Issue 4: Here come the aliens – catch them if you can!

Question: What’s the difference between playing a computer game and playing music?

Answer: Almost nothing.  Let’s investigate further;

Playing a Computer Game Playing  Music
The scenes scroll past your eyes The page doesn’t move
Your eyes don’t move Your eyes track across the page
Symbols/objects come into view, and you react by operating the controls, depending on what appears on the screen Your eyes encounter symbols/objects, and you react by operating the instrument, depending on what your eyes come to next

So!  Nearly identical underlying philosophies; it all boils down to “you see something, you do something”.

Then why is it that these children are all a whizz at the latest, fast-and-furious computer game, but can’t cope with reading C D E F G on a keyboard?  Personally I can’t play anything than the solitaire which came with our PC, (although I wasn’t a total disgrace “Guitar Hero”), so I am always amazed at how proficient the children are on hundreds of complicated computer games.

Having observed this, I have taken a new approach to teaching notation.  Suppose I’m teaching a keyboard lesson; I could describe the notes as different kinds of aliens; for example,

Alien 1C becomes “simple C”; when you see one, “press button” button on your keyboard with your thumb to “get” it.


D becomes “Double Trouble D” but can be rendered safe by pressing button D with your second finger.


Argh!  Here comes “Treble Trouble E”; quick, middle finger on the E for explode button on the keyboard!


I move my pointer across the music in time with the pulse, and the children deal with each “alien” as we get to it; as they become more proficient I increase the tempo

“Watch out; here they come; – set speed to warp 80 – are you ready for this? Because here they come, ready or not! – INCOMING 2 3 4”, and we’re off.

Weirdly, the children all seem to be able to read music now.  What is more, they have suddenly become “naturals” at reading ahead and being ready for the next note.  How did that happen?

Note values are really simple to teach – the shape of the note tells you how much “fire power” is needed for each alien.  Minims mean that you need to hold the “button” down for a count of 2; crotchets need a count of 2, and quavers can be dealt with by a short burst.  Rests give you a bit of time to reload.

If I am teaching clarinet or Treble recorder, I switch round the names for C and E – “Treble Trouble C” and “Easy E”.

and lastly one for descant recorders

Try it – let me know how you get on!



This entry was posted in Clarinets, Keyboards, Recorders and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.