When teaching young piano students to read music, you’re actually teaching them two skills 1) how to recognize notes on the staff at sight and 2) how to determine the relationships between notes. Most teachers have many tools and tricks to help students note-read. But finding strategies to help develop kids’ intervallic reading can be a little more challenging.
So, in today’s post, we’re sharing an easy activity that you can use with your students if you want to develop their abilities to identify stepping, skipping, leaping and repeating notes.
It’s Time To Doodle Up Some Score Skeletons
As soon as your beginning piano students move out of “stepping only” patterns and begin encountering music that incorporates repeated notes, skipping notes and leaping notes, pull out a piece of paper and some pencil crayons and create my “Score Skeleton”. This simple doodle activity will reinforce their understanding of the relationships between the notes in their music
To get started with a Score Skeleton do the following:
Step 1 – Draw The Backbone
Draw a long horizontal line across a piece of paper. This line represents the first line in your student’s music.
Step 2 – Create The Grid
Create a “grid” by drawing vertical lines that intersect the horizontal line, making one vertical line for every note found (in the first line) of the treble clef of your student’s piece. If your student’s piece has 13 notes in the first line, you will draw 13 vertical lines. You will end up with something that looks like this:
Step 3 – Color The Relationships
Give your student four different colored pencil crayons and ask him to carefully inspect his music. Ask, “What is happening between the first two notes in your piece? Is there a repeated note, a step, a skip or a leap?” Once he has decided on his answer, ask him to do one of the following:
a) If it is a repeated note, draw a circle that encompasses both “note lines”
b) If it is a step, draw a line to connect both “note lines”.
c) If it is a skip, draw a curved line to connect both “note lines”.
d) If it is a leap (anything larger than a skip) draw a dashed, curved line to connect both “note lines”.
Step 4 – Repeat Step 3
Repeat Step 4 with each consecutive note in the first line of your student’s piece. You’ll end up with something that looks like this ( below is a “Score Skeleton” of the first line of Mary Had a Little Lamb). Note: To keep things looking tidy and organized, use a different color for each of the four options mentioned in Step 4.
Step 5 – Talk Through The Score Skeleton
Using the newly-created Score Skeleton, “talk through” the piece with your student. For example, in Mary Had A Little Lamb you would say “Start on E, step, step, step, step, repeat, repeat, step, repeat, repeat, step, skip, repeat.”
Step 6 – Match With The Music
Compare the newly-created Score Skeleton to the piano piece. Discuss patterns that are evident. Repeat Steps 1 through 5 if desired (or needed) for the rest of the treble clef and then the bass clef line. You can also choose to add a rhythmic element by having your student add circles to the bottom of the note lines (see below) and then clapping or tapping the rhythm while you “talk through” the piece.
Why Score Skeletons Work And When To Use Them
Score Skeletons work for several reasons:
1) They get your students thinking about the intervallic relationships between the notes on the page and encourage them to use the correct language to identify the relationships.
2) They turn patterns that exist in your students’ music into a pictorial tool that makes the patterns easy to visually identify and remember.
3) The process of creating a Score Skeleton with your students gives you insights into what your students do and do not easily understand, allowing for a moments of focused teaching.
4) Creating a Score Skeleton away from your students’ music (instead of “on their page”) keeps a clean page so that students can focus on their music and not on markings that have been made on their music.
Now That They Can See It… They Should Hear It Too!
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