the same way you learn notes on the staff. If you look closely, they are either on a line or in a space, at varying intervals. I think it would be helpful to view the treble and bass clefs along with the full range of notes that continue below and above them, as you suggest but I don't know of a site that has this in it.

Keep studying!

-- Lea Johnson (, March 14, 2005.

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