By: Hellene Hiner
A Sad Little Story With a Happy Ending.
Many kids are capable of learning letters before they even go to school, because people created brightly marked alphabet letters for them. Remember, how we teach children with cards or blocks? Each letter is presented in large print with pictures and colors that help children to see the connection between the abstract letter, picture and phonetic pronunciation. For example, kids see a picture of an apple, say 'apple' and figure out the letter A!
The same strategy could be used with music notes! But when we chose, for example, 12 different colors for 12 different piano keys we miss the whole point of visual support in learning. Can these 12 colors add to the fact that 12 different keys have 12 different sounds? Not really. They simply add confusion.
Each music note has outstanding features. We have to determine all of them and make them obvious for the beginner's eyesight.
1. If music notes are all either on spaces or on lines, why don't we color them in two contrast colors for beginners eyes to instantly catch the difference?
2. If spaces and lines are the same tracks, why don't we present them with the same width on elementary level? Kids won't think, that white track is a 'break between lines' any more!
3. If Treble and Base Clefs are mostly for different hands, the best way to present them –is to give them different colors, too, but colors of let's say, a tree. It would help to explain gradual changes in pitch – from dark to light, from trunk to crown.
4. If music notes go up and down and corresponding keys – right and left, why don't we turn the Grand Staff sideways in elementary presentation to line notes with keys and to help beginners to SEE a straight link between them right away?
5. If music notes have only seven names for all the keys and sounds, why don't we place a label of these names on each note and a key? This way a beginner will SEE the relationship easily, not struggle looking for information.
6. If it is so hard to shift eyesight along all lines and spaces, why don't we use computer interactivity to support focus at the elementary stage and then moderately develop its ability to shift?
Many teachers and many parents are afraid to give beginners too much support, because they think that they'll become dependant upon them. But street signs didn't ever spoil any driver, especially when an area is unfamiliar and the road is shrouded by fog. Don't you remember your own frustration that the signs were too small and blurry, when you badly needed to see where to go? But we never even look at the signs, once we know way.
Today is a time to decide whether we give our students a better tool to see music notes and piano keys and to learn effectively - or to keep them in darkness just because we learned by a different method. For many former piano students it is so obvious what should be done! But this a is very difficult decision to make for major music educational institutions, music publishers and music teachers.