Issue 136: Reading Music

So, having just mentioned that from now on primary school children are expected to learn staff notation, here’s a really, really quick introduction to reading pitch notation…

Have a look at this little piece, which I “composed”, if I can dignify it with such a word, to amaze parents at an end of term Wider Opportunities concert for a keyboard class.

Five finger tune C major  Now lay hold of a xylophone or glockenspiel, or set up a row of chime bars, and look for the little letters printed on the bars. (The usual way is to have the LONG bars, with the LOWEST notes, on the LEFT).

As you recite the words of the song, give the appropriate bar a bit of a bong.

Aha! You are reading music! Once you have been through the piece a few times, try covering the words and just reading the blobs (notes) as they go up and down the ladder.


tiger xylophone picture

  • C, for CAT, is the one with whiskers on
  • D is like a DISGUSTING bit of chewing gum stuck under the bottom line
  • E is threaded on the bottom EDGE of the ladder
  • F is squashed into the first space
  • G is threaded onto the second line

Rhythm notation is fairly straightforward in this piece; If you set up a steady beat (just tap your foot) then the black notes have length 1 tap, the white notes have length 2 taps. The squiggle is 1 tap of silence, the brick lying on the middle line is two taps of silence.

If you want to play it on a keyboard, here’s where your fingers go; (1 is thumb, 5 is little finger).

Look at the arrangement of black keys; they are grouped in twos and threes.

keyboard picture

  Choose a group of two black keys, and put your pointy finger on the white key in between. Lay out your fingers and thumb on adjacent white keys and just press them down.

The basics really are that simple. I reckon it’s a lot easier than teaching reading!

The cheapest and easiest way of learning to read music is to get hold of a slightly decent recorder (pay at least £5) and a children’s tutor book – Recorder magic, John Pitt, Red Hot Recorder are three good ones for a start, and amaze yourself at how easy it is.

music is boring!


This entry was posted in Class Teaching, Keyboards, Percussion, Recorders, The organised teacher, Theory 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Your email address will not be published.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.