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#932961 - 04/21/06 07:54 AM Middle C can be anywhere!
WKS70 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/04/03
Posts: 186
Loc: GA
I've got two brand new students, sisters, that are making me crazy. Not in a bad way, but they were badly taught by their previous teacher. In their minds, just because a note appears somewhere on the staff, doesn't mean it only goes THERE on the keyboard. They also are very bad about freely mixing up their treble and bass cleffs. I've dealt with this problem one other time, years ago, and while that student improved, it was always somewhat of a struggle for them.

Do any of you have any advice on how to get it through their heads that a particular note on the staff belongs only to a particular key on the keyboard?

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#932962 - 04/21/06 08:30 AM Re: Middle C can be anywhere!
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
Have they by any chance also learned a stringed instrument such as guitar? This can cause confusion as exactly the same note can be played in different places on the fret-board (though the tonal quality is different due to string thickness changes). Likewise other stringed instruments. I have come across this problem both ways round with the few children I have taught in the past (mainly guitar and I mainly teach adults who can already play quite well).

I know that this is sacrilege but would it be possible to put easy to remove stickers on a couple of octaves of keys, showing the note on the staff? Ideally on their piano at home!

I know some students have not twigged the very simple point that the bass staff goes down from middle C and the treble staff goes up from it and that the C above and below the bass and treble staffs respectively is the same note. Maybe get them to play a contra scale from middle C to re-inforce the idea.

This is why I never really agree to teach beginners. Some people just don't get it and will never get it and I would rather they find this out with someone else. But I only teach for pleasure not for a living so it is easier for me to pick and choose who I spend time on. I sympathise with your problem.

S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280

#932963 - 04/21/06 09:31 AM Re: Middle C can be anywhere!
Hobie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/05
Posts: 475
Loc: Rocky Mountains

You can correct this problem. It happens frequently as students begin to recognize the letter-name of the notes only. This happens with flash cards or worksheets that have fill in the note name below them...the old teacher probably drilled them this way.

The information of what the note's letter name is the only thing the kids are paying attention to. That's why they don't see any difference between the C's on the keyboard.

More important than the letter name of the note is where that note is on the piano. If they have flash cards, run through them, but tell them instead of saying the name of the note, go to the piano and play that note. Make sure this is the way they practice their notes every time. I have a game called, "ring the doorbell" where I tell them that the notes are much more than letter names, they are like addresses of piano keys. I'll show them a D and say, find this D and go "ring the doorbell" by playing that note.

I know that seems really simple, but that's what I do. I have lots of easy to understand observations that I tell them. For example, I'll say, "Show me where this note is" then I'll say, "You're playing a C, but this one is the most middle of all C's. Where is that?"

They will get it quickly.

Hope this helps
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." Groucho Marx

#932964 - 04/21/06 12:15 PM Re: Middle C can be anywhere!
Dorrie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
There are a couple of free games on the internet that show the grand staff and the keyboard. A note appears and you press the keyboard. Playing this game can be amazingly humbling for a beginner/elementary student since the notes are far more random than they would be in a piece of music.

Even a couple minutes of this a few times a week can really improve one's reading and keyboard geography skill.


#932965 - 04/25/06 10:22 PM Re: Middle C can be anywhere!
WKS70 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/04/03
Posts: 186
Loc: GA
Thanks for the various ideas. Many of them are ones that I have been trying so far. I guess I'm looking for just the right way to explain so that it clicks with these girls. So far, about the best thing I'm able to do in lessons is to get them to think of Middle C as the center of everything.........

It's so sad when you run across bright kids that have been given such a poor foundation by a previous teacher!

#932966 - 04/26/06 01:11 AM Re: Middle C can be anywhere!
lisa1000 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/30/06
Posts: 38
Loc: sydney
yes i have that problem too...badly taught kids from their previous teachers; but most of them know middle C pretty well, i get them to write on manuscript the middle Cs with treble and bass grand staff. But sometimes they're just limiting notes to the octave above and below when they see the note on paper... as in, they have no idea that the note is to be played two octaves above middle C. Sometimes its just carelessness that they only consider the note name and not its placement. I've been telling them how to find out where the note is by counting C octaves, they know the notes on the staff pretty well. They could find it pretty well like that,but surprisingly next lesson they totally forget about this finding process.

#932967 - 04/26/06 12:10 PM Re: Middle C can be anywhere!
Dorrie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
Try assigning pieces that while technically easy (not too note-y with easy right and left hand coordination) require the student to use the same pattern over three or four octave, and don't tell them the "hint" first - make them read the music and figure out where the keys are that match the notes (at home).

As an adult beginner, I recall getting a peice like this after a few weeks of my fingers being cramped around middle c and suddenly having one of those "a-ha" moments


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